Quote of the day

In responding to my Harmony Honors post and the ensuing discussion, one of my favorite readers, CVH, includes this wonderful story and correlative conclusion.

I remember being at the CMA (Christian Booksellers Association) convention in 1976 when Benson hosted a concert one night and they trotted out all the top artists on their roster then. Bob Benson was the M.C. In his gentle, self-deprecating way, he started things off by saying something to the effect that if a speaker blew up or a light fell on somebody they’d “know they were at something Benson put together.”

Nothing blew up or fell down and the concert was decidedly marginal, but I’m sure the mom and pop bookstore owners from Bozeman, MT were thrilled to hear Paul Downing ingest his mic while trying to hit a low F.

Who knows what the point of these things really is? You can’t rely on the southern gospel fans to demand higher quality; a certain percentage would show up for Uncle Flapjack playing “I Saw The Light” on his musical saw. The standards have to be set at the top, in the organizations, promoters and groups that are the hub of the southern gospel music business. Until that happens, stuff like this will be par for the course.

There’s a lot of other good stuff in CVH’s full comment. Read the whole thing.

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  1. Shawn wrote:

    Bravo! While a student at Stamps-Baxter School of Music, one of my instructors was the ever-witty Eugene McCammon, former writer for the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. He was full of great quotes, and on the subject of mediocrity in SG music, he said, “Perhaps instead of gospel music, we should be studying the fans…therein lies the problem!” CVH’s comment is right on–most fans will accept mediocrity.

  2. irishlad wrote:

    Uh-huh?I always thought P.D. was a superlative bass, alough Larry Ford once told me he (P.D.) had pitch issues when they both sang with the Dixie Echoes. That would be pre Ken Turner of course.

  3. Chris wrote:

    Actually, it’s Abe Lincoln that plays the musical saw….at least at NQC.

  4. Faith wrote:

    I have listened to SG my whole life, along with MANY other styles of music. I am thankful that I was exposed to so many different genres, and can truly appreciate nearly every kind of music (except rap, which I suppose I could argue is NOT music). With this lifelong listening experience, I think I can honestly say that SG is the only style of music where you can SUCK and still somehow make a living.

    Here me out. Many of us have been at church and some horrible family group trots out with some 10-year-old kid on the piano, a 14-year-old kid on a violin/guitar/saxophone/oboe/whatever who sounds like he/she just started playing that morning, and a mom and pop who can’t really sing, never mind harmonize, and yet…somehow, they go from church to church, earning a living. Even more unbelievably, people buy their CDs and cassettes (yes, I said cassettes) and the group gets - gulp! - invited back to the church!

    Who buys these crappy recordings? SG listeners - meaning the die-hard folks who usually don’t listen to anything else - who are tone-deaf, music-illiterate churchies, who tolerate crappy music by saying “Well, ain’t that cute. And they are doing it for the Lord!” Never mind that it’s NOT cute. Never mind that God Almighty deserves better. (And before you all bite my head off, let me say this…we should all sing praises to God, no matter how bad we may sing. HOWEVER, I think that if you are going to “treat” an audience to your voice, you should have a decent one!)

    Like I said, I have listened to SG my whole life, but the past few years I have listened to it a lot less. Why? Because SG leaves so many unanswered questions. Like, why is crappy music tolerated in SG? Why doesn’t anyone have the guts to tell these groups, “Hey, we love you, but please don’t sing anymore”? How can these AWFUL groups make a living? Who ARE the people who buy all those cringe-worthy recordings, and why are they allowed to operate motor vehicles and telephones?

  5. cdguy wrote:

    Part of the problem is the parent, grandparent, friend, pastor, whatever, who lies to the child, telling him/her how great (s)he sings, and encourages that poor defenseless child to sing in front of the entire congregation. All the bluehairs tell that child how wonderful it was, how they’re so proud, and the child grows up and auditions for American Idol. Get’s sent home from the audition, and goes back to singing in church. But this time, (s)he has enough gumption to take the bad show on the road.

    Parents & grandparents: PLEASE QUIT LYING TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT THEIR MUSICAL ABILITIES. If they show true talent, get them lessons. If the teacher tells you the child is not talented, don’t just go find another teacher who’ll take your money. And don’t let them continue to make their “joyful noise” the special music on Sunday morning.

    As stated above, The Lord deserves better. Remember the quote: “Holy shoddy is still shoddy”.

  6. Radioguy wrote:

    My father is one of those people that buys those awful recordings and tells me how great they are. That stuff you listen to he says is just a bunch of hoopin and hollerin’. I cringe at what he listens to and he cringes at what I listen to.

  7. irishlad wrote:

    If u really want to get truely sick of sg(which i love by the way) go to you tube and listen to some local qt murdering a qt ‘classic’. Talk about depressing hence the reason why i’m very careful about the quality of the group, song selection etc when i let the uninitiated listen to it.Even some of my closest friends think stuff the top groups put out are corny at best and totally crap at worst.

  8. jb wrote:

    I think it’s kinda like the old saying “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. What I think is beautiful, someone else doesn’t, and what I think sounds bad, might sound good to someone else. I don’t think I have any right, whatsoever,to tell someone they can’t sing or carry a tune. When it comes to GOD, he looks on the heart. He’s looking for a willing vessel. I agree that there are people who need to just sing in the shower, but, my point is that it is not up to me to be that judge.

  9. Cherokeedokee wrote:

    There is an old American Indian phrase that sums up the crux of the situation.

    In Spur A Shuns Muh Came Eees

  10. AnnD wrote:

    Wayelllll, responding to #2, PD did shave some pitches from time to time, is that a rarity in gospel music???? lol lol lol…is that all Larry had to say about his singing?? :). By the way, they didn’t sing with the Dixie Echoes together…Larry traveled with the Downings for a few months in the early days of the group, getting some exposure..we just loved his voice. Shall I tell some Larry Ford stories??? lol. I’ll bet he’s gonna die to find out somebody passed along his PD comment :)

  11. Norm Graham wrote:

    Wow. You know this site has gone big time when Ann Downing is posting. I’d love for her to tell some Larry Ford stories. Enjoyed the Downings in the 70s especially Ann and Joy but was disappointed to find out at a gospel reunion in the 90s that both of them were taller than me.

  12. AnnD wrote:

    Hey Norm,

    If Joy is taller than you are that’s short :)….sorry!! lol. Thanks for the compliment, however. And if you enjoyed the Downings in the 70’s you may wanna know that next week I’m releasing a Downings 2-cd set…the Love Beyond Compare and Greater albums. Am I being shameless in pluggin??????? :). Is there a charge for that?????

  13. irishlad wrote:

    I never thought i’d hook as big a fish as A.D! You will also notice, Ann,i had nothing but praise for Paul, he was great. I first heard the Downings in the seventies on an album imported from the States, Paul took the lead on a song ‘Are you tired of the way the world is…’ In those days i took JD as the bass singers bench mark, however there was just something spectacular about Paul on that song, as already said superlative. In closing Larry made that remark during a personal discussion way back in ‘96. Sorry if i caused any offense by bringing it up.

  14. Radioguy wrote:

    Paul may have been a little off pitch at times, but I still love to hear him sing. The texture of his voice was fantastic.

  15. burt wrote:

    I honestly think mediocrity is accepted in SG because of two major issues. One is the “Sangin’ for the Lord” syndrome in which venues allow substandard “talent” because said “talent” is percieved to be “doing this for the Lord”. I think many churches/people view those who have spent the time developing their abilities to a high standard to equal arrogance, showiness, etc. Those with real talent are often rejected because somehow the churches percieve that the attention is shifted away from God and placed on the performer.

    The second major cause of mediocrity in SG is MONEY. SG is rooted in rural lifestyle, small country church America. SG (other than Gaither) does not pack out civic centers around the country as it did in its heyday. What’s left? We have to book date after date in the Backyard Bapticostal Church just to survive. These church’s are not willing (but they are able) to pay at least a $500 dollar flat fee. They do need someone to perform at their annual Homecoming so instead of Gold City…they book the Singing Singers from right down the road for a $50 love offering.

    This whole thing is a self-serving way of justifying the tight-wad subculture of Christianity. Yeah…they’re singin for the Lord so…they’ll do it for fifty bucks???

  16. burt wrote:

    I agree totally with #7. We’ve got to raise the bar in quality first before we’re able to attract more fans.

  17. quartet-man wrote:

    I love the Downing’s work on the live version of the Oak Ridge Boys King Jesus and It’s My Desire, but I am sure there is a lot more I am forgetting. They had a great group back then and I am glad Ann is still with it. I also enjoyed her on the Speer’s 70th. Anniversary video.

  18. Faith wrote:

    Burt and cdguy, you are both right on.

    Why do people tell kids that they sing great? Because they don’t want to break the kid’s heart. Well, maybe it’s cute when they are 5…but not when they are 15 and still can’t sing. Anybody ever heard of the Hilton family from Canada? AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUL! When the kids were young, maybe they were cute…but now, watching these grown “kids” holler and screech along with their parents (who also can’t sing) is too horrible for words.

    Also, right about the money issue. These tenth-tier groups are willing to travel three days for a pathetic “love offering”…something that the big groups can’t and won’t do. But then, doesn’t this also speak volumes about the ego of these awful performers? “I just hafta sing”…even though they really can’t, and no one else wants them?

  19. Butch wrote:

    Let me give you all a little music economics 101; its called the law of supply and demand. It sounds like some of you are a bunch of music socialists who think you need to dictate what is acceptable or quality and what isn’t. As long as there is a demand for the local yocal singing group, we will sing-and saints will be blessed. The elitist musical expert will continue to look down his nose upon us with disdain. God will be glorified; I’ll bet he even like it.

  20. AnnD wrote:

    Hey thanks to all of you….I’m glad I posted now :). I’m kiddin’…but hope you aren’t lol.

    Irishlad, I don’t know who you thought might be offended, I sure wasn’t. However, I’m wondering if Larry brought this up to you in a “personal” conversation, maybe it is a little risky to post it here??? :).

    By the way…at the risk of again shamelessly pluggin’, I re-recorded “Are You Tired?” at Anthony Burger’s request a few years ago, using the original 1970 track, including Downings and sang along with Paul…one of my fav things to have ever done….

  21. quartet-man wrote:

    I see all this talk about p.d., p.d. seems to show up a lot on songwriter credits on older songs. ;)

  22. cdguy wrote:

    Ann, thanks for keeping the older material coming back on cd. There’s a lot of great music there that needs to be heard by a new generation.

    You don’t know me, but I was fan from your days with the Speer Family (I was just a kid). When you left to form the Downings, I wasn’t initially aware, until some friends were discussing favorite singers, and one mentioned his favorite bass — Paul Downing. I said, “who?”. He then played me a record.

    I loved every incarnation of the group. And still think those recordings were perhaps the best sg of the day — and they’ve stood the test of time.

    We used to go to church with you several years ago, at Nashville First Nazarene, and always appreciated your warm smile.

    Keep it up!

  23. Leebob wrote:

    Faith #18 - I am TOTALLY on board with you on the kids thing. First and foremost they are singing about things they know not, and then not very well. A bit over the top with the name dropping but I hear ya.

    We have the same problem in SG for years that the school system has now…we are afraid of competition. Somehow we feel that the result to the one who loses out is low self-esteem. I have felt for years, even when I was in my early teens, that the cutesiness of a 10 year old singing “I’m Too Near My heavenly Home” was WAY overblown due to the fact that a 10 year old has no clue about what is waiting in heaven and she HASN’T been living her whole life for Jesus. Throw in the off key part and I may as well not have gone to church that day because somebody, namely a parent trying to live vicariously through their child, didn’t think the song through. It would be like having a counselor for you and your wife that has been divorced and remarried 4 or 5 times. Somewhere, practical application should take place.

    I see it nearly every week that a child with an under developed voice not quite getting to the pitch trying to be Ernie Haas, the crowd applauding the attempt, and the ensuing big head having trouble getting out the door. He actually has a decent voice that given the proper time and training could be very good yet he will probably never have a chance until he gets a dose of reality.

    Yes the fans put up with it and those who actually care to try to put together something worthwhile are forced to sit and listen during an “open-mic” event. Aaaarrrrgggghh!!!!

  24. Tim wrote:

    #12) I remember the Downing albums you mentioned. I worked at a radio station part time in the late 70’s, and still remember playing those songs.

  25. Top that story wrote:

    I can top your 10-year-old. Several years ago at a Wilburns concert, a local 9-or 10-year old had the pure nerve to get up in front of Elaine Wilburn and sing “That’s My Boy.” If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s written as Mary talking about Jesus, and is completely believable from someone like Elaine. But, oh how I wanted to smack that kid!

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