OT: A few words in praise of the BGV

Patty Paige just followed the Four Aces on some Nostalgia-Fest PBS fund-drive this evening. I would be remiss not to report that the Four Aces took everybody else’s geritol money and stood as many of the people in the crowd who could stand on their feet no less than three times in a two-song set. But no matter. Paige glided her way through “Allegheny Moon” with her rich caramel voice backed up by those high wide intervals that the BGVs float around on above Paige’s mellifluousness. When the first back-up lines came into the song, I thought reflexively, wow what a cheesey track. But of course this was a Proper Performance and so there they were in the camera’s cut-away shot … three nondescript thiry-something females holding down the BGVs in their matching spaghetti strap, sequined dinner dresses, lined up firing-squad style behind their mic stands. And instantly the whole set changed for me. What a wonderfully quaint idea, he thought to himself, so accustomed to band tracks and canned vocals of sg. Live vocalists backed up by live BGVs – to say nothing of the live twelve piece band and orchestra.

Watching the BGV girls with their painted-on grins and their choreographed swaying and their Kathy Lee evening wear, laying down their lines in a deceitfully capable way that was somehow both flashy and unprepossessing at once (notice us, but not too much, listen to me, but only for a second) … I was reminded of Hee Haw and a thousand years ago, laying on the permanently begrimed pile carpet in the drafty living room of one of the thousand and three parsonages we called home over the years, gazing up on Saturday night at the poor reception of KFVS Channel 12-Cape Girardeu and the fuzzy images of Gaylord’s house BGVocalists in their too-tight Country Chics and their plaid shirts with the pearlized buttons and their hair all Aqua Net and Crystal Gale swoops ooohhing and wahhing with whomever happened to be the guest that night … Their faces were reassuringly familiar (this was still in the days when I thought the Hee Haw special guests had to immediately proceed, under penalty of permanent exile, from Cornfield County on Saturday night to the faraway nether-regions of Nowhere Missouri on Sunday to sing their current hits at the local radio station from which the music came as we drove to Sunday School). A revolving hay bale of stars, but The Queens of Cheese and Ahs were always there. They were Glamour Shot, when Glamour Shot wasn’t cool.

A lifetime later. Nashville. The Dove Awards, and some fire-from-heaven-and-pass-the-manna soloist whose name I forget (Isaiah something?) comes out into the klieg lights. About the time he’s finishing the first phrase of his song, up pops a spotlight on these three BGV singers who appear as from a cloud of genie smoke and look twice as magical, seemingly transported straight out of a sci-fi-meets-Mahalia-Jackson movie: clad in all white, hair set in dizzying arabesques and hoops and loopty-loos, and moving in a kind of intricate stand-still interpretive dance as they not so much sang but declared their lines. Maybe-Isaiah has the nonchalance of Great Talent down cold, standing away and aloof from them, so he comes off as both unconcerned and fully aware of this sideshow – which is of course both the point and thoroughly irrelevant – as all good BGVs are, the way really great dessert after a fantastic meal can be.

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  1. Bud Alexander wrote:


  2. CG wrote:

    Avery (Mr. Fineline),

    I am probably one of your most appreciative (and devoted) fans. I almost (99.97% of the time) always agree with everything (99.97% of it) you say. In my mind, you are the Rush Limbaugh of SG (meant complimentary).

    You, as usual, had me eating out of the palm of your hand for the first two paragraphs. However, to quote Bud (above), “what”? My thesaurus has never worked so hard. What does that third paragraph even mean? (BTW, I do admit to have not watched the Doves.)

    Please, remember K.I.S.S. when writing for us simpletons (my description, not yours).

    Still love ya!

    CG, a.k.a., Sand Mtn Man

  3. Wayne wrote:

    Your masterful turn of phrase and your dizzying intellect you showcase through your luminescent prose always sends me into a rapturous state of euphoria from which, try as I may, I cannot to too soon convalesce. I must meditate and commiserate with my feelings and emotions for a while before I can return to the mundane existence of mere transient mortality.

    By the way, did you like that show or not?

  4. Trevor Haley wrote:

    Good background vocalists are criminally underrated. Two words: Anita Kerr. She was one of the best back in the 60’s. I loved the old country and pop records with full-sounding background vocals, and the oohs and ahhs. Nowadays, it’s almost always straight harmony.

  5. Norm wrote:

    Wow! James Joyce lives, or at least he is reincarnated in your prose!

  6. Chuck Sims wrote:


    You give a new meaning to the phrase, “Ask a man what time it is, and he will tell you how to build a clock!” From a fellow “clock maker,” Go for it, man!!


  7. burt wrote:

    Remember the dialect in the movie, The Village???

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