National Quartet Convention
The first National Quartet Convention was held on October 19 and 20 in 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee. J D Sumner, Cecil Blackwood and James Blackwood of The Blackwood Brothers were the founders of the event.
The following year, the National Quartet Convention moved to July and expanded to a three-day event at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee. Tickets were $1.50 per day or $4.00 for all three days.
After breaking even the first couple of years, the NQC was moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1959 and then to Atlanta, Georgia in 1960. It returned to Memphis in 1961 and was drawing annual crowds of 20,000 by the mid-1960s.
J D Sumner bought the convention outright in 1971 and moved it to Nashville, Tennessee. In 1979, Sumner sold the convention to J G Whitfield, stating that the event had become too large for one man to operate. Whitfield merged the NQC with his International Song Festival. He ran the event in 1980 and 1981 and then established a board of directors to manage the convention in 1982. Whitfield served as President and Brock Speer held the office of Secretary/Treasurer for the first board. The other members of the initial board of directors included Les Beasley, Glen Payne, Rex Nelon, Claude Hopper, Charles Burke and Don Shumate.
In 1994, the convention left Nashville, Tennessee and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. There the event eventually expanded to seven days beginning with an evening concert on Sunday night followed by six full days of Southern Gospel music. Although NQC still retains "quartet" in the name, the event features more than just quartets. Most professional Southern Gospel groups and soloists participate each year with some representation from sister genres like Bluegrass Gospel, Country Gospel, and Contemporary Christian.
For a few years while the National Quartet Convention was based in Louisville, additional events on the west coast and in Canada were added under the NQC brand.
In 2014, after twenty years in Louisville, the convention relocated to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The 11,500-seat newly constructed LeConte Center became the host site for the convention in Pigeon Forge. When the convention moved, a new smaller event branded NQC Spring Break was offered in Louisville initially. This event was later relocated to Sevierville, Tennessee and then moved to the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in March 2021.
In 2020, for the first time in its 60-plus year history, NQC was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A scaled-down event branded as NQC Fall Festival was offered in 2020 with reduced capacity seating.