Word comes that the truly lifting voice of Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen has passed away. The news comes from Donnie Sumner, nephew of famed J.D. Sumner, that Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen died at about 11:00 A.M. Friday. For Elvis fans, or those who enjoy gospel music, the name of Nielsen is one that can bring a smile from a memory of a song or note that sent shivers up your spine. Nielsen was that good.
This message was sent to us by Donnie Sumner, long time member of the vocal group Voice: ""I regret to inform you that MY FRIEND Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen passed away Friday morning at about 11:00 A.M. Sherrill fought a good fight and has now received his new body. I will miss MY FRIEND. Remember Brenda in your prayers. I haven't heard about the funeral arrangements yet, but Sherrill and Brenda have a home in Cullman AL and I assume the memorial service will be in Cullman I'll let all of my friends know as soon as I am informed.
God bless you all, Your friend Donnie Sumner."
From Sherrill's website: In 1961, because of Dad Speer’s health problems, the Singing Speer Family asked Sherrill to join their group. Sherrill, at that time, was singing with the Songfellows Quartet from Los Angeles, CA. Sherrill was excited at the prospect of singing with the legendary Singing Speer Family, a group that were members of the Nazarene Church in Montgomery, AL, where Sherrill and his grandparents attended when he was just a small boy.Little did Sherrill know that this was the stepping stone to his legendary career (some 50 plus years). While he was with the Singing Speer Family, Jake Hess approached Sherrill about singing tenor for a group that he was planning to organize. In 1963, Sherrill became a member of the legendary Jake Hess and the Imperials Quartet. He traveled with the Imperials until the spring of 1966 where he returned to California and the Songfellows. In 1967, he joined the Plainsmen Quartet in Baton Rouge, LA. In 1970, Sherrill moved to Atlanta, GA to join the Hovie Lister and the sensational Statesmen Quartet.In 1973, Sherrill took a new direction by moving to Nashville, TN to organize a gospel group that opened the show for Elvis Presley. Elvis’ love for Sherrill’s tenor voice and gospel music led him to claim the group as his own and Elvis named the group VOICE (after a name he saw on the cover of a religious periodical). According to Felton Jarvis, Elvis’ producer, Sherrill was Elvis’ favorite singer. In 1977, Elvis and Sherrill’s duet, “Softly As I Leave You” was nominated for a Grammy as duet of the year. Sherrill stayed with Elvis until Elvis’ death in 1977.In 1983, the Masters V was looking for a “master tenor voice” to replace Rozie Rozell,. who had suffered astoke. They immediately contacted Sherrill and he performed with this legendary group which consisted at that time of Jake Hess, James Blackwood, J. D. Sumner and Hovie Lister. He left the Masters V for a short time and returned for a second stint with jack Toney, Ed Hill, J. D. Sumner and Hovie Lister. For the past 12 years, Sherrill has been performing gospel music in churches and schools in the beautiful Country of Denmark and other parts of Europe. Denmark is the homeland of his grandfather, C. R. Nielsen, who raised him. Papa Nielsen wasSherrill’s hero. One of the most exciting experiences of Sherrill’s life was the opportunity to sing in the church where his grandfather was baptized on the night that would have been his 100th birthday. Living in Denmark, with bicycle paths and a much slower pace afforded him the serenity and inspiration to pen the words andmusic to approximately 40 songs. In 1966, Shaun’s first meeting with Elvis as a backup singer on his gospel album “How Great Thou Art”, led to their friendship and an eventual contract drawn up by Elvis himself. This contract stated that Shaun and the group VOICE would open his shows, sing back up on his records and write songs for his publishing company.Shaun is recognized by millions as the singer on Elvis’ recording of “Softly As I Leave You” on which Elvis does a recitation behind Shaun’s vocal. First released in 1978, this single rose to number 6 in the nation and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Shaun’s vocal of “O Sole Mio” as the introduction to “It’s Now or Never” is featured on Elvis’ last album titled “In Concert”.As a young developing singer, Shaun learned by singing along with the recordings of the Irish tenor JohnMcCormick, Roy Orbison, Mario Lanza, Hank Williams and Elvis. When these diverse influences delivered with his soul as a gospel singer touch you, they privilege a moving and unforgettable excursion through the gamut of your emotions. Upon reviewing an album recorded by Shaun, Elvis’ record producer Felton Jarvis wrote: “Shaun was Elvis’ favorite singer”. Elvis brought such happiness to so many of us with his music, Shaun brought such happiness to Elvis with his music. Shaun, an undisputed legend in gospel music, is the only person to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame as a member of 3 different groups: The Speer Family, The Imperials and the Statesmen. Shaun’s first international recognition as a solo artist came with a song titled “Lights of L.A., which charted in Billboards’ country chart. Sherrill, then and now: In 1963, Sherrill met the lovely and talented Brenda Hall. His first love and the love of his life while singing in Harrisburg, PA. They married and moved to Atlanta, GA. Then onto Nashville, TN and Ontario, CA. In 1967, they went their separate ways because of the many hardships brought on by the music business. In 1965, they had a beautiful baby girl, SherRee’ Elicia who was killed by a drunk driver in 1985. In April 2004, Brenda’s Secretary, JoAnn Garza found Sherrill on the Internet. Sherrill flew from Denmark, Europe to Houston, TX and the two love birds were reunited and were married on June 28, 2004 (some 40 years later). In July 2005, Brenda retired from her Architectural/Engineering position in Houston, TX and the two recently moved to Cullman, AL.