Slow news day: diesel sniffers and gospel groupies
It’s been a slow week or two at avfl hq (which means a really busy real world). You know what that means. Yup. Emails about diesel sniffers. Take it away, Thorn.
May I broach the subject of obsessive fans? Having been around the industry for many years, both as a vocalist and as a promoter, I have witnessed some borderline disturbing actions by some fans. I know of several instances where fans will actually follow the artist’s buses around from town to town – without the artist’s invitation. Some artists call these people “diesel sniffers.” I call them stalkers. There are times when SG artists are reluctant to ask a person to stop following them around for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or fear of acting in an “unchristian” way. For all the artists out there who have “diesel sniffers” – allow me to say it for you. Hey, “diesel sniffers” enough already! Quit stalking these people and give them some space. Here is the reality about stalkers from the artists perspective: These people try to monopolize the artist time by selfishly engaging in conversation without regard for what the artist (group) needs to accomplish prior to performing. When a group arrives at a venue to set up their equipment and product tables they don’t need someone following them around taking pictures and trying to carry on meaningless conversation. There is a sound check to be done and the artist does not want you up there on the microphone trying to sing along. There are product tables to set up and your “help” is probably not needed nor desired. Don’t unload all your personal problems on the singers. Don’t monopolize their time by standing and bending their ear for 10 minutes with your endless yacking. And PLEASE don’t go on the bus unless you are invited. One thing that makes the SG concert/singing experience different from some other genres of music is the opportunity to interact with the artist after the performance. The chance to shake their hand and tell them how much you enjoyed the singing or to give them a word of encouragement by sharing how you were blessed by a particular song is one of the joys of attending a SG singing. As fans/supporters of this music we should all be considerate of the artists and each other by not monopolizing the artist’s time and attention but giving everybody and opportunity to talk with them. May I also add, it is disappointing to the local church when the artist’s “entourage” arrives and dominates the conversation to the point that the people of the host church cannot meet the singers. (record label people can be bad about this, too!) So, to all the “diesel sniffers” out there – get a life. To the rest of us, remember these singers are people just like you who need their rest and their privacy.
There’s a bit of wanting to have it both ways here – you can’t NOT expect diesel sniffers in a genre of music that’s mortgaged so heavily to retail interactions with fans. Hard to say when one fan’s genuine need or sincerity of feeling ends and another’s stalking begins. But in general, Thorn has a point. Hang around sg long enough and you can see in artists’ faces the look of captivity when they’ve been cornered by a stalker, diesel sniffer, or that person missing the social gene that tells him or her when time’s up and Ernie Haase or Libbi Perry just really doesn’t need to hear about your appendectomy or how you have a little group of your own that … well, we’re no Signature Sound, but round these here parts we don’t do too bad … even opened for the Cathedrals back in the 80s (and doesn’t it seem like every small time group has opened for the Cathedrals back in the 80s? many of these groups also were told by George and/or Glen that they really had a future).
Anyway, to the anatomy of stalkerdom, let me add two subcategories: The gospel groupie and the unleaded sniffer. The unleaded sniffer is a country cousin to the diesel sniffer. These are the people who stalk the avocational groups and parttimers in their econline vans and secondhand RVs. I’ll never forget the guy who came up to me one Sunday after our regional group put on a stand. This guy buttonholes me to recite a not-so-brief history of his gospel music resume, which mainly consisted of filling in for the church pianist during the summer vacation months and picking up a few funerals at the local mortuary. After telling me his name, he said, “if you ever need somebody to fill in for you, just look me up. I’m in the book.” Aside from what this says about my abilities at the keyboard, here we have a fine example of the unleaded sniffers.
And then there’s the gospel groupie. This is the kind of not-so-secret secret of gospel music that everyone in the bidness pretends doesn’t exist in order to protect (among other things) the fragile illusions of the naïve and sheltered. But even if you didn’t know what you were looking at (or maybe even indulged in, however unintentionally or unknowingly, yourself), you’ve almost certainly encountered the gospel groupie. These are the people who form standard issue crushes on entertainers, seek some form of intimacy with their favorite performers, and in some cases, make themselves … uhm, available in one way or another. The Christian context in which gospel music unfolds complicates all this because of course convention and propriety and Christian morality forbid the kind of expressions of desire – bridled or not – that attend secular groupiedom. Which is why gospel groupies will often use excessive displays of piety and Christian concern - let’s pray together with my arms all around or I just want to hug your neck (read, full body bear hug) for the dear blessing you are to me etc - to mask their less-than-pious feelings – both from themselves and others. That doesn’t mean every hug or kiss is some displaced desire of a less-than-innocent nature. But it’s inevitable that in some cases, when emotions get whipped up in the intensity of gospel music performance, a few errant strands of feeling and affection will get into the mix. And, alas, sometimes piety is an ex-post-facto compensation used to obscure the reality of some crush that went beyond sinning in the heart. Just ask Jimmy Swaggert.Email this Post