On live introductions

An interesting rhetorical history could be written about the spoken-word introductions to live recordings in southern gospel. This first occurred to me listening to the introduction of Legacy 5 on their latest live project, Live in Music City. I don’t know who’s doing the introducing but it’s not very good – lacks gravitas and polish, and ends with a pregnant pause (“LEGACY ……………”) and a big fizzle (“five”). The Cathedrals Alive: Deep in the Heart of Texas has a memorable introduction, if only because the speaker sounds like he’s kicking off a NASCAR event, the way he bears down on and growls out the word “heart” in the closing phrase “deep in the HARDUH Texas!” There’s an old Goodmans live album recorded on New Year’s eve in the 50s that has an endearingly clumsy introduction that always makes me smile: the introducer’s voice sounds like someone who’s in a tuxedo for the first time and hasn’t quite figured out how people in coat tails speak. So earnest is he that the introduction ends with the carefully enunciated name of the song the Goodmans will now sing for you all here tonight: Thank God. I’m In. His. Care. One half expects him to conclude with, “Now please turn in your hymnals to page 324.”

My memory is not phonographic when it comes to live albums, so I’ll trust you all will fill in the gaps around me here, but I can still recall liking the introduction to the Hoppers Live in Greenville album. The mix has the right amount of reverb on the introducer to create a nice magnification of the group’s name … it lingers out in the air as “Steppin’ on the Clouds” strikes up and the crowd’s delighted response builds up behind the music.

And then there’s the Cats Live in Atlanta, I think it is, which records a response akin to a cult-following’s from the audience as the Cathedrals’ take the stage. I don’t remember a word of what was said in this intro nor in some of the old Blackwoods and Stamps live recordings with which I was enraptured in my youth. But how could I ever forget the undiluted euphoria these groups were able to extract seemingly effortelessly from their audiences just by walking on stage to the sound of a blocked chord or four trilling, thrilling bars of piano?

Someone said to me the other day that we are often left marked for life by the music that captivates us in our youth, and whatever it was that those crowds of enthralled Cats and Stamps and Blackwoods fans were clapping for and hooting at and whistling about, that experience of rapture and anticipation seeped into my growing bones and leeched into my spiritual DNA. Every piece of music I heard then and thenceforward seemed to matter only insofar as it succeeded or failed in rousing the fickle fan in me to a renewed encounter with “the sound of light” (though I wouldn’t know to call it by that name, which Don Cusic coined, for many years). If you own the right albums or have the right friends, you can still hear those long-ago crowds basking in that light, all these years later. And now I have joined them there.

The spoken introduction of live recording, then, (and who says it and how) really ought to be a matter of some considerable thought and practice, since it essentially serves as one main portal through which we gain access to (and preserve for posterity) the basic unit of the gospel music experience: the live performance of a song. And yet, it is possible to think and rehearse too much for these things, as this robs the live moment of its momentousness, and comes off sounding like our awkwardly tuxedoed friend on that new year’s eve in the 50s. The best introductions are those that recede into the background of what comes (in the best instances) gloriously and wonderfully next.

Email this Post

Comments

  1. Tom wrote:

    Legacy Five - Live in Music City? Sounds like Scott’s father-in-law Ken Davis.

  2. Tony Watson wrote:

    It’s definitely Ken Davis, Christian Comedian and Scott Fowler’s father-in-law. He is always on the program at Legacy Five’s Memorial Day and Labor Day Celebration events.

  3. KB wrote:

    INT. THEATER, NIGHT:

    BILL TRAYLOR - Ladies and gentlemen, from Stow, OH, the prestigious Cathedral Quartet!!

    Enter THE CATHEDRALS

    GEORGE YOUNCE - Are you glad to see Kirk Talley?

    [thunderous applause]

    How ’bout Mark Trammell?

    [more thunderous applause]

    How ’bout Roger Bennet?

    [more thunderous applause]

    How ’bout the ol’ man, Glen Payne?

    [thunderous applause grows even louder]

    GLEN PAYNE - And how ’bout George Younce? Give him a hand!

    [thunderous applause reaches peak]

    Cue opening bars of YOU CAN WALK ON THE WATER……

    What a wonderful album!!

  4. James Hales wrote:

    One of the most memorable intros was on the Goodmans 1971 “Wanted Live” album. Story goes that Ricky was trying to nail his bass drum to the floor to keep it from moving and didn’t realize the microphone was on. So the album starts with hammering noise and the emcee chimes in “We’re reinforcing the stage.” The crowd loves it and then he goes on to introduce the Happy Goodmans. Priceless!

  5. MM wrote:

    I have not heard many of the older live recordings. I do, however, have about every live album that the Cats did. George was a master showman. He knew what would get the crowd on their feet right away. One thing I notice with the Cats is that they always entered from off stage. Today, most groups are sitting on the front row, or they run in from the lobby just as they are introduced. The Cats made an event of their entrance, often including a group hug and some high 5’s. It was exciting. Listening to some of their live projects I noticed that “Camp Meeting Live” and “Live from Jacksonville” have the EXACT SAME intro. Sounds like the theatre announcer before Celine Dion’s show or something. Also, there is an old King’s Gold recording that sounds like someone is calling in the hogs rather than introducing a group. I believe the reason you don’t hear that response from crowds now is that groups aren’t looking at every aspect of their performance like George and Glen did. They knew how to get the crowd going from beginning to end. Watch their farewell video and see how they work a crowd of professional singers and sg artists. Who else could have kept that crowd on their feet all night?

  6. David wrote:

    There can’t be a discussion about live albums without talking about The Kingsmen, and I have two favorites. First, the Roy Acuff introduction from Stand Up at Opryland where he calls them The Statesmen by mistake, then after the laughter died down said “I apologize to the Statesmen!” Second and hands down the best one ever, is Rev. and Mrs J. Bazzell Mull introducing Chattanooga Live(and I dare say I’m not the only KMen fan who can quote this verbatim):

    We’re happy tonight to see this tremendous crowd, here at your Mull’s 19th Anniversary, ain’t that right, Mizz Mull?

    That’s right.

    And now we have The Mighty Kingsmen Quartet, from Asheville, North Carolina, The Kingsmen Quartet-hello!

  7. thomrawls wrote:

    i’m pretty sure that is Bill Traylor doing to Intro on the Cathedrals Deep in the Heart of Texas. and yes, he did it well.

    What about the Marvin Norcross intro of the Goodman’s in Hunstville, AL? Remember he talks about asking them to record for Canaan Records and then talks about them selling “one million Canaan records”. It was a good intro too.

    I also like what Rick Goodman did with the old Howard Goodman intro of “Thank God I’m in His Care” and used it to intro the song on the n the “Reunion” CD. He took a recording from 1951 of Howard saying “we’re here at the Wally Fowler All Night Gospel Singing on the very first Friday night of 1951 to sing our new song ‘ I Thank My God I;’m in His Care’ - then they take off on the new recording of the song. It was magical.

  8. chuck stevens wrote:

    I think most groups still enter from the wings. Unless they are in a church service where there is no backstage. Ronnie Hinson did a great intro for one of Gold City’s video’s back in the late 80’s, he knew how to bring on a group.

  9. Aaron Swain wrote:

    yupp, it’s ken davis introducing L5 on there, just watch the DVD

  10. ST wrote:

    Ronny Hinsons intro of the Mcgruders live album was a classic because all the cliches went with the theme of the album - I think the album was “Lift the Roof Off”.

    This brings up another interesting idea. Why not have a Singing News Fan Award for Favorite Emcee (meaning the emcee for the group). This position is one of the hardest on stage and can make or break a group. I have heard a lot groups I liked on tape but did not like live because the emcee could not line-up songs right or make their program flow. Hall of Famers for emcee is Jim Hammil and Ronny Hinson - different styles, but respectfully awesome. Personally, I would rather be nominated for favorite emcee rather than favorite singer. It’s a better catagory then favorite website. Favorite website is honoring the web designer not the group.

    It’s just a thought.

  11. James Hales wrote:

    The Hinsons did do a live album called “Lift the Roof Off”, but the recording you referred to on the McGruders was “Come Fly with the McGruders.”

  12. chuck stevens wrote:

    Come fly with the Mcgruders was a classic. And the intro from Ronnie was priceless. They had a great stage show, sad to see the live bands go by the way side.

  13. John Fulton wrote:

    Actually, the Live…Deep in the Heart of Texas was introduced by the associate pastor of Prestonwood, John West. I was there that night and even in the video on one of the audience scans. It was pure magic!

  14. CVH wrote:

    I know there are a lot of good sounding live album intros but most of my memories, at least from the 70’s, are bad. I’m referring to most of the Benson product (Heartwarming, Impact) in the 70’s. Otherwise great albums like the Oak Ridge Boys “Performance” and the Imperials “Gospel’s Alive and Well” and many more have terrible sounding intros. It’s as though they didn’t intend for the emcee’s comments to be kept intact. Rather, they’re unceremoniously chopped up which is particularly bad because the amount of reverb on the guy’s voice (between the PA and the house acoustics) makes the edit horrendously obvious. But back then I’m not sure they cared. Granted they were working with 8 or 16 track multitrack and 1/4″ masters but still…one of the better ones was on the Couriers’ album “Ovation” which came out on Tempo in 1976. It wasn’t overly flashy (like the group) but it fit well with what was (IMHO) one of the best live albums of that decade.

  15. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Live from Jacksonville wasn’t a real Cathedrals concert. The label pieced it together from various live concerts and studio recordings, and added reverb, applause, and jokes from other recordings.

    The Jacksonville project is not worthy of being called a Cathedrals project because, to put it bluntly, it’s fake.

  16. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    I’ve always liked the introduction to the Oak Ridge Boys live version of “King Jesus.” The announcer kept the group coming back for encores and calls them the “Mighty Oaks.” I love it! They were the Mighty Oaks during that era.

    There are some great Oaks gospel videos on YouTube. Check them out.

  17. miles wrote:

    One of the Greatest Intros to a song IMO was on the “Lift the Roof Off” album by the Hinson’s…when Ronnie introduced “Call Me Gone”…man I would have loved to have been there…I miss those type albums where everything is live from the start…

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked * Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

*

*