The SN keeps getting better and better, except for Roy

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And the January 07 issue stands head and neck above what’s come before it. The centerpiece is the Tori Taff cover story on EHSSQ. I would have preferred less fixation on profiling EH. He’s such a well-known figure by now that Taff struggles to say anything new about him and so must resort to dramatizing his management philosophy. This is interesting enough as inside baseball goes, and it certainly reinforces EH’s self-styled myth of himself as Gospel Patriarch to His Boys on the Bus. But a more balanced article might have told a much more interesting story about the group as a whole and tilled some new ground in the process.

Really, though, I’m quibbling, which is not a luxury one has historically not had with SN’s content. The piece is solidly written and holds your attention. And anyone who can spend as much time as Taff must have with guys as overtanned as this bunch and not make an orange-glo joke deserves … well, that takes an estimable gift that I don’t have. Anyway, Taff’s article is more evidence of the SN’s ongoing transformation. (More evidence: David Bruce Murray’s reviews will soon begin appearing in the magazine … I still think he gives too many stars to most projects, but any kind of genuinely evaluative system will dramatically improve on the artist-friendly “make a joyful noise” style “reviews” that the SN normally publishes).

And speaking of transformations, Jerry Kirksey earns all kind of respect and congratulations in my book for having done some honest self-examination and owned up to his own evolving values and rethinking of longheld beliefs. This is not ever easy to do and it gets harder as we age. And even harder for highly visible people in positions of leadership. Kudos to Kirksey.

But (you knew this was coming) what’s up with that enormous advertising section on new talent? At first I thought it was from some label purchasing space for its artists, but on closer examination, I think it’s actually SN-generated copy that groups could purchase to go in this section on young artists, alongside ads for their new product.

This is actually a good idea for a feature - the next generation of sg - but why sell the space? I assume the reason is that if the SN were to run the piece as an editorial product, they’d have to choose whom to select and whom not, and that would inevitably require showing preferences for some and not others or including everyone at the SN/Salem’s expense. And either way, that would probably mean lost revenue - either now or in the future. So, giving everyone the opportunity to buy space in the young talent special advertising section absolves the SN of appearing to make (gasp) any judgment of quality and nets them more ad revenue in the process. A flat fee is a very democratizing thing. And a smart move, really. A bit self-serving, and perhaps a purist would balk at how steadfastly the magazine refuses to bring its staff’s considerable experience to bear on qualitative assessment of artists, music, and the industry. But smart, all the same.

Randomly: I still don’t know what J.K. Stuffle’s doing in all the Perrys group pictures. Really. This isn’t entirely rhetorical. And how many consecutive months will Dennis Zimmeran use his Pacifically Speaking column to plug his own group? It’s “Pacifically Speaking,” Dennis. As in “the large geographical area of North America bounded on the west by the Pacific.” Not “Have I mentioned my group, The Watchmen.”

And then there’s Roy Pauley (You might want to use this brief intermission to go get a snack or something).

Part of me thinks he’s the kind of guy it’s best to ignore. But I’ve tried that and he doesn’t seem to be going away (tangentially: whatever happened to the “No, it’s MY opinion” tit-for-tat thing that the SN tried to get off the ground last year? Is that coming back?), so there you are. And here, in January’s issue, we have another Feat of Solipsistic Declamation from Roy “Stuff Was Better in the Past” Pauley. Does it strike anybody else as odd that “In My Opinion,” all the best of everything happened, originated in, or came out of the 1950s-60s? Or should I say, Pauley’s ever-more shortsighted memory of that time?

Honestly. This month we’re treated to the thousandth-and-first rewrite of Roy’s Favorite Topic: “your hair’s too long/short/messy and your clothes are too tight/loose/ugly.” This month’s subtitle: “clothes and hair were better in the past” (implication: gospel music was holier back then). Pauley’s preferred method of argumentation is to set himself up on the side of all that’s “appropriate” and “professional” and of the highest “quality” but without providing any kind of working definition for what he takes these vexingly slippery terms to mean, exactly. I don’t know if he refuses to or simply can’t, but no matter. Here’s the trick: Pauley then labels anything he himself finds personally distasteful as the opposite of “appropriate,” “professional,” and “quality” etc.

The cherry on top of all this is that, as always, a choir loft full of southern gospel’s great names - living and dead - are called upon to back up Pauley and his opinion. This month “Mom Speer, Lily Fern Weatherford, Eva Mae and Naomi Sego” are summoned up to bear witness to Good Ole Roy’s lonely stand against the insidious encroachment of morally derelict hemlines, sexually suggestive hair cuts, and other latter day sartorial sins against the white-robed mothers and fastidiously clothed fathers of gospel music’s long ago.

On almost any subject, this is Pauley’s signature move: wave a finger-wagging hand in the direction of the past’s most venerated figures – the Speers, the Statesmen, the Lefevres, the Weatherfords – and let the overpowering venerability of their collective reputations stand for Roy’s idea of quality, goodness and what it is appropriate in all matters of music and morality.

The trouble is that quite obviously these people themselves did not share anything like a consensus view of what constitutes – for them, personally – quality, appropriateness, or good music, except in the most general ways. And we know this is true because the music each of them sang - and, for that matter, the clothes they wore - was quite different in their own individual cases. Compare “City Coming Down” to, say, Rosie Rosell’s “Oh What a Savior” (since it’s such a hot topic these days). Or Brock Speer’s conservative attire and bearing to the Big Chief’s self-consciously cool-cat manner in dress and stage presence.

Now, when compared to EHSSQ or the Booth Brothers or First Love or whomever else from today’s young vanguard Pauley has in mind when he writes his manifestos on Christian costuming and cosmetics, these old people and their music and style may well seem more alike than different. But that only takes the measure of how much has changed in 50 years (the bouffant and the beehive are two very different hairstyles popular among gospel divas of the mid-20th Century, but they look equally ridiculous in hindsight). What that difference doesn’t mean is that Brock Speer and James Blackwood, or Rosie Rosell and Naomi Sego all represent, as Pauley likes to imagine, some unified, absolute and fixed standard of quality, excellence, and what’s appropriate.

And if anyone should know this, it ought to be Roy Pauley, who – as he never tires of reminding us – was there in these people’s heyday.

What Pauley seems unable or unwilling to accept is a fairly simple truth: something roughly equivalent to “time’s change” crossed with a little bit of “there’s no accounting for taste.” Follow along at home now:

  • Exercise 1: If Ernie Haase and Signature Sound were to wear Speedos on stage, this would be inappropriate (though it would also likely redefine the idea of “hip,” I imagine, and people would definitely not be talking about their short ties anymore). Times change but not that much.

  • Exercise 2: Whereas if one were to – purely hypothetically of course – look at Roy Pauley’s column photograph in the SN and find his super-coif, Aqua Net, Hold Tight pompadour hair style affected and preposterous, as though Benny Hinn met Steve French and started an off-the-rack hairpiece kiosk in the mall … well, now, that would just be a matter of taste, since Pauley’s hair is his bidness and his ideas and opinions are no better or worse for it. Hairstyles, like the times (and opinions for that matter), change - except maybe in Pauley’s case.

Back when the Singing News seemed to be under the sway of the Roy Pauleys of the gospel music world, “In My Opinion” fit right in and made quite a lot of editorial sense. It was no less infuriatingly solipsistic than it is now, but with J.D. Sumner on his right and Andrew Ishee to his left, Pauley was just one more cock crowing.

But in an issue like this one, in which Jerry Kirksey writes persuasively and evocatively about his own personal – dare I say, enlightened – realization that people who look and sound very different can share and communicate the same underlying values and commitments, Pauley’s one-note jeremiads about hair and haberdashery seem a touch enfeebled, his self-righteousness gone a bit stale. I’m sure Pauley is still popular among a certain bloc of readers, and he has every right to his opinion.

But as the SN elevates the level of discourse in the magazine, improves the quality of thought and writing, and generally takes things up a notch or two, Pauley’s column is, I suspect, going to increasingly look like an anachronistic sop to what Lee Roy Abernathy once called the “ignorant, jealous hearted backbiters” of gospel music.

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  1. DN wrote:

    Solipsistic? I had to look that one up. According to my American Dictionary; 1.The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified. 2. The theory or view the self is the only reality.

    It just goes to show that you can learn something everyday reading AVFL. I agree. The term suits Roy’s column to a tee.

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I wonder if Roy thinks the Northmen with their pink suits on page 66 exemplify the type of class in dress he’s talking about? They fit his criteria, after all.

  3. Jim wrote:

    isn’t that Tori Taff?

  4. jerome wrote:

    I think that Roy Pauley is one of the best examples of why young people don’t bother with SG. He’s an old fart who is always harping on how much better things used to be - which basically translates to “anything new is automatically crappy”.

  5. Jennifer wrote:

    I thought the article was awful and totally un-Christlike. Roy Pauley is ridiculous.

  6. dkd wrote:

    Solipsistic ? Interesting also descirbes EH and the cover story. Again, he manages to make it all about himself.

  7. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Doug–JK is pictured with the Perrys because he plays bass guitar for the group, at least occasionally. He may do every concert.

  8. Dean Adkins wrote:

    “DN wrote:

    Solipsistic? I had to look that one up.DN wrote:

    Solipsistic? I had to look that one up.”

    Sometimes when I read these posts I’m reminded of the Friends episode when Joey used a thesaurus.

    Monica: It doesn’t make any sense.
    Joey: Of course it does. It’s smart! I used a thesaurus!
    Chandler: On every word?
    Joey: Yep.

    BTW - when are you going to post your picture so we can critique your hairstyle?

  9. THOM wrote:

    “And speaking of transformations, Jerry Kirksey earns all kind of respect and congratulations in my book for having done some honest self-examination and owned up to his own evolving values and rethinking of longheld beliefs. This is not ever easy to do and it gets harder as we age. And even harder for highly visible people in positions of leadership. Kudos to Kirksey.}

    I could not agree more - when I read Kirksey’s column I thought to myself “this man has had a religious experience” and his eyes have been opened! SOunds like he is re-thinking his long held beliefs along the lines of “it takes matching cheap suits, a piano, and a bass guitar to make “real sUUUthern GospUUL.”

    And as for Roy Pauley - - He has always sounded like a disgruntled old maid to me!

    Thom Rawls

  10. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    If Jerry Kirksey can back down from his “all men in or on Singing News will wear a tie and have no facial hair other than a neatly trimmed mustache” policy of a few years ago as he obviously has, then I guess there’s hope for Roy Pauley to change in time, as well. By the way, Pauley sports a goatee, which would have disqualified him from being on the cover of SN back when Kirksey had that policy.

    I guess some standards of appearance are merely a matter of opinion, as his column states.

  11. HML wrote:

    In the few years I’ve known SSQ, I’ve yet to catch a self-centered impression of Ernie. Rather, I’ve always been impressed by his humble heart and gracious spirit. He doesn’t think he’s hot stuff.

    I agree that it would’ve been nice if the article had covered the group as a whole, because they’re a great bunch of personalities and the average fan really doesn’t hear much about them. However, I honestly think the rest of the guys could care less and are perfectly happy with Ernie handling the job of front man; they’d rather be hanging out with their kids than answering questions.

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but whatever you think you’re seeing in him - just isn’t there. They may be “his boys”, but he’s not playing daddy.

  12. Trent wrote:

    “…look at Roy Pauley’s column photograph in the SN and find his super-coif, Aqua Net, Hold Tight pompadour hair style affected and preposterous, as though Benny Hinn met Steve French and started an off-the-rack hairpiece kiosk in the mall …”

    Man, you are cracking me up. That’s the best line you’ve written in weeks.

  13. Sam Jones wrote:

    HML….says about ernie “He doesn’t think he’s hot stuff.”

    well, in the newest issue of Homecoming magazine, ernie states about his group and himself on stage..
    “Every once in a while I can get hot on stage and the guys say ‘Shoot It Ernie!”

    in context, he means that he is on top of his game and doing really well.

  14. quartet-man wrote:

    I have met Tori, and she is a super lady. She does a great job at writing. One problem I have though with so much about SSQ these days is that it almost seems like revisionist history. They totally skip over Garry and Shane and make it sound like the current group is where it started. (Or is it just me that thinks that?) Ernie was forthright initially about why they broke up, and I realize they don’t want to keep rehashing it, but it seems they want to act like the original group never existed. They redid the cover for the original CD (shrunk it and apparently put tree branches blocking the two old guys, and also took the last cut off (written by Garry.) That seems a bit much to me.

    As far as Kirksey, I had written a letter years ago when the hair policy first came up and never heard anything back. Later, I emailed about the lack of coverage of the Oaks and Michael English in the magazine and the apparent lack of forgiveness toward Michael (which I think I had covered in my original letter too.) He said(and I am paraphrasing by memory) that they held no hard will towards them, but wanted to use the SG chart to help out those who were 100% SG. I thought that the charts should reflect what was going on, and not their edited version of it.

    However, I give him kudos for being open to change his mind about the dress thing, and his willingness to be open about it and write about it. I wonder if he were more open to it since the management change at SN, and wonder if it would have been written about had it happened under the old regime. Nonetheless, I think he was sincere and appreciate it very much.

  15. Jennifer wrote:

    what happened in the beginning to cause Shane and Gary to leave???

  16. JimT wrote:

    I wonder how many of those who criticize Pauley for suggesting SG was better in the 50’s and 60’s were actually alive and listening to it then. The fact is, he is right, but unless you have listened to it for 40-50 years you are not going to recognize that.

    Remember, his column is called “In My Opinion.” In expressing them, he is doing nothing more than the writer of this blog. You don’t have to agree.

    At least he’s not wasting his space writing about Grey’s Anatomy or Dreamgirls.

  17. Nancy wrote:

    JimT wrote:
    I wonder how many of those who criticize Pauley for suggesting SG was better in the 50’s and 60’s were actually alive and listening to it then. The fact is, he is right, but unless you have listened to it for 40-50 years you are not going to recognize that.

    I couldn’t have said it better JimT…

  18. Trent wrote:

    Quartet Man, the Singing News chart has never been 100% SG; that is a farce. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver is a bluegrass/bluegrass gospel group, and they are on the charts frequently. The Primitive Quartet isn’t really SG. For that matter, the Gaither Vocal Band isn’t SG.

  19. dkd wrote:

    HML- You obviously do not know the real EH! He has an ego the size of Texas!
    Quartet Man- I agreee with you as to the Revisionist History with the Group EHSSQ, as soon as Gary and Shane left Ernie changed the name from Signature Sound Qt to EH and SSQ. This story runs deep and it’s not my place to tell it, but Ernies Spin on the whole reason for Gary and Shane are just that, HIS SPIN..actually his SPIN is nothing but a complete fabrication made to make himself look good. The EH that I know is anything but humble or gracious. I will step down from my soap box now.

  20. MM wrote:

    Ditto the Pacifically Speaking comment. I have moved from Cali to VA. Having attended many watchmen concerts, I would say that Zimm need to hype his group in the column to garner attendance at the concerts. I wold rather see the Herb Henry Family get a little more recognition for what they are doing to further southern gospel music in California

  21. Jennifer wrote:

    why did Gary and Shane leave??? What happened? Why are people saying that EH has such an ego?

  22. quartet-man wrote:

    Jennifer, I only know what Ernie said. His stated reasons were in so many words that He and Garry had different ideas on how the group should be run. He said rather than to keep on going and eventually having it come to a head (so to speak) it was better to part ways then while they were still friends. He said Shane seemed to think like Garry, so Shane should go with Garry. Beyond that, I don’t know. I guess if it were spin, it was still better than what usually happens (which is not saying anything.)
    I had always kind of thought that some of the things the boys had done since then might be demonstrative of what the differences were. The boys did the hair thing, more movements, more flash etc. I figured Garry probably wanted more flatfooted singing. In that case, he would’ve been better suited for Legacy Five than Signature Sound. At least as far as how things are done.
    I had been lead to believe that Gaither was behind the new name for the group.

    I don’t know what the truth is though.

  23. dkd wrote:

    Jennifer: Best not Open up that Can of Worms!

  24. charles89 wrote:

    I think its funny that people still mention Shane and Gary. I think the only people that keep bringing it up are Shane and Gary in “disguise.” I guess that is the only way they can feel successful! “we were with SSQ in the beginning!” SO? what are you doing now? trying to attach themselves to an incredibly successful group by stating “what about Shane and Gary?” well….WHO CARES? if their careers are going so great why are they trying to get people to recognize they were with SSQ for LESS THAN A YEAR???????? note to shane and gary fans….no one cares. go see gary and shane in concert! I’m sure it will be free and you wont have a problem finding a seat! i’m out!

  25. dkd wrote:

    Quartet Man: Garry & Shane were friends long before SSQ. Garry produced some of N’Harmony’s projects so they were on the same track creatively. Shane aligned himself with Garry, Garry and Ernie had conflicts from day one. EH wanted to be in control from the beginning, he finally got his wish. (In a Nutshell)

  26. HML wrote:

    My comment was certainly not intended to spark yet another debate on EH&SS. Those never accomplish anything. I only wished to submit my thoughts from personal experience.

    dkd - I don’t discount the fact that obviously you’ve had some kind of bad experience. But even if I don’t know the “real” Ernie, I DO know a number of people who’ve known him long enough and well enough to see his true character…and I am more inclined to trust their word than comments on the internet.

    Jennifer - to your last question, I’m just as lost as you…my advice is meet EH for yourself and draw your own conclusion. :)

    Also, the name change happened around the time SS signed with Gaither, which was at least a YEAR after Garry & Shane left. Besides being a suggestion from Gaither, part of it had to do with another group with a similar name (I can’t remember exactly what it was) that didn’t wish to sell the rights, so it needed to be changed one way or another.

  27. Lacey wrote:

    Ya know, In My Opinion… SG MIGHT have been better in the 50’s & 60’s, but if all of today’s SG sounded like that I wouldn’t want to listen to it! There are several singers from back then (that every seems to think were just all that and a bag of chips) that I seriously can only handle listening to for a song or two before I want to run screaming for a pillow to stop the torture to my ears. But then, there are a lot of singers from now that I feel the same way about! The same goes for “classy” looking clothing and hairstyles!

  28. Lacey wrote:

    (that everyONE seems to think were just all that and a bag of chips)
    OOPSIE! :)

  29. dkd wrote:

    Charles89…I can assure you that the above post’s are neither Garry or Shane, nor were they endorsed by either of them, you should not comment on things that you know nothing about!

  30. bob64 wrote:

    i think dkd stands for “dont know diddily” :)

  31. dkd wrote:

    bob64, Maybe so…

  32. DM wrote:

    Did Garry Jones get along with Gold City?