A popular vocalist who performed at Las Vegas casinos, on cruise ships, in Japan, and even performed on the main stage at the 50th anniversary of the NIBROC Festival, died last Wednesday at the age of 77.
Corbin native Gary Edwards grew up on Mitchell Street across from the hospital where he was born. Described as normal, if a bit shy, Edwards had a unique talent for music and singing.
Sister Gregoria, at Saint Camillus Academy, helped him with voice lessons. Edwards graduated from Saint Camillus. His father would take him around to local clubs like the Kiwanis Club, the Moose Lodge and the local steakhouse to perform as a boy.
He recorded his first record, at the age of 10, in 1952 in the WCTT radio station studio. Edwards performed the song “I Believe” and it was recorded on 78 rpm record.
He’d first sang the song at a gathering of the local Rotary Club.
Edward’s sister, Barbara Edwards Whitaker, said her brother’s musical talent was a family trait.
“We grew up in a musical home. We practiced every week, two times, with our piano player Bill Felts from Lily,” Whitaker said. Whitaker added that her brother lived with her for quite a while until his death.
“He lived with us before he was hospitalized. I was with him every day until he passed,” Whitaker said. “We have always been so close, but he is with the Lord now. No more pain. I will miss him more than words can say.”
Gary’s father, Mike, who had is own local orchestra, would take him to WCTT each Saturday to perform a few songs with his four-piece band on the “Mike Edwards Radio Show.” When he turned 16, the radio station gave him his own show, “The Gary Edwards Show.”
Edwards gained valuable experience performing on-air and at various local venues. During high school, Edwards formed his first back-up band called “The Shades” and would perform with them at school functions like homecomings, proms, weddings and other special events.
After high school, Edwards attended Eastern Kentucky University and continued to perform as an undergraduate. He later enrolled in the University of Kentucky School of Law in 1963 and continued to entertain audiences all over Kentucky with a band called “The Embers.”
Edwards continued to perform, particularly in the Louisville area in the 1960s. He signed a contract with The Joni Agency in 1965 and met his future wife, Sherri. They married in July 1966, and although they later divorced, they would continue to perform together from time to time.
Edwards’ climb to possible “national stardom” was interrupted in 1968 when he was drafted into the US Army. He served in the Vietnam War, and returned to the states in 1970.
In 1975, Edwards signed with Epic Records, a subsidiary of Columbia Records at the time. By that time he’d performed as an opening act for the likes of B.B. King and Kenny Rogers in Las Vegas.
He continued to perform through the 80s and 90s. and record songs.
Whitaker said Edwards also obtained his real estate license in the 1990s and was successful in selling “vacation ownership” deals as a second career.
A graveside funeral service will be held for Gary Edwards Jan. 5 at 11:30 a.m. at Locust Grove Cemetery in Keavy. Southern Oaks Funeral Home in Somerset is handling arrangements. Rev. Bobby Joe Eaton will provide the message at the funeral. He will be buried next to his parents, Mike and Louise Edwards.
Edwards is survived by his sister, Barbara Edwards Whitaker, son Derek Edwards, daughter Katelyn Edwards, and the mother of his children, Lynn Branson Edwards.