As Dollywood opens for its 36th season, so does the park’s longest-running entertainment act, the award-winning Kingdom Heirs. Back to perform on the Showstreet Palace Theatre stage, this off-season brought a major change to the seven-member group.
With the recent retirement of long-time tenor Jerry Martin, Kingdom Heirs manager Kreis French shoulder tapped 24-year-old Jacob Ellison to fill the vacancy to maintain the signature four-part harmony and tight musical arrangements for which the group is known. “We are very excited to start our new season at Dollywood with Jacob. He is a very talented individual who loves the Lord,” Kreis said.
I got to see the Kingdom Heirs introduce their new tenor at his debut Dollywood performance.
Kingdom Heirs bass singer Jeff Chapman went on to say that Ellison has, “the salt and the seasoning of a 30-year pro in southern gospel music.”
A spot in the Kingdom Heirs lineup is one of the most-coveted jobs in all of Southern gospel music. “We had tremendous interest in the position. The last time we had an opening, we had more than 60 auditions that we went through to find the right fit,” Kreis told me.
With a home base inside one of the nation’s premier theme parks and a performing schedule that allows for maximum exposure, it’s no wonder why Jacob says he is humbled and thankful. “I dreamed of this. I prayed for this, but honestly, I never thought I would have the opportunity to share this kind of stage with this level of talent. The guys have been so good to me, and I’m humbled to sing with the Kingdom Heirs and glorify God through this platform.”
A new era for one of southern gospel’s top groups has begun, and judging from the early returns, it looks like the Kingdom Heirs and Jacob Ellison continue to be on an upward trajectory.