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If there’s a piano or guitar nearby, Seagrove’s Bobby Marsh is likely behind it. (Photo: Contributed / Bill Spencer)

Bobby Marsh: Music is his mission

Bobby Ray Marsh of Seagrove is a musical missionary. For the past 48 years, he has spent his weekends sharing his God-given talents by singing and playing gospel music in area churches and beyond.

The 64-year-old grew up listening to his dad sing in church while his paternal grandmother played the piano.

Among many places, Marsh often sings at the senior center in Asheboro, which has singing on Friday nights. (Photo: Contributed / Bill Spencer)

“At age 16, I was introduced to the Pioneers (gospel quartet),” Marsh shared. “One of the members worked with my mama. In the fall of 1973, they asked me to play rhythm guitar. They were patient and gracious.”

The Asheboro High School student suddenly found himself the perfect part-time job. He joined the band singing lead and baritone while playing the guitar. His dad, the late Bob Marsh, came on board soon after and sang bass alongside his son. 

“They were very busy, an established weekend group. We traveled in a van and sang 3-4 times per weekend in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. I stayed with them four and a half years.”

Marsh left the group when he married his high school sweetheart, Kathy Williams, an SWR graduate. He returned to the Pioneers in the 1980s.

“When I went back, they had a bus,” he said. 

He stayed another four or five years, but later returned a third time. “I’ve been with them now at least 15 years,” he said.

However, in recent years, Marsh has been performing on his own with Seagrove guitarist Scott Auman accompanying him.

“I sing every Sunday somewhere,” she said. “During COVID, churches changed their format. They stopped choirs.”

Marsh was a perfect replacement. Playing keyboard and guitar, the self-taught musician stepped up to manage the music portion for several localchurch services. For the past two years, he and Auman have played regularly for Sunday morning services at Pleasant Ridge Christian Church in Ramseur.

Scott Auman, left and Bobby Marsh. (Photo: Contributed / Bill Spencer)

“It started outside as a drive-up service for Easter. Then it continued,” Marsh said.

He had a good relationship with the church’s preacher.

“Since our high school days of singing together in concert chorus, I’ve seen Bobby’s musical talent grow and flourish. His faith in Christ and mission to praise Him is powerful. Most recently, he and guitarist Scott Auman have greatly assisted us at Pleasant Ridge, blending their voices and instruments in worship. Thank you, Bobby, for your friendship and consistent obedience to Christ,” Mark Beane, Pleasant Ridge’s pastor and Marsh’s former AHS classmate, interjected.

On a musical mission, Marsh also sings once a month at a church in Sanford. Playing music by ear, he grew up listening to the harmonies of the Happy Goodman Family. He took that knowledge and sang lead and baritone with the Pioneers.

“The Pioneers really influenced me a lot. My most memorable moments were feeling the excitement playing churches with the Pioneers. In the late ’70s in Hickory for a Labor Day Sing, they got three standing ovations. It just blew me away.”

“As I’ve gotten older and matured in my walk with the Lord, I see the music and songs lift people up. That’s a real blessing,” he readily admitted. “There’s not a lot of glitz and glamour, but I’ve been blessed to do it for 48 years and I still love it.”

Bobby Marsh has spent three stints playing with the Pioneers, including the past 15 years in his third one.

Marsh continues to work five days a week for the Seagrove/Ulah Water District. On call all the time, he has been a faithful employee for 20 years. Prior to that, he has worked in several factories including MatLab in Asheboro, plus he turned pottery and had his own shop for several years.

Married with three grown children and two grandkids, he is grateful to all the musical collaborations and venues he has been involved with through the years. 

“I played with Brad Strider in Mercy’s Well for five years. I played with Scott and the Aumans at (True Bluegrass) in Eleazer. I sing for the Senior Citizen Center in Asheboro. They have singing on Friday nights.”

aZThe musical missionary reflected on his life. “Music has been part of my life since early childhood. I accepted Jesus as my Savior in my early teens. My heart’s desire of my life and ministry is found in Psalm 9: ‘I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart. I will show forth all Thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in Thee. I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou most High.’ ”