The convention was established by the most prominent publishers of shape note song books in 1936, including the Morris-Henson Company, the Vaughan Quartet, James D. Vaughan Music Publishers, the Hartford Music Company, A. J. Showalter Company, Denson Music Company, Theodore Sisk Music Company, Tennessee Music and Printing Company, George W. Sebren, W. P. Ganus, and the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company. The first event was held in 1936 in Birmingham, Alabama, with Adger M. Pace serving as the convention's first president.
In 1949, the convention's constitution was revised so that state singing conventions would have voting privileges in addition to music publishers. In 1961, Stella Vaughan wrote an article for Vaughan's Family Visitor newsletter that chronicled the convention's first twenty-five years. The convention has continued as an annual event for more than 70 years, rotating among small towns throughout the United States (typically in the South). Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, home of the original Vaughan publishing company and generally regarded as the birthplace of Southern Gospel music since 1910, hosts the 2006 convention in November. The 2007 convention will be in Pass Christian, Mississippi, at the Gospel Singers of America School of Gospel Music campus auditorium, November 16th and 17th. Mr. Everette Driskell, President of GSA will serve as President of the 72nd NGSC.