Southern Gospel Perspective

My thoughts and opinions about Southern Gospel Music, both past and present. Feel free to comment and criticize...

Location: United States


James D. Vaughan Gospel Quartet Festival

So, late last month I attended the Saturday concert and I thought I should give a short reviews.

Gold City was first and unfortunately that afternoon Tim Riley had suffered a mild stroke, which he is still recovering from.  Gold City sang as a trio and did a very admirable job on such short notice.  The absence of Tim was a huge downer (as I'm sure it was for the Quartet as well) but Gold City still put on a good set.

Mark Trammell Quartet was next.  Their set was a bit subdued and suffered a little bit from a lack of uptempo music.  They are undoubtedly a wonderful quartet with great vocals, but their program might need some tweaking.  New bass Randy Byrd did a very good job and although I missed Pat Barker, they have a great replacement.

Next up was The Kingsmen.  They were the highlight of the night for me.  Excellent vocals at 3 positions and Ray Dean is still a good bass.  Chris is an absolute star and I hope this lineup stays together forever!  HA!  Seriously they were good.

Finally was Brian Free and Assurance.  Brian is pretty much the same as he always has been.  They had good song selection, except they still don't feature Bill Shivers near enough.  The best vocalist in the group should get a larger number of solos.  Overall though a fine set.

This year's lineup was amazing.  If Tim had been there I think this might have gone down as the best Quartet Festival I've ever attended.  Even so, it was great and memorable.


Who is today's Cathedral Quartet?

The short answer is, of course, no one.

However, the better question might be which group has the potential to be the next Cathedral Quartet?

Based on the last 10 years or so, I would nominate Triumphant Quartet.
The main reason is their high quality music, which is a must.
Another major reason is their group stability.  Even with Jeff leaving the piano, they have had the most stable lineup of any quartet that I can think of.
The third reason I see is a little marginal for them now, but is where the potential is also great.  That is group members who are dedicated to the group (Glen and George) and who have decades of experience and respect in the industry.  Clayton, I think, fits this bill right now.  The other three guys, being younger, might not have that "presence" yet, but with continued stability and excellence, it is sure to come.

What do you think?


Southern Gospel Hump Day Notes

Yeah, it's been a while.

Some things that are happening:

Southern Gospel Blog has called it quits and unfortunately leaves a big hole in the SG information world.

Musicscribe is running an extensive poll to find the readers' favorite albums across several decades.  Go vote.

A facebook group called Gospel Music CSI has some great old photographs and commentary from various aspects of the industry.  Go have a look if you like that sort of thing and do facebook stuff.

The National Quartet Convention (NQC) will be in Pigeon Forge, TN this year for the first time.  I will be unable to attend for the first time in many years.  I'm sure it will be great and the area is wonderful, but I sure will miss going to Louisville and attending NQC.  What is your opinion?

More later...


Josh, we hardly knew you... again

Sad to read this. Thought he really helped GC's sound.


Where are they now? Vol. 2

I did one of these a LONG while back, and thought it might be time for some new questions...

Bob Caldwell - He sang with The Kingdom Heirs, Brian Free, Won By One, and was the "original" bass singer for the "New" Statesmen that Gaither gathered. A really great bass singer!
Where is he now?

Ed Crawford - Ed is best known for his time with The Kingsmen, but also spent time with The Singing Americans. The last I had heard of him he was with the Mystery Men Quartet. He may still be, but if so, then the question becomes where are they?

Scott Whitener - Another former Singing American. Scott spent some time with a few other groups, but I have no idea where he is now... Do you?

Help me (us) out here, OK?


Rest In Peace, Tony Greene

Another young man taken too early.

More on Tony from here and here.


The Greatest Living Bass Singers

In today's SG world where Trios, soloists and mixed groups seem to dominate, the bass singer seems to be a dwindling commodity. In addition, high quality bass singers are even more rare.

Today, I wanted to look at some of the great bass singers who are still with us and give them some overdue credit.

My list of the the Greatest Living Bass Singers would be:

1. Tim Riley -- Tim is a Hall of Fame bass singer and is still doing it night in and night out. Not only is Tim a great bass singer of today, he is one of the greatest of all time.

2. Mike Holcomb -- This long-time Inspirations bass singer is capable of doing everything. Take a lead? Yep. Sing off the end of the piano? Yep. Mike is another living legend.

3. Gerald Williams -- Gerald is probably less well known than the previous two, but he has been a wonderful bass singer for over 55 years. The Melody Boys Quartet has had a long run with a great bass singer.

4. Ray Dean Reese -- Ray is another bass singer who has been practicing the trade for nearly a half-century. Ray may not please every listener, but his longevity and his trademark sound with The Kingsmen gives him a place on this list.

5. Ed O'Neal -- Another bass singer who has both loving fans and some detractors, Ed is a Southern Gospel Institution. He has been singing bass for over 50 years and most of that with his group, The Dixie Melody Boys. Ed has proven his ability many times, but his recording of "The Longer I Serve Him" on Greater Vision's Quartets CD, was a highlight of that recording.

So tell me who do you have? Who are the greatest living bass singers?


This Groups Best ... Gaither Vocal Band

The Gaither Vocal Band has actually had pretty good stability over the years. They perhaps are not considered Southern Gospel for part or all of their history. However, for the sake of what I'm doing, I believe that most of their history qualifies.

Very difficult group to do because they really have some of the best vocalists ever to sing with this group.

For the bass part, the only choice I see is Bill Gaither. Perhaps he's not the greatest bass singer ever, but he does a more than adequate job and it is his group, so he's the bass.

For the baritone, there are many wonderful choices, it is very difficult to choose, but I would have to go with Russ Taff. A legend in his own right, he could sing the baritone part flawlessly. Perhaps not the greatest of soloists (not bad though), but a great member of the GVB.

The tenor. Well, to me this is a no brainer. The only one even close to David Phelps is Terry Franklin, but honestly David is way out in front.

The lead singer for the all-time GVB is Michael English. Guy Penrod is 1B, but Mike is one the best known, highest quality singers ever in SG music. Has to be Mike.

So here is your Vocal Band:

Lead: Michael English
Baritone: Russ Taff
Tenor: David Phelps
Bass: Bill Gaither

Piano would have to be Anthony Burger.


Where are they now? Vol. I

I'm an old-fashioned guy and I enjoy looking back at groups from yesteryear. One of the things I think about when I'm doing this is where are these folks now and what are they doing and why are so many of them seemingly not in SG anymore. Here are a few names that I would like to know more about and be able to hear again, if they were still singing:

David Hill. During his brief stint with Gold City, I thought he was incredible and had the best rendition of Midnight Cry that I've ever heard. He moved around a lot, but I haven't heard anything from him recently. Have you?

Dale Shipley. Back in the glory days of Perfect Heart, Dale was belting out lead lines like no one else. I miss those Perfect Heart days and I miss Dale's awesome voice. All I've heard is that he was in Memphis and perhaps a music minister? What do you know?

Jerry Thompson. I loved his voice with The Nelons. I know he's been with some other groups since then, like maybe one of the Blackwood Quartets. What's he doing these days?

Who are some SG artists that you would like to find again? Maybe I or another reader could help!


2009 National Quartet Convention, etc.

Well, the convention is over this year and unfortunately I was unable to make it for the 2nd year in a row. Hopefully next year I will get back into the routine.

Gold City has become afflicted with member changes, and it is really seeming to hurt their popularity and therefore likely their bottom dollar as well.

Greater Vision is sounding "greater" than ever. Jacob is a great addition to this group. He is a fantastic tenor.

Not sure why all the hating toward the Dixie Melody Boys? Ed still has a very good voice and he continues to surround himself with good talent. I thought their weekend set at NQC was one of the better ones of the weekend.

Overhyped seems to be the general feeling I get toward the whole Signature Sound / GVB hour. Seriously, both groups are super talented, but they are just not any better than 75% of the other groups performing.

That's it for now...

Boy do I miss JD Sumner and The Cathedrals.


Greater Vision Names New Tenor

Greater Vision has announced Jacob Kitson as their new tenor. Jacob has traveled with and was a founding member of the Tribute Quartet.

He is 24 years old and is from Yuma, Arizona.

I can't wait to hear Jacob with Greater Vision.


Tour Bus Tragedy

It is being reported that Dottie Rambo and perhaps her bus driver were killed in a tour bus accident in Missouri last night. Others on the bus may be in critical condition. Please pray for the families of all involved.

Here is some discussion of the tragedy over at SN forums...


Jason Waldroup leaves Greater Vision

In a newsletter from Greater Vision, Gerald is announcing that Jason is leaving the group after 13 years to pursue his education in Seminary.

I hate to hear of this as GV has a definite, identifiable sound and it will surely change somewhat.

More on this later.

Jason leaving Greater Vision is a big blow. With a trio especially, and with one whose sound is as unique as GV's, any one member seems to be more important. Gerald is obviously a great vocalist and Rodney is an excellent songwriter and singer, but Jason has really developed into a good tenor and completes their sound nicely.

It will be very interesting to see who they get to replace him. I would venture to guess that it will be a somewhat "unknown", but that is just a guess. It is hard to imagine any of today's popular tenor voices in that role. Chris Allman would obviously be good, but seems unlikely.

One tenor that would work very well, I think, would be Jerry Thompson. He's been out of the spotlight for a while now, but is just the type of vocalist who would fit in with Gerald and Rodney nicely.


This Groups Best ... The Singing Americans

It has been a while, but I thought I would get back into things with The Singing Americans.

Charlie Burke and The Singing Americans had to endure a lot of turnover during their time. This is of course, not unusual in SG, but it seems The Singing Americans had more than average.

The one long-time member was Dwayne Burke (Charlie's son) who sang bass. Dwayne was not the lowest bass in SG, but he was a very good singer. He would be my choice to fill the bass position.

At baritone, there were several great choices: Ed Hill, Buddy Burton, Clayton Inman and others. I would have to go with Ed Hill. He was, at that time and over his career, as good a baritone as SG has ever seen.

The lead position is another where there are many, many great choices. Just a few are: Michael English, Ivan Parker, Scott Whitener and others. This is an extremely tough choice and you can't go wrong with several of these, but I would choose Michael English. In this time before he had become a "star", he was a tremendous vocalist and was a lot of fun to listen to.

At piano, I would go with Jerry Kelso. He was and is a fine musician with a lot of talent.

At tenor, there were many choices. Rick Strickland, Danny Funderburk, David Sutton, Greg Shockley and others were fantastic tenor singers. I would choose Danny Funderburk for this group. His renditions of "The Galilean" and "Whiter Than Snow" are SG classics.

Here are your Singing Americans:

Dwayne Burke - bass
Ed Hill - baritone
Michael English - lead
Danny Funderburk - tenor
Jerry Kelso - piano


Jim Hamill Passes

I hated to hear the very sad news that "Big" Jim Hamill has passed away at 5:30 this morning.

Jim was one of my favorite lead singers of all time, but will likely be remembered more for his showmanship than his singing. He is easily the greatest MC of the last 40 years. No one else is even close.

Jim Hamill's time with the Kingsmen saw them reach the pinnacle of their success and be one of the great draws in Southern Gospel. Would there have been a Kingsmen without Jim? Yes, but it would in no way resemble the Kingsmen that we remember.

God Bless Jim's family and friends.


News, and other nonsense

I guess I should jump on the bandwagon and give a little laugh out to this new endeavor. I don't really have much to add to what has already been said by better sayers than me. It just goes to show that no one can shoot the SG industry in the foot like the SG "fans" or whoever or whatever is behind this mess. I think we can start taking wagers on how long this site/concept will last. I'm guess six months.

Other sad news in the SG world today. Daniel Mount is passing the word that Mercy's Mark is going to disband. This is news that I really hate to hear, but doesn't surprise me. It takes more than talent to make in the SG world of today, and luck seems to be the main ingredient. Continued personnel turnover can get the best of any group and seems likely to be a large factor in this decision.

Also, since I last posted the Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet has disbanded and Dallas Rogers is reportedly leaving The Dixie Echoes. This is our world, welcome to it.


This groups best ... The Kingdom Heirs

Here is a group that while stationed at Dollywood has had great success and has been able to attract and retain some great vocalists down through the years.

At piano, I would have to place Jeff Stice at the top of the list. Jeff can go a little "overboard" sometimes, but his talent really speaks for itself. There are very few piano players who are the equal of Jeff. A future HoF'er, no doubt.

At baritone, who else could there be but Steve French? Long time baritone and owner of The Kingdom Heirs, Steve's greatest talent is his business sense. He has placed this group in a nearly perfect situation both with the NQC and especially at Dollywood.

The KH's have had some really good lead singers over the years. To me it as close decision between Clayton Inman and Arthur Rice. They are both exceptional vocalists and quartet men. I would have to go with Rice mainly due to his long tenure with the group. Arthur Rice is a real phenomenon in SG music.

Tenor is another spot where the KH's have had some turnover, but with great success. Another tribute to the French's business sense. Since this is my blog, I'm going with my personal favorite. He was the tenor with them when I first saw them at Dollywood. Mr. Rick Strickland. Rick has been with some great groups over the years (Singing Americans, KH's, JD & Stamps) and has added value to every one.

The bass singer I would choose for the Kingdom Heirs is Bob Caldwell. Bob is one smooth bass singer (where is he now?). When Bill Gaither reformed the Statesmen several years back, Bob was the choice at bass. There is a good reason why. Bob is certainly not the only great bass that the KH's have had though. I am a huge fan of Eric Bennett and Jeff Chapman both, they are probably the 2 best "traveling" bass singers right now.

Here are the Kingdom Heirs:

Bass: Bob Caldwell
Baritone: Steve French
Lead: Arthur Rice
Tenor: Rick Strickland
Piano: Jeff Stice

A really great quartet there, but really what would you expect from The Kingdom Heirs?


This groups best ... The Cathedral Quartet

From some of my comments, I don't think everyone is understanding the concept behind these "This Groups Best ..." posts. I am not trying to pick a "snapshot" in time of a particular line-up. Instead, I am using every former member at each position to fill out an "ideal" roster. The line-up I choose may or may not have ever actually sung together.

This episode may be more controversial since people tend to have strong opinions about this group in particular. At least a couple of the positions are completely obvious.

Bass - The only bass singer the Cathedral Quartet ever had. George Younce. Come on you can't count the times Gerald Wolfe or someone else might have filled in at bass. I know they were a trio first, but they therefore didn't have a bass then, right? George is rightfully a legend among bass singers. He is one of the all-time best.

Lead - Again, the only full-time lead singer the Cathedrals ever had. Glen Payne was remarkable and wonderful. Glen was a lead singer who really could do it all. He could ( and did) sing baritone. He could sing bass. He could even sing tenor if he needed to. Glen was "the stuff"!

Baritone - Mark Trammell makes his return and is the all-time baritone for his second group (Gold City being the other). He's not done yet... Mark's should be the picture in the dictionary under the term baritone. He has defined the position for the past 25 years.

Piano player - Well, there are choices here. Haskell Cooley (sp?), Gerald Wolfe, Lorne Matthews, George Amon Webster, etc. However, the only acceptable choice is Roger Bennett. Roger's name became synonymous with The Cathedral name just as George and Glen did. He was a fantastic pianist and a genius at quartet accompaniment.

Tenor - Well, ok so this quartet did perform together. But it is still not the gist of what I'm trying to do here. Danny Funderburk was the greatest tenor to ever sing with The Cats. Danny could sing it slow, he could sing it high, he could sing it fast, he could sing solos and he could sing his part and do them all exceptionally. Danny is one of the top 5 tenor singers of all time, in any group. I've spoken to men who I respected and who know a thing or two about quartet singing and who sang with Danny and many other great tenors over the years. Every time I've heard them asked who was the best, Danny Funderburk's name was the one. I'll not disagree.

Here are your Cathedrals:

Tenor - Danny Funderburk
Lead - Glen Payne
Baritone - Mark Trammell
Bass - George Younce
Piano - Roger Bennett

Now THAT was a quartet!!


This Groups Best ... The Stamps

Like several groups that have been / will be on these lists, The Stamps have some choices that are completely obvious. I'll readily admit here that I am a huge Stamps fan and a huge JD Sumner fan.

So, to get the most obvious out of the way, JD Sumner would be the bass singer (duh). JD was rightfully known for his low notes (he was once in the Guinness Book for lowest bass note sung), but JD was also a very good vocalist. Especially during his prime, his range was phenomenal and he could take a lead as well as nearly any bass in SG history.

At the other end of the stage, the choices are more plentiful. Tenor singers such as Jerry Trammell, Steve Warren, Rick Strickland, and Bill Baize have passed thru The Stamps. I've enjoyed every one and that too is a credit to JD's skills as a group manager. The best to me has been Steve Warren. Steve has a unique voice and exceptional range. His on-again, off-again relationship with the group aside, he is as one of the best tenor singers in the history of SG.

The baritone is another easy choice. Ed Hill is a living legend and still a fine singer. In his JD & The Stamps days, he was simply phenomenal. Ed was under-appreciated and still is, but when it comes to blending baritones, there have been few better.

Piano is another position that has several great choices. CJ Almgren was there for several years and was a very good keyboardist. He would be my choice as their piano player.

Lead singer. I'm a big fan of Ed Enoch. I think his voice is so identifiable and he sings with power and clarity. He is probably the lead that most people would identify with The Stamps as he was JD's son-in-law and now carries on the Stamps name. My choice for lead with The Stamps, however, is Jack Toney. I'll make a bold statement here and even state that Jack may be the best lead singer to ever grace an SG stage. He has sort of shadowed Jake Hess his entire career (followed him with the Statesmen and The Masters V), but really my personal opinion is that Jack was a little better than Jake. Jack Toney's voice was like gold and he is deservedly a legend in Southern Gospel music.

Here they are, The Stamps:

Bass: JD Sumner
Baritone: Ed Hill
Lead: Jack Toney
Tenor: Steve Warren
Keyboard: CJ Almgren

What do you think? Do you even remember The Stamps?


This Groups Best ... The Kingsmen

Today's group is The Kingsmen. A couple of these are fairly obvious (this will be the case for several groups), but the rest might be interesting.

Bass: Who else could it be, besides Ray Dean Reese? This long-time Kingsmen bass singer is beloved for his singing and for his wonderful demeanor on and off the stage. He might not be the best bass singer in SG history, but he has been very good for the Kingsmen and is really a huge part of their sound and history.

Piano: This one might seem tougher than bass, but really it's not. Anthony Burger might not be remembered by today's "Gaither Gospel Fans" for his time with The Kingsmen, but this was his beginning and really his prime. Anthony is (and rightfully so) a household name for SG fans and The Kingsmen are the reason.

Baritone: The Kingsmen have had some exceptionally talented baritone singers down through the years. Some that stand out are Parker Jonathan, Tony Peace, Squire Parsons and Mark Trammell. The best was Ed Crawford. Big Ed was and is an extremely talented and under-rated singer.

Lead: Well, duh. Without Jim Hamill, what would the Kingsmen have been? I can't tell you exactly, but I can say for certain they would not have been as popular or as exciting. Jim was known for his showmanship, and rightfully so. However, Jim could take a song and sing it like no one else in the business. Jim's showmanship and hard driving of himself and the group has overshadowed his singing ability, but believe me he could "tote the mail".

Tenor: Another category that is not so easily decided for this group. They've had some good ones. Perhaps they were pushed too hard at times and maybe didn't always come across as polished as some, but there were many good singers at this position. Some of the best being Jerry Martin, Johnny Parrack (Jay's dad to some of you newbies), Ernie Phillips (Eric's dad to some of you newbies), Jerry Redd, and Derrick Boyd. I think the choice has to be Ernie Phillips. His sound with The Kingsmen during the late 70's / early 80's was what could really be defined as the Kingsmen "sound". Ernie just sounded like The Kingsmen, if you know what I mean. His ending on "Love Lifted Me" from "Live Naturally" is classic Kingsmen and one of the most talked about moments in SG history.

Instrumentalist: I won't do this for every group (because it wouldn't always apply), but with The Kingsmen you can't really define their overall sound without pointing out their "band". The band member that really jumps out to me is Gary Dillard. He was multi-faceted, multi-talented and had a GREAT nickname. "Beaver" seemed like he could do it all.

So, here they are:

Piano: Anthony Burger
Bass: Ray Reese
Baritone: Ed Crawford
Lead: "Big" Jim Hamill
Tenor: "Little" Ernie Phillips
Instrumentalist: Gary "Beaver" Dillard

Who would you have chosen differently?


This Groups Best ... Gold City

In an effort to blog more regularly, I've decided on a new "series" called This Groups Best. I've done a few series in the past and they seem to work well. My 12 Days of Christmas ones maybe being the most popular (a relative term, I assure you).

With This Groups Best, I plan on taking a long-time group and putting together what I consider to be the best at each position throughout that group's past. Not exactly original, I know, but it gives me something to post while waiting for big news and other things to comment on.

Today's group, as you can see from the title, is Gold City.

The one position that I guess is very obvious is the bass position. They've had 2 really good bass singers since Tim retired, but Tim Riley is synonymous with Gold City. On top of that, Tim is one of the best bass singers in our genre over the last 40 years.

At the other end of the stage, the choices are not as obvious and will certainly be more controversial. The best Gold City tenor though, is the one singing now, Steve Ladd. I never would have thought I'd say it because I'm a big Jay Parrack fan, but Steve really is that good. The one tenor I can't evaluate properly is Bob Oliver since I never heard him with GC.

My choice at lead will surely dismay some people as well. My personal favorite is Jonathan Wilburn, but I think the best lead singer they've ever had is David Hill. His performance on "I'm Not Giving Up" on the "Standing in the Gap" CD is phenomenal. I also heard him perform "Midnight Cry" a few times in person and his version truly is unmatched. I wish David had stuck with some group more consistently, because I think talent-wise he could have been Hall of Fame material.

Piano player. Gold City has had some great ones, there is no doubt. I think you have to go back to Garry Jones. Not only was he a great musician for them, he was very important to their overall sound and success.

The baritone position was Mark Trammell's from the day he took the position. When you hire the best baritone in the business and he sticks around for 9 years, then he's probably going to go down as your best ever. They have had many good baritone singers and they they have a very good one now, but Mark is the best. In fact, if you read more of these in the future, you will probably see Mark's name again. That's how good he really is.

So, here they are:

Garry Jones
Tim Riley
Mark Trammell
David Hill
Steve Ladd

If you have an opinion, I'd like to read it. Also, be looking for future installments to come.


Top 10 Cathedral Quartet Recordings

What's up with all the "top 10" lists on SG blogs these days? I don't know, but apparently it's contagious, since I'm joining the fray. Also, it's been a while since I posted and I've made many promises to post more often, so here goes:

The Top 10 Cathedrals recordings of all time, according to yours truly.

10. The Cathedral Quartet With Brass

9. Something Special

8. Taller Than Trees

7. Greater

6. Symphony of Praise

5. Live In Atlanta

4. I've Just Started Living

3. The Cathedral Quartet With Strings

2. Travelin' Live

1. A Cathedral Christmas, A Capella

Let me hear some dissent!!


Gaithers, Stacks, and Fatigue

After reading Avery's comments on Kyle Boreing's comments, and then reading Kyle's comments and then watching both included Youtube/Gaither videos, I think I have a couple of comments from my perspective.

The thing that struck me about the difference between these two snapshots of Gaither Eras was "freedom". I think that can be viewed and perceived in several different ways.

  • The English/Franklin/Lowry video was, as has been mentioned by both previous commentors, not nearly as polished as the Penrod/Hampton/Hall video. However, the first three seemed at ease. They seemed to feel that they were in charge and that they were performing for the audience, not for Bill. They were, it appeared to me, to be ultimately confident in what they were doing and how it would be accepted. This may not have been what they really were feeling at the moment, but it is the perception they gave.
  • The Penrod/Hampton/Hall group was working very hard to "perfection". In other words, they didn't appear to be enjoying it so much as enduring it. The exception to this is Guy, Guy looked more relaxed and sang with as much freedom as anyone could, I think.
So, what is the cause of this perceived difference?

  • Well, Marsh and Wes are fairly new GVB member so that could play a part.
  • The two instances are from completely different eras, the first being at the beginning of the Gaither Empire where the "slickness" and the idea that this video will need to be as polished as possible for mass consumption had not yet taken hold. The second was more recent and being performed with the foreknowledge that what they were doing would be seen all over world for years and years to come. This could cause a pressure and tenseness that is visible to the audience.
  • Perhaps the whole "new group", Bill included, feel very high expectations that can only be met with near perfection and so don't have the freedom to improvise and have one member feed the other lines while in the middle of a performance. Maybe Bill feeling this kind of pressure increasing that feeling among the other members?
I don't have the answers, just the above observations.

One other thing to note: I was at the second taping in Paducah with Gaither and SSQ. I have both positive and negative things I could say about the experience, but I can tell you from the live audience perspective that there were not 10 people in the crowd that would have noticed anything was amiss, as Kyle pointed out about the stacks. The semi-surprise at having the Gaithers show up at all was treated as if they were rock-stars by this audience.


The Cathedral Quartet

OK, if you are easily offended or you are the greatest George Younce fan in the known Universe, then please quit reading right now. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and it will save you many points on your blood pressure if you just turn away. I know many who do read further will consider much of it heresy.

You were warned.

That being said, well, it's not quite that bad. I just wanted everyone to know what they were getting into up front, and to get rid of anyone who just can't stand to read anything slightly critical of The Cats and former members.

One thing I've been noticing more and more lately is the almost "god-like" worship that has been thrown on George Younce. Maybe it's been there all along and I just let it wash over me unnoticed. But really, everywhere you look it seems like someone is talking about the Cathedral Quartet and George Younce.

For full disclosure purposes here, I loved George Younce and I am a big fan of his voice and singing. On top of that, there was something magical about the way George handled an audience, especially later in his career.

No, what I'm talking about now is the "glorification" of George to the near exclusion of Glen. In many places I looked in researching this article, the group was referred to as George Younce and The Cathedral Quartet. Obviously, these must be individuals who never saw them live or are teenagers, or something.

If you are a Cathedral fan at all, you must know that Glen Payne WAS The Cathedral Quartet. (OK here comes some heresy) In my opinion, you could replace George with any number of bass singers and still have the same basic, great, Cathedral sound. If you try to replace Glen, you don't have The Cathedrals at all. Perfect example... Old Friends Quartet. Not a bad group by any means, but NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES the equivalent of The Cathedral Quartet, and that's with The Legend Jake Hess at lead.

Again, before your blood pressures gets any worse, George Younce was a very good bass singer. He was a very good SINGER, period. However, he wasn't even the best singer in The Cathedral Quartet, much less the best bass singer ever. Here is an article by John Scheideman that makes the point much clearer than I would every be able to do.

So, what are the reasons for this seeming "revisionist history". Was it because Glen passed first? Is it because George was Ernie's F-i-L and so was promoted by him and SSQ? Is it because people have short to no memories? All of the above? None? You tell me.

Personally, I see it the same way I see modern sports figures compared to legends. Someone who never saw Babe Ruth play has no way to compare him to Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols. Someone who never saw Kareem Abbul Jabbar in his prime can have no comprehension of how dominant he was and so think Michael Jordan (or now Kobe Bryant) invented the game.

George was very good, but there are giants in the past at singing bass. Chief, JD, and Big Jim Waits come readily to mind.

Well, if you suffered through till the end, let me have it.


Southern Gospel Bloggers' Roundtable

I received info about this from Avery a few weeks back, but I see that it has come to fruition. I would have loved to be able to participate, however personal/family circumstances are going to prevent me from being able to even attend NQC at all. Only the second time I've missed in the last 18 years.

This event would be something great for "us bloggers" to attend. The potential to have input and perhaps have some positive impact on SG's future are great.

In this "technology age", maybe we could have a "virtual" roundtable at some point, with participation via web conferencing. The logistics might be a little difficult, but it is something to consider.


Tomorrow's All-Star Quartet

Who are the singers who are making the biggest movement upward in our industry? These may not be the best at their respective positions right now, but in a few years... watch out!

Bass - Aaron McCune

Aaron is a future star in this business. He is already right near the top, and with many bass singers aging (Gerald Williams, etc.), retiring (Tim Riley, etc.), or just plain quitting (Gene McDonald, etc.) he is moving up very fast indeed.

Baritone - Doug Anderson

The lone member of the Signature Sound Quartet on this list is without a doubt the greatest asset of that group. Not only is he a tremendous baritone, but he is great on lead as well. I've been on the DA bandwagon for a while now, but he really does just get better and better. He may not be the very best baritone right now (Mark Trammell is still singing, is he not), but Doug is THE baritone of the future.

Lead - This one is not quite as obvious to me. There are some tremendous lead singers in SG, but which one is going to be the all-star of tomorrow? Josh Garner is one I looked at very hard, but with TFB's retiring, I'm unsure of his next move. My choice is Bill Shivers. He is doing good things with BF&A and is really under-rated. With more exposure and name recognition, I think he may be labeled as the next great SG lead singer.

Tenor - Eric Phillips

This was another very difficult choice as their are lots of good up-and-coming young tenors out there. Others that were right on the cusp were Anthony Facello, Steve Ladd, Jerry Martin, etc. Eric just seems to me to have that something special that sets him up as the future great tenor. I have mentioned many times on here about how I keep expecting wonderful things from Mark Trammell's Trio and I do. When these things do happen, that is when I see Eric getting the huge amount of respect he deserves.

That's my list, how would yours differ?


Florida Boys, Goodbye?

If so, it is truly a sad day in Southern Gospel history. The Florida Boys is a name that is synonymous with Southern Gospel, especially during the Gospel Singing Jubilee days. As others have said, I don't really blame them as there is not likely to be another FB's resurrection with the age of Les, Glenn and Darrell along with the recent exits of Harold Reed and Gene McDonald.

Glenn was one of the all-time great baritone singers and I count it a priveledge to have gotten to listen to him for many, many years.

I wonder what this means for Josh Garner who I consider one of the current best lead singers on the road. I would hate for this to push him out of the business.

If this is true, then good luck to all the Florida Boys in whatever the future holds.

Read another take over at Avery's.

Update: It looks to be true per a quote from Les Beasley at Daniel Mount's Site...


More on Signature Sound and piano players

According to my buddy Daniel Mount, EH & SSQ will NOT be hiring a replacement piano player for Roy Webb.

The key line is apparently: “I like to build my future on the four faces of the singers like the Oak ridge boys and the GVB.”

Read more here.

Perhaps this explanation is accurate, but I'm not sure how "complete" it is. If everything was still working out great with Roy Webb, then would Ernie still just want to build his future on four faces? Curiouser and curiouser.


Danny Funderburk

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am a huge Danny Funderburk fan. In my opinion, he is the best tenor to ever sing gospel music.

I know that people hold strong opinions about their favorite tenors, but I've never heard a classier, clearer, stronger, higher voice than Danny. He could sing a soft beautiful song like "Whosoever Will" and break your heart and then sing a powerful song like "I've Just Started Living" and blow you out the back of the auditorium

Danny is having some health problems and is scheduled for bypass surgery on Monday.

Paul Jackson has more information and a great story here.

God Bless you Danny, and get well soon!!


Roy Webb and Harold Reed

What do these two have in common you might ask. Well, besides being involved in SG music, they have also moved on from their previous employers.

Harold is now singing with The Kingsmen Quartet and has obviously left The Florida Boys. That is two big changes (Gene McDonald) for TFB's in the last few months. I'm sure Les will pull things back together, but that has to hurt. Gene was one of the best bass singers on the road. Harold sounded better with TFB's than he ever did with The Dixie Melody Boys. I'm interested to hear him with The Kingsmen. My first impression was that he would not be the "typical" Kingsmen tenor, but after further consideration, he might fit very well with them. Time will tell...

Now to Roy Webb. He recently took a temporary LOA to be with his ill father, but apparently that has turned permanent with very little explanation. When something this "odd" occurs with little or no explanation, the rumors are sure to follow. I've heard several, but will not repeat them here as they are unsubstantiated at this point.

The Roy Webb disappearance brings back the subject of the EH&SSQ fan love. I know and anyone who has been on their message board knows that Roy is THE VERY BEST PIANIST TO EVER GRACE A SOUTHERN GOSPEL STAGE (just as every member of the group is the very best at their respective positions), so what does this mean for the next EH&SSQ piano player? Will they move ahead of Roy as soon as they sign up? These are questions that need answering, and I can't wait to hear from the SSQ groupies on this.