Long lost letters at long last

The mailroom interns have been woefully slow recovering from their holiday state of mind, and the letters have gone begging. So this morning I put the entire staff on the job of collecting and editing the last month’s worth of email … yes it’s been a month. Enjoy.

On whether or not I grate
Gating? I enjoy your articles. There are few hard truths ever aired in SG. It is like a brotherhood where everyone that is on the “inside” protects and supports everyone else.
On the site
Hi, Avery. Just wanted to drop you a note letting you know how much I appreciate your site. It is the only site I check daily anymore about sgm. I was getting kind of amused about the Unthanks and how they do things over there even before you came along. Well anyway keep up the great writing. … Here’s a good question to ponder on the site, why are there no more great live albums. Gold City, Kingsmen, and others were known to release a live album every 2 or 3 years or so. I miss the good old days…thanks again

On the Cats
Hi, I have read your comments off and on with interest. It is interesting to read your views as well as your musical knowledge. … Concerning “We Shall See Jesus,” I used to prefer the original version, but have grown to love the more upbeat version with Bennett’s excellent piano licks he had started doing (arpeggios etc.) Once I got used to the faster tempo, the original just seemed too slow and draggy. The one thing that bugged me on that latter version though was that instead of Haase and Fowler fading on the word “loved” during the trio on the part in minor, they sang the word them and then stopped. That was a minor thing, but it didn’t sound as good and generally Haase at least was a little too loud on the word “them” IMHO. I thought the fade was a neat trick that was a better segue back into Payne’s solo on the verse, but it also did a better job of painting the mood of the verse.

On Talley
Kirk strikes again it seems. Did you get the newsletter where he was selling his one year old low mileage car that he paid $23,000 for for $9,000 ? I found that mighty interesting.

On me (and Talley)
Would you please get off Mr. Talley’s back! Perhaps instead of so carefully scrutinizing the lives over everyone else, you should began to sweep your own doorstep. Mr. Talley is an imperfect man, but you are as well. We all are imperfect people! That is why we need the grace of God to daily sweep over our lives!

On the site again
Just wanted to say your site is the BOMB! Finally, someone to cut through all the crap and tell it like it really is, you really know how to stir the _ _ _ _ up and get it stinkin.

On hair etc
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your website. Don’t let others silence you. On hair length, ear piercing, tie wearing, skirt length, and SG: When the time comes when I have to make a decision about which way I have to go (mainstream or progressive) I’m choosing the one that doesn’t regulate good gospel music to what someone is wearing. I went to a private Christian school growing up and I’m beginning to have nightmares again. I can see an NQC board member with a ruler checking Ernie’s hair or Lauren’s skirt with a ruler before they go on stage.

On agreement, and not
A lot of times I agree with what you say. Other times I don’t. But despite that, I
want to thank you for making 2004 a very interesting year in the world of Southern
Gospel Music!

On BF&A
Heard a couple of the cuts from this CD a few weeks ago. The first single “Long As I Got King Jesus” kinda “got” on my nerves. Just too repetitious for my tastes. The other song (which I can’t remember the name of - which may say more than I could ever say) was just okay. However, my buddy from the record company states that this will be BF&A’s “career album”. Since I didn’t hear the whole project I’ll hold my final thoughts on the whole thing until I hear the whole thing.

On late night musings
I really enjoy your writings. Don’t ever stop.

I won’t be much help on the video question. I got my first VCR in 1985 (and old Fisher top load model). I remember at the time that my mother found out I had a VCR and looked everywhere for sg tapes to no avail. In fact, the first sg tapes I remember were the first Gaither tapes, so I was really out of the loop on this issue. I have a copy of a tape on DVD of the Masters V, consisting of Jake, Rosie, James, J.D., and Hovie and it dates back to the late eighties, I believe. I always despised the lousy production of sg tapes (and now DVD’s). The only exceptions have been the Gaither stuff and recent stuff by Greater Vision and the NQC compilation tapes.

Speaking of the NQC compilations, I just got the 2004 rendition today. I’ve watched it a couple of times tonight and it is tighter in production than other versions. What amazes me is that the same groups are shown on each and every “yearbook.” You can count on Gold city as the first group. The Dove Brothers will be either second or third (or last on the 2002 version), with Reggie Saddler, the Inspirations, the Florida Boys, the Hoppers, the McKamey’s, the Kingsmen, Kingdom Heirs, and Greater Vision always on the program. It must be a caste system. I guess you have to die or get infirm like George and Jake to get off the tapes (Jake last appeared in 2002 and George in last year’s tape). This year they did have the Perrys (in a great song and performance).

You always mention the Singing News. I subscribed to the rag almost eight years ago. I thought I was getting a magazine about the groups and what was going on in sg. Instead I got a magazine full of propaganda. I tire of the feature stories that tell us nothing about the group’s individual members except that they are loving their new “project.” (I’ve often wonder why it’s a project and not an album or CD. Seems to me that project is just too much of a word for a recording of new songs, but that’s maybe just me) I saw the article on the PSQ, just before Tony quit over what I believe to be John R’s overbearing attempt to control the group (watch the NQC highlight tape from 2003. Tony is singing lead on a song called “That Old Altar.” At the end they do a thing where they all come together to do a riff where the bass and the group go into a syncopated thing. Tony begins to do one of McCray Dove’s “bunny hops,” and John frowns and physically stops him from doing it. You can see Tony didn’t care much for that, but continued on. There had to be more to this than met the eye). I had hoped that I could learn a bit about Aaron McCune, the bass singer from West Virginia, but we get no such information … from SN. I am now debating on whether or not to renew. I got my last notice with the new issue.

One last thing. I have begun to download music to my computer (paying for it as it should be done) through iTunes, Wal-Mart and others. I find it much easier to download music, transfer it to CD, and make multiple copies (for $8 or $9) than to pay the price Christian Music stores charge for CD’s ($16-$18). Trouble is, sg is in short supply. I scanned iTunes and found only three compilation albums and SSQ’s Christmas album. Wal-Mart has plenty of black gospel, but no sg. Search on Gold City, Legacy 5, Greater Vision, or the Crabbs and you get nothing. That’s a great comment on sg. You can get GVB, Avalon, or any number of CCM groups, but sg is non-existent. Until the shackles are lifted from sg from places like SN and NQC, it will always be like that. Gaither moved on for this reason (IMHO), and so did the Crabbs. When will they learn? Thanks for listening to my late-late night mantra!

On coins and blogging
Just want to say, Thanks! It is about time someone started taking a look at the other side of the coin and letting others make up their minds about what is right or wrong in the business.

On discovering the site
I started reading your blog right about the time people started talking about you on various message boards. I will tell you this: I am so glad you actually understand music! I get so frustrated when people act like they are “music theory buffs” when, in reality, they have no more knowledge than a sixth grade general music student. As a college student studying music education, I appreciate the informed perspective you provide. I agree with your writings nearly 100% of the time. Keep it up. By the way, I rarely go to sogospelnews.com anymore simply because every time I visit I leave frustrated. I keep up-to-date by means of your blog. Thanks again.

On saying nice things
Love your writing. You challenge me to think, and that’s great!

On quartets and sounds
I recently purchased SSQ’s Christmas album, and I do like 90% of it. However, I find myself starting to agree with your assessment of Haase’s tenor singing, as being insubstantial. I have not thought that previously to hearing this recording. What happened? I also wasn’t that impressed with their choice of a lead singer in Ryan Seaton. He has a kind of raspy quality, that may be trendy, but it lacks the brilliance and a rounded tone that a lead singer should have, in my opinion. When I think of lead singers, I think of Glen Payne, and Ivan Parker as being among, if not, THE best. I also purchased MMQ’s first CD, and I am impressed. I bought it in no small part due to your high remarks about it. Very impressive for a first recording. I give them very high marks for an intelligent a cappella arrangement to kick off the CD. Right away, I knew these guys had some talent. For me, well done acap. singing is a sure sign of musical skill. To see them do it live would seal the deal!! I think they are great in each vocal spot. I do agree with you that Gary Jones is not the strongest singer, but he definitely brings more than enough musicianship to the table to make up for it. Their bass singer is also excellent. I will likely keep my ear on those guys. I would currently rate L5 and MMQ as the top two male quartets. I think SSQ is still good, but if Haase is a sinking ship, then for my money they are losing a lot of their appeal.

On one liners
“stacks worthy of a pancake house……” Where do you come up with this stuff??? I love it! Once again, great writing!!!!!!!

On videos
What you said about the Statesmen Video’ was very correct……….way ahead of its time………..I have never seen the video of the Speers you are talking about but I bet it is good…………..its a shame those old Nabisco shows of the Statesmen are not on videotape………..guess Gaither has already checked that one out LOL…………..keep on writing my friend SGM needs a voice like yours to keep people on there toes………..esp the Unthanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On an alternative explanation
I saw SSQ with Wesley Pritchard in concert together this year. Wesley played the bass guitar on stage with the group and would join in on the last few notes of a few big tunes to, as you put it, beef up the sound or add a 5th part. He was clearly on stage, and visibly singing. I wasn’t at NQC, but my guess is that SSQ wasn’t trying to hide the fact that Wesley was singing. Ernie probably just figured it would seem odd if Wesley walked up on stage and joined them for the last note of the songs in question. But, it would seem Ernie would respond to your inquiry.

More kind words
Keep it going whatever you do……

On fundamentalism and the Inspirations
I’m still wading through your [old] pages and finally got to read the “fundamentalist paper” on sg music this morning as I was preparing to go to church. It’s hard to believe that paper was revised as late as 1998. Those are the same arguments that were being used in the 50’s and 60’s against Hovie Lister and the Statesmen and other groups. The fact that someone still believes this stuff is really appalling. To think that Hovie and the boys wanted to make a living singing! I guess all those preachers should not accept a salary, too. Forgive me if you happen to be a fundamentalist Baptist, but I was raised one, and there are a lot of wonderful people who are misled in these churches. I always found it amusing when our church would shake their heads at the Statesmen but invite Squire Parsons to the church to sing time after time. Squire’s a great guy - [but] not quite the model that they wanted if that paper is correct. That narrow road is simply just a tad too much for any human being to follow including the author. You have to wonder if the NQC has folks of that persuasion on their board. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I hadn’t heard about the anticipated Inspirations retirement, but I welcome it. Martin Cook must be 70 and my guess, as the leader of the group, he’s had enough. We can only hope that Hampton finds a good quartet to sing with and the others fade off into the sunset. I’m sure they’re good men, but seriously, they remind me of a music teacher who I shared a classroom with back in the seventies told me. He was taking auditions for the school choir and I noticed capital letter explanations after each name. The majority had CCTIB in the comments column. When I asked him what it meant, he looked around and whispered, “can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” I guess I’m just cruel.

On the Inspirations
It mat be interesting to note that during the mid 80s, the Inspirations did basically take a hiatus from traveling and singing with the exception of a few hit and miss dates. They basically performed at the Singing in the Smokies and at a restaurant they owned in Bryson City. They toured only a few limited dates and basically stayed put at their restaurant. I think it was actually called Inspiration Restaurant. I could be wrong with the name. That lasted from around 1984 until basically the late 80s or around 1990.

On the site
I’m still enjoying your blog. You and others who are pushing the envelope in SG for a renewed emphasis on top quality musicianship are getting through to others. Keep up the good work.

On Hodges freak out
What is it with the folks on Hodges case? I don’t really know the guy and can’t comment about him personally nor his singing, but man they are tearing him apart. Chris Unthank also did what I think is an uncool thing by deleting Derrick Boyd’s post. There was nothing negative to his post whatsoever, I am not sure of the justification for that. Oh well, moderator’s choice I suppose.

On sogo
I thought the SGN thread about Billy Hodges was so hilarious. The Unthanks deleted posts by Derrick Boyd and Bear because they were too personal or nasty (which they were, especially Bear’s), but they conveniently left Chris Unthank’s “unprofessional” rebuttal on there for all to read (which included the quote of Boyd’s first “can’t believe” post). All of which had the I’m sure intended consequence of leaving a very one-sided impression for the uninformed to draw conclusions from. Then to top it all off, Deon puts his $0.02 worth in about the minions of Satan taking advantage of illness in his family to wreak havoc on the MB threads! How over the top was that?! I’m sure he must be tired and stressed from all the health problems going on in his family and that seeped out into his posts, but it was still a sweet little microcosm of the ham-handed way they administer that board. Great fun!

On Lexus Jazz
Kim Hopper is probably my all-time favorite singer, and definitely a role model for me, but one thing’s for sure… I will never follow in her child-naming footsteps!! I’m so happy for the whole family, and my prayers are with them as they welcome their new addition–but Lexus Jazz Hopper?!?!? God bless that child! For the life of me I cannot understand the whole concept of naming a child after a car (Mercedes, Lexus, et.al). If they’re going to call her “Lexy” or “Lexie”, why not name her Alexis? And Jazz?!? Don’t even get me started. Personally, I prefer classic names that stand the test of time, and those for which the child will hopefully not HATE me in 20 years!

On the Galloways, names, SSQ etc
They must meet with the SN’s strict fundamentalist Baptist standards, I guess. Isn’t it about time that a true sg chart based on sales and not the payola that I understand goes on now (not to imply that money is actually exchanged). I know this will be hard since groups buy huge quantities of their own CDs to sell at appearances, but radio play is simply not an indication of how big a “hit” a song is. It’s part of it but not all of it. My guess is that groups like GV or SSQ actually sell more than others, but it doesn’t show anywhere. BTW, our local Solid Gospel station never plays the Galloways or GV, so maybe we’re out of the loop somewhat.

Isn’t amazing what some parents do to kids? For the rest of her life, folks and other kids will think she was named after a car and they’ll just think her middle name is weird. Reminds me of Frank Zappa’s kids. Why, oh, why?

I’ve always thought GV is one of the classiest acts in sg. First of all the great vocal talent of Gerald Wolfe (which you’ve so correctly assessed), not to mention his piano playing and great songs (for the most part) by Rodney Griffin. If they do stack their vocals, and they probably do because of the big halls they play and you can only fill up those big rooms with lots of voices (which they don’t have), it’s tastefully done. I’d much rather hear a stacked vocal from a class act like GV that that ineptitude that is the Inspirations.

And just a word on SSQ and their “live” stacked vocals. The vocal talent of this group is very strong, so why they needed it is a mystery. Doug Anderson is probably the most underrated baritone in sg, Tim Duncan have strong voices and we all know about Ernie’s imperfect but strong tenor. Why they needed a relatively weak-voiced Wes Pritchard to “help” is beyond me. I think a lot of the time, these artists are trying to sound like their record they just made. I remember a few years ago going to a Maynard Ferguson concert just after he released “Rocky,” and it sounded like there were 25 musicians on stage. There were only 8. The stacked instrumental parts were coordinated by a sound engineer so it would sound like Ferguson’s only hit on the song “Rocky.” That was years ago, so I guess it’s nothing new.

On degrees of sinning
I’m glad you’re taking Kirksey to task over the gluttony issue. I try to attend Frank Arnold’s Jackson, TN, Songfest weekend of concerts almost every year with a friend of mine from Memphis. When the concerts are over, we like to go to an O’Charley’s near our hotel for appetizers. One night, we were discussing how - in the eyes of the sg elite - it would be a mortal sin to order a beer or cocktail, but perfectly acceptable to stuff one’s face at a late night buffet. In fact, that very thing is even encouraged! They sell tickets to an “all you can eat” midnight buffet with the concert “stars” at a local restaurant that stays open late for that purpose. We went to it once, and I saw several performers from the Easters and Kingsmen pile a plate five inches high and return to the “trough” for more later. I’ve heard more than one sg artist get on a soapbox about “role model” movie stars and rock singers that destroy their health with drugs (which I obviously don’t condone), but say nary a peep about “role model” sg artists that eat their way into poor health and glorify the behavior. I suppose that’s just my rant.

On how I might be like BILL O’RIELLY (oh my)
I stumbled across your “Southern Gospel for the Rest of Us” blog tonight, and I just wanted to let you know I enjoyed it very much and have been studying it for a couple of hours. I recently CANCELLED my subscription to Singing News and reading your commentary was quite the refreshing change. I am completing my B.A. in Sociology and am a big southern gospel fan. I will tell all my friends about your website. I got rid of my Singing News subscription because of their refusal to list Kirk Talley in the magazine. You seem to have a lot of opinions and knowledgeable about a lot of things. I was reading your column on my laptop and watching Bill O’Reilly on TV at the same time. Could you guys be brothers?

On divisive tones
This is just a theory and maybe I’m all wet, but I think the heavy-handed and confrontational way the Unthanks administer that board sometimes contributes to the nasty tone that seems to crop up over there on a fairly regular basis. People get defensive before they’re even edited. And when the Unthanks do decide to challenge someone, it’s always an “in your face” kind of tough love instead of just dealing with people like adults. On sogospelluvers.com they approach MB administration in a much more collegial way and I think it contributes to the posters acting like responsible adults and keeping their comments in check. Just a theory.

On shaving
Is Earl going to have go shave his mustache in order to appear on the SN cover? I was under impression that no one with facial hair was permitted.

On SN online
Any clue as to what the heck is up with SN website lately? Its constantly down, plus to add insult to the fact, Jerry cant update a Journal Entry. Give me a break its been Nov. since he did any kind of update on that. Keep up the good work. Love reading the articles!

On my salvation, or not
Are you a born again Christian? I’m just wondering, because I know there are some fans out there who have never been saved. Please let me know.

On empty promises
Is this another next best thing for SG music? I hope it isn’t another hollow “come on.” I like Tony and Kim Hudgins (Sonrise Christian Voices). They are nice people. This just sounds like past promises. (re: World Of Gospel Music)

On harshness
I just finished reading the EIGHTH DAY and GALLOWAYS take. That EIGHTH DAY thing is just bizarre. What could possibly possess them to use that name, unless they are mocking? I mean, really, did they even read the verse? I know it’s there in the Word and all, but some things are just better not talked about in mixed company, right? But now, although I may have never made the connection, I’ll never be able to attend their concerts without thinking of that! Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing lost!

As far as the Galloways are concerned, I thought you were a little harsh. Granted, they haven’t had tons of SN top 5 success, but there are a lot of groups much longer established that haven’t either. Not to mention the reverse, i.e., there are a lot of songs which have merited that distinction that aren’t particularly good songs, either - Trail of Tears, for example… Anyway, while I don’t like every Galloways song or aspect, I do enjoy their sound. Besides, you yourself have shown yourself an advocate of new blood in SG. I mean, come on, Doug, how many Hoppers/Perry/Cats/L5/Inspirations covers can there be? Let them enjoy their time in the sun. It’s not just about charting, is it?

On stracks
If you have never noticed that Gerald uses stracks - you must have been attending their concerts from the parking lot. (Before you flog me, I know you didn’t say that you had ‘never’ noticed it, but just wanted to make a point.) They (admittedly, they are better now than in years gone by) have a tendency to amplify them at levels never before known to mankind. They also run effects on those channels, and let’s be honest. Studio recorded vocals as stracks are fine, but to then ‘re-process’ them live - it was horrible. I went up to Jason during one intermission and said, ‘Man, you gotta turn down the reve on the stacks. You guys are killing me.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, we’ve already been told.’ Amazing. I do not understand the use of stracks at all. You might say the Rodney and Jason aren’t THAT capable, but just let Gerald sit down at the piano and do something non-Memorex. They really have a clean natural sound that would be just fine for performance. Oh for the days when everything was done live. When Roger played all the songs, when Big Jim did 12 encores of every big song until you were about to spontaneously combust in your seat, when singers were singers in and out of the studio.

On Vestal etc
Excellent post on the GMA and Vestal. The Crabb Family must be doing something right. I think a lot of groups could learn a thing or two from them. As far as Vestal, they made her (or she made herself) into the creation she became. She was a star. It wasn’t a matter of if she could sing or not. She was way bigger than that. She was a commodity. She was the consummate performer. All she had to do was wave her hanky and wave her arms in the air and shout “Hallelujah”, and the crowd went home happy.

On mixed blessings
The article about Gaither and his marketing is great! You are a great writer! It is not surprising to now learn that your livelihood is made surrounding writing and teaching writing. But I have to say, I still get a little miffed that you set yourself as the ultimate judge of group names. That is too subjective for you to be so critical of so many names. You criticize many names that I (and many other people I suspect) think are just fine. Good even. But I do enjoy your blog and agree with much of what you write. My husband and I are leaving to go on the January Bible Cruise with Greater Vision, Signature Sound, (no, I mean Ernie Haase and Signature Sound) and Adrian Rogers next week, so I’ll have to miss your blog for a week. But maybe it will be a decent trade-off.

On funny stories
Your description of Vestal’s entrance reminds me of the one Jerry Goff would make with the Thrasher Brothers. The Thrasher Brothers would come on stage and start singing “The Old Rugged Cross” when it came to the chorus, Jerry would start playing his trumpet from a seat somewhere in the back of the auditorium. He would then proceed down the aisle, playing and reach the stage in time for the refrain. One time he sat behind my brother & me but we were unaware he was there. When he started playing, we literally jumped out of our seats. My brother had recently returned from the service and still retained a lot of GI vernacular. He said “Jeez, you scared the crap (except he didn’t say crap) outta me, what the heck (except he didn’t say heck) you trying to do?” Jerry said, “Sorry, man.”

On Gaither and his sales
I used to read those sales reports over on www.gaithernet.com and think they made them up. Well, taint so, I guess. It’s easy to see why Gaither’s products sell so well. First of all, he *pays* for TV commercials on them and second they are so good. Now, like you, I don’t enjoy everything he does, but as I’ve told you before, the things sound wonderful and the picture is flawless on the DVD’s he produces. And he puts on a good show even when the TV cameras are not moving. One other thing that Gaither does that is wonderful is he stays away from politics. When he was in Charleston, WV recently, a buddy of mine was lucky enough to get a backstage pass and meet Bill. He asked Gaither why he wasn’t on the Bush bandwagon. He said Gaither said it wasn’t his job and that he wanted to entertain both Democrats and Republicans. It wasn’t his job to campaign. DMB recently mentioned in one place or another (can’t remember) that Palmetto State, Greater Vision, and Legacy 5 (and others, I think) had suffered a loss of bookings and sales because of their political stand. Is this true? If so, you can bet that dollar went to Gaither.

On GV
“Hot stracks (sic), comin’ through” …It’s interesting, on the 2004 NQC CD, Greater Vision is singing “He’d Still Been God.” They do an encore on the song with no stacks. You can tell that there is no stack track on the encore, especially on the part where they one by one come in on “He’d Still been God, even….” On the stack track it holds out God, but there is none on the encore. By the way they still sound good without the stracks, and that full sound.

On the site
I think its awesome that someone is completely honest in writing about SG music. These are some of the best articles I have ever read. Keep up the great work!!!!!!!!

On the Galloways
Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Galloways’ chart success has anything to do with the fact that Earl Galloway owns a radio promotion company called Airplay? I didn’t know if you were aware of that fact or not.

On the SSQ in concert report
If your computer had ears, it would hear the “Hallelujah chorus” coming from Memphis TN!!!!!!!!! Only kidding! Thanks for posting the email about SSQ … Just one of the reasons I respect you, Avery - you remain objective and always report the facts about SG music……….great job investigating! :) You got your brownie points from this SSQ fan! LOL!

On in (and out) of sync
I have a collection of several NQC videos that I watch when I need my sg fix. Lately, I’ve been bothered by something I just noticed. There are times when the singers mouth obviously is out of sync w/ the actual vocals. My question is, Are most of these productions just a video of the group with the sound coming from there studio recording, or is it just patch jobs/overdubs from studio work afterwards? One real obvious one was from the 1999 video by Shane Dunlap’s group with the song “out of the blue.” Another one I noticed was on the 2003 video when Mike Holcomb was helping GV with “Rocked on the restless tide.” Just curious how much is legit or “lipsynced”?

On how pathetic I am
The kind words about Signature Sound Quartet were so deserving and appreciated. But you just had to add your cruel remarks. Does that really make you feel better. How sad you are.

On SSQ, again
Hey there! sounds like we might SSQ-ize you yet! They really are a great bunch of guys. they bring excitement and style to SGM that it has not seen in some time. They truly have heart for what they do.

On SSQ (with a side of GC)
I saw them once at a Baptist church in Beckley, WV last year. I have to admit I like them a lot so I’m a bit prejudiced. Ernie and Gary assembled a pretty good set of voices. Doug Anderson might be the most underrated baritone in all of gospel music. He just amazes me with his range and his stage presence. Tim Duncan is an excellent bass-sort of in the George Younce mold: he can sing anything. I thought Shane Dunlap was the perfect blend as a lead, but I guess Shane thought otherwise and left. Ryan Seaton is fair and so young he’ll improve. Together, they sound all together like they’ve been singing for years. I can’t say the same about the other off-shoot from the Cathedrals-Legacy 5. My one and only encounter with them was near Canton, OH, last year. There is no blend as far as I can tell. That might have been changed with their new tenor, but what I saw on the NQC tape didn’t convince me.

I guess Ernie wanted SSQ to be the next coming of the Statesmen with the dancing, pink suits and wild ties. I do have news for Mr. Haase. They ain’t. No one ever will be, but if he can keep these youngsters together, they’ll do well. Witness their body of recorded work so far. Their debut album was the best debut album I have ever heard in many years of listening to this genre. I still have it in my car CD changer after almost two years. They followed that up with albums of old standards that were very well done. IMHO, their Christmas album was the best from a sg group in many years. They tend to mix old songs with new but concentrate on true quartet songs (except for “Dawning”-why they recorded this I’ll never know but it’s popular). Can you tell I like them?

One more thing. You were at NQC and saw both “versions” of the new Gold City. I had a friend who was in Louisville and he says that there was a marked difference in performance when Tim Riley performed with the group. “It was like waving a magic wand,” he said. When Riley was on stage, things were more animated, harmonies were tighter, and better songs were done. Kind of like the boss was around and let’s show him what we can do. I saw the NQC tape where GC opened with “God Handled it All,” and it was a good performance, though I’m not fond of the new tenor (abrasive voice IMHO). Then I watched the TBN special and wondered what was wrong (actually, I saw the special first). My guess is that before it’s over, Riley will be back with the group. Just a guess.

On that SSQ report
Wow, what a comment from FK. I know that you respect his opinion a lot but makes me wonder what he’s going to the concerts looking for, music or looks…..Just my thought..

On John Hagee
I really liked what you had to say today…………I can not understand what so many see in John Hagee………..

On Gaither and money
I also had to chuckle at ENCORE who posted that money was not Bill Gaither’s ‘primary’ motive for singing and promoting gospel music. Hey, how does ENCORE think Bill is able to afford that private jet airplane? Take away the greenbacks and watch how motivated Bill and others would be to sing. Of course every singer has to be supported and compensated for ‘their’ siniging ……. enough to earn a ‘decent’ wage and hopefully an additional amount in the process. Just singing for singing’s sake never satisfied anyone’s hunger pains. There is a promoter who lives in Oklahoma and promotes gospel singing concerts here in Tyler, Texas. That’s fine and dandy. However, the guy gets up at every concert, with a full house in attendance, and begs everyone in attendance to give a contribution so he can continue to bring the groups to Tyler. Yep, this is in addition to the ticket price for attending the concerts. With the prices of tickets there’s not too many people that I have heard talking about it who can afford to also ‘kick in’ more booty for the promoter. We found out that this guy has made it his premier mode of revenue. Oh well, enough ……..Enjoy your website.

On Brad Hudson and where to use your talent
Your entry this evening [about Brad Hudson and going pop] was very interesting. I know we have all had thoughts about where people are going, but it’s the first time that I’ve seen it expressed the way I would. SG artists are human like everyone else. Hudson had best prepare for the worst. Even Bill Gaither gets criticized on the message boards for not being totally sg, much less pop. And Gaither is almost universally loved. Remember when Amy Grant started writing and performing songs that could go either way? I can’t remember the song but it was one about love and could be taken either as a religious or a secular song and the furor, at least in my part of the woods was something else. Apparently it got so hot that she came back with a statement that she was singing to God. Yeah, right. I can remember a lot of fans who just wrote her off and laughed when her marriage and career went into the dumpster. I doubt that Amy Grant could go back into CCM again now. Besides, she’s been divorced. Like my buddy says, “once you leave, you can’t come back.” I think he’s right.

Hudson’s dilemma is much worse. He’s going to be on National Tee Vee and everyone is going to expect him to sing sg music (he won’t) and testify (they won’t let him). Then if he does go top 10 without either of the above, he’s made his career decision whether he likes it or not. He can’t go back. I feel for him, but maybe that’s how he wanted to go out. It doesn’t take much for the sg community to write you off. This oughta do it for Hudson. Good, thought provoking writing. Thank you.

On being Christian and secular
I have never written to anyone like this, but RJ Helton was on Idol and now his CD graces the shelves of most Christian book stores. Also, you won’t find Clay Aiken’s CD in a Christian store but I noticed his book was. So, just because you go “Idol” doesnt’ mean you will loose all roots with Christianity. I had a friend who auditioned for the show, made through a couple auditions before being sent on his way. Scouts heard him at audition tryouts and now he is in Nashville. You never know what will happen

On how you can’t go home again
It is perfectly okay for an sg fan to never seriously consider entering the genre (or any other ministry) full-time, but once someone enters it, woe be to them if they ever consider leaving it for anything other than a church-related job! I suppose singing up in sg music is supposed to be a lifetime hitch no matter what.

On Ken Kirksey
Uh - oh! I hope he is wearing a flak jacket. He’s casting “mud” on two of the Red states’ heroes: Tim LaHaye & Duane Gish (thus becoming a hated evolutionist by default).

On Ken and Tim LaHaye
Well, after reading the post you referenced, Kirksey has gone up about 10 points in my book. At least he calls it as he sees it in regard to Tim Lahaye, who has done more to distort Christianity than a whole new testament full of antichrists.

On the site, again
A friend of mine (drummer for a top QT in SG) just turned me on to the site and I have enjoyed the last two evenings reading the articles. Great site and I will be back. Keep up the great work (we) need a site like this, not one that is sold out to the rest of the profiteers in SG.

On Wally Varner
I read in the local paper here in Orlando, FL, about Wally Varner’s passing. It was mentioned only briefly on the SN website and nothing else has been said. Was Wally totally forgotten after the first few Gaither video’s? He made playing the piano look so easier and I have never seen anyone who could get more out of a piano with the least amount of effort.

On remembering the KM
I’m glad you wrote what you did about the Kingsmen and “Stand Up at Opryland USA”. For some reason, I’ve thought a lot about the Big K lately and the fact that in the “speak no evil/hear no evil” world that is sg, very little has been made of the sharp decline of this icon group. When the Kingsmen name was “retired” a few years back my Dad reacted interestingly. He said, “It’s just as well because the Kingsmen actually died when Hamill went off the road.” Staunch Big K fans will deny it, but I think he was right.

The Kingsmen will always be special to me since they were my first love in sg. When I was a kid, our family attended the NQC’s and big concerts in Memphis. While my Dad was lapping up the Blackwood Brothers and J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, my first impressions were of the Mighty Kingsmen. As I kid, I can remember getting caught up in the “giddy up and go-to-town” spirit of “Saints Will Rise”, “I’ve Made a Covenant”, and “Beautiful Home”. As I’ve grown up and my musical ear has become more attuned to quality vocals, my taste has moved away from all that toward more of a Cats/GVB/Greater Vision style, but - as you allude - it’s still easy to get swept away by those old recordings.

With the Cats, you can easily get caught up in the style and the quest for vocal precision and perfection. With the Kingsmen of their heyday, it was like a vocal and instrumental rodeo–rumpled, rough at the edges, and just throwing yourself into the zest of the moment without knowing where things might end up. There’s not a group on the road today that I’m aware of that can come close to that experience.

It saddened me to the see Kingsmen name returned to “active duty” with such a lackluster lineup. Today’s group is about two notches below the elite groups. Contrast that with the Cats’ graceful from the sg scene. The Cats’ legacy will remain cemented while the Big K as we knew and love it will keep on drifting.

A thought that crossed my mind recently was that Tony Peace is probably the only singer out there that could breathe some life into the Kingsmen and return at least a measure of the lost aura. He has the persona, the charisma, and the vocal power to remake a sound and a stage presence on his own, just as Hamill could. I’ve long thought of him as an sg heir apparent to Hamill, yet unfortunately Palmetto State never fully capitalized stylistically on that potential. If you try to plug Peace into any of the “puzzles” of the major quarters today, he far and away would fit best into the Kingsmen. Probably too good to be true.

On the KM and Burger
I love the way Tony Burger plays the piano and he was great with the Kingsmen and an added draw for the group because of antics and personality. However, I’m not sure how much he helped to create the Kingsmen sound which to me seemed to be fully in place when I first saw them at the 1973 NQC. I can confirm it today because I audio-taped their 1973 appearance and have it on CD. If you have the live albums “Big and Live” and “Chattanooga Live” (both without Tony) you can compare their live sound before and after Tony.

On being inspired
I have not written a response to your column in several months, but I must tell you about a moving experience. My husband and I flew to Lancaster, Ohio to attend the Greater Vision 15th Year Reunion on December 30. I was so moved. The Marc Trammel Trio was very good. As always Greater Vision did an excellent job. The original Greater Vision did a great job, too. Maybe, one reason I was so moved was that the original Greater Vision Group sang ‘There Is a River’ and ‘Til the Storm Passes By.’ I am not sure that there were many dry eyes in that church. I can hardly wait to see the finished product. Thank you for listening.

On being banned
I have, too been kicked off of the Unthank’s message board for voicing my opinion on things. Got Susan [mad] and called a spade a spade … next thing I know, I am banned from the board until November of 2005, and even got an email from Susan saying that I am to never try to log on with a phantom name or anything like that. Basically telling me I was no longer welcome to post EVER. Guess if I got saved all over again and turned over 4 new leafs, it would not do any good. I guess heaven is gonna be an awfully lonely place for the Unthanks. Looks like they are the only ones deserving of being there. Take care, and I love your blog

On withdrawl, XM, homosexuality
Glad to see you’re back and among the living. I did have withdrawal. I found myself checking your blog at least twice a day. I had visions of Unthank hit men [joke].

I got sick over New Years and was confined to my bedroom for several days (my brother-in-law gave me a nasty virus that just wouldn’t go away). Anyway, during my sick time, I was able to get to my laptop and with a wireless internet card was able to surf in a prone position. I decided to activate my XM Roady I got for Christmas and when I did, the CSR offered me a free month of XM On Line, so I took it. I got my earphones out and tuned to the on line “station” and hit channel 34 which is called “Enlighten.” I was pleasantly surprised. The mix was very good with the first two songs I heard being the Perry’s “Calvary Answers for Me,” and EHSSQ’s “Stand By Me.” As I listened for a few days, it came to me that Spring Hill must be cooperating with them big time. Every other song was one of the Gaither Homecoming selections and if not that, it was Signature Sound or Legacy 5. I have noticed that in the last couple of days, they have expanded to other groups, though. Curiously and thankfully, I never heard a DJ or a commercial. If they ever offer it on their regular service, this could be nice. I doubt that will ever happen.

I have to wonder why homosexuality is such a fear and stems so much hatred in the Christian community. It has become the battle cry of all evangelical churches and every sermon it seems brings up homosexual marriage and homosexuals in general. Even my own denomination (United Methodist) is paranoid over this with one branch seeking to break away from the main church because of ministers on the west coast looking the other way on gays in the church and gays in the ministry. I guess I’m just a live and let live guy and since it doesn’t effect me, it isn’t on my mind constantly. Kirk Talley seems to have become the poster child for all that is wrong in sg music, according to the pastors in these parts. And, believe me, it’s hatred. Isn’t it funny when Christians decide to hate the person instead of the sin? IMHO, Kirk better hang it up and get a job selling Noni Juice full time. He’s toast as a sg performer among the most righteous and that seems to be the core of sg music. Just one more reason why sg can never reach out to a new audience. When you limit your fan base, you just become stagnate. But, then again, it’s always been that way. And that’s another reason why XM will never offer Enlighten to the regular lineup. We tend to come off as not enlightened [but as] maybe closet rednecks.

On death and euphemisms
Believe me, I’ve heard it all! As a funeral director, I am privy to many intimate moments at the arrangement meeting, the viewing and funeral and graveside service. I think it all has to do in part with a sort of political correctness, and also an attempt to make a very painful experience less painful. Funerals that have no faith background or input at all can be even more sad than those that do. Perhaps I am reading my own faith background into the scenarios, but in my mind, few things are sadder than a funeral that is poorly attended, and a funeral service that offers no hope or comfort of any real sort, faith-based or not. Even in my profession I am a victim of political correctness……..I am not a mortician, or an undertaker, I am a funeral director. You also won’t hear many people call me an embalmer either. There is no politically correct word for that part of my profession. Anyways, perhaps I am straying too far off topic…………..welcome back from Chicago!

More on euphemisms
You are really scaring me!!! Just YESTERDAY, I was talking about how it drives me crazy that Christians have “sugar coated” death. It’s a reality that we are all going to face. And then you write this…….unbelievable……are we long lost relatives??

On Jesus using metaphors
Well, Jesus often spoke of death as “sleep.” Also, Luke spoke of Stephen’s death as “sleep,” and Paul used the same language. Perhaps, Christians have followed the lead of our Lord in using “life language” for death because we want to emphasize the hope that is our in Christ.

On sgmhistory.com
Looks like another wannabe news site…filled with the same weak journalism as SoGN. The Circumcision group is recording. ECC sign a bunch of people I’ve never heard of. Oh, These are links back to www.sogospelnews.com! duh! The site claims “Welcome to SGMHistory.com, an on-going encyclopedia of southern gospel music history!” Last article was October 2004 with the author James Hales, having to post a comment on his own article. On-Going? must be no history happening. Too bad they don’t have GOGR’s John Crenshaw. Man! that guy know his SGM history!!

On history
Just a comment about the new SGN History section. SGML has offered SGM history and trivia since we had the old board. John Crenshaw is our resident expert. SGN is simply attempting to keep up with the Jones’. Thanks and keep up the good work!

More euphemisms
Here’s one for you: “Florence Godbery was translated to the universal church triumphant.” As they say, “death ain’t no big deal.”

On Brad Hudson
Our group was in concert with Brad Hudson this weekend and he is truly a phenomenal singer. He has awesome control, but I am also looking forward to seeing how far he makes it in the idol competition.

On sgmhistory again
I took a pretty long spin around sgmhistory.com and found it to be sorely lacking in both organization and material. If you click on the site menu link “artists”, only a link to a narrative of Mark Bishop pops up…nothing else. Of the combined five soloists and groups highlighted on the site, perhaps Mark Bishop’s performances are the only ones to rise to the level of “artistry”.

If you click link “news”, nothing comes up. One might rationally expect that “news” at an sg history site might encompass Hall of Fame induction stories, updates on historical recordings and books, etc. On this site, there’s nothing.

If you click on discography, you’ll find a links to the lists of tracks on three recordings by….(you guessed it) Mark Bishop. There are no other recorded linked or noted. Perhaps these are the sg recordings in existence that have any “historical” significance.

The next click down on the site menu is the “Groups - Soloists” link that is further subdivided into duets, male quartets, mixed quartets, etc. The performers listed (and subdivided into the various categories) are The Hinsons, The Freemans, Chestnut Grove Quartet, Mark Bishop, and The Bishops. That’s it. Of those soloists/groups, I think only the Hinsons are really historically significant in terms of influencing the genre in any ground-moving way (although one could say Ronnie’s songwriting far outpaces anything the group ever did). That’s not meant to knock the others chronicled here (The Bishops had a nice run, Mark seems to be doing okay if you like that kind of thing, and the Chestnut Grove Quartet seems to fit more the bluegrass-gospel mold and would struggle to stand only as a footnote in greater sg).

The narratives on The Hinsons, The Freemans, and The Bishops are well-written by James Hales, but could best be described as biographical sketches. He pens a short paragraph on Mark Bishop. David Bruce Murray writes a very brief sketch on Chestnut Grove (I don’t know enough about them to pass judgment on this).

Since the entire body of work on the site ranges in date from October 17 to October 20 and it is hardly a complete or definitive historical record, it has all the markings of a project that Deon Unthank aborted. There’s virtually no sg history of any major significance here. Just bio information and Mark Bishop discography.

I like the concept of an sg historical archive site where fans or researchers could get info about the timeline of the genre and groups and individuals that had (and/or continue to have) the most influence. This site just isn’t it.

On random thoughts
Hi…just a quick note to say a few things (am I just venting? I guess so):
1) I really enjoy your site. It is extremely well-written (and quite funny!). I agree with so many things you have written. Keep up the great work!!!
2) Kirk Talley. I have always been a huge fan of his, but the emails I get to “Kirk’s Krew” are getting really ridiculous. The “Restoration Team” statements always sounds so solemn and final. And why would I want to buy a car from the guy? Also, I remember an “At Home” feature on KT in the Singing News some years back…looks like he has always done okay financially, considering the various businesses he has been involved in (never mind trying to pawn Noni Juice on us…I guess I should ask this: will it make you ex-gay?). I think the newsletter that bugged me the most was the one where he is talking about the “Convention” that was around NQC…but he was talking about a Noni Juice convention that he won by being one of their top salespeople (again, I am supposed to believe he is struggling financially???). A comment in that newsletter was something along the lines of picking between NQC and a trip to Hawaii…’No contest’! I thought it was interesting that here is a successful artist who has always had loyal fans, and basically his comment to them was, ‘I would rather be in Hawaii than face all of you’. Yes, he didn’t want to face SG fans…but I don’t think Hawaii had much to do with it! p.s just got the latest newsletter…unbelievable…he is telling “the Krew” about throwing meatballs out the window of his car…really polite. I would really want him at my church now, so that all the little old ladies who make some meatballs “especially for Kirk” can know that he will be nice to their faces, then throw the meatballs out of the window of his moving vehicle. (Which story is worse, this one or the one where he went into a women’s restroom, then lies about who he was???)
3) A beef: I emailed the Crabb Family to let them know that when I click on links at the side of their homepage, I get little popup windows saying “You must click YES to continue”, which opens up other windows that link to porn sites. I have been going back and forth with the webmaster, but every time I explain what happened, he/she writes me back asking me to explain it again, or keep trying to click the links. The last email says, and I quote, “Hmmm, is it still happening? Would you try once more for me? If it does happen, let me know which link causes it. Thanks for your help, CF Webmaster” Argh…I don’t even want to reply because I’ve already explained the circumstances A FEW TIMES. Guess they don’t believe me…Funny thing is, I am not even a big fan of the Crabb Family - and on another note, I don’t feel that they are Southern Gospel, although they are always trying to suck up to the SG fans. I guess if the Singing News people like you and promote you BIG TIME, you are “Southern Gospel”.
4) Never been a big fan of Ernie Haase…but as with so many things in Southern Gospel, it’s not how good you are, it’s who you’re sleeping with (oh, I mean married to).
5) The Singing News bugs me too. It’s always about the same people…the same drivel…and never anything about artists that are not faves of the SN staff!
- How long did it take for SN to talk about the Carolina Boys?
- Who gives a rat’s behind about Roy Pauley’s opinion? (It’s always the same crap…singers aren’t as good as they used to be, etc. etc. etc.)
- Who gave Andrew Ishee an article to call his own? Can’t stand him in person, so why would I like his article?
- Why was the same singer shown getting engaged/married twice in two years? And no self-righteous comment from Mr Kirksey? How disappointing.

I love SG, but it seems to need a bit of an overhaul. Anyways, thanks for listening, and keep writing - I love it!

On Ernie’s magic voice
I too have wondered how he could project/sing to such an extent that it didn’t matter where the mic was. If you ever get an answer to that question, I would love to hear it. He must have one hell of a set of pipes! (Pardon my expletive). I sing tenor myself in a quartet, and I certainly don’t do that with my mic. I don’t see how the answer to that could be divisive or whatever. It is a bit distracting to see the singer move the mic up and down etc. Perhaps it is a technique employed for dramatic purposes. That is fine, but how can he still be heard when the mic is by his waist? We may never know.

On GMT
One of the things I’ve noticed you haven’t mentioned on your site is Gospel Music Television, the 24 hour cable sg channel. We don’t get it [where I lve], but my parents’ city-owned cable system does carry it. I’ve been able watch quite a bit of it down there.

The good thing about it is that it’s straight sg music for probably 75% of the day. Three or four consecutive videos (mostly live concert footage instead of Dale Duhl concept vids), and then a commercial break. They occasionally have a speaking program (like a Carroll Roberson hour that blends a few songs with a devotion, but I’ve never seen real preaching on there), but most of the times I’ve turned it on there is music. The vast majority of the video material comes from their World Premiere of Gospel concerts the network promotes and tapes in Gatlinburg (I have issues with that name and how exactly gospel sung by the same groups every year can make its “premiere” on an annual basis). The also use some NQC footage, and the occasional artist-supplied video. From time to time, they will play a groups’ video in almost its entirety over a half-hour or so, but usually the music is mixed up.

Another plus is that there is sizable helping of quality music, as most of the big-name groups appear at their big concerts. You’ll see plenty of Gold City, Kingdom Heirs, L5, the Perry’s, Hoppers, Greenes, GV, Talley’s, etc., along with the rest of what could be considered standard NQC fare. You won’t find GVB, however. Most of the material spans back to the mid 90’s, and it’s neat to be able to see some of the different lineups groups have had and sort of compare and contrast their sounds.

The downside is one the same problems that plagues the majority of sg radio: inconsistent quality. Heavily mixed into the quality offerings will be a hideous 6 minute Pentecostal thrill ride by Conrad Cook & the Calvary Echoes or the Singing Echoes. Or perhaps a horrible NQC set by the Inspirations (I almost WISH they used stracks!). Or the nasally bellows of Heirline or The McKamey’s and others of the like. One cannot tune it in for any significant length of time without at some point literally having to change the channel!

The quality issue is a real shame because GMT could be a real opportunity to reach out to new fans. Folks are far more willing to shop around for something new on the TV dial than they are the radio dial (most people are channel flippers and don’t have pre-set TV stations) and GMT could offer a real alternative in a medium that offers little in the way of wholesome entertainment. It’s a shame that a decent offering of top-quality music must be squandered by the howls of the Calvary Echoes repeating the words “angels all around” 35 times in a row. Those things send a potential fan on down the TV dial in pursuit of yet another Andy Griffith re-run.

On Ernie Haase and answering questions etc
Ah, you caught him red-handed. That’s why he won’t answer. And if he had any sense at all, he would have avoided the makeup question. Some things you just don’t need to know.

As much as I like SSQ, Ernie is worrying me. He seems so bent on being a star that the more I read the more I think the group will self destruct sooner than later and that’s a shame. Gary and Ernie constructed a pretty good quartet. Although Dunlap was not the perfect lead, he did a good job. Doug Anderson is wonderful and Tim Duncan is a super bass. They sounded good together. Then, the star bug hit Ernie and all of a sudden, Gary, a brilliant arranger and production expert and Shane leave (where has he gone? Last I heard he was with the old Trio replacing our Noni Juice salesman) the group and were replaced by Roy and Ryan. They’ve released one mediocre album and the wonderful Christmas set (which I have to believe was in the works before Gary left) and now tell us they have nothing planned for a new project. Hope the Gaither money holds out. I have to wonder if money isn’t the problem with the lack of new recordings? Wonder how long until SSQ is on Bill Gaither’s Spring Hill label?

BTW, there’s a big debate over a concert featuring the Crabb family and Avalon over on the Southern Gospel News message boards (which you probably already know about). Chris Unthank answered one question on whether or not the Crabbs were going CCM with this concert with a resounding “No.” I have another opinion, but that’s just me. It’s kind of like asking Ernie if he wants to be a star. He’d deny it, but you can tell it in his actions. If Hollywood calls, watch out. Ernie’s gone.He’d better not hold his breath, either.

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