Representing Christian Music Ministry
in the New Millennium
The Steeles originated as a group around 1981. By the early 1990s they burst into the national spotlight and have been a force in Southern Gospel music ever since.
Probably the second or third incarnation of The Steeles, the current line-up is made up of family patriarch Jeff Steele, his wife Sherry and their son Brad with a pinch hit on keyboard and vocals from Duke Cleghorn.
When the group first formed and on throughout the 1980s, The Steeles were made up mostly of “kids from our church,” says Sherry. “I always tell people you better treat a group full of young people right. You never know who they’ll turn out to be. I know one of the “kids” who traveled with us back then became Faith Hill the Country Music star! I wish I had a dollar for every preacher or promoter who booked us back then who ask today if that was really HER!! It was! How could they have known?”
Speaking of those early days, Jeff says “When Sherry and I got married we had another girl singing with us. I said (in one of my stupider moments) that a husband and wife shouldn’t be in the same group. I think that girl lasted about another three months til Sherry joined the group. With apologies to our dear friends, Jeff and Sheri Easter, let me just say…I was wrong!”
Through the years The Steeles have become sort of a “feeder” group. Mickey Bell, who went on to play with The Nelons and Tony Gore & Majesty and is currently with New Ground, once played keyboard with The Steeles. Danny Jackson who is now the tenor singer with The Bibletones Quartet once sang tenor with the group. Following Danny, David Owens took over the tenor role and now sings with New Ground. Jeff says, “Troy Peach was with us for about seven years and he has now been with The Ruppe Girls, The Bowling Family and currently sings with The Perrys. We maintain a strong relationship with all of them and still consider them to be a part of our family.”
It took a special person to travel with The Steeles in the decade of the 90s because the entire family was on the bus. Sherry says, “Our kids were small, and it was awful loud at times back then. Karen Akemon came to sing with us and was really a life saver with the kids. It definitely was not a position for just anybody.”
The Steeles have always been a ‘family’ group. Many fans who followed them while Jeff and Sherry’s kids grew up on the bus often ask where they are today. Christy received her Master’s degree from West Alabama University after receiving her undergraduate degree from Athens State University. She is currently The Career Tech Counselor for Morgan County Schools in Alabama. She is married to the Falkville, Alabama Chief of Police, Chris Free. “They are both named Chris, so I just call our son in law ‘Chief’ so they’ll know who we’re talking about,” Jeff mentions.
Kayla works in the medical field and is married to Jason Makemson. They have two children who call Sherry ‘Granna’ and Jeff ‘G. Pop.’ And speaking of “Little Bradley,’ Jeff shares, “We always prayed Brad would take the job singing the tenor spot with mom and dad. He’s a phenomenal singer but would just never take the job. Suddenly about three years ago he said he’d like to try it and the last few years have been everything we had always envisioned for our group.”
Brad is now a co-writer with Jeff on just about all their songs and the producer of all their projects. He is also the Worship Pastor at the church where Jeff is the Senior Pastor…Redeeming Grace Church of Cullman, Alabama. Brad says, “Our church is a non-denominational church and if you ask is it hard to keep a group on the road and keep a growing church growing the answer is YES! We do about 75 dates or so a year and that involves a lot of all-nighters just to be back on Sunday mornings. Dad’s getting on up there, but I hold up pretty good.” (At this point Jeff frowns and Sherry laughs.)
Jeff never stopped writing even when the family came off the road for a few years to pastor a church in 2006. During this time, he had a ‘Song of the Year’ with The Inspirations called We Need to Thank God…a co-write with Niles Borop. He also had a number one song with Karen Peck and New River called Whispered Prayers, a co-write with friend Earl Galloway. That duo also produced a song Legacy V recorded called I’ve Been Changed. It was nominated for ‘Song of the Year.’
The writing bug really bit in 2012 when Jeff wrote and The Steeles recorded, “BUT GOD!” It became a smash hit for the group. Calls came like crazy and all the sudden The Steeles were back “on the road AGAIN.” Jeff explains, “When we came off the road, we had no intention of EVER coming back. However, the song But God was different. It was special, and the response was overwhelming. Social media had become a big influence as well. While we promoted using social media the hash tag #butGod trended on Facebook and Twitter two or three times. The stories we received from folks who had experienced their OWN “But God” moments were so numerous that I wrote a book by the same title. That song hit in 2012 and we still close with it every night seven years later!”
Sherry adds, “We were certain God had called us back to the road. We obeyed His leading and yet within about eight months we had a group of folks ask us to start a Thursday Night Bible Study. Even though we were on the road we said we would. Well that work grew and grew to the point where those people wanted to start a ‘real’ church and they wanted Jeff to be their pastor. We prayed and decided to try to do both. They were OK with it and that’s pretty much where we are today.” Brad chimes in, “Dad always says He’d rather burn out than rust out. I guess he’s trying to prove it.”
In 2016 The Steeles were back in the studio recording a new project called “Prodigals.” In December of 2018 they were completely shocked to hear the news that the title song from that project was the number one song for the entire year of 2018. “I remember when Brad and I were writing that song,” Jeff shares, “we wanted to write a song about the prodigal son. It’s long been one of my favorite stories from scripture. (As a matter of fact, Ricky Atkinson and I had a number one song with Tony Gore and Majesty back around the year 1999 with a song we wrote for him called The Prodigal.) We sat there for twenty or thirty minutes and had NOTHING. Not even a grunt. I asked Brad to hand me the dictionary out of my bookshelf and I did something I had never done in all my 40 plus years of ministry. I looked up the word prodigal. The dictionary definition said, ‘any exorbitant lifestyle pursued with such a passion as to show no regard for anyone but one’s self.’ I closed the book and said son…who among us hasn’t done that? Which one of us hasn’t been right there? The song was written in twenty minutes. We sang it at our church and by the time we got through the chorus the first time everybody in the congregation was singing it with us. Now everywhere we go folks are singing it with us.”
The Steeles have a brand-new project out now. It is called The Steeles…Legacy! Brad produced it and folks are saying it may be the best Steeles project yet. The first single from the project entitled Never Changes is in the Top 10 already. The next single called Just Across the River is due out any day now – be listening for it.
Music, Ministry and More. Make it a point to experience The Steeles in 2019.