On endings

Kyle Boreing digs up the stuff of gospel music folklore: a youtube clip of the Cathedrals at the Dove Awards with their shortlived tenor, Kurt Young (Boreing explains the history and has some good commentary on the video). No one really remembers Kurt Young, and yet everyone seems to remember that legendary ending at the Doves. (Although it’s so catastrophically bad, some people may have repressed the memory of it … I emailed this clip to a friend of mine and he emailed back and said: “OMG I was there that night but had forgotten how truly horrible it was!”) I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t help laughing and cringing simultaneously when I got to the ending myself. Gosh, it IS bad … in that way you can’t resist replaying and enduring again.

At the risk of ruining some good ole fashioned voyeurism and schadenfreude with pedantry, once I stopped laughing, I was struck by how much George and Glenn oversell the song. I mean, they’re just oversinging so much of the time, especially George on the verses. I know the Doves were a big deal at that time, and I know the Cats were still on their way up at this point, and so were taking nothing for granted. But still …

Compare the Doves clip from their version of the same song at the Farewell concert a decade or so later. The farewell George is so much more self-possessed and in control, letting understatement and nuance do what Dove Awards George tried to achieve through a kind of melodic yelping and barking.

I note all this as much for my own edification as anything else. I’m a huge admirer of what the Cats achieved artistically and professionally and I think sometimes it leads me to romanticize them into these paragons of constant musical perfection. And so we find another use for youtube: demythologizing the past.

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  1. You Tube clips « Coomer Cove on 30 Jan 2008 at 4:24 pm

    […] beat me to one of the clips, the Dove Awards performance of the Cathedrals with tenor Kurt Young.  A Very Fine Line also has a some comments about the […]

Comments

  1. Glen Asbury wrote:

    We know or have heard at least a whisper here and there in recent years about every former member of the Cathedrals….except Kurt Young. Surely the readership of this blog is of sufficient size that there must be someone who knows him? His brief tenure was nearly 20 years ago by now….where did Kurt’s career take him after that?

  2. Tom wrote:

    I was there that night as well, and I had also forgotten about that performance until I saw the video again. I was more of a ccm fan at the time (and I was at GMA because I was a dj at a ccm station), but I was also a fan of the Cathedrals and I remember the cringes I felt that night, especially since I was sitting next to friends from the radio station who were decidedly not sg fans.

    I think Glen (#1) is on to something with the question of “whatever happened to Kurt Young” . . . as it seems that Glen Payne and George Younce forgot about him pretty quickly as well. Just last week I was glancing again through their 1998 book detailing the Cathedrals’ history, and after reading this post I didn’t remember having seen any mention of Kurt. I pulled the book back out just now to doublecheck, and in their account, George and Glen jump straight from Danny to Ernie (p. 207).

  3. Brandon Shreve wrote:

    It’s a shame he didn’t quite hit that note, cause everyone else was flawless on that ending. I was watching and totally forgot that I was listening for a bad ending. And then, there it was. Ack! But I think I can speak for all singers when I say “we’ve all been there a time or two”.

  4. natesings wrote:

    How long was he actually with The Cathedrals?

  5. Radioguy wrote:

    Less than 6 months if my memory serves me correctly. Poor guy. To be invited to join a top group like the Cathedrals and then be best remembered for that night. I had to chuckle and cringe at the same time when I watched that, however I do feel for the guy. I would hope that Glen and George didn’t mention Kurt in their book to spare him further embarrassment. Now with things like youtube, it gets rehashed time and time again. I’ve also read on other message boards that he was having a hard time to keep up vocally because of the rigourous schedule of the Cathedrals. The guys loved his voice, but the high notes required for the Cathedrals and the schedule they were keeping was taking it’s toll. Again I feel for the guy. I do know he returned to Priority after the Cathedrals, but after that I don’t know what ever happened to him.

  6. FormerDJ wrote:

    I remember sitting at home, watching the Doves that night and being so excited that the Cats were on. We had just seen them with Kurt Young a short time before and he had done great. Wow! What a difference a night makes. I wonder if the house mix was different than the TV mix. Perhaps those sitting in the audience didn’t hear all Kurt through the song and were not as struck in the face with the ending.

    I believe he was only with the group for a few months.

  7. Tony Watson wrote:

    Kurt was only with the Cathedrals a few months, from like January to April of 1990, I believe. His last note sung with the group was on the Dove Awards. Story goes he was great in rehearsal but consistently had trouble in concert - perhaps it was the hard driving songs that Funderburk had sung so well that didn’t fit his voice. He was a good sounding tenor. Mark Trammell had produced an album for Priority, Kurt’s previous group and I’m sure this is where the Cathedrals first became aware of him.

    Kurt ended up back with Priority for a while, but I don’t know how long. Priority I believe started out as a trio but by the time Kurt had joined the Cathedrals, they had been a quartet for a while, enough to record an album at least.

  8. Radioguy wrote:

    I’ve read elsewhere it was Mark who recommended him to Glen and George and that Mark felt very bad about things not working out. I have a Priority album with Kurt on it. The name of the album escapes me right now, but it had My Redeemer Lives on it as well as Holy Holy Holy and Jesus is a Friend of Mine. It was done on Homeland Records.

  9. jgurnett wrote:

    Ouch. I can’t help but STILL feel bad for the guy. At the event you most want to bring it, he loses it. How humiliating that must have felt.

  10. Kyle wrote:

    You could just tell from that video that Mark knew exactly what was happening with Kurt and was trying his best to reassure him. Just as Kurt’s voice began to give out, Mark gave him a quick glance and a pat on the back, which in a matter of seconds showed just how well-aware they were of what was going on (although to their credit, they didn’t let it come across in their performance).

  11. Videoguy wrote:

    Ok, let’s all head over to

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=un_LyIUxnKA&feature=user

    and allow Mr. Young to redeem himself. (It’s worth the visit just for Glen’s butter-smooth vocal on this live performance.)

    Thank you, volscot, for posting these treasures.

  12. Ben Harris wrote:

    I have heard the clip too, and it is bad. However, I do think we look back on some of the greats of the day as if they could do no wrong musically. Thats just not so. We are currently working on a 16 song tribute to my favorite group of all time, The Statesmen. As we set down to write charts for the songs we selected, we found many instances where the vocals were singing a different chord than the “band” was playing. And speaking of the band, whoever was playing upright bass on some of this stuff had no clue. He was off more than on, song after song. That said, The Statesmen did, without a doubt, define what a SG quartet should and could be. Their harmonies, arrangements, and stage presence was a sight to behold. We are doing this tribute for several reasons, one being we thank we owe a debt to those who paved the way. And of course, we think it will be a good seller on the table, and might offset our high fuel costs. We have also been asked countless times to do such a project, and now after many occassions of bantering the idea around, it is becoming a reality. But the reality is, even my beloved Statesmen were not beyond making musical misstakes.

  13. volscot wrote:

    It was my video that Kyle embedded in his blog. You can click on my user name to see more that I’ve posted.

    I concur with all of the comments above about Kurt. I didn’t post the video to further embarass him, but to just put it out there since a lot of people had heard about it but never seen it. It is a part of SG history, although not necessarily flattering.

    I believe two things combined to lead to Kurt’s short tenure. One was the Cats schedule that Radioguy mentioned above in #5. The other was that he followed Danny Funderburk. Danny was more of a power tenor and the Cats were still staging songs like “I’ve Just Started Living” and “Somebody Touched Me” when Kurt joined. He was more of a silky smooth tenor and these songs didn’t fit his style. I’ve got the Priority cassette with Kurt that Radioguy mentioned in #8 and also another of their projects that features him. He sounds very good on both of them. I also saw the Cats with Kurt in concert once and he did very well on his “listen to our new tenor” feature, which was a hymn that I don’t recall right now. I believe he would have been more successful had he followed Kirk Talley instead of Danny, because their vocal styles weren’t as diparate.

    Scot Eaves

  14. Chuck Stevens wrote:

    I was watching that night as well, i used to have it on VHS. I could not believe my ears when it went down. I have often thought about that, now with Youtube we can relive it all over again. I used to see him in Bartlesville Okla. after that from time to time, he was living there i think. He had a great voice. I remember seeing him with the Cathedrals in Tulsa Just before the Dove awrards. The next time i saw the Cathedrals, they had Ernie singing.

  15. JM wrote:

    It’s amazing to understand what wonderfully fragile creatures God has made! I don’t recall this incarnation of the Cathedrals; but, I’m sure the young man in question had/has a wonderful voice. For some reason, he “met his Waterloo” at the Dove Awards. Bless his heart. On the other hand, maybe this is a good case that illustrates a point often visited on this site; namely, when artists leave or are asked to leave a group. I understand that our “lower nature’s” would like to be titilated by the prospect of some moral indescretion or a battle for group control or getting squeezed out by low pay by the owners. However, most often, there are good, valid reasons why an artist leaves a group. He or she just doesn’t blend with the group (this can be musically, life style wise or attitude wise). They may reach a certain crossroad, where they feel a different sense of direction. It may be maturity or immaturity; egotism or self-sacrifice; a calling or a perception of urgency. Each tale has its own reasons and its own logic. Even now, some are imagining Glen and George telling this young man he’s fired. We don’t know that. He might have left on his own. Frankly, it’s none of our business! However, what is our business is that we should have enough empathy and a sense of Charity that we can appreciate how the young man felt that night. Yes; the Cathedrals went on to bigger and better things. I trust that Kurt has also experienced great things from God since that unfortunate night. Remember this: he did his best; no lives were lost; the world continued to turn. The Baseball Hall of Fame is largely comprised of players who struck out 7 of 10 times in their careers. To all those who’s voices have cracked, have split open their pants on stage or knocked over their sound system, God bless!

  16. Faith wrote:

    Oh my gosh, I remember that night…my whole family flinched and went, “What was THAT??!?!?” Poor guy.
    I heard that George swore at him after the performance and told him that he’d never sing with them again.

  17. Radioguy wrote:

    Amen to everything JM said.

  18. jb wrote:

    Faith: I can’t believe you would “spread” a comment like that. I knew George and served him meals in my home. I do not believe that statement. George had more heart than any man I know and a great wealth of “tact”. He may have let him go, but, I can guarantee he did it with tact.

  19. Faith wrote:

    Okay, jb, okay…whatever you say.
    “Tact” meaning, like, nepotism? Whatever.

  20. Oldtimer wrote:

    Harsh, Faith - unduly harsh.

  21. Dave wrote:

    Well , i have a vhs video of one of the SGMA awards videos , and the Kingsmen performed the song..”You’re Not Alone. It was right after Jerry Martin had joined them, and on the last verse of Youre Not Alone, Jerry’s voice cracked. It was almost the same as the Kurt Young incident.

  22. BUICK wrote:

    Kurt Young wasn’t the last. I’ve witnessed Michael English, Rick Strickland and a tenor with the Kingdom Heirs all do the same thing on the stage of the NQC. Yet they are not defined by their worst moments (even if they were on a big stage).

    Bill Buckner was a fantastic baseball player (in the outfield and at 1st base) for over 20 years. But most people remember him for one error in the bottom of the tenth inning in game six of the 1986 World Series. I just think it is a shame for a man’s career to be defined by a mistake. That’s all.

  23. BUICK wrote:

    Faith #19 - nepotism? If I’m not mistaken, George did not hire his son-in-law to sing tenor. Ernie ended up dating the boss’ daughter and then marrying her. In fact, I don’t believe Ernie had even met George’s daughter when he began singing with the Cats.

  24. deedee wrote:

    Faith, in regards to nepotism, Ernie became involved with George’s daughter after he came with the group I believe. I’m not an Ernie fan and I agree he may have STAYED with the group because of his connection with George but that wasn’t why he was hired.

    As for what George did or did not say to Kurt, I wasn’t there, I don’t know. I was around George a lot in their earlier years and one thing I do know is he was human. He was a fine man make no mistake about it. But he was also human, so in the heat of the moment, he may have said something in haste, but then most of us have done that I’m afraid.

    If he did, is that any worse than posting something you ‘heard’ in an open forum for folks to take as fact whether it is or not?

  25. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #16: I agree with what others have said: I seriously doubt it. George Younce was a great guy, and tactful as well.

  26. antipathy wrote:

    Everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then. Kurt’s just happened to be in front of a large audience and camera’s.

  27. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    I appreciate Voscott for posting both videos on youtube. I had never had a chance to hear Kurt Young before, but I had heard about his Dove Awards moment and that he did not stay with the Cats for very long. One of my friends during my college days went to a Cats concert when Kurt was with the group and said that he thought it Kurt did okay when I asked about the new tenor. He admitted that he was not the same style of tenor as Danny Funderburke.

    This past week I have been listening to a live recording of the Cats from the 70s when Roy Tremble was the tenor. I have been singing along with the recording. I am a second tenor and can hit most of the notes he hits. He had a high tone to his voice but did not sing extremely high. If Kurt had followed someone like Roy he would have been able to fit in very well. Danny was such a powerful tenor. Even Ernie does not have the power that Danny possesses. However, I do feel that Danny sang too hard. I heard the Cats at an outdoor singing in Southeast Mississippi around 1989 and was concerned then about Danny singing so hard.

    It seems that Kurt was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hate that he seems to have been defined by his Dove Awards moment. If the sound man had mixed the sound a little better Kurt’s mistake would not have been quite so noticeable. The sound man had him turned up far above the other singers. On the other hand, Kurt did a great job of blending on the Depths of the Sea song.

  28. JLP wrote:

    Buick- I tried to contact you on another thread…I am greatly interested in further discussing with you your excellent treatise on worship…

    Please email me at

    jlparks@yourinter.net

    Thanks. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  29. BUICK wrote:

    JLP, I hadn’t checked that other thread for a few days because I assumed it was ended. Sorry!

    I have sent you an e-mail so we can continue this privately. I am posting this so others will know I have followed up with you.

  30. Radioguy wrote:

    Something I just realized. Watch Ernie when they do This Old House. He really holds the mike along ways away at the ending at first bringing it gradually in. Had Kurt done this, no one may have even noticed the mistake.

  31. Faith wrote:

    Okay, okay, I apologize. I wasn’t there, so I shouldn’t have commented.

    I guess I was under the impression that this site is all about opinions, speculation and hearsay. Believe me, I wouldn’t have written what I did if a VERY reliable source hadn’t told me that, but again, I DO apologize.

  32. deedee wrote:

    Faith, you can post whatever you like on this site and if the moderator doesn’t censor then it’s fair game. But my question wasn’t about whether you could post. I just asked in the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ category which is the most damaging or harmful - the possible words said in frustration and/or anger by an artist or repeating that account as fact for the world to read.

    If George did say something he shouldn’t (and as a human most of us have at one time or another) was that as bad or worse to repeating it. The old saying a about ‘glass houses’ comes to mind.

  33. Country Too! wrote:

    I watched some award show rescently that had Rascal Flatts singing with Jamie Foxx. The Tenor-Lead singer with Rascal Flatts mutilated the song (everyone has bad nights). Wonder if he lost any fans or was scared of loosing his job. I doubt it. Jamie Foxx woar it out (in a very good way i might add). Just thinking out loud!

  34. Nnnnnn aaaaa wrote:

    I know Kurt, I’ve known Kurt for 25yrs, and he lives less then 3 miles from my home, I still talk and see people that sang with him And this is not talked about. I was told in practice that note was to high for him, and he could hit it on good days but asking the cats to bring it down was ignored. Kurt had called that night and was struggling with a cold and knew it was going to be a struggle, from what I understand it was brought to their attention, the cats still today are a big deal and I’m sure the pressure of just that had some effect. Just like a big brother saying “don’t worry u will be okay” it’s not like u can call in sick or move the awards to another night, he has suffered enough with this night, his whole path in life changed, full passion of wanting to be what he thought he was called to be , but in my opinion with the wrong group for him, but what do u do turn down to sing with the cats, I doubt anyone would of, u just try to do ur best. No one would listen the day before or the morning before. I think today he would admit it was for the best, Kurt has excelled in his life and new profession now of 20 or more yrs, as a pastor and a life changer bring the message to young and old in tulsa ok, he still sings from time to time and people come to hear, he is a very kind hearted and sincere person, he has been on the phone with me many nights helping, listening, coaching me thru any life struggles. I thank god for him,! He is still around and still in the ministry nothing ever changed in his relationship in the lord except maturity in christ and his call.
    Thanks for reading, be blessed,
    Love u Kurt/Cindy and kids.

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