Ghosts of Great Names (I of II)

The recent resurrection of the Kingsmen name reminds me that the era of Great Quartet Names is over. There will only ever be one Cathedral Quartet, one Masters V, one Statesmen and, after Ray Reese is gone, only one Kingsmen, I suspect. Even so, I hope that doesn’t mean some of the recent new names that have cropped up are a portent of what’s to come in naming conventions. Let’s look at the two worst offenders among the latest additions to headliner groups.

Integrity Quartet: A real question-beggar, this one. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to immediately suspect anyone’s integrity until this group brought it up. Now it seems fair to ask, do these guys mean they have integrity and everyone else doesn’t? Do they have more integrity? And if not, why mention it to begin with? Mainly, though, the name makes a distraction of a non-issue: presumably, fans only support performers they assume have integrity, so it’s not necessary to tell them you’ve got it. Conversely, even if you call yourself Integrity, it won’t make any difference; if already fans think you’re morally or ethically compromised, a name won’t change anything.

Signature Sound: This is quite possibly the worst name ever. Ok, maybe it’s just my least favorite at the moment. Anyway, the trouble with this name is that it’s baldly, irrecoverably self-aggrandizing. Despite my issues with Integrity, it obviously attempts to make a statement about the convictions and spiritual sincerity of the group’s members. Signature Sound, however, only hubristically refers to the group’s, well … sound - its aesthetic ability. Sure, southern gospel cultivates too many pretensions and delusions about its holiness and ministerial function, which often aren’t as grand as everybody would like to think. But a name like Signature Sound drastically overplays the artificial, performative aspect of the group’s work. Have these guys no integrity? (sorry)

These flatfooted monikers are conceptually solipsistic – who says we have a Signature Sound? We do. How do you know we have Integrity? Cause we say so. And as a practical matter, they’re clunky, too: It’s one thing to alternate between “The Cathedral Quartet” and “The Cathedrals” (both are timeless and classy). It’s quite another to fumble around with these new names. Is it “We are Integrity” or “We’re the Integrity Quartet” or worst yet “The Integrities”? Would I say “Let’s hear it for the Signature Sounds” or just “Signature Sound,” or “Signature Sound Quartet”? Who knows?

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