Southern Gospel Perspective

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

Location: United States


The Days of Christmas, vol. 12

Southern Gospel Fans...

Especially any that read my blog. Thank you. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, and my gift to you would be that you would have the greatest New Year ever.

Happy Holidays!


The Days of Christmas, vol. 11

Only two gifts left this year...

National Quartet Convention (NQC).

The NQC is my favorite "Southern Gospel" time of the year, and one of my favorite times period.

What does the NQC need for Christmas?

Well, according to the latest 2006 schedule, an appearance (or more) by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound might be nice. Of course, that is probably not the most important need they have.

An appearance by the Gaither Vocal Band would be a good thing as well, but that is obviously not going to happen (this year anyway).

I think a change to Quartet Night on Thursday instead of the Fan Awards would help draw people there for the long weekend.

They already have a great location, so no suggestions there...

The variety of groups is usually very good too. I know there are always groups left off, but overall there is good diversity on the main stage.

So, what to give NQC this year???

I think a jump in attendance levels would be their biggest need. Especially early in the week. Even the weekend numbers seem to be down over the last several years though. I think having the "big draw" groups like EH&SSQ and GVB would help in this area. I also think moves like the suggestion above about the Quartet Night on Thursday would help draw more numbers for the long weekend. Whatever it takes, that would be my gift, a big jump in attendance.


The Days of Christmas, vol. 10

A Very Fine Line (AVFL) or Avery Fineline.

I know his real identity is now known, but most people still know him under this pseudonym, so I will use it.

It seems to me that AVFL has made quite an impact on SG this year. His recent slowdown notwithstanding, he is probably the most prolific of the "SG bloggers", especially the non-artist bloggers.

So, what could ol' Avery use for Christmas? Depending on who you, my reader, is, that question could have many different answers:

(1) Some might say he needed more free time so that he could post more. Others might say just the opposite...

(2) Some might say he should be given more compassion, so that he would be a little less cynical and critical. Again, others might prefer him to be even more so.

(3) Some might say he should be given more industry cooperation, so that he has to rely less on speculation.

(4) Some might like to see a reconciliation between AVFL and the Unthanks. Others seem to enjoy the controversy and bitterness.

So, what is my gift to Avery?

Since I don't expect him to change his style anytime soon, #4 above seems unlikely. Since his caustic style is so much a part of his program, I don't think #2 is likely either.

How about a combination and compromise on all of these? I believe Avery is a very fine writer. He does seem to have a loyal following. If he could be a little less of the firebrand, I could see him becoming even more influential in SG. I don't know if there is enough money anywhere in SG for him to quit his job and be a full-time writer/investigator, but that would be ideal. Maybe the new Singing News management would recognize a good thing and try to work something out? That would be my gift.


The Days of Christmas, vol. 9

Southern Gospel Radio.

I realize this is not just one entity. The range goes from very good stations to some that are nearly impossible to listen to. Each radio station has its own unique needs and strengths.

That being said, SG Radio as a whole needs a makeover. So that would be my gift to them this year. A complete and utter restructuring, rethinking, stripped to the bone redo. If you are in radio, especially programming managers, this is for you.
(1) Play top 40 Southern Gospel songs! (60-75% of programming)
(2) Play current songs, not songs that were somewhat popular 8-10 years ago. One such song an hour is more than enough (8-10 year old songs that is).
(3) Play classic songs by classic groups. This is not an excuse to ignore #2 above. When I say classics, I mean great songs by The Cathedrals, The Statesmen, The Blackwoods, The Speers, The Downings, The Kingsmen, etc. Two songs like this an hour would be good.
(4) Play very new music by very popular groups. (Gold City, Greater Vision, KP & New River, Hoppers, Kingdom Heirs, etc, etc). A couple of songs like this an hour would be good.
(5) Know the names of the groups you are playing and how to pronounce them. One way to ensure this is to hire competent, true SG fans. Not a college kid who only listens to CCM. Have DJ's throw in interesting (but quick) facts about some of the groups that are playing.
(6) Limit (or eliminate) the preaching programs. Most of them are not good (especially the local guys) and turn listeners away.

So, that is my gift to SG Radio... a complete makeover from the ground up.


The Days of Christmas, vol. 8

I can see from the huge number of comments that everyone cannot wait for the next gift!

I will keep on anyway...

Today's gift goes to The Unthanks. What does this widely diversified family need? They have a hugely popular website (and message board). They have an up and coming marketing/publicity agency. They have a Southern Gospel mixed group. They have a good internet radio station. They do web design, they write songs, and much more.

So what do they need for Christmas? How about a little (or a lot) less criticism? It seems there is a vocal group of "fans" out there who are either jealous or perhaps just plain mean, who like to be overly critical and many times hurtful to the Unthanks.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't always agree with them either. I'm also sure they don't always agree with me. Just because we have disagreements does NOT mean we have to act like children and call names and make verbal (or written) jabs at each other every chance we get.

So that is my gift to the Unthank family this year. Hopefully they will receive less criticism and more respect and appreciation for what they do for our industry.


The Days of Christmas, vol. 7

Triumphant Quartet.

Can anyone argue that they don't have the best line-up of talent in a quartet today?

I mean Clayton "Superman" Inman is one of the all-time great lead singers, his son Scott is a fantastic baritone already and blends beautifully with his father. Jeff Stice is destined to be a legendary piano player, having been on the ground floor of Perfect Heart as well as playing for The Kingdom Heirs and The Nelons. David Sutton is a perennial SN fan award nominee and an excellent tenor. What can you say about Eric Bennett? His bass voice is as big and clear as any in the business. His version of "He Loves Me" on the Greater Vision Quartets recordings are the highlights on those incredible recordings where every song is great.

So what does Triumphant Quartet need for Christmas? They really need that breakout song. You know the one I mean... Like "Somebody Touched The Lord" for Perfect Heart, or "Step Into The Water" for The Cathedrals, or "Midnight Cry" for Gold City. A song that almost everyone who hears it on the radio says, WOW! so that's how good they can sound.

That would be my gift to Triumphant Quartet, if I had the power, a super-hit. I think the guys could take it to new levels from there!


The Days of Christmas, vol. 6

This article will put me halfway thru the 12 Days of Christmas, and let me tell you it's been more difficult than I thought it would be. Let's get right to today's recipient...

The Kingsmen have been around for decades (minus a brief hiatus as The Carolina Boys).
They have been on the top of Southern Gospel with award winning pianists, vocalists, and musicians (non-pianist band members I mean).
They were once known for producing the greatest live recordings in SG (see Big and Live, Live Naturally, etc.).
Jim Hamill was (in my opinion) the greatest MC in SG history. He was both entertaining (HA!) and spiritual (listen to Shake Hands With a Poor Boy intro on Live Naturally).

Today The Mighty Kingsmen are not quite so "mighty" anymore. Now before you die-hard Kingsmen fans get in an uproar, let me explain. I absolutely love Ray Dean Reese. He is as entertaining a bass singer as there is in SG today. Not only that, he is singing as good or better now than he ever did. Nick Succi is going to be a wonderful pianist. Jeremy Peace and Phillip Hughes do a fine job and being so young will definitely continue to grow in their confidence and ability. Tony Peace is one of the best baritones in SG; he is a fine showman and an excellent vocalist. I say all that so you will know I have nothing but respect for every current member of The Kingsmen. I just don't think they have "come together" as a group yet. Of course, they like many SG groups have gone thru several changes (and also Tim Surrett's vocal problems) over the last few months, which definitely creates issues with harmony, etc. The addition of Tony can only help these Kingsmen in their movement back to the top.

So, my Christmas gift to The Kingsmen is a return to the upper echelons of Southern Gospel quartet music. They have all the necessary ingredients and with a few years of stability I see them as returning to that proper spot for a group that travels with the name Kingsmen on their bus.


Danny Funderburk health update

Here is the only new information I've been able to find. Thanks to Chuck Peters and Jason Funderburk.


The Days of Christmas, vol. 5

The Singing News.

Well, there are several places I could go with this one...

First of all, since the Singing News is the most read print magazine in Southern Gospel music, I think they need a real re-working of their "chart". Far too many people have lost faith in its accuracy in recent months and years. When the most relied on chart in the genre is 2-3 months behind, we have a problem. Not to mention songs that chart extremely high and there are people in radio-land who have never even heard them (although this has as much to say about SG radio as it does SN).

Second, this policy of only putting groups on the front who meet a rigid "dress code". It is certainly their right to do this since they are a privately owned company, but it seems a little hypocritical to me to refuse GVB on the cover but then take their money and print their adds all throughout the rest of the publication.

Finally, the SN does a good job on stories about groups and individuals. They help us to "get to know" these people in a way that we would be unable to otherwise. However, there needs to be more meat in some of their articles. They should go back a few years and read some of JD Sumners old articles. That is the kind of thing they need. I know there may not be a JD out there, but there are some interesting folks in SG who could write interesting articles.

So that brings me to my (pseudo) gift to the Singing News. In light of their recent purchase by Salem, I would like to give them a management that will implement the above suggestions and make the Singing News an even bigger success and an even more looked forward to magazine.


The Days of Christmas, vol. 4

Busy Week, sorry!

I couldn't create this list without including Gold City, since they have been my favorite group for many years now.

I considered what it is Gold City needs (or might want) this Christmas and realized they certainly don't need: vocal ability, stage presence, better song selection, or anyone new at any of their 4 vocal positions. They have all of the above going for them already.

So, what to give Gold City?

Since the flurry of changes over the last couple of years and the recent loss of the band and Channing Eleton, I decided to give Gold City some respect and a second chance in their fans eyes. Meaning, I think too many fans have seen the departure of Mark, then Jay, Tim and Channing as signs that maybe GC doesn't "have it" anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Danny Riley has stepped up to the plate (as both baritone and MC) and really come thru. I'll be the first to admit that I was skeptical at first. I always liked Danny, but sometimes the songs he sang (as a part-time vocalist) did not do a lot for me. So, I went to my first post-MT concert with some concern. Believe me, my doubts were soon laid to rest. Danny stepped up there and just really did a great job. That first concert I don't think he had but one or two solos, but he did a wonderful job at the baritone part. Since then, Danny has added more solos and I've enjoyed them all.

Steve Ladd replaced Jay Parrack at tenor. Jay was one of my favorite (if not the favorite) tenors at the time he left GC. I'm sure many readers out there felt the same way. I'd heard Steve with The Anchormen of course, so I thought I knew what he would bring. My first thoughts were that GC would go back to the Brian Free type sound (I hoped not, but that was my impression). However, after hearing Steve live and then on CD, I couldn't believe my ears. Steve did sound a little like Brian, but he also sounded a lot like Jay in spots. However, overall he just sounded like a great tenor! He is continuing to do a wonderful job for GC.

Perhaps the most difficult replacement was Bill Lawrence replacing Tim and bass (and Danny replacing Tim as MC). Tim, in many peoples eyes (mine included) WAS Gold City. It would almost be like trying to replace George Younce with the Cathedrals. I had heard Bill fill in for Tim on a few occasions and thought he did a good job, but I hated that I had not gotten to hear Tim. Bill pretty much just sang his part and didn't try to do anything too flashy and so didn't make a huge impression on me. That is until late in the program when I heard the intro to "Under Control". I thought to myself, uh-oh, this could be bad (that and maybe Tim will run up to the stage real quick!). Man was I ever wrong. Bill Lawrence absolutely NAILED a song that could be called Tim Riley's signature song. After Bill joined GC full-time I've heard him several times and he is really getting more and more comfortable and sounds just awesome as GC's bass singer. As I said above, not only did they have to replace Tim's awesome bass vocals, but his impeccable MC work. Danny took over those duties and is really coming into his own in that regard. He shares the time with Jonathan and that really helps to add some variety to their program as well.

Channing's departure is so recent that it is hard to know the impact it will have. I know that Channing was a wonderful pianist and arranger and so he will be missed, but I also know that GC will keep on moving forward and not miss a beat.

So, Merry Christmas Gold City, your present would be that SG fans give you guys a good, fair, honest look and see that you are as good as ever. If they do, I think you will not only reclaim and keep your "old" fans, but bring in many new ones as well!


The Days of Christmas, vol. 3

Signature Sound Quartet.

Well, I can think of several things that would be easy to come up with for these guys (hair gel, dance classes, one on one basketball training :D, etc.), but I think the one thing I'd like to give is group member stability.

Many times a hot new group comes along and then the apple cart turnover begins. I know they went through one round of this already, but they seemed to handle that openly and honestly and got it over with quickly and cleanly. The group as it stands now is very good.

Things they have going in their favor:

-They seem to get along very well and that should be a positive for stability.
-Their continued relationship with Gaither should also allow them to have time off and still enjoy a good income.
-They are very popular and successful.

Change seems to be the name of the game in SG music, but if SSQ can keep theirs to a minimum and continue the success they've started, I could see them being the Cathedral Quartet of this generation.

I probably won't add any new gifts over the weekend, so be looking for more next week!


The Days of Christmas, vol. 2

Bill Gaither.

Most people would question whether Bill needed anything with the immensely popular Homecoming Tours, the very impressive Vocal Band, and his hugely successful media ventures, but I have some things to stuff in his stockings anyway.

The first thing I would offer would be a better relationship with the "powers that be" within the traditional SG world. I guess you have to first surmise the current relationship is not warm, but that does not take a huge leap of imagination. If both sides were getting along, it is hard to believe that the GVB would not have been on the NQC main stage for the last two years. You can claim previous engagements all you want, but who is buying that?? These NQC's are set far enough in advance that should not be a problem. In addition the GVB being left off the Singing News chart and the SN fan award ballots is as blatant a disagreement as if they took out an add in the Wall Street Journal.

It's hard to argue with success, but to me the Homecoming phenomenon was better back in the beginning. He had many more "cosy atmosphere" events with everyone sitting around a piano and singing. Today's lineups seem like a pale comparison to some of the powerhouse gatherings of before. So, my other gift to Bill would be a move back to a more traditional SG program. Drop so many of these soloists that add very little to the program and bring on more of the mainstream SG groups. You can still have a balance, but the weight has shifted way to the CCM side if you ask me. So Bill, my other gift would be regular appearances by Gold City, The Perrys, Greater Vision, Mercy's Mark, The Kingdom Heirs, Reggie Sadler's Family, The Florida Boys, Karen Peck and NR, The Talleys, Palmetto State and a host of other traditional SG groups.

I doubt Bill reads this, so somebody drop him a line! Just kidding!