Innovation and history
Another note on V.O. Stamps and the early days of sg. A lot of folks like to point to the rise of southern gospel as a golden age of religious and cultural stalwarts holding down the fort of tradition and convention as they’re understood today. Because contemporary southern gospel represents culturally conservative worldviews and habits of living in our time, many southern gospel partisans make the mistake of seeing idealized versions of themselves in gospel pioneers of the past.
But you don’t have to read very far into the history of gospel’s early years to see that this perception of the past relies on considerable historical revision, elision, and forgetting.
Stamps’ dexterity with emerging print and broadcast technologies is pretty widely known, but I chuckled when I read recently about Stamps’ habit of “innovating” in other ways. In addition to cranking up his radio station full tilt after hours, when the FCC’s signal restrictions were laxer, Stamps also broadcast on XERA – the X in this case usually indicating a station south of the Texas/Mexico border, where FCC regulations don’t apply. Try to imagine the equivalent in our time: Gerald Wolfe posting old Cathedrals music on LimeWire?
Indeed, if Stamps and the crowd he ran with were around today, they would more likely be the kind of guys to run the Pirate Bay of gospel music (The Old Gospel Ship!) than to work the Singing at Sea.
Which is to say: The sg types today who like to imagine themselves the bidness heirs of Stamps et al are only kidding themselves. If most of today’s sg execs and artists were alive in Stamps’ times and approaching the entertainment business the same way they are now, they’d have been stuck in the minstrelsy and circus circuit, not at the center of convergence among music, new media, and the modern mass market where Stamps was working.Email this Post