The McKamey Sisters were organized in 1954, consisting of Peg McKamey, Dora McKamey, and Carol McKamey. Dora gathered her younger sisters together in her home and insisted that they help her sing the following Sunday. First singing in their home church, they were soon invited to different churches and revivals to sing. In 1957, Ruben Bean joined the group playing guitar. Two years later, he and Peg married. Later, Ruben would move to bass vocals. They recorded their first long-play record, The Family Prayer, in 1968 at Tri-State Recording Studio in Kingsport, Tennessee.
Dora and Carol decided to retire from the group at the end of 1972. After praying and practicing for three months, Peg and Ruben’s daughters Connie and Sheryl made their debut in March of 1973. For the remainder of the 1970s, the group continued singing on a part-time basis. In 1979, Connie married the group's bass guitarist Kenny Powell. During these years, Ruben Bean had his own construction business. During 1979, he closed out the construction company, and The McKameys became a full-time group in January of 1980.
In 1983, Sheryl left to fulfill her obligations as a pastor’s wife, and it was then that Carol returned. That same year, The McKameys began hosting an annual event known as “Hometown Sing” in Clinton, Tennessee each June. This event would run for more than 35 years. In September of 1984, their song “Who Put The Tears In The Eyes Of The Lamb” rose to the number one spot on the Singing News airplay chart. It would be the first of many. “Getting Used To The Dark” was number one for the last three months of 1987.
The group logo was updated in 1987 for their More Than Music album cover and would remain unchanged for the rest of the group's history. Roger Fortner was hired that same year to play guitar. He later married Connie after her divorce from former bass guitarist Kenny Powell. Carol left the group in 1988. Bonnie White sang her part until she returned in 1989. Meanwhile, the song that would forever be associated with The McKameys, “God On The Mountain,” had been at the number one spot on the Singing News chart for five consecutive months (November of 1988 through March of 1989).
During the 1990s, The McKameys continued to have sustained success on radio. Number one songs during this decade include “God Will Make This Trial A Blessing” (January-February, 1991), “Do You Know How It Feels?” (February-April, 1993), “A Borrowed Tomb” (October 1993), “Arise” (June-September, 1994), “Right On Time” (November 1997), and “Roll That Burden On Me” (November 1999).
In 1999, Connie and Roger's son, Eli Fortner began to appear regularly on stage with the group quoting scripture and singing from time to time. Eli began playing rhythm guitar on stage with The McKameys in 2006. The group remained unchanged until March of 2009 when Carol retired from the road and Sheryl returned.
The success of The McKameys on radio also extended through the 2000s. Number one songs included “I’ve Won” (November 2001), “He Calms Me” (May 2002), “The Good News” (June 2005), “I Am Home” (December 2005-January 2006), “I Will Trust You Lord” (August 2006), and “Between 12 And 33” (November 2009). When "Between 12 And 23" went to number one, The McKameys took sole possession of the record for the most number ones in the history of the Singing News chart, but they still weren’t finished.
During the 2010s, The McKameys saw five more songs reach number one. These include “I Keep Praying” (June 2010), “The Shepherd’s Point Of View” (December 2010), “Above And Beyond” (August 2011), “Unspoken Request” (January 2013), and “Pure Satisfaction” (July 2015), bringing their total to 20. The McKameys retired from full-time touring at the end of November 2019, marking a total of 65 years on the road. Peg McKamey Bean was present for the entire 65 years. Both Peg and Ruben are in the SGMA Hall Of Fame.
The Mckameys officially retired from full-time touring in 2019 at the end of November. A live CD/DVD combo product from their 2019 National Quartet Convention retirement showcase was released in 2020.
(Kristopher Hise contributed to portions of this article.)