The sad end of Steve French

 Steve french

It didn’t really generate many headlines, but former Kingdom Heirs front man Steve French died June 22 in a double-suicide in West Virginia. Authorities say he and his girlfriend, Lindsey Hudson, 29, were on the run from police when they jumped to their deaths from a bridge over the New River Gorge.

It was his relationship with Hudson that led to his departure from the band he founded and managed for more than 30 years.

The Kingdom Heirs have been a resident Southern Gospel band at Pigeon Forge’s Dollywood theme park since the park’s inception (it was formerly Silver Dollar City). Steve French founded the band with his brother, Kreis French, who still plays guitar for the group, in 1981. He sang baritone with the group and served as emcee until unexpectedly announcing that he was retiring in December 2014.

It didn’t take long, of course, for news to emerge that French had left his wife of 33 years and was in a relationship with Hudson, who reportedly also worked at Dollywood. 

Exactly what happened between that time and when Sevier County authorities issued capias warrants for the couple’s arrests — presumably for failing to appear in court — has been kept out of the public eye. But a post about French’s retirement on this blog back in 2014 generated considerable comments from people who hinted that French and Hudson were engaged in unlawful activities. Those comments did not appear on the blog, because I refuse to approve comments that levy serious accusations against someone without proof. Eventually, comments on the post were closed. None of those commenting ever specified exactly what it was that French and his new fiance were supposed to have done.

In any event, it’s a disappointing end for what was in many ways the glue that held together what I’ve long considered to be the best quartet in Southern Gospel music. 

Meanwhile, the Kingdom Heirs continue to perform at Dollywood during much of the year, and tour during the off-season. Lead singer Arthur Rice, who has been with the group since 1995 and is currently president of the Southern Gospel Music Association, has long seemed to set the tone and direction for the group. He seems sincere, in addition to being one of the most talented lead singers in Southern Gospel music.

10 Reviews

    I saw this on google Internet news because I was wanting my boss and his son to take me across this bridge. Saddened me, as I was doing search for information on it I seen a lot of people’s comments were very judgmental and condemning and wonder if this contribituted to them committing suicide. My heart is broken for them and their families 🙁

    A very sad end to a very talented person, it breaks my heart.

    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

      I remember well the beginning of the Kingdom Heirs many years ago.I was a member of Highland Baptist Church in the late 70s you guys came to sing. The service was truly filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoicing. That was true gospel music from the heart. I graduated high school with Steve and am saddened by his death but we serve a faithful and righteous Savior who is neverchanging.


        I’m sorry to reply to you kind comments so long after you wrote them I only just saw them today.
        I remember Highland Baptist Church well and certainly appreciate your confirmation of my prior comments.
        Since I posted that I have assembled a more complete history of the early beginnings of the Kingdom Heirs. Now after 35 years of raising children, leading choir at church and worshiping with my family Duane Wyrick, Steve Gouge, Buddy Mukley, Mike Shuemaker (all from the Kingdom Heirs early years) and Steve Gouges wife Robin have come together to sing again. Our group is Knoxville’s Own Southern Gospel Quartet.
        Follow us on Facebook Knoxville’s Own Southern Gospel Quartet I hope to see you at one of our services.

        God Bless you

      Gene, I would love the opportunity to talk to you about the original Kingsom Heirs.

    I am from Trinidad and Tobago but I grew up on southern gospel music and even sang in a quartet for many years. It is with deep sadness that I send my sympathy to Steve’s family and friends. Let us as Christians pray for our marriages our families that God will bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. I would like to think that Steve and his companion in their last moments would have done like the thief on the cross. We are not God so please let us not judge.

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