On January 3, 2009, the Superstar of Gospel Music Tommy Ellison entered into eternal rest. Tommy Ellison, Mr. Superstar as he was affectionately known, was born September 15, 1932 in Sally, South Carolina. The Superstar is world known for his work as the founder, singer, composer, arranger, producer, manager and director of the legendary group Tommy Ellison & the Singing Stars. It is certainly no exaggeration to call Tommy Ellison a legend in Gospel music. The Superstar passed away leaving a legacy that has inspired many and will continue to inspire generations.
He began his career singing background for gospel music great Madame Edna Gallmon Cooke. He sang with the world famous Harmonizing Four. He can be heard singing lead on the Harmonizing Four’s version of “I found the Lord”, which was recorded during the early fifties. Tommy later joined The Sensational Nightingales where he further enhanced and cultivated the vocal talent God had bestowed upon him. After spending three years with The Nightingales, Tommy journeyed to Los Angeles where he joined forces with The Chosen Gospel Singers. During this time with the group, they recorded the hit “When the Saints Go Marching in.” He remained with The Chosen Gospel Singers until the mid sixties, when he formed the group The Five Singing Stars. During this period, Tommy for a brief time also sang with The Soul Stirrers.
The Five Singing Stars went through several name changes, i.e., the Singing Stars, Tommy Ellison and The Five Singing Stars, and Tommy Ellison and The Singing Stars. No matter the name, you knew the group would deliver solid traditional gospel music. The group became an instant hit with gospel music fans far and near.
Their many hits include Come Home (God loves You), Sailing, Holy Ghost, You Can If You Will, If You Live Right, At the Gate I Know, On My Way To Grandma’s House, and Let This Be A Lesson to You (Drunk Driver), just to name a few. Tommy and The Singing Stars recorded for the Nashboro label. One of their greatest songs with Nashboro was I Want To Be loved. After leaving Nashboro, the group recorded with Atlanta International Records (A.I.R.) label. Some of their most popular recordings with AIR were Let This Be A Lesson To You, Closer, Power, and Trust and obey. In spite of having recorded many songs, one of the signature songs for the group was Sailing.
Tommy and The Singing Stars performed at The Apollo, Madison Square Garden, and Carnegie Hall and in some of the largest venues in the country and around the world. Tommy Ellison and The Singing Stars have shared the stage with such legendary talents as the great Mahalia Jackson, Spencer Taylor, Jr., The Mighty Clouds of Joy, and The Highway QC’s, The Swan Silvertones, The Gospel Keynotes, The Swanee Quintet, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Mississippi, Willie Banks and The Messengers, The Brooklyn All-Stars, The Barrett Sisters, The Caravans, Slim and The Supreme Angels, The Davis Sisters, Doc McKenzie and The Hi-Lites, The Williams Brothers, The Fantastic Violinaires, Darrell McFadden and The Disciples, Troy Ramey and The Soul Searches, Luther Barnes and Shirley Caesar and The Sensational Nightingales. The group was blessed with the opportunity to make their presence felt through the medium of television, appearing on several nationally broadcasted network variety shows.
Tommy received numerous awards during is exceptional enduring career. He was inducted into the American Gospel Quartet Convention Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2007, the Legislature of the State of South Carolina, by Resolution, recognized Tommy Ellison and The Singing Stars for their outstanding contribution toward preserving the heritage of African American gospel music.