Rediscoveries: “He Left it All”

Via Daniel Mount (via Dean Adkins’ YouTube video archive), a clip of the Cathedrals singing “He Left it All” with the rarely remembered Kurt Young:

Some random thoughts:

1. That’s a really fine song.

2. One of my favorite parts of this clip is Mark Trammell’s harmonic inflections on the choruses. A lot of people - including Trammell himself, judging by this comment - seem to take George Younce’s remark that Trammell was the best quartet man Younce knew to be an endorsement of Trammell as a marquee front man. But watching this clip makes me re-wonder if Younce’s comment might have actually been a way of acknowledging Trammell’s superior, understated ability to lay down some of the best harmony in the bidness from the back of the stage. You can’t have a great quartet, after all, without good harmony, and few people have demonstrated an ability to get out of the way and do their quartet jobs as well, with as little overweening showiness, as Trammell in the ensemble.

3. Kurt Young is mostly remembered as the guy who blew his performance with the Cats at the Doves and got fired. But this clip helps contextualize his brief stint a little better. He’s not without vocal ability, of course, and he has the right look for the Cats. But he also struggles to place his tones and, more deeply, he doesn’t have much a rapport with the audience - hard to put my finger on what it is that gives me this feeling … but … well, ok … look at the way he holds the mic at the very tip end of the wand, up and away from his chin, and the way his whole upper body remains bent back and away from the audience almost the entire time … used sparingly, this posture can convey a sense of rapture and awe before divine Providence shining down from above, but striking this pose as consistently as Young does here makes it seem after awhile to be emblematic of a certain coldness or distance that he gave off on stage.

4. It’s certainly not unique to this clip, but notice the way Glen Payne stands behind Young during his second verse and talks him up all the way through to the chorus … shouting little encouragements or annotating some note or line of particular emphasis with a short shout or happy hoot or hand gesture or whatever. Happens all the time,  I know, and most people probably just chalk it up to supporting a colleague at work. But of course there’s more to it than that. For one thing, when a more famous or well-known or beloved singer like Payne - whom audiences respect and implicitly trust to know what good music is - gets behind a singer like Young in this way, it shapes the audience’s response to the performance, particularly when the performance isn’t going as well as it might. Back in the day when I was hacking my way through songs at the keyboard for a regional quartet, our front man would often take to carrying on a la Payne in this clip precisely when solos were going downhill or starting to fall flat. Is there a shorthand name for this that anyone knows of?

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  1. Andrew S. wrote:

    Kurt’s vocals on this song remind me of Michael Booth’s..

  2. Kyle wrote:

    “Is there a shorthand name for this that anyone knows of?”


  3. quartet-man wrote:

    Doug asked: “Is there a shorthand name for this that anyone knows of?”

    I have two (depending on the usage)

    Cheerleading or covering. :-)

  4. Clarence Grigsby wrote:

    It is a really good song and arrrangement. Love the way the first verse is set up as a dialouge with Kurt singing the Son’s lines and George the Father’s. Really wish they had kept it around…Ernie could have handled Kurt’s lines.

    I’ve always thought George’s compliment was based on how many things Mark was able to bring to the group: featured vocalist, ability to sing more than one part, play bass, arrange vocals, be a supportive co-laborer, probably drive the bus, etc. Mark Trammell is truly somebody young singers can look up to.

    Based on the Youtube clips and a Priority album that I’ve procured, Kurt has moved way up my list of tenors. He seems a bit stiff and nervous at times, though. Probably didn’t help that he followed a singer who seemed to be having the time of his life and had a great rapport with the audience. While I think he sounds really good on the verses, Kurt does struggle some on this clip toward the end. That might be why Roger was singing…to give a boost on the high end.

    Make no mistake, Kurt was really good, but the circumstances worked against him.

    I once heard someone call what Glen was doing “selling the song”, so I’ve always called it “selling”. George and Glen both did that a lot. Some people seem to paint the Cats as the heels in the Kurt Young saga, but George did a great job of setting him up, there was the “selling” that you mentioned, and if you watch the Dove clip, Mark, the consumate quartet man, was really trying to help him through it. Don’t know what happened offstage, but onstage, the Cathedrals were trying hard to make it work out.

  5. Steve Kittle wrote:

    I saw Kurt during his first weekend out with the Cats. He was doomed from the start, IMO, in that he was forced to sing Danny’s sugar sticks without quite having Danny’s range. Kurt’s voice, to me, was more aesthetically pleasing; a pity they wouldn’t adjust to his range.

    Totally unrelated: being the consummate wordsmith that you are, Doug, I was surprised to see a couple of mistakes in this entry. One I dismissed as a typo, but you might want to reconsider that apostrophe in “audience’s”.

  6. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    There’s one angle to this whole Kurt Young story that I don’t think anyone ever discusses: Maybe he didn’t get fired; maybe he just decided to quit.

    After all, after a performance like the Dove Awards, not everyone would want to go back on stage.

  7. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #6: I’ve seen several comments on Youtube from Kurt’s son indicating that he left because he couldn’t handle singing that high every night.

  8. Brett wrote:

    The Nelons recorded the same song on Karen Peck’s last cd with the Nelons

  9. quartet-man wrote:

    Yeah, misdirection is good. Sort of sounds like the magician keeping your eyes occupied so you don’t see what he doesn’t want you to see. Selling it is good too. :)

  10. Markp wrote:

    Doug- go back and listen from 4:42 thru the end of the song. Kurt is struggling with some of his notes, especially the word “away” at 4:44. He doesn’t even hit the note. Listen carefully again and see if I’m incorrect. I don’t believe I am. Apparently the “This Old House” Dove Award performance wasn’t his first sign of trouble.

    On a more positive note, I believe your point about Mark Trammell is exactly on point. He is one of best, if not the best ever, at harmonizing and finding those sweet spots. One of the best quartet singers of all time.

  11. Jim Cumbee wrote:

    Wow, this is a great way to end my day. Hearing this also reminds me just how incredible Roger was at keyboards. He used his incredible talent to support the group’s sound not to just strut his stuff. I miss him.

  12. matt wrote:

    This was a “discovery” for me. Not a “rediscovery”. Nice to hear new stuff from the Cathedrals, eh?? Oh, the beauty of youtube. I’ve seen a few Kurt Young/Cathedral videos that have some unique songs on them. I think Kurt wobbled off pitch at the end high note. Almost like Glen is taking the attention off Kurt’s singing, with his actions on stage…regardless, a good song, done by a great group. Ernie/Danny or Kirk Talley would’ve done the song better.

  13. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I’d call Glen Payne’s cheering a “welcome distraction.” Of course, Payne did this for everyone, but here you get the sense he’s trying extra hard to whip the crowd into liking it.

    Kurt Young wasn’t a terrible tenor. Any local group would be delighted to have him. He just wasn’t quite at the level where the Cathedrals needed him to be.

    Pet peeve: it’s “Golgotha,” not “Gal-gotha.”

  14. BUICK wrote:

    RE: the Cats at the Doves clip - certainly Kurt blew the ending. But the mix was WAY off! All bass & tenor and no mid-range. If the sound man wanted to doom a singer, this would be the way to do it.

  15. Wade wrote:


    GP is both putting both the song and the singer in this instance.

    Giving Him the Rub… is another show biz short hand for this practice.

  16. Irishlad wrote:

    When i first heard George’s comment “good quartet man” it wasn’t Mark’s performance on stage which sprang to mind more his personality,you know the easy going,cool,affable sort well able to handle all the negative things about travelling,long periods from home,bus breakdowns,doing the same thing night after night etc etc.I remember my dad,a 2nd World War soldier saying about guys he respected..”he would be a good fella to have with you in tight corner”I’ve a feeling that’s exactly how George felt about Mark.

  17. Jonathan Sawrie wrote:

    “…few people have demonstrated an ability to get out of the way and do their quartet jobs as well, with as little overweening showiness, as Trammell in the ensemble.”

    That’s because few people seem to understand the concept of teamwork that is indispensable in proper quartet singing. (Four soloists do not a quartet make.) Sometimes - or often - it’s not the fullback’s job to run the ball, but to execute pass protection. There are not many quartet men left that understand this principle. Mark is one.

  18. matt wrote:

    #17, exactly spot on. Watching American Idol’s dreaded “Group Night” only drives the point home. Granted, these ‘groups’ are formed in record time under duress, but man, oh man, the harmonies most of them pulled off were horrific. You throw a bunch of soloists together, and you don’t necessarily get a good quartet. Support, and blend, and listening to each other, these are things groups need to do. Many times Mark was stuck at the mic with his bass guitar, and the other 3 guys ‘work the stage’. Mark does his job great. He is one of my heroes for sure.

  19. Alan wrote:

    I need to chime in here quickly. I have a lot of friends who have told me versions of the same thing; that their eyes were often drawn to Mark Trammell standing behind a mike stand playing bass, even when the other guys were working the stage. They all say that it is his quiet dignity, as well as his voice. He has an enormous range, and as has been pointed out here, he does seem to be able to find the very perfect blending notes. Basically, he’s the quintessential baritone - great voice, a full, blending tone, a large range, and a team player. George could not have said it better, and it’s as true today as it was when he first broke in. Best of all, he’s a great man and a great Christian. Hall of Fame material, no doubt. He needs to begin gathering the $2K for his bust, even if no one will be able to recognize who it’s supposed to be once it’s unveiled. :-)

  20. chuck stevens wrote:

    We talk alot about how Kurt was not able to handle the high notes and such, but maybe some blame should be given to the Cathedrals themselves. George and Glen were the ones that heard something they liked at some point to have hired him. I watched the Doves that night and could not believe what i heard. I’m sure two pros like George and Glen lost their marbles backstage. However Kurt was a much better singer than what came of that event.

  21. quartet-man wrote:

    Not only is Mark the type that does many things well (which George basically explained that he meant which was something like “I’m not saying he is the best this or that”), but he was the best combination of all these things in one person. However, he also not only has a great range etc. as mentioned above, but he has become a great soloist (within a group at the very least.) He grew when he joined Gold City (or at least was able to showcase more) and in recent years has gotten even better. What a great person and singer!

  22. quartet-man wrote:

    The short explation Kyle’s post reminded me of, but wouldn’t come when I posted was “sleight of hand.” :-)

    What is funny I typed it in Google to see if I remembered the correct spelling (I did) and saw something Doug will probably like:

    “or prestidigitation (”quick fingers”) or legerdemain for “lightness of hand”),

    SO, we can say sleight of hand and Doug can use prestidigitation or legerdemain. :-)

  23. Irishlad wrote:

    The Kingsmen had him as their bass player many moons ago,little did they know what a great singer they had in their ranks.The same goes for Arthur Rice with the same group.

  24. NG wrote:

    A baritone, even if he gets few solos, can become well known as Mark has by his quality singing and classy persona, or as William Lee Golden has by his unique appearance and longevity with the same group (about 43 years with the Oaks despite a short attempt at one point at a solo career). When thinking about baritones don’t overlook the great Doy Ott (Statesmen) and Glen Allred (Florida Boys).

  25. JEB wrote:

    A year or two after the 30th anniversary in Nashville where Younce spoke those special words about Mark being the very best quartet man he had ever worked with - I happened to speak with his brother (Brudge) before a concert in Greensboro, NC.

    We spoke about Mark and I commented about his brother’s statement. He said in addition to being one of the very best quartet singers ever - that Mark never saw something that needed to be done - without doing it. From dirt on the floor at the entrance to the bus - to gathering up trash, he said you name it; he did it.

    I still think it was one of the greatest compliments ever spoken of a quartet man. It was four or five years after Mark had left - so there was certainly no bitterness. Younce and Trammell will both be long remembered as very great QT men.


  26. matt wrote:

    Agreed with the Glen Allred comment. I enjoyed his singing on the Florida Boys albums I have..smooth, pleasing tone.

  27. quartet-man wrote:

    #25 Thanks for shaing that. It seems like I remember George saying something like when Ernie Haase was hired, he then tried to do everything faster than it had ever been done (or something like that.) I am not sure if he did that when Mark was still there or pick up the slack when he left.

    Speakinjg of Haase, Kurt (who usually reminds me more of Talley) sounds quite a bit like Haase on the words “He left” at app. 3:43. Does anyone else hear this?

  28. wanderer wrote:

    It’s too bad The Cathedrals weren’t still recording on their Eternal label when Kurt came along. We probably would’ve had him on at least one album. Kind of like Jim Garstang, a short term piano player from the early ’70’s. His tenure was short, but he was on (or at least pictured) on the Somebody Loves Me album. Thankfully I have Kurt with Priority on their My Redeemer Lives album, but it’s not the same as having him with the Cathedrals. I remember after his short Cathedrals stint he returned to Priority. I remember when Jan ??, who used to do the news updates on The Gospel Greats, announced his returning to Priority, she something along the line of “now Kurt’s happy, Priority is happy and everybody’s happy. I remember thinking, Hmmmmmm, I wonder if there was a message in there for somebody.

  29. DP wrote:

    Mark is indeed one of the best QT men in the business. A great baritone that could blend with anyone! The all time best baritone award may have to go to Ed Hill. Always consistent and maybe the smoothest baritone ever - for close to 50 years!

  30. matt wrote:

    Ed Hill is a great baritone. I chatted with him at a Stamps concert some years ago. Very easy to visit with. I enjoyed him with the Singing Americans as well….
    Scott Howard of Legacy Five is pretty good. I’m not a huge fan of his solo voice, but he gets the job done. The issue I see with him is that as Scott Fowler gets older, Scott F. can’t count on Scott H. to cover his 2nd Tenor parts, like Glen P. did with Mark T. and Scott F.

  31. Irishlad wrote:

    #30that’s interesting,one of my pet peeves is lead singers singing the baritone part versus true baritones eg Scott Howard,Glenn Allred,Tony Peace,etc the downside of that i suppose would be most of the said guys would knock the balance of the quartet if they were to interchange parts in the middle of a song.

  32. quartet-man wrote:

    I have said for years that most SG baritones are choir tenors or 2nd. tenors if you will. There seem to be few true baritones anymore (like Randy Travis is in country.) Howard is a true baritone as is Peace and I would add Mark Lanier to the list. However, I do also love when the Stamps had Ed Enoch on baritone, Donnie Sumner on lead Bill Baize on tenor and Richard Sterban on bass. THAT was an awesome group. I also love Trammell and Riley, Lowry etc. who can hit higher notes too. This is required if you have sky high tenors. That is one area I felt that Lanier and Howard might lack (or at least didn’t do so much.) I prefer baritones who can blend well when needed, take over strong leads when desired, have a good low range when needed and can sing up with the leads. Yeah, I realize that is a tall order. Trammell has hit a low E and up a high Bb (as I recall). That is more than the typical baritone would need, but it adds so much to the group. Lowry has hit a high A and low enough to get the job done in the GVB (I think he can probably hit an F to some degree.)

    The Prophets sang so high, that when Duane Allen (current lead for the Oaks) was baritone he had the range to sing high enough. Yet, at least years later in country, he has the ability to hit low D’s.

    Although the version of the Stamps I listed above is by far my favorite (that group had four great soloists who could also sing harmony), Ed Hill is likely a better blending baritone (although not the soloist Enoch was). I especially liked his work in the Singing Americans. Him on baritone with English or Parker on lead and Funderburk (and to a lesser degree Strickland) was great stuff and they were a great group.

    I guess I like power harmony groups like the Oaks, GVB etc. BUT I also like them to blend when needed. (Especially on unison stuff.) The current group certainly can stand out and sing powerfully, but they can also blend well on unison parts like Alpha and Omega and Journey To The Sky. Some power house groups can only sing the stuff where each voice can be heard, but not blend well when it comes time for the unison stuff. In cases like that I hate when one voice sticks out.

  33. matt wrote:

    I remember back in high school, I had a quartet, and the Cathedrals were coming in to town. I pestered the promoter and sure enough, they let us sing 1 song during the intermission. Yee hawww!! That was around the time when George had just come back to the group. Anyways, my point is we were rehearsing our 1 song in the “green room” and Mark walked in. He started ripping off my 1st Tenor parts with ease. I kind of looked at him…wow, what a range!! That reminds me, there was a huge table full of drinks and snacks…..

  34. quartet-man wrote:

    Speaking of Strickland, although I like some of his stuff with the Stamps and Singing Americans, the place I feel he best fit was The Sound. As we discussed here before, the first lp was great.

  35. Irishlad wrote:

    #32 Q-man,add Doy Ott and RW to the list,i remember in the Hovie and the Statesmen bio that Doy would stand in the wings and nail the top Cs that Rosie or Denver were hitting.

  36. Irishlad wrote:

    Back to Kurt,i can’t see or hear much wrong with him,even though he’s hitting some very high notes.But take Danny F-and i’ve always enjoyed him sing-on the later versions of “I just started living” well it’s not very nice at all,he’s shouting/straining badly at the top end of his range.I guess because of his popularity no one wanted to criticize him, however Kurt being at the bottom of the totem pole of sg tenors as it were is wide open for,i feel,undeserved flak.

  37. matt wrote:

    I have never really cared for the song “I’ve Just Started Living”. Too much tenor shouting. It is ok when used as an effect, but it overtakes the song. Not my thing. The ending also is less than satisfying as George doesn’t descend the 8ve, and just repeats the word “liv-liv-living”. Aside from my pet peeves about the song, I agree with Irishlad. I believe Kurt actually did this song with the Cats if I’m not mistaken. I’ll have to see if I can find the video.

  38. BUICK wrote:

    I agree with the praise for Ed Hill’s baritone voice…a TRUE baritone and he could blend with anyone.

    IMO, the trend for leads singing baritone came from the Blackwood Brothers. James had the range of a tenor and strained to go low enough to sing the lead. They pitched everything pretty high which left lots of room for Cecil (a true lead) to harmonize below the lead on a high baritone. Others followed that example.

    Also, IMO, Scott Fowler was a very good baritone who sounded better on that part than on the lead he’s singing now. His voice blended superbly well but I find it too thin and reedy to carry the lead.

    But that’s just arm-chair observations from someone who is not on the inside…just loves to listen to great harmony. And Ed Hill sang great harmony.

  39. JFranks wrote:

    Ed Hill is not only one of the greatest baritones ever, he is a GREAT gentlemen! Ed is one our best friends and its our honor to call him friend! Ed Hill is still singing some solo dates and anyone interesting in having him should call. He could use some fill-in dates! On top of that, he does a great job. He will be in Savannah, TN on March 13 with Mark Bishop, the Kellys, and Josh & Ashley Franks!

  40. NonInsider wrote:

    I also am not a big fan of what I call the hybrid baritone singers in today’s SG world… Some work though especially when you have a sky high tenor like BFA and GVB etc… But alas I long for more “true” baritones like Howard and Peace, Hill, Trammel…

  41. Videoguy wrote:

    You really get a clear shot of Trammell’s talent on the last three notes (the “amen” chords) of this clip.

    I know he did it all the time, but it’s a chance to catch a moment where Mark clearly matches Danny’s pitch and timbre while Danny gets a breath for his final note.

  42. Dean Adkins wrote:

    I just posted a video on youtube of the Catahedrals with Kurt Young singing “This Old House.” This is from a concert on March 17, 1990. This is NOT the Dove Awards performance.

  43. Dean Adkins wrote:

    That should be Cathedrals with Kurt Young.

  44. onemadeupmind wrote:

    His (Kurt) ending on this song is shaky as well. Probably a good “regional” tenor, (although I have heard better, regionally speaking) but not a top-tier pro tenor by a long shot!

  45. Videoguy wrote:

    Just found this: the Cathedrals without Glen.

  46. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #44: He made it work, though. It sure was better than the Dove Awards ending.

    I think he’d do well in a top-tier group that didn’t key their stuff quite as high. Some of the stuff I heard him do with Priority (the group he sang with before The Cathedrals) reminded me of a Michael Booth kind of sound.

  47. Irishlad wrote:

    A nice one from Mark circa.1990 on volscot’s youtube account “He saw what i could be”,showcases his great range.

  48. matt wrote:

    Speaking of youtube, I find it fascinating to read the comments after videos. Particularly, when Cathedral tenors are compared. There is some heat generated for sure when the Haase/Funderburke/Talley etc arguments are started….people get downright nasty.

    One of my pet peeves regarding early 90’s Cathedral videos are the comments that so often are Ernie-focused. I’ve got nothing against Ernie, but ….there are 4 other focus deserving members as well……

  49. Jake wrote:

    This thread seems to have flatlined. I hope Doug posts something new pretty soon.

  50. ForgottenSwampWorld wrote:

    Kurt Young is awesome in this video but I hope there are some newer posts up soon.

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