Early Janet Paschal

So early, in fact, she doesn’t really sound like Janet Paschal yet:

It’s not so very good, is it? The sound is all up in her nasal passages and the front of her face and mouth, flattened out into unpleasant straight tones and dipthonged to death. She’s singing entirely too hard. She’s often just plain out of tune.

There are hints of what’s to come, though - listen to the way she sings “below” in the second verse, around minute 1:33. She’s sung herself out of breath at the end of the phrase (of the myriad problems with her vocal style at this point, it’s aerobically inefficient). Just that little bit of a reduction in vocal steam pressure lightens the tone tremendously, and because she’s at the end of the phrase, she inflects the tone with a bit more brightness. It’s head-turning, that one little word, the way it stands out from among the other tones in the musical thought and shimmers with a kind of clarity that we’ve all become accustomed to.

It’s a good reminder of how selectively we recall the pre-history of a accomplished talent, and how even, or especially, the people who in their prime make it look the easiest really did have to work incredibly hard to achieve that ease of bearing and style (and say that as a hopeless partisan of Late Paschal). But mostly it’s just fun to time travel a bit. Thanks to JWS for sending it along.

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  1. Dexter wrote:

    But she was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L…so it didn’t really matter! Still is! She’s one of the greatest vocal stylists ever…

  2. Kyle wrote:

    Kinda sounds like she’s channeling Crystal Gayle….

  3. Carol wrote:

    This is why I keep coming to the site. I loved watching this. I hated feeling old, but loved being taken back. Thanks.

  4. Angie M wrote:

    I used to have a Nelons table projec with her singing this song…

  5. natesings wrote:

    Looks like she hasn’t aged much! Pretty lady.

  6. MityCats wrote:

    I’m not that old (37), but I remember loving to watch them on Sunday mornings. And I was tickled to no end when Gaither put out those “Best of Gospel Singing Jubilee” videos - bought every one of them - to relive those magical moments of waiting to leave for church and trying to sing along with them. I think Janet has just mellowed with age. On the Nelons “Reunion” video (one of my all-time favorites), I remember thinking how much her sound had changed. She’s as good now as she was then - just a little more experienced.

  7. Tad Kirkland wrote:

    Doug, you act like you’ve never heard early Nelon music…how unfortunate! By ‘82 on “One Step Closer”, her last record with Kelly and friends, you’ll actually hear her one step closer (cheesy pun intended) to what you hear now.
    What’s really important is how well she and Kelly represented Charlie’s Angels in SG. And I think Cheryl Ladd replaced Farrah Fawcett around the same time Karen Peck replaced Janet Paschal…not to mention the guy from CHiPS married Kelly and joined the group.

  8. 1 old fan wrote:

    Yes, she was pretty!!! Still is, too! I remember having a huge crush when she joined the LeFevres, lo those many years ago.

    As for nasal, most of the Nelons’ sopranos were nasal. I can’t help but think Rex and/or Kelly like(d) it that way.

  9. Brett wrote:

    Tad, You are just too funny. I never thought of Kelly, Janet, Jerry, & Karen in that way. What a neat perception.

    Kelly improved with her voice as well. When the Nelons got away from the country twangy sound, Kelly became more mellow and was less country sounding. Both of them sing better today than back then.

  10. Alan wrote:

    Great essay, and a wonderful look back. You nailed it on the way she sang that one word! Yes, shades of greatness to come. She was a beautiful and classy girl when she first came onto the scene, and is still a beautiful and classy lady. Her voice has mellowed, and she often sings in a lower register these days than she had to as The Nelons soprano. Through the years she’s become a master of phrasing too. One of your greatest essays, Doug, was entitled “Janet Paschal: Genius”, and I still agree with every word that you wrote. This was a neat flashback.

  11. Leebob wrote:

    Looks beautiful as usual….sounds like every soprano the Nelons ever had…perhaps a required sound and an acquired taste?

  12. Joe wrote:

    This post mirrors the one Doug wrote about Dean Hopper not too long ago. These 3 voices in question (Janet’s, Kelly’s, and Dean’s) were perfectly acceptable then; they are so much better now.

    Guess it’s just getting better with time!

    Same sweet smile, however- hard to do consistently when singing in front of a large crowd, but she has always done that well, too.

  13. Wade wrote:

    Janet is TOTAL CLASS!!! Won’t mention her polar opposites… but Janet is classy & nothin’ but fine!! A total joy to work with. If they were ALL like Janet we wouldn’t have as much to write about!!!

  14. pk wrote:

    I always thought Kelly looked a lot like Karen Carpenter…esp. on this video.

  15. Grave Digger wrote:

    I know that is Rex Nelon on the right . . . but every time I see that index picture, I think it’s Martin Cook.

  16. niven wrote:

    Looks like a large engagement ring on her left hand.

  17. Radioguy wrote:

    If Janet isn’t the happiest gospel singer I’ve ever seen, she’s got us fooled. Always has a smile. She was up here recently with Gaither. I swear the smile never left her beautiful face. Even when she talked about her recent health problems, she was still smiling. One of the funniest stories I recall was on the Nelon reunio disc. Rex told about her first night with them. She didn’t go on the bus, she took her own vehicle, went out on the freeway and went the opposite direction. Never did show up that night. It seems most see her as a soloist, but I love the work she did the Rex Nelon Singers.

  18. Leebob wrote:

    I didn’t notice that before niven…good catch.

  19. jbr wrote:

    It does my heart good to come here and hear such nice things being said about Janet - the nicest, most talented lady I’ve ever met. However, I find it histerical to hear her from way back when. I was but a babe when she traveled with the Nelons - wow, she has come so far. But it’s truly amazing how her inner glow hasn’t changed a bit. She can light up a room single handedly. Oh to have just a portion of that annointing!

  20. Dawn wrote:

    That is such an awesome video. I love to watch Janet sing in any time, any place, any setting. Although I agree with you that she has undoubtedly gotten better with age and experience (as all good singers do!) I also think a certain amount of the sound change comes from the difference in style between then and now. More people sang that way in that time. I loved her with the Nelon’s (I was young, but a HUGE fan!), I listened and enjoyed her with Jimmy Swaggart (can we admit that?), and I absolutely ADORE her now (I am older, but still a HUGE fan!)!! I was there at the NQC last year when she performed throughout the fan awards. It was magical and she is still the most classy lady and one of the greatest singers of all time!! Well done and thanks for the reminder, Doug!

  21. James Todd Johnson wrote:

    I think there is nothing worse than so called talent critics commenting on the gifts that God has placed in a persons life. No we don’t all receive the same blessings from each and every talent, but the anointing is the main thing, not how well we may hit each and every note. Janet has always been anointed to sing no mater if it be with the Nelons, Jimmy Swaggart, or on her own. Don’t criticize southern gospel, applaud it. Anything done for Christ and Christ alone is more than great in my book!

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