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Sullivan & Iola Pugh

2002 Florida Folk Heritage Award


Sullivan Pugh was born in Moorhaven, Florida in 1925. When his mother was killed in the 1926 Lake Okeechobee hurricane, Pugh and his five siblings were adopted by a family in the community of Punta Gorda. Pugh began singing as a child soloist at the First Born Church of the Living God in Miami.

He met his wife lola (when she was singing with the Miami Gospel Singers. The couple married in 1950. In 1952 the pair decided to form a gospel trio with Pearl Nance-Rayford, and they called themselves the Miami Soul Stirrers. Their original repertoire was based on the traditional spirituals and songs of the Holiness Church. Early influences included other African American gospel groups such as the Soul Stirrers of Chicago (from which they took their name) and the National Gospel Twins of Delray Beach, Florida. In 1953, Nance-Rayford quit the trio and Sullivan and lola took the name The Spiritual Consolers for their duet.

During the early period of their careers, the Pughs sang for both the Glory and DeLuxe recording labels. In 1955 they signed with Nashboro Records in Nashville, Tennessee and shortened their name to The Consolers. Their first recording with Nashboro was "Give Me My Flowers." "Flowers" would remain their best selling recording and signature song.

For forty years Sullivan and lola Pugh were considered among the elite traditional African American gospel performers in America. During this period they sang on numerous single releases and produced twenty-five albums. They performed concerts in the Bahamas, England, Africa, Canada, and throughout the United States. Favorite southern gospel performers, The Consolers performed at countless church conventions and camp meetings in Florida, Their blended vocals along with Sullivan's guitar playing were considered trademarks in the world of gospel music. A gifted composer, Pugh wrote many of the songs heard on their recordings and in concert.

lola Pugh died in October 1994. Sullivan Pugh died in 2011. In the years preceding his death, Sullivan remained a member of his childhood church in Miami. He was actively involved with The Consolers Progressive Charity Club, which assists the needy, and continued to sing and participate in community and church activities.