The idea for the International Song Festival was born after J G Whitfield promoted some concerts featuring the Oak Ridge Boys and a group from Sweden called the Samuelsons. The first International Song Festival was held in 1970 in Nashville, Tennessee during the month of July.

Whitfield was also the owner of the Singing News. The Singing News Fan Awards were launched in 1970, so combining the brand new awards show with the brand new International Song Festival seemed like a natural fit. The Dove Awards were presented at the National Quartet Convention at the time, so that event didn't need another awards show.

In 1980, Whitfield purchased the NQC from J D Sumner. The International Song Festival merged with the NQC. The Fan Awards made the transition as well, since the Dove Awards had separated from NQC in 1971.

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