Ivan Parker and other thoughts

The extended-commercial version of Gaither’s Best of Ivan Parker was on the Jesus channel this evening, so I watched a bit of it. I confess that most southern gospel soloists leave me cold. I mean, isn’t one of the main points of this music the (useful fiction of) live harmony? If I wanted to hear somebody sing with a tape, I could just go down to Larry Parrots karaoke night twice a week … with the added bonus that Sue Dodge and Jessy Dixon probably won’t be there.

Ok, Ivan Parker is not your average karaoke singer, but we knew that long before he launched off on his own. No, his success as a soloist says more about the southern gospel cult of nostalgic personality (in this case, nostalgia for the memory of a certain formation of Gold City ca 1990) and Parker’s shrewdness as a bidnessman than it does about his musical ability per se. Which is to say, the most entertaining part of his Best-of video might be watching his hairpiece change … and yet stay eerily the same.

Blah blah blah … I saw somewhere that Parker will be featured on Janet Paschal’s next cd, on which she will cover old Nelons tunes. Woohoo for Nelons nostalgia. Seriously.

It’s also smart of everyone involved to capitalize on Parker’s and Paschal’s Gaither fame and position them as the next generation of Homecoming friends worthy of the wingback chairs. And/but surely Kelly Nelon will be included on this recording, right? I mean, she’s a Vine artist too. And I think all the Nelonites out there would respond enthusiastically. Plus, Vine obviously already knows the value of creatively combining leading ladies of gospel music. So more girl power, I say.

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  1. matt wrote:

    Hairpiece………….I love it!!!

  2. matt wrote:

    Seriously, though, what kind of living do SG soloists make?? I don’t know……I think Ivan should get back in a quartet. I wouldn’t pay to hear him solo, but in a good quartet, I would. The only soloist I might pay to hear is Danny Funderburk.

    By the way, does anybody know if Danny F. is still singing? I heard he had health problems.

  3. Anonymity wrote:

    It’d be cool if they had Paschal,Nelon,and Rodney Swain for a little trio…

  4. Brandon S wrote:

    I’m pretty positive Ivan is making way more as a soloist than he could get from pretty much any group out there. In fact I’d be willing he say he gets more for a gig than a few major groups does. That plus the fact that Gaither is taking care of him pretty much guarantees we’ll never see him in a group again.

    If they have built a name for themselves by traveling with a well liked group for a few years, a soloist can actually do pretty well. It’s not usually as satisfying as traveling with a good group though. I know of quite a few soloists who would love to be with a group again, but simply can’t afford it. The solo road isn’t always as hard as it’s made out to be.

  5. quartet-man wrote:

    I too am not a soloist person in general. There are a few in other genres, but I am not sure I can think of much in SG. I do like Michael English (not SG anymore), but even prefer him in a group.

    Speaking of Ivan, Danny and Michael, these three were in the best formations of the Singing Americans. Strickland was good in there too, but the other three are my favorites. As mentioned before, Strickland was great in The Sound. That first album was classy. That particular version of the group was too short lived. To my knowledge they might have only done one lp. Does anyone else know?

  6. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #2: Yes, Danny still sings. I heard him talking to someone at a recent Cathedrals Remembered concert and he said he still travels pretty regularly.

  7. matt wrote:

    Brandon S, maybe you are right. I know Ivan is well established. Maybe the solo road is the better route for the artist, financially. For myself, I’m all for quartets.

    Speaking of the Cathedrals, of any year, I would pay to hear Glen or George sing solo. And that is only because of who they were, and the stories they would tell. Otherwise, I wouldn’t pay to hear any SG male soloist,( besides Danny F, and maybe Mark T.). In a good quartet, though, it works, and my wallet opens up. :-))) Same for L5 or SSQ, or any other quartet. I would pay to hear the whole group. As Avery said, the harmony is essential to SG music. Even if the quartet sings with tracks, I find it more enjoyable than listening to 1 voice all night with tracks.
    Secular music is different, somehow. I would cough up to hear Elton John, or Billy Joel, or Rod Stewart, and others. The genre is decidedly male soloist, and they as far as I’ve heard, don’t use tracks!!!

  8. singin4jehovah wrote:

    Danny IS still singing. You can find his contact information on www.dannyfunderburk.net.

  9. Brett wrote:

    I think adding Kelly Nelon to the Janet cd would be awesome. I would love for Sherri, Karen Peck & Kelly Nelon to record again as they did on Karen Peck’s 2nd solo release.

  10. Wondering? wrote:

    #2 - What do sgm soloists earn? I know more than enough of them to be able to tell you that it’s substantially more in many instances, than almost anyone in a quartet will ever earn, with a very few exceptions. But think about it - one person has to travel alone; one person shares in the product sales, no one owns their “group”, who will thus earn more than what he/she pays the help. It’s a lonelier life, perhaps, but there are real benefits. Maybe many readers of this blog prefer a group sound, but there is a real contingent out there who prefer soloists. Almost every other genre of music features one “star” rather than a group. I’d guarantee that if you went to a full concert featuring a good soloist, you might change your mind a bit. There isn’t as much going on visually as there is with a group, of course, and there’s one featured voice. The soloist has no one else to fall back on when they’re having a tough night, no one to look at when they make a mistake. It’s them and their personality on stage, just like it mostly is in any other musical genre. By the end of 2 hours, a soloist feels like they’ve just worked a 12-hour day. In my mind, they deserve to be a whole lot better compensated than anyone who’s
    part of a group. Just my take on it.

    And hey - think of this: the prominent soloists today were once part of groups. Janet Paschal, Larry Ford, Ivan Parker, Mark Bishop, Mark Lowry, etc. With the success they’ve had as soloists, any group would love to hire them, yet none of them ever seem to go back to an ensemble setting. Ever wonder why? Way too much of a pay cut. It might be the best-kept secret in sgm.

  11. Leebob wrote:

    Speaking as one who prefers group sounds, in years gone by there wasn’t a better concert and holder of an audience than Squire Parsons, group or solo. You would be at the end of the concert wondering where did the time go because you lost all sense of timing. That is when you know it was good. I think it was something about the Spirit of God and the fact that Squire wrote all of his music.

    I haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend a Mark bishop concert but I would venture to say that he could hold a person’s attention as well.

    I guess I have never gotten on the Ivan bandwagon. His voice is awesome but I always preferred him in a group setting.

    I have opinions about some singers who have seen better days and have simply worn out their voice from all the “power” singing. Back in the day vocal coaches were cringing when they would hear certain singers perform. (Names are left out to protect myself)

    I would probably pay to go see and hear Janet Paschal. She does have a beautiful voice and knows how to deliver a song.

    As for Mark Lowry, I would pay to hear him speak but not so much on the singing. He filled in nicely with GVB to give it the full sound with Phelps and Penrod and Gaither’s writing and arranging ability but I never have really been enamored with his voice.

  12. Southern Gospel Fan wrote:

    For the most part I to prefer a Quartet to a Soloist.
    That said I have to tell you I go to at least 3 Ivan Parker Solo concerts a year and I would not wish him back in a group.
    You learn so much more about him as a Family Man and as a Servant of God.
    not only do you have that great voice he is very comical when he is on stage alone.
    I have seen him mess up on occasions and he laughed harder than the audience and then carried on as though nothing had happended.
    I would bet if any of you would spend the money which is less by the way than say a group of 2 or three,uou would go again.
    Try it you just might be surprised.

  13. Derek wrote:

    A couple of comments…

    1. Why would Ivan want to go back to a group/quartet? As previously noted, more money for him as a soloist…plus when you’re wife is your booking agent, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get the better-paying gigs!

    2. I have never seen Mark Bishop as a soloist and, honestly, I don’t think I want to. When I saw the Bishops in concert, Mark looked (on stage) as if he would have rather been elsewhere. Maybe he wasn’t feeling well that particular night, or had other troubles on his mind, but I believe you should give it your all when you stand before a paying crowd!

  14. Me wrote:

    I do know we’ll see an appearance by one former Nelon. Katy Peach is reported to be doing some singing on the new Paschal CD. Not the first one of Paschal’s she has contributed on.

  15. Brian wrote:

    Leebob and Derek,

    While not a big soloist fan either, I have had the opportunity to see Mark Bishop perform live. Leebob, he can certainly hold an audience. He is a great communicator. And Derek, you may be right, he may have had a bad night, or was feeling ill because I don’t know how someone can smile non stop for as long as he does. I have only seen him once but I was pleasently surprised. While I don’t know if I would go three or four times a year, it was quite enjoyable.

  16. quartet-man wrote:

    I like Lowry and within the context of the Vocal Band he did great. He has had some solo songs I like as well. However, I can’t think of any SG soloist and very few (if any) CCM soloist I like as soloists. Even great singers like Michael English, David Phelps, Ivan Parker etc. are much better in a group context.

  17. cynical one wrote:

    Matt and others — Would it be appropriate for me to ask you how much money YOU make? It’s nobody’s business how much money any gospel singer makes.

    If any singer is not making enough money singing, he/she will probably leave the road, and go into some other business or ministry. So, with that thought in mind, Ivan, Janet, and a few others in s/g are probably doing ok, or they would disappear from the radar. That’s probably all we need to know in that regard.

  18. IvanParkerFan wrote:

    I think the person who wrote this doesn’t really care about Ivan.They use blah blah and it just doesn’t look right.I know almost all about Ivan,his middle,age,you name it!It was rude to put that he has a hairpiece when you really know he doesn’t,joke or no joke,i respect Ivan with all my heart.He is my influence,I look up to him,and he is a blessing to me.I don’t like this article,only if you mean to write something with purpose,you write it,not just some blah mess!Ivan is WAY more than that.

  19. IvanParkerFan wrote:

    I meant middle name

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