All grown up, the Valley Boys keep singing

Jeremiah Ray, Dillon Hurst and Timothy Ray are the Valley Boys.

If you, like most of Union County, have an "I remember when" story about the Valley Boys gospel group, it probably involves seeing three kids who could be triplets, singing a cappella gospel music with the gusto of guys twice their size. My own involves seeing the boys at the Union County Historical Society back in 2008 and taking their picture for the weekly newspaper.

They've grown a bit since then. The Valley Boys, twins Jeremiah and Timothy Ray and their first cousin Dillon Hurst, graduated from Union County High School in 2015. The Rays are both in nursing school at LMU, and Dillon is attending TCAT's diesel program. Another milestone, in recent years both Rays were ordained at the group's home church, Raccoon Valley Baptist.

The "valley" in the group's name comes from the various valleys of their childhood. Raccoon Valley Baptist is one. Hickory Valley Road, where they all live, is another. Grandparents live in Little Valley, so the boys spent some growing-up time in that area, too. But it was at Raccoon Valley Baptist where the three first started singing together.

"We were kids and they didn't want to tell us no," joked Timothy.

Singing runs in the family, too.

"Every bit of my mom's side of the family, everybody sings," said Dillon.

The Valley Boys started singing in unison, but around age 10, they tried some harmony. It was spot-on.

"We were coming back from Dollywood," said Dillon. "We were singing 'Amazing Grace.' We all just hit it and it clicked."

Now, gospel harmonies are part of every performance, as are guitar and mandolin. They've recorded two albums and have performed in venues big and small. Early on, local churches asked them to sing, and word of their talents spread around the community.

"We saw that a lot of people were being blessed by it," said Jeremiah.

"We've sang at a lot of funerals, too," said Timothy. "We just like helping people out."

Their most-requested song is "I Have Been Blessed," a favorite that they also sang at their high school graduation. Another favorite tune is "Thank You Lord."

A couple of years back, the Valley Boys went on a tour of Catholic churches as far away as Iowa at the request of Brother Craig Digmann of Saint Teresa of Kolkata Catholic Church in Maynardville, to share a bit of East Tennessee culture with folks up north. But, the Valley Boys felt as blessed by the experience as the people they met, allowing them to reach across denominations in the family of God.

"It opened our eyes to being more open and accepting of everybody's opinions," said Timothy.

The Valley Boys thanked God for being their inspiration, and thanked their family and community for all their support.

These days Dillon, Jeremiah and Timothy are taking a little break from the music scene to make room for school and work, but they've not stepped away completely. They'll be performing at the Union County Heritage Festival October 7, and they're still willing to pursue music as a career if they can find a way to do it.

"As long as we can all get together, we'll do it," said Timothy. "If God were to open that way for us, we'd love to do that."

"We never know where the singing might take us," added Dillon.

Find out more about the Valley Boys on their Facebook page.