Jim Worthing has sung for congressmen and TV viewers, but he gets just as much joy singing before a church congregation or nursing home residents.
Worthing, a native of Altoona, makes his home in Nashville, Tenn., where he was lead singer for The Cumberland Boys for 11 years.
Today, he is a solo artist and has been known to sing the national anthem at a Curve game or gospel music at a local church. His continues to sing in auditoriums and at national conferences but also can be found at community festivals and events.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Jim Worthing, a native of Altoona, presents concerts throughout the United States. The former lead singer for The Cumberland Boys, Worthing has had a solo career for about 12 years. “I am very blessed to be able to sing and love what I do,” he said
"If God is calling me to go somewhere, I try to get there," Worthing said.
He learned about serving others while singing with Re-Creation, the job that launched his career.
After graduating from Altoona Area High School in 1980, he sang for five years with the Pennsylvania-based touring ensemble that performs Christian and secular concerts.
He said Re-Creation would sing at veterans homes, nursing homes, prisons and other institutions where "folks couldn't see a show."
Worthing might have missed that opportunity to start his singing career if it were not for a classmate who told senior high choir director Jake Snyder about Worthing's smooth tenor voice.
Although he sang at home and at First Church of the Brethren, where his family attended, he never tried out for chorus. Instead, he played in the band and was a member of the soccer and track teams.
After hearing him sing, Snyder placed Worthing in Altoona High's Varsity Ensemble.
"Jim always had a pleasant presence," Snyder said. "He was just so pleasant that you wanted to be around him."
He said he had a great voice, too.
"Jim was a tenor, a good tenor. It was like having a diamond [in the ensemble.]"
It was Snyder who arranged for Worthing to audition with Re-Creation.
Hugh Brooks, former director of the group, recalls the tryout.
He remembers the teen held his head low, and Brooks' first thought was "this kid will never make it. Then I heard him sing. I thought, I can teach everything else, but I can't teach a voice like that. It's a gift from God."
Brooks now lives in McIntosh, Fla., and keeps in touch with Worthing, who has sung for festivals and churches there.
"He lights up an audience," Brooks said.
When Worthing joined Re-Creation, based in Port Trevorton, it was affiliated with Penn State, giving Worthing the opportunity to earn a degree while touring.
He stayed with the group seven years, including a move to Susquehanna University.
He never earned his degree.
"My heart never was in college," Worthing said.
What he did gain was knowledge in aspects of the music business that would benefit his career, including how to work with promoters, logistics and adminstrative work during a two-year stint as road manager.
After singing in a different venue every day, Worthing landed a job where he could stay put.
He became the lead singer for The Cumberland Boys at Opryland theme park in Nashville.
"I was blessed to be at Opryland," Worthing said. "I sang to millions [of people]. We did four or five shows a day."
"It was a great opportunity to share the gospel message to folks that might not come to church," he said.
"We were featured on Grand Ole Opry a lot. We were on The Nashville Network. We did a lot of TV."
The group appeared on "Prime Time Country," "Nashville Now," "Crook & Chase" and the "Music City News/TNN Awards Show." They won the Horizon and Christian Country Group of the Year awards.
As backup singers for Ricky Van Shelton's "Don't Overlook Salvation," the group got a gold album.
"I have been blessed to work with a lot of wonderful people over the years," Worthing said.
Their most popular music was country Christian and was the genre that brought them the most awards, Worthing said. They also sang Southern gospel and were one of the forerunners in the contemporary Christian sound.
"We were being labeled as the next Oak Ridge Boys, but it never came into fruition," he said.
Worthing said the time was not right because Alabama was hot, Garth Brooks' music exploded and the Oak Ridge Boys were still singing.
He left the group in the late 1990s and shortly after, Opryland closed.
"It was a blessing for me [to leave when I did]. God already was preparing me for the next chapter."
"Looking back, it was the right direction. Whatever God leads you into, it's always a good thing. If you listen to him, he will always lead you in the right direction," he said.
A solo career turned out to be more difficult than Worthing expected.
"I wanted to take my Christian walk into the marketplace. I thought it would be a great way to crossover. I made a demo and shopped it around. I met some very nice people. Some very nice people who said no. They liked what I did, liked my talent, but it was still the Garth Brooks era."
Because he never wanted to stop doing Christian music, he created his first gospel album. Then, people started asking him to do concerts at churches.
"I wanted to broaden my ministry, but it went a different way than I thought," he said. "I wanted to sign a big record contract. I thought that was where I was being led, but I was being led back into more service."
In addition to Christian, music, Worthing has a passion for patriotic songs.
His "American Highway," CD features "Soul of Liberty," a song he wrote after his nephew Adam Worthing was wounded in Iraq while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"It's a message of thanks to veterans and active members of the armed forces," he said.
Adam Worthing of Bellwood said he was surprised that he was the inspiration for the song.
"It makes me feel pretty good. He cares a lot about everybody," he said.
A staff sergeant who serves in the Marine Corps Reserves, Adam said he has accompanied his uncle when he sings at veterans homes.
"He is greatly appreciated by all of us," he said.
Jim Worthing also wrote a song for the 100th anniversary of the Army Reserve called "For 100 years" and sang it at the celebration held in 2008 in Washington, D.C.
He has sung for former Vice President Dick Cheney and members of Congress at three consecutive Conservative Political Action Conferences held in Washington, D.C.
He also is a friend of state Rep. Rick Geist, R-Altoona, who said Jim Worthing grew up in his church.
"He's a wonderful guy," Geist said. "He takes good care of his mom even though he lives in Nashville. He is very thoughtful."
Geist said Worthing tries to get local engagements when he visits his mom and family. He has two brothers and a sister who live in the area and a sister in Ohio. Worthing also tries to spend as much time as possible with his 12-year-old daughter, Jillian, who travels with him in the summer.
Geist said he arranges for Worthing to sing a couple of times a year at the Lighthouse, an all-men's fellowship in Altoona.
"He has a great range and an unbelievable voice," he said. "The guys love him."