Stewart Varnado (2007)

Stewart Varnado (September 11, 1980 - )


Stewart Varnado is a Southern Gospel musician and concert promoter. He was born September 11, 1980.

Stewart has been involved in Southern Gospel Music since the age of 15. His first experience was with a local group from Picayune, Mississippi. He next joined a group from Laurel, MS, called Masterpeace, replacing their pianist Andrew Ishee, who had just joined the Kingsmen Quartet. The group name was changed to Master's Voice in December of 1997. At that time, the group included several names that would become famous over the next few years, most notably Josh Garner at lead and Tim Duncan at bass.

In September 1998, just a few months after completing his high school education, Stewart became the pianist for the Dixie Echoes of Pensacola, Florida. The following year, he was nominated as one of the top five Horizon Individuals in the Singing News Fan Awards. For several years afterwards, he was nominated annually in the Favorite Pianist category. Stewart has also been a regular member of Roger Bennett's Parade of Pianos and the Tim Lovelace Instrumental Jam Session. These showcases are held each year at the National Quartet Convention.

From October 2001 to February 2004, in addition to his work with the Dixie Echoes, Stewart performed with a scrap-iron quartet called the Five Broke Single Boys. The group included the single members of the Dixie Echoes and the Florida Boys at that time. Gene McDonald sang bass, Randy Shelnut Jr sang baritone, Josh Garner sang lead, Billy Hodges sang tenor, and Stewart Varnado was the pianist. The group recorded one self-titled recording with proceeds from the sales donated to the Southern Gospel Music Association.

Stewart has released several solo instrumental recordings, including the 2005 Southern Gospel Album of the Year (in the US Gospel News awards) for The Southern Gospel Players. Stewart credits Roger Bennett and Derrell Stewart as his piano heroes. Stewart spends a lot of time in the recording studio playing on projects for groups from all over the country. His playing can be heard on his solo recordings, releases by the Dixie Echoes, Gene McDonald's solo recording, and many more.

In recent years, Stewart has taken over the role of concert promoter for the Suwanee River Jubilee and other events. He purchased stock in the National Quartet Convention in 2007. In August of that same year, Randy Shelnut sold the Dixie Echoes to Stewart and his son, Randy Shelnut Jr., making Stewart a 50% owner of the group.

In May 2012, Stewart announced he would be leaving the Dixie Echoes in order to spend more time at home.

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