About The Nelons
A long-running Georgia-based Southern gospel ensemble, the Nelons are a beloved family group known for their vibrant blend of gospel and inspirational music, a cappella harmonies, and folky Americana. Showcasing singer Kelly Nelon Clark, the Nelons initially became popular in the '70s under the leadership of Clark's father, singer and future Gospel Music Hall of Famer Rex Nelon, issuing a series of well-regarded albums like 1985's In One Accord and 1997's Glad You're Here. Kelly Nelon Clark eventually took over leadership of the group, along with her husband, singer/instrumentalist Jason Clark, and their two daughters. They have carried on the family's tradition with albums like 2014's Hymns: The A Cappella Sessions and 2017's The Americana Sessions.
Born in 1932 in Asheville, North Carolina, singer Rex Nelon grew up singing country and close-harmony religious music. At age 14, he won a singing contest, and not soon after was singing bass in various regional ensembles, including the Homeland Harmony Quartet. In 1957, he joined the legendary family Southern gospel group the LeFevres, performing and recording with them for the next 20 years. In 1977, spurred by the retirement of the last remaining original member Eva Mae LeFevre, Nelon assumed leadership of the group, changing the name first to the Rex Nelon Singers, and finally to the Nelons. Based in Atlanta, the group debuted with 1977's The Sun's Coming Up, and scored a Christian chart hit in 1980 with "Come Morning" off 1979's Feelings.
With their mix of traditional gospel songs and more contemporary originals, the Nelons proved popular with both younger and older audiences. They extended their reach in the '80s, picking up seven GMA Dove Awards, including winning Southern Gospel Album of the Year for 1982's One Step Closer, 1983's Feeling at Home, 1984's We Shall Behold the King, and 1985's The Best & a Whole Lot More. During this period, Kelly Nelon was married to bandmember Jerry Thompson. The group's success also helped launched the solo careers of several of its members, including singers Janet Paschal and Karen Peck, and pianist Stan Whitmire. In 1990, the Nelons picked up their first Grammy nomination for Best Southern Gospel Album with Let the Redeemed Say So.
By 1991, Peck had left the group and Kelly Nelon (then Kelly Nelon Thompson) was already a star in her own right. It was during this period that Rex Nelon began thinking about retirement, and considering the possibility of disbanding the ensemble. Nonetheless, they remained popular, adding singers Charlotte Penhollow and Tammy Britton, and scoring a Singing News magazine chart hit with "I'm Glad I Know Who Jesus Is" off 1991's A New Generation. Looking to keep the group together, Kelly Nelon issued her 1996 solo album as Kelly Nelon Thompson & the Nelons: a move that essentially marked her taking over as the band's leader from her father. Several lineup changes followed, including the departure of Jerry Thompson after he and Kelly Nelon divorced. Rex also retired from the group, but continued to perform, appearing often with Bill Gaither's Homecoming until his death in 2000 at age 68.
In 2001, Kelly Nelon married the Nelons' bassist and singer Jason Clark, and together, they began leading the group. Following the addition of their daughter, soprano Amber Nelon Thompson, the Nelons became a trio lineup who debuted with 2005's Light of Home. More trio albums followed, including 2008's You Are God, 2010's Beside Still Waters, and 2011's Come on Home. Beginning with 2014's Hymns: The A Cappella Sessions, younger daughter Autumn Nelon Clark also joined the band. That same year, Amber took home Female Vocalist of the Year at the Absolutely Gospel Music Awards. Two more quartet albums arrived in 2016, with Stronger Together and Family Harmony. Also that year, the Nelons were inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame. The Americana Sessions appeared in 2017, followed a year later by the holiday-themed A Winter's Carol.