Derrell Stewart was born October 6, 1934 in Brunswick,
GA. At the age of five he started studying piano with a love for gospel music
that developed from the all-day singings his father promoted. His mother
was the one who really encouraged him to play. She was placed in an orphanage
for a short time during her childhood while her mother was having surgery.
During this time she heard other kids getting music lessons and would listen
outside the door while they practiced. Then she would try to play what she
had heard on an old organ in the attic.
She couldn't afford lessons of her own but she promised
herself is she ever had children, they would learn how to play the piano.
And Derrell was the only child, so play he did. He didn't like to practice
in front of other kids, though, so he came up with a brilliant idea. "I ran
the clock at the house up so mama would send me to school early and I could
practice before anyone got there. When she figured it out, though, I had
to do double practice time in the afternoon and miss out on playing ball
with the other boys." He practiced and learned as much as he could through
his schooling and eventually studied under piano greats like James D. Walbert
in Birmingham, AL.
Derrell joined the DIXIE RHYTHM QUARTET at the age of
eighteen right out of high school and spent three years developing his much-loved
style of playing, singing and comedy. This is also the time period when Derrell
started wearing red socks. "While I was with the DIXIE RHYTHM, I was wearing
not only red socks, but also red suspenders and a red tie at our dates. When
J.G. Whitfield called me in Feb. of 1956, I dropped the suspenders and the
tie and just went with the red socks. Later, the record company picked up
on it and started putting it in the publicity for the group. I had to wear
them after that, and they have been a part of my attire ever since. A lot
of fans ask me if I wear them all the time, but I only wear them when I perform
because the red dye makes my feet swell up." (Always the comedian)
Derrell has received many awards throughout his career
including four SINGING NEWS FAVORITE MUSICIAN AWARDS, one of which was the
very first Musician Award, and was recently awarded the piano Roll of Honor
at the 1997 Grand Ole' Gospel Reunion. Derrell has been a great friend and
inspiration to many of today's piano greats such as Roger Bennett and Anthony
Burger, both of whom have came up to Derrell in recent years and thanked
him for his encouragement to them in their careers. His home town of Brunswick,
GA once honored him with Derrell Stewart Day, and his former classmates gave
Derrell a plaque honoring his many achievements.
While he's at home Derrell loves to play his new Baby
Grand Piano that his wife gave him for Christmas. "Even though I love and
play Gospel, I like to listen to big band and classical music. I enjoy going
back to my old training and playing classical pieces while I'm at home. My
wife, Reve, and I like to go to flea markets and see what treasures we can
find. Last year I found an old pump organ, which reminded me of the one my
mama always talked about playing in the attic of that orphanage. I bought
it, brought it home, Reve and I cleaned and polished it, and I really get
a kick out of playing it now and then.
Derrell wants to thank his lovely wife, whose love even
extends to washing his red socks every Monday morning. Derrell hopes that
his piano playing and comedy is something that people can enjoy and will
help lift their spirits, while keeping the focus on Christ. If you have ever
seen Derrell Stewart perform, you have seen one of the funniest and best
entertainers in Southern Gospel Music ever. Derrell was a big hit at both
the Great Western and National Quartet Convention's Pianoramas. Host Anthony
Burger said ,"I'll never have another Pianorama without Derrell there." Look
for this legendary pianist on the Gaither Homecoming Videos, the 1998 Pianorama
video and anywhere the Florida Boys are performing.