For 60 years, Lou Everett helped capture the voices of angels.
Delta Records, the independent record label he co-founded with a friend, recorded and distributed choral music from Christmas carols to favorite hymns sung by choirs across the Upper Midwest.
The church remained a home and musical sanctuary for Everett until he died Dec. 19 from complications of kidney disease and diabetes. He was 83.
“He just loved choral music,” said Sandy Everett, his wife of 46 years. “He loved bringing the music of the people to the communities. He used to say many times that you know it’s pretty hard to fool the public when you are singing something they know. You better do it well.”
Everett was born July 12, 1935, the oldest son of the Rev. Carl Everett, who led a Swedish Lutheran church in north Minneapolis. Everett’s mother, Helen, was a church organist and musician. From a young age, Everett was heavily involved with the church.
“He had a strong sense of music and what it could do for people,” Sandy Everett said.
The family eventually moved to Sioux City, Iowa, and then to Chicago. Lou Everett graduated from Steinmetz High School and then spent a year at Northwestern University before he attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
Everett, who had a rich tenor voice, sang in the Gustavus Choir. At one point, a large recording company was brought in with a trailer of equipment to record the choir, but the choir director was unimpressed with the quality of the recording. With only a simple tape recorder, Everett was able to produce a superior recording.
Everett graduated from Gustavus with a business degree in 1959. After college, he spent two years in Tanzania overseeing the business dealings of the schools and hospitals for the Lutheran Church Board of World Missions, Augustana Synod.
When Everett returned to the U.S., a former professor loaned him $500 that he used to start Delta Records with childhood friend Mel Verni. Delta Records offices and Verni were based in Chicago but Everett hit the road to make his recordings.
Through Delta Records, Everett realized his mission to promote choral music, which he called “the music of the people.” He would travel throughout communities in the Upper Midwest to record highly regarded college, high school, church, and community choirs many times in churches, which he always appreciated for their acoustics.
Chris Willis started working with Everett as a teenager, traveling with him to help with recordings and editing the audio for LPs and cassettes. Much of the work was completed in Everett’s basement. Willis, a former engineer for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who has won four Grammys, said Everett helped him personally and professionally.
“He was a mentor; he was sort of like an older brother. … He was a really generous, warmhearted person and he really made you feel welcomed and comfortable,” Willis said.
Everett continued to travel and record choirs until a few years ago, when health issues forced him to stop. Delta Records officially closed in 2017. Over his life, Lou and Sandy Everett moved from Chicago to Monroe, Wis., then to Roscoe, Ill., before finally settling in Rochester, Minn.
In addition to choral music, motorcycles, reading and traveling were among Everett’s passions.
“He just had a way of listening and caring about people,” Sandy Everett said. “He loved people.”
In addition to his wife, Lou Everett is survived by a brother, the Rev. Paul Everett; sister-in-law Karen Everett; and their families. An 11 a.m. Friday service is scheduled at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Rochester.