Representing Christian Music Ministry
in the New Millennium
They say music transcends all boundaries, and that may just be true for musician and singer Keith McKinney. Growing up in a small Oklahoma town listening to the sweet soul music of traditional black Gospel, Keith’s love of music and God began to blossom.
At the age of fourteen Keith began playing the bass guitar for The Flying Cloud Gospel Singers based in his hometown of Cushing, Oklahoma. His love of music would lead him on a journey of inspiration, frustration, and a time of self-reflection. Ultimately, however, he would take a leap of faith in obedience to God’s calling.
After high school Keith joined the United States Air Force where his music would also continue to play a large role. During his twelve years of military service he sang lead with a group that toured bases in various overseas countries such as Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Bob Hope took notice of the group and invited them to become part of the USO Tour where they would share the stage with some of the most memorable performers of all time, including Red Foxx, Lola Falana, and others.
Once Keith was stationed stateside again in New York he formed a 14-piece band to sing and play music in the local nightclubs. They opened for such musical greats as The Commodores, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge.
Over the next fourteen years of performing in night clubs with various bands, Keith admits he always felt a drawing towards God. While stationed in Florida for a time he joined the Gospel group, The Florida Soul Stirrers, as their lead singer. During this stint, he shared the stage with some of the most prominent groups in the black Gospel field – The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Willie Banks & the Messengers, The Blind Boys of Mississippi, and Shirley Caesar, to name a few.
After serving fourteen years in the military, Keith returned home to the small town of Cushing, Oklahoma only to learn that things had definitely changed in Gospel music as he knew it. “I wanted to sing Gospel but singing traditional black Gospel in Oklahoma was tough,” he recalls. “The black population was 17 percent and you couldn’t find any musicians to play.”
He continues, “I met a young man who played guitar for me, and his father - Rev. Muse - pastored three different churches. I noticed that he would travel weekly to preach at these three churches but each one only had six or seven members. I wondered why he would put this much effort into traveling and preaching to a congregation that small. I just couldn’t comprehend this, and I asked God why Rev. Muse would do this. I didn’t get an answer from God, and although I was always pulled to Gospel music, I made a lot of money playing in the nightclubs and was very successful at it, which led me back into the clubs. About 99 percent of the people in Oklahoma coming to hear me perform were white and although I already sang different styles of music four times a week; I realized I needed to learn to sing Country music, which I did.”
As Keith’s story unfolds, he explains the turning point in both his life and his career. “One night while driving home I heard God tell me, “You talk about how much you love Me!” I realized I was always telling God that I loved Him and desired to sing Gospel music, but I was not doing what He wanted me to do. Then God gave me the answer to the question about why Rev. Muse would work so hard for such a small group of people. The Lord told me, “Because he is being obedient to what I called him to do.”
“That one word – Obedient - changed my life at that moment! I would be obedient to what God was calling me to do! No more nightclubs! I called the booking office and cancelled my future bookings. I was taking a leap of faith! It was scary because I made very good money and I was walking away, completely trusting God. But scriptures began to flood my mind. Proverbs 3:5-6 would become very real to me, ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’ This scripture has become my cornerstone of faith.”
God has truly blessed Keith McKinney with a great talent for singing and witnessing to others. He is one of the most versatile singers ministering today. The style of music doesn’t matter to him; he just loves to sing for God. Southern Gospel, Country Gospel, Black Gospel, or whatever the song calls for Keith will deliver a concert you do not want to miss. Be sure to look for his latest single to radio entitled, Whose Gonna Meet You in that City.