Southern Gospel Perspective

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

Location: United States


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!!