The McGruders

I’ve been driving a rental car the last few days, and it come with Sirius satellite radio. So I’ve been listening to enLighten a lot, though not exclusively. I gather they don’t really have a very historically deep collection - at least that’s the most generous way I can explain why they tend to play so much downmarket cut-rate stuff. For instance, I don’t know who the Oxendines are, but thank gawd when they come on there’s the Showtunes station, or the the Willie Nelson channel, or the Jazz Standards preset … I mean honestly, here was the hook to the song I listened to long enough to realize I couldn’t take the entire thing: it was something to the effect of God’s got a plan and he’s the plan. Blimey!

Anyway, the other night I caught the last half of a broadcast of a McGruders live recording. And it nearly set me free. To be honest, the group sings a lot of suboptimal material - not quite along the lines of the Oxendine plan-plan, but lyrically nondescript, melodically pedestrian stuff all the same. But gosh, they just sing so marvelously well together and create such a distinct, rich, bold sound that creates a musical space for you to inhabit with them.

I didn’t have my pitch pipe with me or anything, but I’d wager they sing above-averagely lower than most groups, and though the McGruders do like to shout (and not the kind of genteel shoutin’ time the Hoppers sing about), they never scream musically. Priscilla’s voice is the center of the sound, weaving into the ensemble a feeling of warmbloodedness, but also of fierce urgency. When her voice is the mix, the McGruders sing like people who aren’t sure they won’t be suddenly swept up in the onrush of the kingdom any moment.  This is a good thing as far as the texture of the sound goes, because Carol’s got one gear as an emcee: friends, he’s always on the verge of a good gospel cry, amen halle-LOOO-yuh? And he talks too much (he and Tony Greene and Claude Hopper must have all gone to the same Chatty Kathy School of Emcee Training) .

But you forget all that when they start singing and that fantastic gobsmacking band of theirs starts playing.

My only complaint was that I didn’t hear “Most of All,” my favorite McGruders tune (maybe it was on before I tuned in?). Like so much of their music, it manages to convey the group’s fierce vision of spiritual life spent striving after the divine in irrepressible bursts of weeping, woeful awe.

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  1. Jason wrote:

    Are the McGruders still singing? I haven’t heard them for years!

  2. Luke White wrote:

    The McGruders are as genuine as they come, and probably thee most annointed group to ever grace a Stage or Platform anywhere. Wish we had more like them today!

  3. BrandonS wrote:

    Haha! I remember the Oxendines from my years of traveling. We crossed paths several times. Nice bunch of guys, not groundbreaking songwriting. But they were always good to us.

    As for the McGruders, I always enjoyed their enthusiasm. At one point they had a dynamite band too. That band was not afraid to play. So much so, that it made my grandmother a little uncomfortable. Haha!

  4. Wade wrote:

    I have worked with many groups and can say they are WONDERFUL to work with. The night I had them I also had Ponders, Sykes & Wright. That was probably the most enjoyable evening I had a promoter.

    They of course drew WAY different crowds but they meshed well together and both groups were VERY professional.

    The McGruders were very spiritual with out being CONDEMNING!!! No names here lest we have to here slanted verses quoted to us!!

    But they are lovely ppl. I was able to actually go to there church one night when they had THE REAL FLORIDA Boys and Gene McDonald made my eyes hurt from singing so low!!! But it was a GREAT SHOW and even in their own church they did not HAMMER ppl!!!

    Their band was right up there with Hemphill’s & Hinson’s.

    Speaking of Hinson’s; I think you left out Ronnie in the aforementioned, Tony Greene & Claude Hopper Chatty Kathy School of Emcee Training. He can be painful.

  5. j-mo wrote:

    The Showtunes channel?

  6. Andrew S. wrote:

    The McGruders of the 90s are one of few missing pieces in Southern Gospel music. If there is anyone in the industry more sincere than these folks, they must be hiding in a field of tall grass. Doug, you mentioned “Most of All.” From what album was that song? That one and “Saved by Grace” are my favorite McGruders songs. We need more people like the McGruders to continue the idea that Gospel singers can be sincere in every action.

  7. cynical one wrote:

    j-mo - #5 — Please don’t tell us the showtunes comment surprised you. After all, most gays can sing the entire Rodgers & Hammerstein and Judy Garland songbooks, can’t they?

    I crack myself up!

  8. Jim Gerdes wrote:

    The remark about Enlighten needs a reaction. One of the things I like about this station is that it plays groups that I have never heard before–some very good and some average, however it allows these groups some exposure. I too would like a bit more of the Old Statesmen era, however that would show my age.

  9. John wrote:

    Without a doubt, the McGruders are my all time favorite group. They only sing to see souls saved (the only way it should be)…Since people are listing their favorite song(s)….my pick for “fast” song is easily I’M GOING HOME WITH JESUS….my pick for “slow” song is easily STAND ON HIS WORD…..They are simply the best ever. Nobody, I MEAN NOBODY, can present a song like Ms. Priscilla, she’s awesome…..please remember her in your Prayers, she is once again fighting cancer…..but I know she’ll soar like an eagle once again.

  10. Dean Adkins wrote:

    Re #8: You’re right…Enlighten does play some groups I have never heard before and some I hope never to hear again.

  11. Casual Observer wrote:

    Enlighten is a colossal waste of marvelous technology. So much potential squandered. I can rarely stand to listen to it. It has become “Custom Central” - regularly featuring any and every local group who will send them their latest cassette. WHO programs that mess?

  12. angela wrote:

    This made me “lol.” I just started reading your blog and almost at once began wondering, “Does this guy even like sg music?” Then I decided that you must, or you wouldn’t care to keep it honest. I grew up around sg music but left it for most of my life, as I found it to be more like beer drinkin’ music, sad, depressing and trite (I think of Hee Haw’s, “Doom, despair and agony on me”). A lot of the songs are about the good stuff that lies, “over yonder” and not about the victory and life that we can have now. However, I’ve found myself returning to my roots, listening to more and more sg radio, but have not been encouraged. I am a singer and am beginning a music ministry. So, I’ve decided to write my own songs that have a more depth and hope. But in the sg market, I still believe what sells is, “doom, despair and agony on me, until the roll is called up yonder!” Your thoughts?

  13. Derek wrote:

    I actually have a “memorable moment” from my years in radio related to The McGruders. The station I worked for at the time sold 15-minute blocks to preachers on Sunday mornings…and many would come to the station and record their program. Well, one Sunday morning, as I started one of these broadcasts, after a few opening remarks the preacher proceeded to play “I’m Going Home With Jesus” (the live, hand-clapping, shouting version, mind you) by The McGruders. The problem was, the song weas on a 45, and he played it on 33 1/3…ALL THE WAY THROUGH! LOL ANd, it was recorded on cassette so there was nothing I could do about it!

  14. Grigs wrote:

    If somebody had told me that I would someday read a pro-McGruder blog post by Avery, I would have referred them to a psychiatrist. I just ain’t believin it…

  15. Chuck Peters wrote:

    As far as I know.. Marlin Taylor handles most all the programming and planning at enlighten. From what I understand.. it’s pretty much a “one man” show. Early on Marlin admitted he didn’t know much about SG music.. Kinda made me wonder why he was chosen to program the station. Marlin is a nice man.. and works tirelessly to try and make the SG channel work. I just think his lack of SG music knowledge and “old fashioned” programming skills.. makes the channel sound more like a small market station,.. than the biggest thing in SG.

  16. Chuck Peters wrote:

    ..and the McGruders “Going Home with Jesus”.. is meant to be played loud.. very loud!

  17. Wade wrote:

    unless the inspo’s come out and are openly gay you won’t see anything good about them I bet!!! lol… I always wondered if they where … ya know School teacher & 4 little boys!!! lollol

  18. jbb wrote:

    Angela: So, songs about Heaven, Hope, Love, Jesus , Death and Ressurection..are doom and despair. HOw can you possibly write better songs than that???

  19. Angie M wrote:

    #12 Angela (that’s my name, too): I know what you mean. I stopped listening to SG for many years, partly for the reason you mentioned. Then, at some point in the middle of law school, all those songs about the despair of this life started to make a lot more sense! LOL! Anyway, I think #18 missed the point: It’s not that songs about Heaven are inherently bad. It’s just that sometimes, I’d like more music that is grounded in the present.

  20. angela wrote:

    Yes Miss Angie. You said it better than I!
    I love songs about my Lord Jesus, but the music and the message in sg just sounds so dreary sometimes. I’m looking for songs full of the vibrancy and life that is the Christian walk. #18, if the music you’re listening to is uplifting to you, then by all means, keep listening and enjoy. Just understand that some of us may not hear it the way you do.

  21. Skeeter wrote:

    Avery, I couldn’t be happier than I am right now to read this post on the McGruders. I have always felt that they were so underestimated in the world of southern gospel music. I think some of that might have been some jealousy that the other groups couldn’t move a crowd like they could. I have NEVER been to a boring McGruder concert. Never, ever. And I’ve been to my share. I am a die-hard McGruder fan - always have been and always will be. I have pictures of myself as a young kid in my t-shirt that read, “I’m a McGruder Rooter!!”

    I remember in a concert that I attended, the subject came up of the annointing that seemed to follow Priscilla from the stage to the product table. Carroll said that a young girl had made the statement that she wanted to have the same kind of annointing that Sis. McGruder had. He replied, “it will come only if you’re willing to spend the hours in prayer every day that she does.” That my friend, is what made the McGruders untouchable when it came to the annointing they displayed. That’s why there was a hole created in the southern gospel universe when the McGruders stepped out of the full-time circuit.

    Anyone can sing a gospel song. That’s easy to do when you can carry a tune in a bucket. But when you look at the life the McGruders as opposed to the life of many gospel music artist that is infested with ungodliness, scandal, adultery, and the list of sins that is way to long to list, not to mention pride and jealousy, you get a better understanding of why the lives of the McGruders were very obviously a delicacy. God obviously blessed their ministry that was willing to be centered around a separated and sanctified life.

    To #6 - Andrew S. - you asked about “Most of All.” You may find the studio version on “Livin’ the Good Life” and the live version on “Return Flight” which was recorded in Jonesboro, AR at the same place where the famous “Come Fly with the McGruders was recorded. Just a note to all the fans of the McGruders, on Priscilla’s newest solo project called “Now,” she does a newer rendition of “We Have a Savior.” Words are not good enough to describe how wonderful and powerful this song is. It’s my favorite version of the song-ever. Since the albums of the McGruders are so hard to find these days, check out all of the music recorded by them and her book at Kevin McManus will never know me, I feel sure, but to him and his wife, Beverly, I say thank you for pushing the McGruders the way they have and being there to make them appear and sound larger than life itself.

  22. cynical one wrote:

    I missed this the first time I read this post, but Doug said this recording “nearly set me free.”

    HMMMM Free from what? Or does it have to do with some of the other threads on this site?

  23. Jake wrote:


  24. Extra Ink wrote:

    “A Cross Marks The Spot” by the McGruders is my all-time fave song by them.

  25. cynical one wrote:

    Does Doug not realize Jake’s “Yawn” is his cue to shut this thread down? We should all respect Jake’s wish and comment no further on this topic.

    Or this his signal to begin spicing it up? I tried that on #22, but was told privately that I may be over analyzing.

    And there I go, being cynical, again.

  26. Wade wrote:

    Cynical One… you mean to tell me you and some others would write something to GET THINGS GOING!!!??? NO SAY IT AIN’T SO!!! lol

    Jake yawns much… SO.

    We have not shut down a thread in a while… but the Gay Bashing gets old. Kinda like abortion and Grace vs. HAVING A PATTERN of GOOD BEHAVIOR,WHICH ONE GETS YOU INTO HEAVEN???

    PATTERN was actually a word and concept stated by dr joe, I am still trying to find that word in even the most modern, liberal translations and IT’S NOT THERE???

    I still hope my mansions RIGHT NEXT to HIS!!

  27. Jim Gerdes wrote:

    We saw the McGruders at a Holiness church north of Orlando a few years ago. At exactly 8:00 the music director at the piano began rockin, the choir began rockin, the church was packed out. Later the McGruders, band and all rocked, and before the night was over even the women with their hair in buns were rockin. There were baptisms going on, alter service going on, healings happening–in fact so much was going on you couldn’t watch it all at once. Great service.

  28. Martha wrote:

    If you knew the McGruders you would understand the music they sing. It is never a good thing to criticize things you have no knowledge about. They are both miracles and have been instrumental in helping many people.

  29. Friend wrote:

    Priscilla passed away today from cancer. Please pray for the family at this time.

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