Lee County Original has sung for President and played national TV

Lawrence Welk, right, shares a laugh with Guy Hovis and Ralna English. The photo was from 1977, the year Ralna gave birth to their daughter, Julie.

A friend said when he heard Guy Hovis sing a patriotic number he felt a chill run down his spine and the hair on his arms stand up. Another said when Guy sang “Footprints in the Sand” there was a stirring in his soul.

Guy is one of the few Lee County Originals who is still with us, and still performs. Guy, who was born Sept. 24, 1941, is known to most for his time with The Lawrence Welk Show.

His musical career actually started in a quartet, formed here in Tupelo called The Cavaliers — the original members were Hovis, Buddy Palmer, Bobby Berell and Bobby Parker. Parker was later replaced by Paul Ballard.

“We all had singing ability and at the time, each of us thought we were the best,” Palmer said and laughed. “We played schools and churches from about 1955-1958 and entered many talent shows and won most of them.”

Guy grew up in Willis Heights, his father was an officer with the Mississippi Highway Patrol and Guy grew up singing at Harrisburg Baptist Church.

“We got to open for the Statesmen and got to meet James Blackwood, J.D. Summer and others. Those were good times,” Palmer said. “We sang tunes like ‘Have You Talked to the Man Upstairs,’ ‘Get Away, Jordan’ and some contemporary songs.”

Hovis graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Mississippi at Oxford. After a two-year stint in the United States Army, Hovis decided to try a career as a musical performer in Hollywood. His first break came when he appeared on CBS House Party television program which was hosted by Art Linkletter. He teamed up with David Blaylock to form the singing duo Guy & David. They signed a recording contract with ABC Records.

After the duo disbanded, Hovis was a soloist again, performing in Los Angeles nightclubs such as The Horn in Santa Monica, California; it was there he met his future wife and singing partner Ralna English. The couple wed in January 1969. Guy and Ralna were the only married couple ever featured together on TV’s “The Lawrence Welk Show.” The marriage ended after 15 years, but the singing duo, known as “Guy & Ralna” continue to harmonize onstage.

“Guy and I just couldn’t make it as husband and wife, but when we sing together it still really works. We are still so in tune together onstage that it is uncanny,” Ralna said in an earlier interview. “We can do love songs on stage, have dinner together after the show, and then go back to our other lives.”

“We’ve enjoyed a pretty good relationship for almost 50 years now. It is partly the blend of our voices and also that we’ve always harmonized very easily together,” added Hovis, in a telephone interview when he was 73. “We’ve also kept a good personal friendship over the years, because of our daughter.”

Hovis, now 77, married Sarah “Sis” Lundy, and the couple currently reside in the capital city of Jackson. Hovis has performed with such entertainers as Dinah Shore and Jim Nabors and was a guest on the Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Joey Bishop, and Mike Douglas programs.

In 1986, he launched a Christian music ministry and performed throughout the country in churches and other public gatherings. Hovis sang the title song Too Many Yesterdays for the Disney film Benji the Hunted (1987).

From 1990 to 2007, Hovis served as state director for former U.S. Senator Trent Lott. Hovis and Lott have been friends since their college days at Ole Miss. Hovis still performs at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Branson, Missouri, for pledge specials on PBS, or with Ralna at state fairs, concert halls, and casinos.

Another high point in Guy’s career occurred on Jan. 20, 2005 when he sang “Let the Eagle Soar,” a song written by then United States Attorney General John Ashcroft of Missouri, at the second inaugural of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Guy Hovis will be a part of the exhibit Lee County Originals which will be at the Oren Dunn City Museum, beginning Sept. 1 and running through Oct. 31.

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