Steve French Passes Away

Steve-French-681x1024Today is a tough day.  It’s tough because the news broke that one of the greatest influences in my music ministry is gone.  The news of Steve’s passing broke yesterday (June 28, 2016), and I’m just in shock.

I first heard of Steve and the Kingdom Heirs back in 1995 and it was the music of the Kingdom Heirs that sparked my love for Southern Gospel & Quartet Style Music.  It was this very video that caught my eyes (and ears) and really got me through some tough times in my life:

For a couple of years in the late 1990s, I probably averaged a day a week at Dollywood listening to every show the Kingdom Heirs did and talking with them afterwards.  I know they would never remember me, but this group will never know how they have impacted my life and helped start me down the path of a music ministry with my family.  All the memories from those days keep flooding my mind.  What an honor it was for me to know Steve and the Kingdom Heirs.

Many years later, I would have the opportunity to share the Kingdom Heirs’ music with my girls and Steve quickly became my oldest daughter’s favorite singer.  Because of the travel schedule of my family’s ministry, we didn’t get to see them often, but when we did, Steve always had time to talk and have his picture made with Keanna.

The news of his passing has cut deep and it hurts today.  This song was the last that I remember Steve recording with the group.  I want to always be able to remember Steve, his singing and his kindness that he showed to a young boy with no direction, that was searching for meaning in life.  It was Jesus that gave my life meaning, but it was this man and his vision and music with the Kingdom Heirs that helped give me direction in my life.

I pray that God will comfort all of Steve’s family and friends who are hurting.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


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    • Steven on June 29, 2016 at 10:18 am
    • Reply

    What a wonderful tribute to Steve. Thank you for sharing with your readers.

    The way you described him through word and song is the way that I will choose to remember him as well. I never saw them at Dollywood, but would catch them when they were in my area. A few years ago, I was able to be the promoter of their concerts in my area. The first concert with them would be the last concert with Steve in my town. That night, he was humble, kind, funny and gracious. May his family find comfort from the Lord.

  1. Many stories like yours say the Kingdom Heirs were founded in 1981 by Steve and Kreis French. The truth is the group was started in 1971 as The Kingdom Heirs.
    Incorporated as a non-profit in 1974 under the name “New Kingdom Heirs Inc”.
    Secured a registered trademark in 1979 for the name “Kingdom Heirs”
    Started performing at Silver Dollar City in 1977 at the Fall Craft Festival and performed annually there ever since.

    I was the lead vocal for the group from 1971 to October 1982 and Steve French and Kreis came into the group when I left to raise my children and worship with my family.
    I seek no financial gain, nor do I claim any ownership in the group. I am simply working with the other members who established the group over the first 11 years of it’s existence to restore the true legacy.
    These are the pioneers who paved the way for the Kingdom Heirs to blossom at Dollywood.

    We certainly were not an unknown group. We sang in concert with The Chuck Wagon Gang, The Hensons, The Kingsmen, The Cathedrals, Jerry Goff, Windy Bagwell, The McKamey’s, The Singing Cookes,
    The Primitives, The Nelons, and many more.

    Gene McKinney

    • Bruce Carr on October 20, 2018 at 9:35 pm
    • Reply

    I remember the group in the seventies, one of my favorite groups along with the waymakers

    • Allison Oda on September 21, 2021 at 8:24 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you Adam for your post. Steve affected me the same way he affected your daughter. Such a heartbreaking experience to go through. When I found out he passed the way he did, I was devastated for months I still can’t talk about it because I miss him so much. I met them back in 2004, and followed them up until a few years after he passed. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to the Showstreet Palace and him not being there, it broke me into 1 billion pieces. I still think about him to this day, but I have put him in the depths of my soul so that I don’t get affected so much anymore. I miss him so badly so I feel your daughters pain. He was such an influential person in my life along with millions of others in SGM.

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