More letters

Wow. It literally took me all day to get to these letters. Between a slow connection with my web host and other annoyances, nothing else I planned to write today got written. But there are plenty of letters here, so I don’t think you’ll miss whatever I would have written. You’ll notice I’ve slightly reorganized the letters so that you now access them through a gateway page similar to the archives portal. Let me know if you find dead links or misdirections.

On press releases
I suppose your writing has influenced how I read all press releases by southern gospel music artists. When I read the YH release about their “invitation” to join the President at the inauguration, I immediately was drawn to what it did not say. Just like BC I noticed that it “did not” say they were in invited to perform at the inauguration, only that “Plans are also under way for a performance at the White House by Young Harmony.” All this led me to believe that they were getting no more attention from the white house than I could get for my $25.00 contribution to the RNC. Not everyone read the release the same way BC and I did. One of the comments posted to the release says, “Congratulations on singing for the president!” I guess you can’t say Rick Hendrix doesn’t get results from a press release, but I think there are better ways to promote an artist. I have my doubts about things that Hendrix writes.On history
I believe we need more SG history available to everyone, especially those full of youth and desire to be in SGM. It should be mandatory that they learn where this all got going and why. It is very hard to build on a foundation if one doesn’t know where the foundation is located. I have little patience for anyone wanting to be a “SG Artist” and not be willing to learn what the term means and where it got its start. I find that attitude cavalier at best and hopelessly lazy at worst. Keep up the good work. I love your comments, agree with you most times, but always have been made to think.

On the Crabbs’ label switch
This is a might touchy subject with ton’s of Crabb fans but I think it’s another sign of the Crabb’s departing from the SG path. With Gerald & Kathy gone it’s all for the fame…………….

On press release writing
Your discussion of the Hendrix press releases reminded me of an assignment that I used in my Principles of Biology (for majors) class. The students were to select an article from that reputable publication “Weekly World News” - home of the articles on the infamous Bat Boy. Anyway, they selected an article that had some biological basis (Man cooks hamburgers on his bare hands) and I would approve the selection. They were to briefly summarize the article, discuss the biological principles related to the article and finally look for fallacies (appeal to authority, appeal to emotion, appeal to fear, hasty generalization, etc.). It was a good exercise and (hopefully) gave them a basis to critically analyze articles. Obviously this practice isn’t followed on certain SG News sites.

On sg death and dying
I enjoy reading your website. I am afraid SG is doomed. My brother and sister and I went to the Gaither Homecoming here in Phoenix and I was shocked at the absence of young people. They were ALL old. I think it’s a wake up call to SG to get its act together. After the old are gone, who is going to be listening? Unfortunately, I do not like the music right now. I have been going back and listening to my records of the Goodmans, Blackwoods, etc. of the 70s and 80s and I love the old sound. The music is interesting and the singing is awesome. I wish music was like that today! I don’t understand why it was so much better back then. Getting back to the Gaithers, David did AWFUL. The Vocal Band was not that great. They did not sound all that good. David sang “End of the Beginning” and it was like he forgot his words, his tone was lousy. I was shocked because I just love the Vocal Band and he and Guy are my favorite singers. It was very disappointing. Also, Ernie Haase was there with his group. The dancing cracked me up! I did enjoy the Booth Brothers and the Isaacs were classy. I was impressed with Mark Lowry, he sang “Jesus Laughing” and it was good. The Easters got on my nerves and I was glad when they were done, which was a surprise, I have always loved them! It was really hard to understand the words. Charlotte Ritchie sang a solo and I still am not sure what she sang.

On being invited
I had to laugh at your expose on Hendrix, Young Harmony, and the Inauguration invite. It’s amazing what the old press release mill will churn out, and it’s sad that many readers will buy the hype hook, line, and sinker. I can identify with YH and their invite. Back in September, I was invited by a friend who was a client in my previous job to attend a fundraiser for Bush. He had paid for a number of seats for the event, and offered two to me. I didn’t blink about attending (the price was certainly right!). I can’t even tell you if the fundraiser was for the President’s campaign directly, one of his PAC’s, or a layer of the GOP. It didn’t matter much.

After that and up until the election, I found my mailbox bombarded with Bush fundraising letters and the like. A couple of weeks after the election, I received a mailing from the President’s campaign which included a letter from GWB (appearing to be handwritten but certainly mass-printed) thanking me for my support. It included the sentence “Laura and I hope to see you in Washington at the Inauguration.” In the envelope was a postcard that included a hotline for “Inaugural travel and event information”, but it didn’t include or make any mention of any invitation or tickets to any official or VIP events. I assumed it to mean the President would be pleased as punch if I flew up to Washington on my own dime and stood in the crowds and frigid cold with everybody else, but that was the limit of his wishes for me. He’d probably be tickled if I occupied an airplane seat and hotel room that might otherwise be taken by a protester who might want to spoil the Republican fun. I trashed that letter and though no more of it until you raised the Hendrix issue. Using his logic, I suppose I received an “invitation to join President George Bush and his wife Laura for the 2005 Inauguration Ceremony held in Washington DC.” Aren’t I special???

On Young Harmony
I don’t doubt their sincerity they seem very genuine, but obviously have the money to promote their careers however they want. They apparently haven’t thought long term though. Do they plan to change their name as they age?

On diversification
Looks like Southern Spin is diversifying. How thin can crap be spread?

On Gaither
First of all, I want to say how much I enjoy your website! Keep up the great work. On another note, you are 100% correct about Gaither and his great business strategy. I have just recently attended a Gaither event (2005 Sunshine Tour) and he entertains the audience. And like you say, He “sells” southern gospel as a popular music form. Even the workers in the arena were stopping to enjoy the music and laughter. It goes to show that you don’t have to “shove” the gospel down a person’s throat for them to see the message. I believe that there is room for pure ministry groups and groups that have Christian entertainment. We must embrace both of these techniques if we want to see southern gospel pushed into the mainstream. Thanks for your time and your website.

On church angles
I read an article recently (when I find it I’ll email it to you) that reflected some concern by the networks (can’t remember if it was Fox) about a possible conservative viewer backlash against reality TV shows in light of some of the recent more over-the-top offerings out there. Perhaps such a fear is driving the churchy angle on American Idol.

On the site
I love your column. Your comments about the Jim Hammil era Kingsmen were great. I agree with your remarks. I always like their rough-edged and hard-hitting sound. A lot of today’s quartets are too smooth in my opinion and hence - boring. Of course I also like Russ Taff and Bob Seagar.

On American Idol
I was amazed, as you were, at how articulate and intelligent Gene Simmons seemed on the show. I guess I expected a little more of an “Ozzy Osbourne” type. Good for him. (I guess). Anyway, I realize that what I’m about to say borderlines on sounding a little bit like a Pharisee and that is NOT my intention. I thought it was a little sad/embarrassing that Gene Simmons was the one who had to put things in perspective for Jeffery Johnson. I’m not saying I think auditioning for American Idol was inherently “wrong” or “sinful”. That’s between him and the Lord. Just goes to show that as much as the “world” hates Christianity and what it stands for that they are watching and do hold us to a higher standard than we sometimes hold ourselves to.

On why they use “Indian” in their name
Possibly, the appeal of the Indian family name to those white southern gospel types is that many southern whites (at least with roots in TENNesse, KenTUCKy, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas) actually have one or more drops of Indian blood running around in their veins and there may be some kind of under-the-radar genetic/familial appeal there. Just a theory.

On Hendrix
As for Hendrix, he many very well be performing a great and valuable service in his business, but the press releases are clearly over-the-top. It’s a wonder I ever get a look at your site, since the Unthank clan probably jams the server by reading and re-reading your material and dissecting it for things they disagree with.

On feuds
I’ve never commented on this whole vs. the Unthank thing but something has really struck a nerve with me. On Amy Unthanks blog [a recent] post bashes you for your avatar (the guy at the computer with a bag over his head and bottles everywhere). Has she read any of her brother’s blog posts???? If she’s going to condemn you for the way you “represent SG music”, she needs to look a little closer to home. In some of Chris’s posts he uses language that I consider profane i.e. “mofo” (we all know what that means). Not only that, but Chris makes no qualms about his dislike for SG music and the industry. Then why on earth is he involved??? It makes no sense to me!

On Brad Hudson
I think that this is an opportunity of a lifetime for Brad. He is gonna be supported by alot of young Southern Gospel fans & I know I’m gonna support him to the best of my ability. He is not gonna forget about God. God give him his talent…he is not stupid. If he makes it thru to American idol, I truly believe that he will be able to make a difference in the Music industry and all young people. That’s what he wants more than anything. I know!! I have known Brad even before he joined 3 for 1!! You people are downing Brad right now, but you need to really think…what about all the other SG groups?? Just b/c they don’t try out for American Idol, they still LISTEN to, & BUY, & SING other genres of Music. Yet they try to minister to others a few nights out of the week and when they are done ALOT of them do their own thing. I know for a fact alot of the SG singers have attended Country and Pop star concerts. Everyone needs to take a chill pill on Brad Hudson. He needs the Love and Support of people who believe that he can make a difference. Thank You!!

On T’s Treasures
I read with interest the material about the new merchandise Tony Gore is hawking these days. I find this whole “enterprise” disgusting. Let’s call a spade a spade: a large faction of sg fans are not all that sophisticated. I can respect that and a big part of me would love to simplify my own life in manner so common among many of these folks. What I don’t respect is trotting out a bunch of junk and passing it off as quality at a bargain, taking advantage of these people, if not preying on them. My girlfriend was over here earlier and I let her take a look at T’s Treasure Chest. She (being the savvy shopper) noted that a number of products are labeled as “Brighton look” purses, wallets, etc. I didn’t know this, but Brighton is a high-end women’s accessory line. My girlfriend showed me her $100 Brighton sunglasses and $75 Brighton wallet she bought at Nordstrom. We couldn’t tell if Gore’s products were direct knockoffs or clones. His were “Brighton look” which he said compared nicely to “original Brighton” in price. This could certainly lead a not-so-savvy shopper to think this was some sort of improved Brighton line.

On women’s work and that Sound Garden ad
I guess that wickedly funny comment about “someone who comes out of a bottle and calls you master” was too much for them! Have they never heard of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission…someone could have sued their tails off over that…never mind that it was just a stupidly sexist thing to say, even though you and I both now that the (now) fulltime executive assistant will still be female, and probably gorgeous! Keep up the great work, and keep everybody on their toes!

More on Tony Gore
Until now, just a lurker… but I do appreciate your insight with respect to some “ministries.” Even the integrity of someone who would say, “This extensive travel has allowed me to discover some of the best places in the world to find quality products at unbeatable prices” seems to suffer from common sense analysis. Is this J. Peterman? Do I really believe he discovered anything? or that these are unbeatable prices…? oh well…Guess I may not book a stay at Toney’s Smokey Mountain Chalet after all…. [I see it’s for sale now…]

On SSQ and label switching
I thought it was quite obvious that Ernie had moved from Cathedral Records to Gaither music. The Christmas album was with Gaither music. The press surrounding the name extension was attributed to Gaither. I didn’t realize there was any question. There probably wasn’t an official release since the “great love” record is still fairly new and is currently being promoted.

On Dollywood cutting sg acts
I think you are partially correct about Dollywood, in that, the changes may have been necessitated largely by the bottom line. On the other hand, I think that the changes may have a lot less effect than Dollywood’s management may hope. I was and still am disappointed that the Hall of Fame was moved to Dollywood, and I won’t see many concerts there either - and here’s the reason why: admission prices. I’m not going there and paying upwards of $40 per adult ticket just to see concerts, regardless of artists featured, and the utility of paying that price is very marginal when I consider the other attractions in the park that interest me. I suppose some folks with season passes might offset that, but those same people probably are of marginal benefit to the Dollywood profiteers. Dollywood may want to look in the mirror before making drastic changes.

On editing that women’s work ad
At least Sogonews is admitting to editing this, instead of editing it and saying nothing which is their usual modus operandi! Keep it up Avery.

On two things about Ernie Haase
I spoke to Ernie at a concert quite some time ago when the group started going by EH&SSQ and he indicated then that they would be leaving Cathedral Records. If you noticed, the Christmas Project was released by the Gaither Gospel Series. It would have been a hard personal decision for him to make but unfortunately Todd Payne is not the business man his father was. Another comment relating to Ernie: There has been inquiry as to Ernie lowering his mic when singing and there being no apparent change in sound. I was at a concert March 2001 when Ernie’s sound system went out. He stood center stage and sang “Little Is Much” without any amplification and he could be heard throughout the auditorium. The man has power.

On the Crabbs
I have to agree that they may make a larger impact for Jesus Christ in a music genre that is not Southern Gospel. There are other forms of music that uplift and encourage people and turn them to Christ that are not SG.

On Crabbs again
First of all I want to make it clear that I’ve never been much of a Crabb Family fan and I’m still not. But, for cryin out loud! Who can blame them for wanting to switch over to CCM. Any SG out there would do it given the opportunity. The truth is, The Crabb Family is probably the only group in SG that has what it takes to make it in another genre. And, I certainly can’t blame them for wanting out of the trash that goes on in SG. Man, the more I read about the SG industry, the more I want nothing to do with it. I hope they leave SG and do very well in CCM. And you know what will happen when they do? SG is gonna go down the tubes. The Gaithers are slowly abandoning SG, The Martins are split, and when the Crabbs go there won’t be much left.

On websites
Triumphant must have the same webmaster as Cathedral Records. They have been coming soon for 3 or 4 months at least.

On charts
When, after a long hiatus from sg music, I finally came back, I noticed first that there were several charts and none of them agreed. Just as a for instance, although the Perrys celebrated a No.1 single with “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” I never once heard the song until I got the NQC DVD which was Volume 4 or whatever. Not one time did our local sg stations play it and I listen daily to them and Solid Gospel. I guess what I am saying that the pop folks have Billboard’s charts and maybe Cash Box (does it still exist?), but there is no one way of formulating an accurate chart in sg because of the table sales and the bogus radio information. There should be a movement to standardize the “charts” into one industry-wide chart to be recognized by all. I suppose that isn’t possible because if that were done, no one could claim a charted or ever #1 hit at the Southside Baptist Church when the 200 people show up for the “concert.” You might guess that I have the Inspirations in mind on this. They hold “album of the year” and “best selling album” awards or claims, but I don’t know any sg fans that actually buy their stuff. I’ve read where they send out a “pickup load” of stuff every day to mail to fans, but where are the real numbers? There aren’t any and I guess everyone who wants to be dishonest or pragmatic can claim a charted or #1 hit if they want to. That plays into the mindset of groups who want to legitimize their existence. All it does is continue to dilute the genre so that nobody makes a decent living. I hope you can badger the “powers that be” into doing what is right and sensible. Standardize a chart for all of sg music and have everyone go by it. It’s the only solution that I can see.

On something I wrote
SG isn’t the only genre in which “you can be a star….even if you sing averagely or even poorly….” Witness Anne Murray, Amy Grant, Reba McIntire, Ashlee Simpson; the list goes on and on. The only genre in which this might not be true is Opera. I enjoy your site and can’t seem to refrain from checking it a couple of times a day. Just don’t get too full of yourself. That would spoil it all.

On promoting to radio
While I agree with the majority of your thoughts, this [entry] bothers me. I’m a member of one of those groups who sing nearly a hundred dates a year yet work full time jobs. This is out of love for the music and the fact I can’t go to my wife and say, “I’m gonna sing SG music for $500 a week”. We have charted in the past and I know it took a lot of promo to get it there. While I’ll never spend that much money on an endeavor like that again, it was a learning experience. I too have seen songs move thru the charts by unknowns remarkable fast and never know why. Here is where you and I differ in thought. It seems that you were implying that only headliner groups would and should be able to chart because they sale more product or sing to larger crowds. I’ll say that there are part-time, mid-level, semi -pro or however you want to describe them that can and do sound and perfrom as good as those you seem to allude to. Though not a big fan of the Crabbs, I remember them in a little 10×10 booth right behind us at NQC. The way they made it through marketing is great, but I remember them early on them being slammed by others in the industry for the way they got and received favors from DJ’s. (i.e. giving free concerts for airplay). Don’t know first hand that this actually happened, but there was alot of talk about this sort of thing. We’ve recorded, and had airplay of a song, only to have it released and go to #4 on SN charts by another group at the same time. I never, ever will get over the fact that we had a good recording worthy of charting. I felt the other group rode the coat tails of a headliner to accomplish their chart success and that particular songs success established them.

I was told early on that, “you want increased airplay more than you want chart action.” When I look at my monthly charts that’s what I look for, medium and heavy play. We get a smathering of heavy and medium plays and a handful of actual charts. We want and will chart again, I just want it to be on the songs merit and not that we are singing before 5000 or selling thousands of dollars in product. It would be nice, but sometimes we don’t have the promoters or outlets for this to happen. As a thought, if we would have had an assist from promoter, DJ, or another artist with our version of the #4 song, where would we be? Your blog is still the best out there, so keep up the good work.

On charting again
You hit the nail on the head. SG radio and charting are in bad need of an overhaul. It is a mess. Meaningless garbage taken up 2 complete pages in the SN news and not one item on that list has been determined correctly. It is time for a change. Maybe a sales driven chart?

On charting again
This Rick Hendrix must be a genius! Just a few weeks/months ago, YH was selling their bus on the SN website. Did they get one nicer than the one they were selling? I cannot find the link anymore, but it looked like a pretty nice ride. Perhaps Kirk Talley bought it to replace his car! (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.) As for the dissertation on the SN charts, the chart(s) in sg are about the good ol boys club, plain and simple. It’s good to be the big fish in the small pond. Obviously people with real ministry ambition (and desire to make $$), like Gaither, take calculated risks to “spread the gospel” and sell a few more videos. Their concern about chart topping in minimal. Local groups step out on faith with your latest #1, rent an arena, call up a couple of your buddies’ groups to open for you, and SELL THAT PUPPY OUT! Now THAT would be a real test of your popularity!

On Kirk Talley and Noni Juice?
I just got the latest (Feb 3) Kirk Talley newsletter. I’m sure you’ll get yours soon enough, so I won’t cut and paste it. If you don’t get it, I’ll forward it. Anyway… SOMEbody just HAS to ask what the heck he is trying to sell to horse farms and why on earth it matters to his fan base of SG music folks. Is he telling us he is starting some other side-line business besides the Noni Juice? Or is he feeding it to the animals if the people aren’t buying it? And when the car runs out of gas, what kind of gentleman would brag on telling a woman passenger that SHE gets to push the car while he steers???? (thankfully he got out and walked for gas, so why share a private joke that’s only funny if one were actually there to witness the event?) Anyway, because of your stellar reputation for such things, I nominate you to do the asking. :-)

On paper hits
Greetings Oh Masked Oracle of the Southern Gospel Blogosphere: Let me begin by saying your “Get it on Paper” article may be the best, most succinct and intuitive article I have ever read on the subject. I loved your “paper hit men” and “make your own change night” metaphors. It is indeed a problem that dates back to the very beginnings of modern custom recording in the SG industry. There were companies who for $5,000 would make a group a record and almost guarantee a charting single from that record. Some of these groups were staggeringly pathetic. Some of these pathetic groups went on to legitimate success in the SG industry. Is this a great country, or what!!!!!

On country charts
About Carolan Freeman charting… Notice that it is the Country Gospel 100 Chart and not Southern Gospel. I didn’t realize there were 100 different singers/groups in Country Gospel. Apparently there are at least 55.

On charting … again
I think that you missed something about the charts. There are some artists that the SN will not chart no matter how much airplay they are receiving or how high they are ranked by the station managers. These are crossover artists or what the SN considers crossovers. They will not chart the Oak Ridge Boys because they say that the oaks are not SG. Same thing with Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs. Either of these artists could have the most played song on SG stations and that song be charted by managers but SN would ignore them and not chart the song.

On Kirk Talley
The Kirk Talley situation was in my area, right or wrong. It’s not my decision to make only GOD but I personally feel that its wrong. But I will say this he was wrong for hiding his personal life because and I say this very strongly, We can’t lead one life and pretend to be in another life. So if he is gay and I say if then why did he or does he live a life as if he is right with GOD cause I assure you of this GOD does not agree with being gay. We have two choices to make: either live what we preach or just pretend, which one did Talley do?? He knows what damage he has done.

On this site
Just wanted to let ya know I enjoy your postings and thank God that somebody will be honest in SG. I’ve been involved in sg my whole life (I’m 33) and look forward to read your post everyday. All my friends and family (also involved in sg) love your site. Awesome Job!

On Kirk Talley
KT is so at odds, which entirely makes sense but which is terribly off-putting. When I saw him last summer he was still trying to carry off that innocent boy thing but he looks worse for the wear. Lots of denial–not so much of his sexuality but of his role in all of the events that transpired. Sounded like he’s spent far to many hours with a well-meaning but misguided Christian counselor.

More on charting
Your observations are right on. Not to mention the chart is 2 months behind when it is published. Numbers from stations given to promoters in February will not be published as the Singing News chart until April. The April chart, however, will be provided to promoters shortly after the 15th of February. The April chart will be published in the March Trade Review. If the chart derived from the February numbers from radio can be in the March Trade Review, why can’t it be published in the march Singing News? … Your blog is obviously getting read by some gatekeepers in sg. You are making an impact. Way to go ave!

On the state of the industry
Most likely the industry is ripe for a weeding out process that will totally separate the “artist” that step up and make the product they sell appealing to a larger audience and the sangers who show up and present SG the same way it has been presented since 1842. There is room for the conservative SG groups but there is no market for the gluttony of groups that are out there now competing for the good dates and the limited sales. The Crabb Family should be the poster child for taking a good product and systematically improving every aspect of their music. Most groups just sit back and are willing to re-book every date for the next year and be satisfied with recording mediocre material and equaling the mediocrity with there vocals and production.

On the Valentine Surprise
All I can say is WOW!

On that Valentine’s Day cd with Dolly Parton
It won’t be supported by a purchase from me!

On getting it backwards
Methinks you have it backwards. The charts (Southern Gospel) needs these high profile artists when they do make a crossover song that would be on the charts. The second point is that if these are not charted, then the whole process is a lie. It does not represent the music as SN claims it does. If SN is to be the “Printed Voice of Southern Gospel Music” as it claims to be, then it needs to be the voice of all SG music not some filtered, selected portion of the music.

On the cognitive dissonance of the KH singing with Dolly
Cognitive dissonance, indeed. It has long intrigued me how often many traditionalist SG fans and insiders have ignored their usual “sensitivity alarm” over encroaching worldliness within SG, since their longstanding, tacit fear is that SG could easily risk becoming sullied by its various flirtations with secular music, specifically when Elvis Presley or Dolly Parton have been concerned. Witness how many times SG types have mentioned (with obvious pride) that Jake Hess was “Elvis’ favorite singer” or how the Stamps Quartet still play up their long ago association with Presley. Who, pray tell, could have been more “of the world” than Elvis during those years the Stamps were his backups? Do the Stamps have so little to “sell” nowadays that the “Elvis connection” is their most effective marketing strategy to the buying public? Whoever the secular icon involved (Elvis, Dolly, etc.), it seems as if many SG fans and artists hope some measure of respectability will rub off on the genre as a result of these associations, regardless of how vague or tenuous. Folks who are not staunch fans of SG tend to see such things as misleading and desperate, just a step beyond that of an old innkeeper who may have advertised “Washington slept here” in an attempt to suggest an endorsement which did not truly exist.

On tongue, in cheek
My brothers and I (really big sg fans an now big fans of your blog) have been discussing what you look like. The consensus is you are on the biggie size; probably much like the pre-diet version of Jeff Steele. Since sg is known to be on the biggie size (Jerry Kirksey the torch-bearer on this one) we figured it would be only natural for you to be cast in the same mold. Don’t pull off an Ernie on this one; we want to know height and weight-I’m just kidding.

On Crabb questions
Does the number of categories in which The Crabb Family find themselves nominated show just how “undefined” Southern Gospel music is? Are they a picture of what emerging Southern Gospel looks like or would they fit best in an emerging genre of Christan music that is yet to be named?

On why Gaither isn’t on the Doves nomination list
It doesn’t surprise me that the Gaither vids are not getting any attention. They had their hay day back when Jake, Vestal, Hovie, Howard & James were living and appearing but now the videos have no real drawing cards. As for me I have heard all of Jessy Dixon, Ann Downing, Sue Dodge and especially the Gaither Vocal Band that I care to hear. I applaud Gaither for his work in the earlier years but he is just not that effective to me anymore. I would however like to see Bill have to try out for a group instead of buying a group to take up his slack and fit around his sound. Kind of harsh comments but sometimes the truth is just that.

On the worst site: this one
This is the worst site I have ever visited. I’ve been trying to find certain lyrics for several songs, and when searching your site, everything must be brought up in a new window. I do NOT allow pop ups on my computer since I have small children. And since I don’t know your site, though you claim to be a Christian site, I will not allow pop ups here either. Your site is very difficult to navigate and even more difficult to find what is needed. I will not recommend this site to any of my southern gospel loving friends or family.

On Dollywood and sg
We were at Dollywood for three days this year and had great crowds in the Celebrity Theatre. The weather that time of the year is usually dreadful and inconsistent which really places Dollywood in a tough situation. They can have three to four SG groups in the park for $6,000- $8,000 a day and not have much overhead. A country act will cost $8,000 and up per day and will have problems doing three -four stands without wanting more money. They really do not have a place to put a huge act other than the Celebrity and it seats 2,000-2,500 I think… My point is that SG is most likely the best draw for the park for that time of the year and provides the miniscule overhead that helps them make some cash or break even…..

On several things
On Dolly Parton, it’s easy to see the connections. Country music historically (except for the “outlaws” who came on the scene in the 70’s) has had ties to country and western music. At one time or another, nearly every country star has done a gospel album. You can do down the list starting with Dolly and add the Gatlins and many others. It’s no surprise because most of them grew up in the South and, as you know, you had to go to church and listen to this music. It becomes a part of you. Also consider the fact that a lot of sg music is just c&w with “religious lyrics,” and there you have it. As much as sg would like to appeal to the sg core of Southern Baptists, Church of God conservatives, and independent fundamentalists, the market that includes gays, Democrats, moderate liberals, United Methodists, Presbyterians, and any number of other groups is out there with money in hand. Dolly’s pretty smart. Let no dollar go unspent and let no lover of the music be denied. It’s just bidness, I reckon. And I really do think Dolly loves the music. Those who question that or her faith may just be the core who will let this music be confined to several states in a certain region of the country. Like Charlie Waller? I imagine the Kingdom Heirs will ignore this recording and continue on-they really have no choice. To bring attention to it means they’ll ruin their good gig and most people won’t even make the connection. Unlike our friends Gerald Wolfe, John Rulapaugh, and Scott Fowler, I think Steve French will keep quiet about it and hope it goes away. What do you think?
On the websites. Apparently John [Rulupaugh] is doing PSQ’s website, or at least he seems to be doing it, and I guess he’s been too busy to work on that. Gold City seems like a professional site, but maybe this is the first sign that Bill is not measuring up to Tim Riley. I finally got their new album and I can say this-if there’s a more abrasive bass in sg music, I don’t know who it is. Surely, Tim will make a change soon. Or maybe not. Who knows? The other sites just aren’t very good and that means they must have hired some kid from their hometown to do them. The GV website works three days and doesn’t the rest of the week. The DMB’s sits looks like the same deal. You gets what you pays for, so they say. BTW, I really enjoy this give and take on sg music. I may be off base on what I think, but you make me think. It’s a joy and thank you so much.

On reactions
You are brave to put up Susan Unthank! I wonder what her response will be? I am sure Dolly would think it was a hoot! Kirk, not to sure about what his reaction would be. But all are good laughs.

On Dolly Parton
“The PR Dolly will embrace sg all day long (and obviously she knows enough about her house quartet to use them on a recording, a much more flattering recognition than, say, Louise Mandrell’s habit of commandeering the stage during Triumphity’s performances at her theater and forcing them in BGV formation right there on the spot.” Have you ever seen Dolly sing with the KH? She does the same thing with them too, uses them as backup. Also how did they sing there before she did use them on any of her albums? Also when was the last time she did this? Was it not before Integrity/Triumphant was formed? Just something to think about.

On who was first with the reunions
Spending a whole lot of time on this (which you alluded to) can be awfully short sighted. Did Henry Ford rip off the Karl Benz? Ford may have developed the “first” automobile, but he used Benz’s internal combustion engine! Should we call the Japanese rip offs? Many products that come out of Japan have taken a basic American invention and made it A WHOLE LOT BETTER! Whether people like it or not, Bill Gaither is one heck of a businessman. In an industry that seems lacking for any entrepreneurial spirit, Bill has stepped out, taken a good idea and made it better. Like him or not Maurice Templeton has done the same thing. MT has taken a fledgling magazine and made the default source “for all things sg.” Of course the NQC, SGMA, and any other ABC outfit want to be associated with him. I have had personal dealing with MT and this guy is sharp! MT and BG have a whole more in common than most people in sg would wish.

On firsts and lasts
First of all, reunions of old singers did not start in the 80s or 90s. There was an old-timers, night on the first night of the National Quartet Convention in 1972 and 1973. I was there both years. I think JD noted in one of his columns that there had been reunions before that. I was at the 1989 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. Gaither was there. He and black man who I believe was called Shorty Goodfellow and had worked with the Statesmen (not on stage but writing songs) led all the old-timers there that year in some group numbers. I don’t know if Gaither attended the first GOGR in 1988 as I was not there but I do know he is not on the video that year. Gaither came back and led a group sing in the early 90s but I think that might have been after he started his videos. As noted, Gaither mentioned the first reunion video was simply a shoot for one video. But the group started fooling around and Gaither was smart to tape. Larry Gatlin, who said he planned to do a reunion like Bill was doing but never got around to it, says in his autobiography that he started the group sing that first time and didn’t get the credit he deserved. The bottom line is that Gaither through his connections got the first video on to TV religious shows and created a demand. Singing News put the story on the front cover and Jerry Kirksey raved about being there that day before the video even became available. Waller made videos on his GOGR but they were complete and lengthy in the early years (1988 is 5 video tapes) without editing. Quality doesn’t compare to what Gaither produced. Even the first unprepared Gaither one was pretty decent. I love what Waller does. But Gaither had the connections, more money (from his writing and Gaither Trio days) and added non-SGM artists (Black, contemporary, etc) to make it a variety show to appeal to a wider audience. Waller is no dummy and has learned over the years and now runs much more tightly controlled programs (SGMA Hall of Fame show) and puts out better edited video. But he still has not put out any DVDs. One example of Gaither’s effect: I know a man in Toronto who doesn’t go to church, had never heard of SGM but saw the show on TV one day and loved it. His favorite artist is Jessy Dixon. He has bought every video and now goes to Gaither’s Praise Gatherings even though he still doesn’t go to church.

On having good ideas
I have heard Bill talk about the first HC video at a Homecoming Concert in Sept. and he has mentioned it on several videos when talking with performers. He stated that at that time the GVB was kind of in limbo… should they continue or disband. He wanted to pay tribute to his heroes by having them join him on the song “Where Could I Go”. He invited legends and friends. They recorded the song video in the morning then ate a dinner of KFC. After eating they sat around and told stories and then Eva Mae went to the piano and started to play. Everyone gathered around the piano. The lights and camera was still set up so the cameramen were told to keep it rolling. Bill was going to keep the footage just for himself but after viewing it decided that what had spontaneously happened was such a blessing it needed to be shared thus beginning the Homecoming Series.

The Cameras and tape were being paid for by Bill so the footage belonged to him but Larry Gatlin tells that he was the one who told Eva Mae to keep playing and the cameras to keep rolling. He was upset with Bill since he considered it his idea and he should have been compensated. Larry Gatlin was not involved in the videos for quite some time. He stated that Bill wasn’t even aware of why he was upset with him at the time. All is behind them now and Larry has been involved in several of the later videos. ( I heard the latter part several years ago when the Gatlin Brothers had a Theater in Myrtle Beach.)

On the numbers and the Crabbs
From the “press” release” announcing the Crabbs new marketing firm “…and on tour — with nearly one million attending Crabb concerts last year.” Let’s see, three concerts per week, 50 weeks per year…hmmmm Isn’t that 6-7 thousand folks per gig? (That’s if they really did 150 shows in 2004, which is giving them the benefit of the doubt.) I seriously, seriously don’t think so. Looks like the guys and gals over at Creative Trust may be pulling our Southern Gospel legs just a tad. Everyone likes to stretch mess, now don’t they? Maybe more like an average of 1,000 or less, I suppose, per concert. But maybe my math is all wrong. If they really had ONE MILLION at their concerts last year at say $10 bucks a pop and they sold to 5% - 15% of their audience then they should be rolling in the dough.

On the Three Valentines
Of the three valentines you picture……there’s only one I would buy a box of chocolate for. Yeah Dolly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Gaither and other stuff
Wow, I have never heard it put any better re: Gaither. You described it exactly as I wanted to. A muddy bass voice covering up a true Baritone. As for your question I really don’t have an answer. My big problem that even I openly admit is that I just can’t find anything new and innovative that suits my taste in the SG music arena right now and I will be the first to admit that’s a sad state to be in. I try to like the Perry’s a lot but some personal things have happened that is driving me away. As far as the Crabb’s I realize that I am the only one with this opinion but I just can’t really go ape over them right now. I guess I remain in the “old” frame of mind with them, I liked them a lot when Gerald and Kathy were actively onstage. Keep up your “great” work you have the best site around by far.

On degrees of charisma
FYI-the McKameys are Baptist. 100% Independent Baptist. I was raised Independent Baptist, and a lot of IBs do shout, run the isles and holler and scream and cry. The BIG thing is they do not believe in speaking in tounges. You will never hear Peg do anything like that. They are not charismatic, though you may call their delivery somewhat charismatic. The McGruders, on the other hand, are United Pentecostal. UPC people don’t believe in women wearing makeup, women wearing pants at all, no TVs, women never cut their hair, men do not wear long hair, etc. They are a very Apostolic type faith. I think the Crabbs are a variation of Church of God/Assembly of God.

On nominating
It IS an honor just to be nominated. But those of us in Southern Gospel want that Grammy. We don’t want it going to Gladys Knight, we don’t want it going to Randy Travis, and believe me I’m a big fan of both….We want that Grammy going to someone who’s actually doing the job. Making it work, taking the genre a step outta the box, and most of all staying SINCERE. As a fan, I want that Grammy to go to someone that I can say “sure Driven is a great album, but I have CrabbGrass, Pray and Living Out The Dream….do you?” We really really want that Grammy. Nominate ‘em again….please, but rally the vote too.

On a charismatic trend
Well, none of this charismatic trend, if correct, seems to have had any influence on the success of Bill Gaither, the most successful artist/promoter in the history of SGM. I certainly don’t see many signs of charismatic behavior on his tapes. He doesn’t do a lot of preaching and stays away from politics. He’s in the Christian entertainment business offering a variety of music. In other words, he is not limiting his potential Christian-based audience. If you get into charismatic areas or do too much preaching and shouting or take political stands or denominational stands I believe you limit your potential audience as many SGM groups do and have done. There’s nothing wrong with that especially if you believe it is God’s calling but it sure limits your ministry (for those folks who seem embarrassed to call it entertainment).

On easy solutions for the future
The solution is simple. Perform high quality progressive SG music. Market yourself to non-SG audiences. Simply call what you do Christian music to eliminate the SG bias. Do NOT say that you are going to have church, just give a knock down, first class performance. Don’t worry about having to preach and minister to the audience. Have enough faith to let God and the Spirit minister through the music that you perform.

On church music and sg
My thoughts are these: in addition to CCM being an ever-popular choice of those oh-so-reliable music-buying teens (and, of course, suburban youth group teens have plenty of dough to spend buying CD’s and filling their iPods), it also has a bright future because praise & worship is taking over in churches from formerly stoic Presbyterians and Methodists all the way to the charismatics. I was stunned to learn that a middle-aged female co-worker of mine (a Methodist) listens to p&w compilation CD’s all day every day at her desk, and she fell in love with the music at their weekly contemporary worship services. My sister and brother-in-law attend a conservative SBC/MBC church whose song service is 100% p&w. My moderate SBC/CBF church is half p&w/half hymns. The songs performed by Mercy Me, Michael W. Smith, et al, are being done every Sunday morning in a ever-increasing plurality of churches, while sg is not. Surely that–in and of itself–is a barometer of the future.

Of course–as I’ve stated before–the rise of p&w and the corresponding increasingly informal musical environment in so many churches today (moving away from hymns and pipe organs toward full bands, drums, and upbeat songs) creates an opening for sg to slip back into churches and markets it has long departed from, only if the powers that be within the genre gain the foresight to go there.

It’s important to remember that the Crabb’s–should they cement a move to more contemporary or non-sg shores–are not exactly trailblazers in the endeavor. Go back to those rollicking (pre-retreat) 70’s. The Imperials, LeFevres, Speers, various Blackwoods, Bill Gaither Trio, and others at least dabbled in CCM waters (and, of course, various soloists have done so then and since). To be sure, at that time, there was very little developed CCM infrastructure in terms of recording, promotions or an established concert circuit, so each was met with varying degrees of success as they “straddled the line”, so to speak. J.D. Sumner and the Stamps’ affiliation with Elvis can certainly not be classified as an exodus to CCM, but it was a calculated career move outside the realm of sg. This all happened before the backlash against CCM/Christian Rock, etc., truly took hold. Other than with your rock-ribbed, most fundamentalist sg fans, it would be hard to whip up that backlash again when that very music is being played/sung in so many of our churches today.

To me the most likely scenario is a Crabb move toward more Christian Country/CCM recordings and concert dates. They can do that while maintaining the Crabb Gatherings (a proven, road-tested sg promotional vehicle) as the angle into sg.

[As for Susan Unthank’s new blog], I cannot imagine any material Deon/Susan Unthank could bring forth that couldn’t otherwise find an existing platform in their majestic cyber-empire, but I will wait daily with baited breath to see what jewels of wisdom they spew forth.

On being a star
Hmmm - Jonathan White snags surprise nomination for SGN Award; his song was #1 on the sogo chart; and he’s represented by __________ (fill in the blank).

On Dolly
In looking back at some of the factoids you received and published re Dolly and sg, I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at some of them. The following could be said about almost all country music entertainers of Dolly’s generation:

* Singing in church and gospel music was a key musical influence in their upbringing
* Many have had ongoing relationships with noted sg performers (especially back when gospel was relevant to the Nashville recording scene).
* Most have performed gospel music on a stage and/or on a recording.
* Most have performed at an events of some sort where gospel singers were on the program.
* Most will credit the Lord for guiding them to a successful career.

Dolly should be credited for her public role in raise the profile of sg at Dollywood, just as the Gaylord Entertainment folks did at their Opryland park and Grand Ole Opry in the 80’s and 90’s, just as the Statler Brothers did on their popular cable TV show in the 90’s, and just as the Oak Ridge Boys and George Jones have done with popular gospel recordings in recent years. It’s not Dolly’s abiding love for sg that largely insulates her from critical comments for her pro-gay and lesbian activities; instead, it’s the “bidness”, as you often put it.

Chew on this: if you run a theme park and you’re considering a four-group per day sg mega-event, crunch the numbers. Average theme park ticket price: $40 each and $6 to park. If you assume that two ticket-buyers ride together and each will spend at least $15 on food and/or souvenirs, you’re up to $58 apiece. Now, if the park can get ONLY 500 fans to come for the concert that wouldn’t already visit the park, you’ve got yourself $29,000 in additional revenue. That easily covers 4 artist/group flats of $3,000 apiece and the minuscule base costs of the food you sell at astronomical prices.

Unlike traditional promoters, just about all theme park costs are fixed, with or without the concert. They don’t have to rent a building, print/promote/sell tickets outside the normal theme park stream, or arrange for security costs, staffing, etc. Promotional ads can come from the existing ad budget and serve the dual purpose of plugging the park even for times when the concert isn’t ongoing. At just 500 additional tickets sold (a paltry 125 fans per group), and your profit margin is easily 50%. Pump it above 500, and it’s just all the more gravy. Even if the bulk of your fans stay for two or more days of the concert event, any ticket discount for a season pass doesn’t kick in until the third day, and anybody that hangs around that long is bound to spend many more bucks within the park in high-margin shops and restaurants.

As for the “house quartets”, think of it this way. If the Kingdom Heirs can draw a significant number of fans into the park, keeping them on the payroll is much cheaper than constructing, promoting, insuring, and staffing an amusement ride that might draw a similar number of fans.

The Dollywood cutback in sg dates probably has more to do with the law of diminishing returns than it does with any doctrinal shift. Sg is good for gate receipts, but eventually run out of new customers to draw and will find that your crowd will simply cherry-pick the best lineups. Dolly may be really fond of sg, but you can bet the Herschends have crunched the numbers.

More on the Crabbs
1. They were better when Dad was around.
2. If they sing like they did on “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before” on Daywind’s Remembering the Greats, then I wouldn’t cross the street to listen. Saw it Sat on ISPN. It was embarrassing. Heard a bunch of folks walked out on them in Lynchburg, VA recently. You have to sing once and awhile, and not scream. Oops, did I say that, ………..out loud????????? Keep up your good work.

On recordings and reviews
I trade gospel videos with a folks now and then. I was watching one the other day with Oaks through the years and then on came the Kingsmen live in Louisiana opening for the Kingsmen. Quality wasn’t that great with big speakers in the way (assume it was an amateur shoot). The Kingsboys impersonated the Hinsons and then impersonated the Kingsmen before the Kingsmen came on and impersonated the Kingsboys by singing on their knees. The idea was a gimmick and the Kingsboys were not that good. I recall once seeing them in concert in Michigan with the Kingsmen but was not impressed.

Some day I’d like to get my gospel videos on DVDs (when I get a recorder). Quality is not always the greatest but I have some material I recorded from TV in the 80s (Cathedrals, various versions of Masters V, Kingsmen, etc.) that is pretty good. Other folks have provided rarer material (Stamps, Statesmsen in early 70s) but quality not nearly as good quality. I love some of old stuff Waller sells. I see on the SGL board that he had John Crenshaw at the Hall of Fame this week redoing some of the memorabilia.

Enjoyed your “honest” review of Greater Vision performance. Much more enjoyable than reading the usual fan ones that say “They were great.” I’m not a big GV fan although Wolfe is good. The other two are so-so singers. Rodney is a good writer within the current SGM context.

On the urban Crabb
The best reason I can give for the photo shoot is their upcoming CD “Live at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.” I’m betting that they did the shoot right their in NYC and tried something new. Brian Free and Assurance did similar stunts by taking photos on the Brooklyn Bridge and in Times Square… although they were in suits. You’re right though, people read way too much into photos shoots…. They are young, innovative and may be marketing geniuses. But they still are not as ragged looking as some of my favorite CCM artist may be sometimes.

On Greater Visions, Faces
I’m amazed! I can’t believe that someone actually agreed with me on this project. I have a friend who kept telling me that I had to hear this project. She said that the song “Faces” was great. Then I mentioned it to a friend who told me that he had actually played on the project. So, I thought, I’ll go and get it. I listened, and listened, and listened. Not one time did I get that “Oh My God” feeling. I thought it was simply….okay. I agree with you that the song “Faces” has a great concept but I wasn’t blown away. However, I feel that the song has a terrible arrangement. If the parts would have flipped at some point to give it that extra something, it would have been somewhat better. I also feel that if a mixed group like the Hoppers or the Lesters would have recorded it, we would be singing a “different” tune about the song. Thanks for agreeing with me.

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  1. Nikki Roberts wrote:

    I have been a big fan of the Blackwood Brothers since 1962. Bill Shaw left them in 1973. He was only 49 which seems like a young age to retire. Do you know if he was with any other quartets after he left them or what he did. He is such a fantastic tenor.

  2. ReginaMW wrote:

    Oh, how sad to read the anger in the tone of the writer who so harshly criticizes Bill Gaither, “southern gospel” and “country and western” music, likening the two genres in almost every respect save the obvious, necessary and not very nuanced lyrics! I can be very wrong, but the writer screams of ill-education, whatever his background. Mr. Gaither, on the other hand, not highly formally educated but adequate to amass at least forty million dollars, trips right along with a smile and a song, however he manages to acquire and sustain his group. The poor writer on this forum too, can almost certainly have little if either an empiric or an emotional relationship to any part of the tri-genre music that he is unable to distinguish as each must be to be accurate, each being a different form of music. One genre touches another one. That’s true. No informed country artist and no country fan, save those in the Mid-West and other remote parts of the country or the world, refers to the music of, e.g., Nashville and Bakersfield, as “country and western”; if one did, hopefully, he would capitalize the uppercase words, applicable as well to “southern gospel” music. Thank God indeed, for The South–The South, as in Southern Gospel Music. Oh, please see if you can find them for the other two genres! I’ve spotted you the first one. The writer can hardly be a singer. Let us do this the easy way. I’m imagining Charley Pride singing–well, performing, oh…”From Heaven’s Point of View” in Jessy Dixon fashion, elegant, inimitable, nearly every word accompanied by a movement, face–eye or eyes or mouth, head, hand, body a-dance, along with multi-notation of a syllable in barely believable metering of vibratoed sounds exuding from part of his being heretofore unknown, at least to me; or, imagine Jessy Dixon doing “I’m So Afraid of Losing You Again” or “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone?”; better yet, Charley Pride and “Let me Live”, the closest analogy I find off hand, to the spirit of Jessy Dixon, but remember Charley Pride with no more than his bouncing country rocking motion, perfect for the humble, athletic, unapologetically country Mr. Pride, who turned down a pro-ball deal for country music. Mr. Dixon, training to be a concert pianist, really did have a rock and an R & B career. Factoring out the traits they share of tall, fit, black male and the indubitable talent of each of them, their styles are apples and oranges. What smallness and anger refuses to see the glaring distinctions between them, and of course, the similarites of the two men. This is a case of not seeing the trees for the forest. I hope you’ll pray away your bitterness and anger. They read loud of jealousy, but you know that I can be very wrong. I thank God for each of them, both having been placed in my way at key times, I believe, by the Lord God, both powerful, both representing his own genre; here, I’m refering to Jessy Dixon in his Gaither Southern Gospel phase. Forgive any error in my writing, and thank you for the forum and the opportunity to participate in it. –RMW

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