The Kingly Golden Genius of Jim Hamill

Given southern gospel’s tendency to exploit a concept long past its shelf life, it can be easy to forget how wonderful a thing was at one time. Via Adam Edwards, here’s a clip of Hamill horsewhipping the KingsGold boys through a gloriously garish rendition of “I’m Wingin’ My Way.”Listen to the way the tag restacks the parts. Classic Golden Kingsmen:

For some reason it never occurred to me before how much KingsGold was a rowdy, impertinent, uncouth country cousin to Homecoming - the cousin who gets you into trouble but with whom you have so much more fun. No chairs or strolls down memory lane here, and the show runs as much on KingsGold rivalry as nostalgic friendship. Instead of “Why not…,” it’s, “I want Taco to sing!”

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  1. Bill wrote:

    Ahhhh… the Randy Quaid of Southern Gospel Music, Jim Hamil. I can almost smell the Redman!

  2. Irishlad wrote:

    I’ve said it more than once,their studio albums were crap,i don’t own a single one. But live,oh my they were truely matchless!

  3. Irishlad wrote:

    Garry S pure class(and i thought James Cagney was dead years ago!) lol.

  4. Butch wrote:

    O for the good old days where there were live bands, fun times, and the groups weren’t all the same carbon copy thing. They are all the same today! Not a whole lot separates the top groups from the 2nd and 3rd tier groups anymore. Push the button and lets sing.

  5. Irishlad wrote:

    Gold City to me at the minute are tops,mainly because as James Blackwood himself said’for a good qrt you need a good lead and a good bass’imho,i think he was spot on.

  6. MD wrote:

    Everyone has their own opinion. I persnally think the current GC line up is well below any in the past. The bass and tenor are weak, all over the place and the group doesn’t belnd well at all. Individually Danny and Bruce are strong singers. I want to like GC but I just can’t find a reason to.

  7. Wade wrote:

    MD… Yes every one has an opinion. Although I do not share yours I can understand where you are coming from.

    I think much of the issue that most ppl have is they will NEVER BE Brian, Ivan, Mike & Tim ever again. I think the Jay, Jonathan, Mark, Tim group was CLOSE!!!

    But then we started to get Danny pushed on us… you do not have a group owners son sing a FEATURE song at every concert and think Mark was going to be around much longer.

    While Jonathan was his own person he was never going to be Ivan.

    As much as Steve always TRIED to sound like Brian he will never be.

    I remember Beckie Simmons trying to sell me [whatever group it was he sang previously] for a concert I was promoting by playing me a clip of a song over the phone… she got back on the line and said, “WHO was that??”

    “I said someone trying to be Brian Free.”

    The thing that was good about Jay is he never tried to sound like any one but himself… he was JAY… a screaming tenor more in the mode of what you would think of as a Kingsmen tenor.

    The current group has NO personality. Steve tries. Danny act like he has a stick some place and well Bruce the NEW GUY will BE THERE until they try some one else. There are BUNCHES of ppl who can SING but rare ppl like Ivan,l Ivan & Mike. I really can’t think of any one else in this generation of singers who could step in… the reason why GCQ has had so many lead singers since even though Jonathan was there sooo long.

    Tim really did not leave in the correct way. It just seemed to me he was not there one day. They tried to plug in Bill, which had to be the hardest job in the world. Then they went the opposite and got a young guy that tries to be Richard Sterban.

    So you have a bass singer trying to RS… a tenor singer trying to BF… a Lead singer who isn’t really anybody and a stiff baritone singer who’s Dad owns the group!!!

    So HOW they are ever going to break out???

    I remember talking to Tim one time back in the 80’s after I THINK I’LL READ IT AGAIN hit… I ask him about the success of GCQ and what he contributed it to??? Everything they put out went # 1!!!

    He really did not have an answer. But he swore they just put it out and the ppl loved it!! WITHOUT TRYING!!!

    He tried to sell me whatever MLM product he was selling and I think Kirk Talley was waiting to get paid some royalties!! lol…so I had to go with out a follow up.

    But I attributed it to kinda like one of those laws of attraction… WHOEVER CARES THE LEAST GETS THE MOST!!!

    TODAY’S GCQ tries too Hard!!

  8. Butch wrote:

    Why don’t groups team up and do a tour where they share a band-spread the cost around over 2 or 3 groups. I would love to see a King’s Gold concert with a live band. How about Brian Free/Karen Peck; Booth Brothers/Legacy 5? Man I loved those outdoor sings where the kids played on the swings-it was usually hotter… and when things got lively up on stage, everybody would run over and enjoy the fun. Hey Garden Spot promotions in PA, if you’re listening, give us one good outdoor concert again-ahh those Blue Mts. were beautiful!

  9. rglaser wrote:

    thanks for sharing. that was great and very nolstalgic….

  10. Ben Harris wrote:

    IN defense of Aaron McCune, when he was singing with Palmetto State I recorded a project for them, and Aaron blew me away. Not only was he a great bass singer but he was also very talented. His timing was flawless and he had his part and everyone else’s down before the others had it figured out. I really believe you are not giving Aaron a fair shake. He is not a Tim Riley type bass, and nor should he be. GC for years had this tight trio and then Tim singing down a full octave. Believe me, Aaron has just as much low end range as Tim, but he chooses to sing tight with the trio to maintain a tighter blend. I would take that kind of bass in day of the week. Richard Sterban??? Try Big Chief, for Aaron is far more like Chief than any man alive today.

  11. thom wrote:

    I love me some KINGSGOLD. Thanks for posting this. Brings back good memories.

    Why can’t you guys just enjoy it without taking shots to rip the current group?

  12. Irishlad wrote:

    Ben,you’re spot on about A McC.The only other young bass as good is Chris West. Also, Aaron’s singing way lower than RS when he was 26/27.

  13. scope wrote:

    Ben, I hope Aaron reads your post. I was talking to him a couple of years ago about bass singing; and he told me that Big Chief was his hero. He had watched every video he could find on Big Chief, and studied him intently. Aaron would be very proud to hear you say he sounds like his favorite bass singer.

  14. Jim wrote:

    Ben, you are correct. Aaron McCune can hear parts better than most in the industry. He follows the bass guitar better than anyone I have heard. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves.

    Wade, I think you are wrong about Steve Ladd. I think in his younger years he really tried to sound like Brian Free. This makes sense, because, growing up, he was a huge fan of Brian’s. Steve has really tried to develop his own sound. If you listen to Revival and Moment of Truth, I think you will hear this. No where on either of those two albums does it sound like he is trying to be Brian Free.

    I also disagree with you about Bruce. He is a phenomenal singer. All the other singers in the industry sure love him! So many of them continue to talk about how good Bruce is.

  15. Grave Digger wrote:

    Glad to hear that Aaron is following the Chief. He once told me that London Parris was his favorite bass singer.

    Although folks loved London’s singing and showmanship, his timing, pitch, and breathing techniques were suspect at best.

    If Aaron is following the Chief, then he’s following the best!

  16. quartet-man wrote:

    I heard Gold City during one of Aaron’s first concerts with them. I don’t think it was his first, but I don’t think he had been with them for any more than 2 weeks.

    The impression I had then was very good, but I don’t think he was as low as Tim. I am not sure if he even is now. At the concert it seems like he didn’t take the low notes on one of Gold City’s upbeat songs that Tim did, but later did after presumably warming up. One of the songs was When He Blessed My Soul, but I can’t recall if that is the one he took in the low octave or the other song was.

    However, he is my favorite SG bass today and is much lower than many others and at such a young age. Although Richard Sterban, George Younce and Tim Riley are my three favorites, I mention Aaron after these three.

  17. Jim wrote:

    Quartet-Man, Aaron has gotten much better since he first started. I also saw Gold City at one of his first dates with them. I wasn’t sure if they had made the correct choice. Boy was I wrong! To only be 27 years old, which is still young for a bass singer, he is in the top three currently singing. I’ve heard that Tim Riley said he was not as low as Aaron when he was that age. Can you imagine Aaron 10-15 years from now? Scary!

  18. Jim B wrote:

    Who was the Guy sharing the mic with Ivan Parker? Everyone else think I know.

  19. Wade wrote:

    OK Ben & Jim…then tell us why GCQ is not the same???

    Jim of course they are ALL great singers or they would not be singing with GC. But do they have IT???

    If singers in the industry liking someone made any difference then there are many singers who would never make it cause others in the industry dislike them.

    Don’t get me wrong I LOVE GCQ!!! I was responding to MD’s post and having a discussion about it.

    While I am here… this thread is about Jim Hamill my hero. He was the absolute best ever in any kinda MC work, secular or SGM. I do quite a bit of MC work and I hear Jim in my voice every night putting acts over and making the show just a little bit bigger than it really is and he made us believe it!!! That NIGHT was SPECIAL!!!

    The reason the Kingsmen were able to make so many fairly easy transitions when personnel changes happened was because Jim SOLD IT… RIGHT… and made the ppl stars!! PUT PPL OVER!!! Handed the baton over to the next generation.

    In the very concert captured here they also sang HOW GREAT THOU ART!!! He made Ivan Parker seem like a much better singer than himself when he could have sang ever note that Ivan sang. He did not have to do that… he could have sang it and looked back at Ivan and said … see The Old Man’s got it. Which is probably what Ivan will do!!! lol…. he did that sometimes in concerts but it was NEVER at some one else’s expense.

    But in that vain… GC did a poor job at making those transitions. We can agree on that can’t we???

    Like I said just one day Tim wasn’t singing with them any more. I appreciate the fact he had some health issues, but come on, they kept Jake, George and currently Tony Greene on appearance life support for years. It is the management of the changes where they did a bad job.

    Did you not see the Danny thing coming??? Did you not see the Jonathan thing coming too?? Jay??…and ALL the lead singer changes??? Steve Lacey and David Hill are great singers…but they did not have IT!!! Bruce is a great singer but he nor Danny have IT!!

    When GC changed from Jerry Ritchie to Ivan Parker nobody cared. Cause Ivan had IT!!! Jerry Ritchie was barely mentioned when he died.

    Like I said… Today’s GCQ has to Try too Hard!!

    Kinda like having to TRY ALL the TIME to Keep a beautiful women!!!

  20. Irishlad wrote:

    I just can’t let the A McC debate go by without this… I first saw him when he was 19,and,he made the word precocious come to life. He had everything,depth,rhythm,pitch and great musicality. The problem his detractors have is he’s so good they just can’t process what a talent he has. It took the great JD years to reach that level,at Wheeling with the SSB’s the lowest he could go was a C2(maybe because of altitude)but Aaron can hit an E1(youtube bass singers 3). That being the case that’s definitely the lowest Tim or Richard(working on a building)has gone.Rant over.

  21. Know It All wrote:

    JimB (#18),
    That was Tim Surrett singing with Ivan.

  22. CRAZYJOE wrote:

    …all this talk about GC, what about the long slow death the KM’s are making??…talk about life support…the glory days are long gone for them…

  23. Extra Ink wrote:

    Gold City is a fantastic group today. They were fantastic back then. Why can’t people just appreciate them the way they are instead of endlessly comparing them to the old group?

    Danny Riley is one of the smoothest baritones in gospel music today. Aaron McCune is an unbelievably good bass singer. He has one of the most melodic voices of any bass singer in SG.

  24. scope wrote:

    What should have been a wonderful trip down memory lane, for me became a sad reminder when Jim called Doug Riley to sing. I didn’t see much of the rest of it - too blurred from my tears. I didn’t realize how much I still miss Doug. One day soon we’ll meet again my friend.

  25. cdguy wrote:

    Great memory of the glorydays of KingsGold!

    Last week, I had the privilege of watching a video taping of Legacy 5, Greater Vision, and The Booth Brothers together. They each did about 10-12 songs, then all 3 groups together on a couple songs. Mosie Lister joined in the singing, and Lari Goss & Tim Parton together on piano.

    Looking forward to seeing/hearing the finished product later this year.

  26. Joel Franks wrote:

    Jim Hammil is pure joy, by the way, did anyone notice the piano player and take note of the baritone on the left? The pianist is the one and only great Anthony Burger and the baritone in the light brown suit is none other than Ivan Parker. Pretty good talent filled group.

  27. Jim B wrote:

    Thanks Know It All (#21)! I should have figured out that it was Tim Surrett. My problem was the camera never went close on him and I’ve never seen him sing without holding a dobro, guitar or banjo!

    Jim Hamill was the best. I mean, the best!

  28. natesings wrote:

    As far as blend goes, you will not find a lead and baritone combination in SG music that has a sound as similar to each other as Bruce and Danny.

    Wade: I agree with you. Back when he was with The Anchormen, Steve Ladd sounded more like “Brian Free” than Brian Free did, but he’s changed his sound a good bit since joining Gold City.

    Joel: Ivan Parker is singing lead with Tim Surrett. The baritone mic is being shared by Mike LeFevre, Garry “Taco” Jones (in the light brown suit), and Parker Jonathan.

    I see Mark Fain is playing bass. Does anyone know who is playing the guitar? This was taped before Randy Miller joined The Kingsmen, if I remember correctly.

  29. Irishlad wrote:

    Can’t see him Nate,could it have been Bruce Watkins?

  30. ToothDoc wrote:

    I believe it is David Creech. He played guitar a bit for Gold City in their earlier days…

  31. WAYNE wrote:

    I think Mccune, Ladd and Riley can sing with the best of them. Steve Ladd has really found another level and is the reason I attend a gc concert when they are in the area. It may be because he’s following Jonathan, but I don’t think the lead is a very good fit. One thing gc does need is a good mc, Daniel tries and has improved, but doesn’t have Jonathan there to step in and save the day anymore.

  32. Wes Burke wrote:

    #28 and #30, I agree on Creech being the guitar player. If I remember right, he played guitar on Gold City’s video that was recorded the same night.

  33. Irishlad wrote:

    There must be some pressure out there. When you here SL stepping it up for a spellbound “preach the word” and then for an armchair critic to tell him how to do it. Well that would make the pope kick a hole in a stained glassed window.

  34. Wade wrote:

    Irish Laddy… put down the bottle move away from the keyboard!!! lol

  35. Chuck Stevens wrote:

    I think Creech did some time with the Hemphills as well. He was on a couple of the Gold City videos of the day. Those were good times, Kingsgold. I’m afraid those days are long gone. They try to pull it off from time to time, but it doesn’t have the same flavor these days. I wish the Kingsmen would bring back the live band!

  36. J wrote:

    Those were the days my friend we thought they’d never end.

  37. wackythinker wrote:

    J #36 — True! So true!!!

  38. Joe wrote:

    The world is coming to an end. The sky is falling. Pigs are flying, and pink elephants roam the land.

    I actually AGREE with Wade!

    Not once, but twice. WHAT is this world coming to??!!

    There was NEVER a personality/talent in SGM that could work a crowd or ramp up a group of singers plus a whole band, as could Big Jim Hamill. One of the most superlative talents I have ever seen or heard. And what many even fail to mention, perhaps the best lead voice of several generations. Arthur Rice, to me, may be the closest to Jim’s voice today, as an excellent lead singer…and who’d he learn from? Big Jim.

    And Wade- you were spot on about GCQ with Brian, Ivan, Mike and Tim. I have been listening to and following quartet music since the 1960’s- and those 4 voices, to me, represent the pinnacle of blend, sound, range, and presence, of any four I have ever heard.

    Maybe there’s hope for you yet!

  39. Irishlad wrote:

    Joe,you’ll be giving Wade a big head if you don’t watch out! Lol.

  40. Wade wrote:

    Just pray for me!!! lol

  41. Derek wrote:

    That was Mark Fain on bass guitar.

  42. Robert wrote:

    As long as everyone is giving their GC opinions I’ll give mine too. GC will never be as good as they were with Ivan, Mike, Brian, and Tim. In my opinion probably the best quartet of all time. I believe the closest they ever got was Daniel, Jonathan, Steve, and Aaron. Especially on the Revival CD. Like someone else said, the present group lacks personality. Sure Jonathan wasn’t the voice like Ivan, but he brought personality. When he left he took it with him.

  43. Wade wrote:

    Robert… we almost agree but rethink just for sec… don’t ya think Jay, Jonathan, Mark & Tim were closest or maybe just the BEST of anything other combo than Brian, Ivan etc??? I thought at the time that Mark & Tim would be the next Glenn & George.

    They were different than Brian, Ivan, Mike & Tim… and when I said before that Jay was a screamin’ tenor I meant NO DISRSPECT…I loved Kingsmen Screaming Tenors… Jay (although never a Kingmen) had the guts to go places other ppl just dreamed about and wasn’t too skeered to miss it and slide down to something.

    Ernie Phillips will always be my favorite Kingsmen Tenor with Squeaky being next. Squeaky had his own niche.

    Irish Laddy, CVH, Old Harry Peters & dr joe… what do you think?? (& any others) Oh & dr. joe… We know you never left. ;-))) I prayed for you while you were gone that you would get a touch of SWEET SPIRIT!! Now if sg fan could play nice with others!! :-)

    While this is Technically a Kingsmen thread about Jim Hamill & dr. joe chimed in let me address a subject that many ppl have surprisingly wrote me off line or in person instead of here for what ever reason… but they asked me…

    “With your feelings about how The Goodman’s did the Oaks, how do you swing liking Jim because he caused them some trouble too!!!”

    That always bothered me some because I just really respected what he (Hamill) did with The Kingsmen as far as putting other talent over and being the Best MC EVER!!

    Even if I did think his line that JD loved so much… “Let’s give Jesus a BiG Hand” was about as hackencheap as a stand up comic saying to a crowd… “Let’s give it up for the Fighting Men and Women in The Middle East.”

    But my buddy Jeff Hullender played bass with Gold City and I went to many of those joint dates [KingsGold]… and I got to talk to him about it one night in knoxville. Yes Red Man and ALL…would you believe too we were in the Knoxville Colusium Theater while pro rasslin’ was going on in Colusium and we were over there with Jerry THE KING Lawler. Between matches he told me how much he regretted his part in it and how WRONG it was…{he still had some bitterness at the time of the incident about how things ended with him and the Oaks when he sang with them}… a few months later The Kingsmen sang on The Grand Ole Opry and then later with The Gatlin’s in Las Vegas!! LoL;-)))

    Funniest thing is Goodman’s did many of the same things later as far as singing with George Jones and in some secular places… but they NEVER APOLOGIZED!!

    Don’t ya think they SHOULD HAVE???

  44. Joe wrote:


    I still think K/I/M/T were the best 4 for GC. However, the J/J/M/T and the J/J/D/T quartets were almost as good.

    I opened one night for the group #3 above, and they were fantastic. Tim, that night, gave the best gospel message in 7 minutes I have ever heard from a sgm stage. He was unbelievable.

    Ernie Phillips is a tremendous talent. I have also shared the same program as him (now as a soloist), and he is a gentleman. His son Eric (MTT) is, imho, an even better tenor.

    Chris Collins was also as good a tenor as the Kingsmen ever had.

    As to the Goodmans, I really don’t know. You know how I feel about that whole scenario- and the HGF will have to answer for themselves. They could be vindictive, but they were proud people.

    Jim Hamill was a spiritual man, a straight shooter, and very conservative- many of that ilk, and in that generation, had a problem with alot the Oaks said and did, and how they lived. Each will give an account of themselves to God.


  45. quartet-man wrote:

    #17 Jim, Aaron impressed me that night too after he got warmed up. There was a post I made about it on some of the boards. However, he has gotten a lot better and I think even back then he would make a lot of bass singers work hard. I too wonder just how great he will be once he hits 50. Man. He might be one of the best ever.

    Irishlad, actually Richard hits an Eb on Working on a Building. :) George Younce also hit that note on a Johnny Cash song I think.

  46. Chuck Stevens wrote:

    Saw Gold City in Tulsa Saturday night with the Band Of Gold. The band brought back some great memories and made things come alive. They closed the package show that included the Mckameys, Mark Trammell Trio, Karen Peck and Jeff And Sheri Easter. I hope Daniel is reading here. The boys sounded great. I am in the secular radio business, but i host a Gospel show on our country station. I have delt with Daniel before at the table trying to get some music that i didn’t have on file. Let me say he was the most gracious of people i have encountered in the bizz. He was very helpful, and wanted to make sure Gold City’s music was being played. He is a credit to the industry and how people should handle themselves. Alot of good singing in Tulsa this last weekend.

  47. Tjeerd wrote:

    A lot of talent in that room we miss,
    Big Jim, Anthony Burger, Parker Jonathon.

  48. quartet-man wrote:

    #38, I need to start looking at the color of the moon. ;-)

  49. ToddT wrote:

    Nobody has mentioned Gold City Alum, Steve Lacey. I thought the band was the best on the Pillars of Faith album which was Brian Free, Ivan, Steve Lacey and Tim. They also did an a capella cd before ivan and brian left that is still the best of its kind I’ve ever heard. Then as the quartet transitioned to Jay, Steve, Mark and Tim they were still great. Steve Lacey in my opinion is a better singer than any lead they’ve had since.

  50. Wade wrote:

    ToddT… You are correct the Brian/ Ivan/ Steve/ Tim version of Gold City was the best technically…would have been interesting to hear if Mike could have had the chops to make that acapella recording.

    Had the same thought after I wrote my entry. But it was so short very few ppl remember.

    Hi To ALL MY friends in Nashville… how are y’all getting along with out Dr. DH???

  51. cdguy wrote:

    Wade — As for Dr DH not being here, according to another thread here, there’s both good news and bad news. He’s here today.

  52. Wade wrote:

    51 cdguy… he’s coming for the doves but not for the SGMA… huh …well ya know he left a Gaither Gathering at Intermission…so there ya go!!!

    He will be down in printers alley with Irish Laddy & Old Harry Peters…can’t wait for twitters and reviews from there… should be interesting!!! lol

  53. MIke McIlwain wrote:

    Don’t forget that some of Big Jim’s best singing was during his tenure with the Rebels. Check out the YouTube clips of him singing “Hide Thou Me,” “When I Stand with God,” and “I Want to Get Closer.” Jim had power when he sang, but he could also sing a very high, smooth lead.

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