The Marksmen Quartet of Murrayville, Georgia, were the victims of thieves who stole their white Ford travel van, white enclosed Country Boy trailer and all their instruments, costumes and equipment while taking an overnight stay on November 25 at the Quality Inn on Dunbarton Drive in Florence, South Carolina.
The group, led by Earle Wheeler, was on its way to perform at the annual Myrtle Beach Bluegrass Festival in South Carolina.
The theft was discovered at 7:30 the following morning, “Needless to say we were surprised by the predicament”, Wheeler said. “But there is a reason for everything under heaven.”
Fortunately, the group were able to reach their destination and play for the Thanksgiving weekend festival goers who were very supportive.
“The bluegrass folks have been so good to us,” said Wheeler. “Other performers loaned us their instruments to do the shows. Many supporters have reached out to help us financially because the future is still uncertain as to how we will replace everything that was taken. Like any music ministry we rely on those that support our efforts.”
Wheeler formed the group in 1967 and after 44 years on the road, the quartet which currently records for Rural Rhythm is one of the most awarded country and bluegrass gospel groups performing today
After the group arranged transportation to reach their performances, the police located their vehicle in Berkeley County, South Carolina, left in a disabled condition, Wheeler said.
“There was no trailer, instruments, sound equipment, or stage costumes, boots or other items to be found,” he said. “I have yet to see the van but they tell me they have done damage that makes it undrivable.”
Inside the van, the police did recover Wheeler’s Bible.
“That’s the one thing they probably really needed to keep,” Wheeler said. “We were driving the van and trailer while we looked for a 25,500 gross vehicle weight bus to travel in. Costs of operating a larger bus have made it difficult to keep one on the road.”
Lead singer and songwriter Mark Wheeler said losing one’s instrument is like losing an extension of you. “Many of these were specially made for us, in fact two cannot even be replaced because they were the first or a one-of-a-kind,” he said. “We hope that the authorities will locate the instruments but even if they don’t, we will do our best with whatever the Lord provides.”
Among the stolen instruments with cases are a 2008 Mossman Texas Plains guitar with mahogany sides and back and a big sound hole, serial number 08078; a 1991 Mossman Texas Plains guitar with rosewood sides and back and a serial number beginning with 91; a 1999 Mossman Wheeler Gospel all mahogany guitar with serial number 990506; a one-of-a-kind late 1990s Mossman resonator guitar all mahogany with F holes with no serial number; a 1973 Gibson Mastertone banjo and a blonde Engelhardt upright bass model number EM1B with serial number 91443.
If anyone has information on whereabouts of the trailer or the band’s equipment they should contact, the Florence Police Department 843-676-8800 or the South Carolina Crime Stoppers hotline at 888-CRIME SC (274-6372). Callers need not reveal their identities.
If anyone wishes to assist the Marksmen Quartet, their mailing address is 1312 Post White Hill Road, Murrayville, Georgia 30564, and their office number is (706) 864-2951.