Willow Springs, MO (July 18, 2019) — Singing News has learned that longtime Gospel guitarist and songwriter Dwayne Friend, “Mr. Gospel Guitar,” passed away Wednesday, July 17, in Willow Springs, Missouri. He was 82.
UPDATE: Funeral arrangements added at the end of this page.
Growing up in Mountain Grove, Missouri, Dwayne taught himself to play guitar in the style of Chet Atkins and became well known for his classic fingerstyle playing. He would go on to perform with The Happy Goodman Family, The Blackwood Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys, and The Smitty Gatlin Trio, among others, and he was hired to play on numerous Gospel albums over the years. He also recorded several solo albums, appeared multiple times at the Grand Ole Opry, and performed at Rex Humbard’s Cathedral of Tomorrow.
In 1969, at the very first GMA Dove Awards, Dwayne was the winner in the Instrumentalist category. Then in 1970, he won in the same category and also received an award for Song of the Year as one of the writers of “The Night Before Easter.” In addition to that song, Dwayne wrote or cowrote many others, including “The Little Boy from the Carpenter Shop” and “I Came Here to Stay.”
During the 1970s, Dwayne traveled for a while with Jimmie Snow (son of Hank Snow) and Carol Lee Cooper (daughter of Wilma Lee Cooper). He sang harmony, played guitar, and even preached occasionally during their evangelistic meetings.
Dwayne had a passion for preaching and evangelism, and he started his own ministry, Dwayne Friend Ministries, in the 1970s. He had a successful 30-minute Sunday morning television show, performing music and preaching, and he also held crusades from coast to coast, seeing thousands come to know Christ.
Gene Reasoner (Jubilation/White River) shares these words about Dwayne, with whom he was good friends: “I met Dwayne when I was 14 years old and his superb musicianship captured my heart. He became an icon and mentor to me. His greatest asset was not his skill on the guitar, it was his heart for evangelism. He won thousands to Jesus in his crusades and became known for his powerful invitations to the altar. His preaching hero was Billy Graham and he patterned his preaching and altar call style after Rev Graham. He will be missed.”
Funeral arrangements for Dwayne Friend are as follows:
Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. CT, followed by the funeral service at 10 a.m. CT, both at Crossroads of Faith Church, which is just north of Mountain Grove at the address 8515 Highway 38, Mountain Grove, Missouri, 65711. For more information and directions, or to post a tribute to Dwayne, visit the Craig-Hurtt Funeral Home website or call (417) 926-4111.