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Sixty years in the music business

By Michael Davis

Ed Wallace's McDonough home is almost a shrine to his music career. But then, he's been doing it more than 60 years and has had plenty of time to build a collection.

Wallace is one of the founding members - and only original member - in the group The Sunshine Boys, formed in 1942. One room in his and his wife Ginny's home is filled with records, movie posters, photos and of course, his piano.

“If it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't have saved none of it,” he said.

In September, the group was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, and received the Mary Tallent “Pioneer” Award.

“You never think about stuff like that and all the sudden, they start bringing up stuff like that,” he said.

He didn't get into country & western and gospel music for the awards, but all the same, he's proud of his group's accomplishments.

Wallace is an Atlanta native, but the 81-year-old spent most of his life on the road with the group, which specializes in four-part harmonies and made a name for themselves playing singing extras in 19 Hollywood westerns during the 1940s. “After the war was over, we decided we would go to California and do some movies,” he said. “Why, I don't know.”

He's been in McDonough since 1972, and until 2003, ran an electrical contracting business that was sacrificed to expand the county's courthouse. “They pushed it out into the street,” he said.

He also served two decades as the county's election board chairman.

In the early days of WSB-TV, Wallace said, the group was a staple of daytime-only broadcasts, playing and singing songs from a make-shift studio near the former Rich's in Atlanta while the television studio was being finished. He said the group started playing country & western - what he says was then called “hillbilly music” - but “graduated into the gospel side.”

The group even spent 10 years playing casinos in Nevada and had several promotional contracts over the years, including one to sell Minute Rice as the radio counterpart to Johnny Carson, who hawked it on TV.

Today, Wallace continues to play gospel music around Henry County, making monthly visits to retirement homes.

“He remembers those old songs senior citizens don't hear anymore,” said Ginny Wallace.

The two met while The Sunshine Boys were playing radio shows in West Virginia and married in 1959. The couple have three children.

Ed Wallace keeps himself occupied with his one-man shows, work with the Henry County Chamber of Commerce (his company was absorbed by his brother's in 2003 to become Wallace Electrical Co. and he's still a partner) and the handful of shows The Sunshine Boys still perform every year.

“We just have a good time,” he said.