NQC 10: On magic memories

The spirit mostly seemed to keep its own counsel apart from me on this final night of NQC 10, save for some lovely moments in Stan Whitmire’s accompaniment of Chris Allman on “Blessed Assurance.” Tonight was a marked improvement over last night, but that only meant that things were mostly serviceable and ordinary, though I admittedly arrived late and left early.

In my perch tonight, my mind keep wandering - and I didn’t bother trying to stop it - and so I let myself start thinking back to some of my earliest experiences at NQC, in the early 1990s. I remember that effusive woman who used to sit on the front row and dance and clap and wear outrageous homemade superfan tshirts. And then there was the old preacher lady who used to shuffle up to the stage stairs and grab aholt of Connie Hopper and Peg McKamey with one hand and wave her bible with the other while beckoning the heavenly to host to descend in a language only she and God seemed to understand.

I was musing on this stuff more or less free associatively, and what to my wandering mind should appear, but this message from a dear friend, with whom I’ve been commiserating via email on and off all weekend and whose mind and memory seem to running in a similar direction. It captured much more comprehensively the drift of my own thoughts and so I offer it as a far a more fitting commentary on this evening, this weekend, my experience, than anything I’d have to say at the moment.

My version of NQC has been listening to Solid Gospel, commenting on your board for change, and then wishing I had turned the radio off earlier than I did.  Maybe I’ll drive up next year, maybe I won’t.  In the meantime, I was thinking about the moments that stand out to me from years and years of attending NQC.

I remember the Talley’s doing “Triumphantly, The Church Will Rise.”  I thought the

Lord was coming back in the middle of the song because I was caught up.

I remember the year the Talley’s started a set with, “Love Will.”  I’d never heard those percussive sounds on a recording in my life.  Ever.  I was blown away.


Remember when the little old lady would take her Bible down by the stage every time Connie Hopper was on stage?  Such a sweet soul.


Then there was the year the Hoppers brought in the Music City Mass Choir. I believe they did “Mention My Name,” but I can’t swear to it.  Regardless, my memory of it is what matters.


The Cathedrals.  Every single time they sang, the merchandise area emptied.  There was a sound–a blend–that has never been duplicated.  There was also a brand of class that I cannot articulate which went away with them.


Remember when the Nelons’ debuted the video to, “Famine in Their Land?”  So cutting edge.


Oh, the year the McGruders tore the place apart with the live band.


I remember the first time the Vocal Band came back.  It was electric.


What about the big Amy Lambert debut with the Greenes?  She nailed it, too.

These are just a few of the things that I personally think of as ‘worth the trip’ events.  And, when I turned off the radio last night, these are the moments I went back to.  The truth is, after eavesdropping this week, of all the years of eavesdropping and of showing up, I really needed to remember, this year more than any, that there was a magic that brought me here in the first place.

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  1. sj wrote:

    Ugh. This brings back some great memories. It’s nostalgic and heartbreaking at the same time. I mourn for the SG industry.

  2. Tjeerd wrote:

    Chris Allman singing “Blessed Assurance” was a little halting. This made the performance sound even more impressive.
    It was brilliant.

    Another Tenor singer I liked was Jodi Hosterman. I had never been a Inspirations fan. They always had a hickish sound (ie. two shoes).
    They now sound totally different.
    Tonight my Italian Canadian friend turned to me and said, these guys had the tightest sound over the last two nights. They gained a new fan in him, and me.

  3. Irishlad wrote:

    #1, we’ve collectively been mourning for SG since i can remember and that’s 40 yrs or more, it’s the old case of looking back through rose-tinted glasses trying to capture those halcyon days.Having said that, scroll back to the NQC of the mid- nineties when the Cats,the Kingmen,Gold City were all on a glorious high, George and Glenn,Jim Hamill and the full band,Brian, Tim,Ivan and Mark, who would have thought then that the landscape of SG as we so comfortably knew it would change so rapidly
    and dramatically.I could venture to say on hindsight that that was the day the music died.

  4. Gospel Has Been wrote:

    I’ve been going to NQC for 38 years and this was the worse one I’ve seen. Even the old Nashville days were better than this.
    I must say the sound this year was the best it has ever been but the rest of it lacked a lot. I think next year I’ll spend my money with Bill Bailey in Florida and the Brumleys at their sing and forget the NQC as it was pretty evident by the attendance this year some people have already done. I think it was terrible that the exhibit hall was almost empty on Saturday night when some people the weekend is the only time they can go but must the artist had pulled up stakes except the Flea Market bunch. The board needs to meet and come up with some improvements for next year or before long there won’t be a next year.

  5. Brett wrote:

    I was wondering what your opinion was on the Singing News awards not being there this year, was it better with them or without them?

  6. Casual Observer wrote:

    I just think the handwriting is on the wall. There is a malaise across the Christian music industry in general. I work in that world as a songwriter and I’m having to look seriously at how much longer I can continue to write for the SG industry. Royalties are plummeting - which means albums sales are plummeting - which means it’s harder and harder for the artists to stay on the road - which means the ones who are still doing it ain’t having as much fun as they used to…maybe that’s what we all sense. Maybe that accounts for the phoned-in performances and the half empty arenas. I know we all love Jesus, but we also have mortgages and electric bills to pay. I hate to predict the demise of an industry, but unless we can somehow prove ourselves relevant in these modern times, we’ll not be here to critique ourselves much longer. Who knows…maybe this is the beginning of a great sifting in our midst - a time when a lot of folks, who should have chosen other professions to begin with, are forced to move along and allow a purer form of the music we love to re-emerge and once again recapture the glory days of Southern Gospel Music. Or maybe that’s just the dreamer in me.

  7. Cleo Thomas wrote:

    #6) Whatever…

  8. suzie wrote:

    Please help! I have the nqc archives up for Sat. afternoon but can’t find the Rambos on it. Does anyone know where to find it? It simply isn’t on the segment of Sat. afternoon as it’s labeled. Help!! Where is it??

  9. Ken Grady wrote:

    I agree with #2 Tjeerd. The Inspirations were great!

  10. GC/EHSS/L5 fan wrote:

    Suzie, it is on the first segment od Saturday afternoon. First you’ll hear several groups sing “I Found A Hiding Place”, then there will be some talk about SG history, then Karen Peck will speak, and after that, the Rambos will appear. It’s maybe 10 minutes into the segment.

  11. suzie wrote:

    I found it!!! Thank you so much #10. I’ve followed the Rambos and then Reba individually most of my life! She is a truly amazing singer and writer/poet. Soooo glad to see and hear her. I’ll try to get in many, many viewings before they take down the archives!!

  12. Barbie S. wrote:

    SG is a style of music whose main audience is ageing. Unless the style is somehow re-introduced to the younger crowds (in a way that is interesting to them) it will eventually be gone. It will still be appreciated- the talent can’t be denied, but the younger crowd isn’t growing up listening to it for the most part.

    Add to that the floundering economy, and that only hurts it even more.

    Not just SG, though. All music is down across the board.

  13. Tjeerd wrote:

    @ Barbie S.
    “SG is a style of music whose main audience is ageing”

    I was at the NQC this year for the first time.
    I am 53 years old. I scanned the crowd, a lot of gray heads.
    I have a theory, and I hope its true.
    The NQC is in mid Sept. Kids are in school. Twenty somethings are in college, or starting careers. Thirty-forty- fifty crowd either raising school kids or paying for college. By the time your sixty you finally have the time and resources to attend the NQC.

  14. IMHO wrote:

    Seems the NQC did a little “marketing” of its own this year by putting little known and lesser talented groups take the “main stage” prior to the advertised line up. If I had to guess, I’d imagine that each one of these less-than-mediocre groups have probably rented booth space at NQC for years. Perhaps it will result in them coming back a few more years and shelling out the cash for a booth, as they now each can claim the prize of having performed in the premier arena. Good marketing, bad music. To be fair, I only arrived early on Wednesday and Thursday. Couldn’t take any more after that.

  15. GC/EHSS/L5 fan wrote:

    You’re welcome, Suzie. I thought the Rambos turned in one of the stronger sets at the Celebration. Reba sounds more like her Mama now and Destiny covered the high notes well. Donny doesn’t sound a thing like Buck, but he did what was needed. Buck sounded better than I was expecting…hope I can sing as well at that age.

    Doctrinal differences aside, I grew up listening to a Rambos 8 track and have a soft spot in my heart for their music.

  16. justafan wrote:


    1. Why was Gold City’s sound man allowed to run the house sound during the group’s Saturday evening set? I found that surprising and confusing.

    2. Did anybody see Josh Cobb struggle and seem as if he was hurting during their final song? I hated to see it. He’s too good. Was it just a long week, or is Cobb already feeling the effects of singing tenor with Gold City night after night?

    Tim Parton is more than great…and though his Saturday evening performance of God’s Been Good was very good in its own right, my comments have little to do with that. He enhances the group’s sound while staying out of the way. That’s a very undervalued characteristic.

  17. Auke wrote:

    The main thing that is ‘killing’ SGM is retro.
    Instead of doing new innovative stuff..groups reach back to releasing one retro/tribute record after another.
    People get excited over a one time reunion of Gold City,Singing Americans and such.
    Groups who are doing new fresh stuff don’t make it..groups like Chosen Few,Crossway….and countless talented others we even haven’t heard about.
    Because it prolly won’t sell to the hardcore SGM crowd….and like any other business execs are reluctant to take a ‘risk’..missing out in the proces to drill into a new fresh well of harmonious inclined young folk.
    This is where the problem lies….what this industry needs is a visionair….guys like Gary Paxton, Bob MacKenzie and others never were succeeded by cool young producers who dared to be different….all SGM basically sounds the same.
    It’s all piano’s,b3’s,harmonica’s,dobro’s and pedalsteel and huge orchestra’s…..personally i’m tired of it.
    We had some special singers in every era..
    …Jake Hess,Glen Payne,James Blackwood,Jim Hamill,Smitty Gatlin…then came dudes like Duane Allen, Sherman Andrus,Russ Taff, and then Michael English came along with guys like Danny Funderburk,Kirk Talley,Ivan Parker and they defined the industry. Michael English has had the greatest impact on SGM leadsingers unlike anyone before him….even Jake Hess hasn’t had that big a impact on modernday SGM. BGV’s have changed because of Mike, blending, adlibs….u name it…Michael’s legacy is amazing. But it’s time for a new sound, a new Jake,Michael,Russ to get up there and change SGM. And i know there are a few out there, but the recordlabels got to be willing to take a risk, and give these folk a break.


  18. Auke wrote:

    I have a blog going on at Gaither Community you might be interested so check it out. I usually write a piece about an album,song or artist that impacted me, and usually put the song i wrote about up on the playlist i have there.
    Hope you like it…if not feel free to critique. Bare in mind that my native tongue is dutch and not english….so commenting on my grammar is considered a cheap shot….lol.


  19. Nicole Anderson wrote:

    Does anyone know where the archived video link is to Saturday day’s performance? Looking for the Rambos and I see where someone above found the link. Not sure what website that is on though. Thanks

  20. apathetic wrote:

    How was the Mike and Kelly Bowling performance? I thought I would find it mentioned here somewhere since it was their first public performance since the bus accident. Did anyone catch that performance?

  21. joe wrote:

    Suzie and GC/EHSS/L5 fan: What are you referring to when you say NQC archives? Is there a website where we can view this?

  22. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    No. 13: Your theory is wrong.

    Do you want to know why genres like country, rock, pop, even CCM aren’t dying off like southern gospel? It’s simple: evolution. Those genres remain relevant because they are constantly evolving. Southern gospel isn’t.

    Here’s the difference: none of the aforementioned genres’ fan bases demand that the music, the sound, the look of its artists, all remain just like it was 50 years ago. How relevant would country music be today if it all looked and sounded like Hank Williams, Sr.? It’d be a joke. A regional genre with a loyal, cult following of a fan base all over 65. Sound familar?

    Even the industry’s best attempt at reaching a demographic under 65 in the last twenty years (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound) has bowed to the sound-like-it’s-50-years-ago crowd. They had a sound that was southern gospel, yet evolving, and people went crazy for it. But two “Influenced” albums and a Cathedrals tribute project later and I’m completely checked out.

    I’m 30 years old. I like good, creative, out-of-the-box southern gospel music. I have almost no interest in old, boring, four-guys-in-matching-suits southern gospel. And I absolutely have no interest in southern gospel’s history. Other genres pay lip service tribute to their historical figures, but they do not continue to sound like them, or even worse, showcase them far past their primes. Other genres evolve. Southern gospel doesn’t.

    So, No. 13, your theory is wrong. Use me as your market research. I think about 5 percent of new southern gospel is listenable. The rest is a smattering of awful performances, slapped-together songwriting, and a whole crap load of sound-like-the-past.

    That’s just not going to cut it for us 18-49 year olds.

    And spare me the “if you hate it so much, why don’t you stop listening” responses. First off, you know I’m right. Second, I just might take you up on it, which would be really bad for the southern gospel economy as I’m one of its few fans who isn’t on a fixed income.

  23. Tony Watson wrote:

    Joe, the archive is a part of the NQC webcast that was a subscription you could purchase for $60. For those that purchased it, the archives will be available until November 1. However, I’ve seen where some have already posted some of the segments on YouTube

  24. art wrote:

    #22 Soli Deo Gloria: I was thinking of evolution vs. tradition the other day. Doesn’t it really boil down to: what is the definition of Southern Gospel, musically speaking?

    I’ve listened to some CDs by unquestioned SG performers, and I’ve heard a variety of styles that I would class as blues, bluegrass, easy listening, soft shoe and even 1960s-era nightclub music.

    If SG evolves, what must it KEEP in order to remain SG?

  25. noninsider wrote:

    16. I believe each group has a choice to whether or not their sound guy helps run the sound… I know the Collingsworth’s sound guy helped run their sound this week so it was not unheard of…

    Yes I saw Cobb struggle… While I love his voice and I believe he is an elite level tenor I don’t however think he is suited as a Gold City Tenor, he doesn’t use his head tones enough and that will cause his voice to burn out quickly…

    Tim Parton is magnificent… Everything you said about him was spot on. He enhances L5 in a way that few pianists can enhance their group. His singing has improved immensely since I first heard him sing “God’s Been Good” a couple of years ago… He is also one of the most humble guys I have seen and that is rare for someone with his abilities…

  26. Joe wrote:

    Soli #22- Not only is Tjeerd #13 absolutley correct, you yourself could not be any more wrong.

    Ever been to an NQC? Positively every thing he has said is spot on. I have never been able to understand why it is always in September, after the younger kids are back to school, and the older kids are back at college. Unless they get baby-sitters, the younger parents can’t even come!

    To make it sound like it is all “4 guys in a suit” would show you most likely have never been to one.

    On the main stage are quartets, both old, young, and new. Trios, both vintage and state-of-the-art. Female ensembles. Family groups. Soloists. Impromptu groups doing spur-of-the-moment songs. Bluegrass groups. Mountain music quartets and groups. Progressive SGM bands. Even duets. The morning and afternoon showcases, the pianoramas, and the musical jam sessions are even more diverse.

    If you think they all looked and sounded “like they did 50 years ago”, you tell us all you have no idea what you’re talkig about.

    I was at a Saturday night L5 concert in a high school 2 weeks ago, and there was everybody there from young couples, families, seniors, teenagers, and 4-10 year olds on the 2nd row.

  27. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    No. 24: Great question. There are three things southern gospel must keep to remain southern gospel.

    1. The vocal harmony. Southern gospel begins and ends with vocal harmony. Stellar individual vocal performances are only stellar when they’re set up/supplemented by good, tight harmony.

    2. The relatable songs. Unlike CCM or praise and worship stuff, southern gospel songs have to be relatable, i.e., the average person has to see himself in the song. That’s why redemption songs have always been a staple in southern gospel, because people can relate.

    3. The fan access. Southern gospel allows fans greater access than other genres, including CCM. Even the great David Phelps goes and mans a booth at intermission of a Gaither show. Lose the access, lose the fans.

    But beyond this list, nothing else is untouchable. Really, what else is appealing about southern gospel? Tradtion? The corny jokes? The matching suits? Group names, despite years and years of personnel change?

    No, it’s the harmony, the relatable songs and the fan access. That’s it. It isn’t rocket science.

    Country, rock, pop, they all have their template of non-negotiables, and they all allow evolution within those parameters. Southern gospel, however, stifles evolution by adding too many non-negotiable parameters that no one under 65 cares about at all.

    Harmony, relatable songs, fan access. That’s the list.

  28. Hector Luna wrote:

    #22. you are right, unfortunately. “Gimme That Old Time Religion” can only be relevant for so long. I don’t know even know what Old Time Religion means. I hope SG will not reduce the clarity of the Gospel into an Old Time Religion.

  29. Joe wrote:

    Soli- in on your most immediate answer, you swung and missed. At a pitch 3 feet over your helmet.

    Do you listen to SGM? Do you think there are no “relatable” songs?

    Without even thinking long and hard, here are just a few.

    The Greene’s “Jesus’s Rocking Chair”. A bit dated, but a tremendous song of ministry to young couples who have lost little babies.

    “King’s Kid” by the Browders- a heart-tugging story of a young man, a prodigal from his family, who stumbles into a storefront church, hears the gospel, and gets saved- then gets killed by a hit-and-run driver on his way home, and is amazed to awaken in Heaven, from his recent life on the streets.

    “I’ll Pray For You” by the Whisnants- a song that teaches us all how little we avail ourselves of this most valuable Christian asset.

    “Back To The Cross” by Fresh Anointing, and “The Message of the Cross” by the Browders- two gripping songs that implore the church to get back to the Biblical message of man’s ruin and God’s remedy, instead of the accursed prosperity/health/wealth/”it’s all about me” crap that is being preached from so many pulpits.

    “When I Lay My Isaac Down” by Mike Upright- a song so challenging to any of us who are holding on to anything that diplaces the Lord in our lives.

    I would agree with you that the redemptive songs, as you put it, are SO valuable in SGM, and are the very cornerstone of the genre. Far too few of these, and far too many songs that are nothing more than empty fluff. With all his incredible knowledge of and access to the best songs, Bill chooses far too many totally empty songs for the GVB to sing.

  30. eric wrote:

    I saw some footage on Youtube of the “reunion” day of NQC and actually thought the Singing Americans had a pretty good set. English ought to start singing like that more often.

  31. WB wrote:

    #22. It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you’re the smartest person in the room.

  32. suzie wrote:

    Hey Joe,
    The convention was broadcast live (all the events from Freedom Hall, each afternoon and night) and is now archived and available until Nov. 1st for those who purchased it initially. Their tech support is excellent and the number is 1-866-708-1452. You could call and ask to purchase it after the fact just to get to the archives. It was well worth the $60 to get so many, many hours of coverage (in the comfort of my own home!!) and to be able to see it again and again!

  33. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #16 & 25: I’d attribute whatever “struggling” you may have heard to it being a long week. Josh had expressed that he was tired earlier that night when we spoke in the exhibit hall.

    That being said, I thought he did a great job, all things considered. I guarantee I wouldn’t have sounded that good if I was that tired.

    Of course, some would say I don’t sound good even when I’m at full energy! ;)

  34. Extra Ink wrote:

    Soli Deo Gloria,

    You bring up many good points. I agree with a lot of what you have to say. But to anyone who believes SG music needs to be more “cutting-edge” to appeal to a younger crowd…I would point you to the Collingsworth Family. No hip hairstyles, no modern, skin-tight clothing….in fact, they are a picture of modesty and wholesomeness. I attended NQC this week, and the crowd absolutely went nuts for this group. Look at their concerts…packed. What is it that this group has that people love? (1) Vocal excellence (2) Holy Spirit annointing (I know some of you hate that term, but it’s true) (3) A very “realness” (not fakey) in their presentation & message (4) songs that are lyrically & musically appealing

    The bottom line is that there is too much show biz on stage at NQC and not enough transparency of the performer. What is gospel music really about? Our Lord, his death on the cross, his rising from the grave and His love for us all. I think Mom & Dad Collingsworth understand this concept and apply it to their ministry; God is blessing it with His increase.

  35. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    No.31, you’re right. Southern gospel’s fine. It’s never been more popular, especially with young people. Let’s stay the course. Screw 18-49 year olds and their disposable income. Southern gospel doesn’t need it or them.

    And No.29, did you even read either comment?

  36. another viewpoint wrote:

    Soli… While I do understand where you are coming from about other genre’s evolving. I must point out that Bluegrass pretty much remains true to its roots and honors its heritage. It doesn’t seem to be hurting. There are so many extreme varieties in SG, we can’t expect every group to have the same ‘new’ sound or it would be extremely boring. There aren’t really that many ‘matching suit’ groups anymore anyways. If the Inspirations aren’t your thing, go see Gold City, or Gaither. (those are just examples). Also, while they don’t sound like Hank Sr., there are still Country artists who have thriving careers who pay tribute to and keep a fairly traditional sound (George Strait, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley).
    AND. as an older person now, I remember when I attended concerts as a child, and do you know that the MAJORITY of those crowds were elderly folks. I’m saying that because, there it is not possible that those 65+ yr olds who were the fans of the 50’s/60’s, are still the same entire audience of today. Same as in church, there’s more seniors in most every church I visit. Does that mean churches should come up with some new way? perhaps write a new book? I say this, because I really believe that as people age, their tastes in music change, and as people grow older and get more involved in church, they are introduced to the varieties of Gospel Music. The elderly SG fans of today could have very well been the Elvis, Beach Boys, Eagles, Chicago, fans of yesterday, but 70 year olds may not want to ‘rock out’ anymore. I think the variety that we have now in SG is great, if someone likes progressive music, we have it. If they like mountain, bluegrass, traditional, we have it!

  37. Darrell wrote:

    #16, 25 & 33: I have seen Gold City live twice, watched most if not all of Gold City’s NQC performance on the Webcast and have felt that Josh was not a perfect fit for them. I have heard many good things about him and don’t doubt his quality but when I heard him there just was something not right. I have talked with him and I think he is a quality person and everyone I talk to agrees he is a very good tenor but for some reason I don’t hear it.

    This is not meant in any way to be negative because I really like him.

  38. apathetic wrote:

    Soli Deo Gloria - you are so correct. Your assessment will get bashed on this board because most on here think SG is just fine the way it is. They bury their head in the sand and refuse to see an aging fan base and refusal, by the industry, to modernize. From a business standpoint it is easier to conform to what is currently selling (even though sales are declining). A new group will come out with a more progressive sound. Sales will be low because the traditional fan base thinks the sound is not traditional enough. Bookings will be harder to come by because the churches in B.S.A’s rolodex want that traditional sound. The churches that would like a more progressive sound would rather book a CCM act that has a bigger following. So, a new SG group with a more progressive look and sound ends up reverting their style back to a more traditional sound in order to keep making a living. Any new (younger) fans that were made are now lost because they now no longer like the sound of the band. It is a vicious cycle.

    Another thing that secular music does to keep a young fan base is sign young acts. How many groups in Southern Gospel are young? Not that many. You have the variants of the Crabb Family which appeal to a younger crowd, but they are in, or close to, their 30’s. Hardly young by secular music standards. Bands like Austin’s Bridge had a young fan base and what happened to them? They are no longer performing due to that vicious cycle mentioned earlier.

    Things are going to have to change if the genre wants to survive. Or we can just keep our heads buried and keep talking about how great Gold City was in their prime 20 years ago and how “progressive” E.H. and Signature Sounds is and how the Collingsworth’s get a great response at NQC despite the fact that they don’t use hair gel. LOL Let’s just keep talking about how great everything is, patting ourselves on the back and refusing to pick up a bucket and bail out the water that is sinking the ship.

  39. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    No. 37, I actually don’t think we’re saying two different things, we’re saying the same thing in a different way.

    The theory posed by No. 13 was lamenting/explaining the lack of interest on the part of younger people in southern gospel music. Your answer is the same as mine: southern gospel music simply isn’t relatable to younger people. It just isn’t. And you seem to understand that and be fine with that. That makes total sense to me.

    What doesn’t make sense is blaming a senior citizen only crowd in Louisville on the fact that school has started (No. 13) or claiming southern gospel is relevant to young people because you saw some home school parents drag their kids out on a “field trip” to a Legacy Five concert (No. 26).

    And maybe that’s the answer. Southern gospel isn’t dying off because it’s constantly getting an influx of new senior citizens. Southern gospel is like the Florida of genres. It’s fine to spend a little time there when you’re young, but you’re not interested in living there until you retire.

    And if the majority of southern gospel fans are ok with that, who am I to stand in there way?

  40. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    THEIR way, not THERE way. Sorry, grammar police.

  41. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    Concerning Soli Deo Gloria’s comments about young groups, J.D. Sumner (Soli’s favorite bass singer, LOL) did say in one of his Singing News articles back in the early 90s that there was a need for young people to sing in groups. Young people attract other young people.

  42. Faith wrote:

    Home-school parents…”field-trip” to see L5…okay, that made me laugh out loud. I am not against homeschooling in principle, but it just seems like there are so many bad ones out there! You know, the ones who spend 5 minutes on a spelling lesson, then bring their kids to the grocery store with them, telling themselves that it’s like “school”. Then they justify their lousy attempts at parenting (read: control obsession) with the thought that their kids are learning “real-life” stuff. Um, right…

    Sadly, I honestly know people who would justify bringing their kids to an L5 concert as “a field trip”.

    Having said that, I guess the Bowling kids are “bus-schooled”. It appears that mama hasn’t bothered to teach the kids about nutrition; nah, better to let them be obese just like her.

    Ugh…homeschoolers! A better name would be “stringers” (as in still-attached-to-the-apron-strings). I better stop now…I could rant about that all day.

  43. Joe wrote:


    The disdain with which you tar homeschooling parents is puzzling.

    Many Christian parents, on top of ever-escalating property taxes from an inept and financially-deficient public school system, cannot afford to 4-5 thousand extra dollars per year to send their chldren to Christian schools.

    And the deplorable morality, drugs, and ethics in our public schools is nothing less than disgusting.

    So…what else is a concerned Christian parent to do?

    And don’t worry about that L5 concert being a home-schooling “field-trip”. Those were young grandparents who had their grandkids for the weekend, and brought them to the concert, and the kids enjoyed it immensely. They took home CD’s.

  44. noninsider wrote:

    39. I see what you’re saying, I go to several concerts a year and there are some young people but not many… That being said it seems as people get older they grow an appreciation for this music and it makes new fans in a sense… I mean look at SG about 40 or 50 years ago, most of those people are dead and gone, look at it now… There are more old people to take their place… I am a younger person and I have been a fan of this genre since I was 12, along with many of my friends (and no I wasn’t home-schooled) There are things groups can do to attract young people, but as long as people are still getting old there will still be fans of this genre… I don’t see it going anywhere…

  45. ABC wrote:

    Well I am a homeschooler and I am proud of it. I know how to carry a conversation and survive in the real world.

    The big difference I see between homeschoolers and public-schoolers is that the homeschoolers can actually communicate and interact with people of all ages. Many public-schoolers would not be caught dead hanging out with anyone that is not part of their “cool” peer group.

    Oh, and homeschoolers actually go places in life, unlike many public-schoolers who just squeak by in school and college. They are the ones winning the competitions and becoming the leaders in Education.

    Now, I will be the first to admit that there are homeschoolers who are way too sheltered, but that is a stereotype that does not apply across the board.
    To say that all or even most homeschoolers are too sheltered is like saying that all public-schoolers have premarital sex (which is not true).

    Tim Tebow was homeschooled. Need I say more?

  46. Bill Bailey wrote:

    Jim Cumbee spoke at the Promoters’ Association a couple of years ago, and gave the best analogy that I’ve heard regarding this particular subject. Nike doesn’t market its shoes to the 50+ market. They know that their target demographic is 18 yo. Yes, there are a few 50+ people that will wear them, but the vast majority of their sales come to teenagers.

    Southern gospel music appeals to an older demo. Yes, we have some younger groups who have a younger appeal. And for that, I am very thankful. My three teenage kids love anything to do with the Crabb Family, the Perrys, or Brian Free. (My two girls want to marry any one of the Crabb boys!) I once heard that the target demo for Solid Gospel is a 50 yo woman that drives a Buick and has an American Express card. Come to think of it, that looks quite a bit like the crowd at NQC this past week. (And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.)

    Those that think that southern gospel will die off because of seniors is entirely misinformed. The largest demographic in America, now and for the next 30 years, is the senior market. This is the time that our music should be growing and flourishing. People’s musical tastes are very similar as their appetites. They mellow over the years. And as our music continues to evolve, it will meet at a happy medium to today’s seniors mellowing tastes. Those who don’t think southern gospel music has evolved should listen to today’s sg versus sg from 30 years ago.

    Another good analogy that was given involved listening to “He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away” as a teenager and young adult. That song didn’t have much meaning during his 20’s and 30’s. However, into his 40’s and after he had lived long enough to have some hard life experiences, he suddenly could grasp the meaning and realness of a song like this. Southern gospel music tells a story and preaches doctrine that many young adults cannot or will not receive. They view it as irrelevant. (That’s why that is the hardest group for us to reach in our churches. Just take a look in your church pews this Sunday.) But give them a few years of life’s hard experiences, and I believe their search will lead them back to the fundamental, foundational truths that southern gospel holds so dear.

    The issue is not about the demographic. But rather how the target demographic changes generationally. That is for another conversation or post.

    The real reason for the empty seats in Louisville may have more to do with the many other choices these people have throughout the year. Instead of going to NQC, they may go to Brumley, Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, or my Florida winter convention. Dollywood’s fall festival and the Singing News awards are coming up. There are many other choices for the consumer than there were ten years ago. And remember these are senior citizens, and bigger isn’t necessarily better (regarding parking, seating, etc).

  47. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    Quoting Mr. Bailey,

    “The real reason for the empty seats in Louisville may have more to do with the many other choices these people have throughout the year. Instead of going to NQC, they may go to Brumley, Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, or my Florida winter convention. Dollywood’s fall festival and the Singing News awards are coming up. There are many other choices for the consumer than there were ten years ago. And remember these are senior citizens, and bigger isn’t necessarily better (regarding parking, seating, etc).”

    Since bigger is not necessarily better (and I agree that often it is not), then should the NQC rethink what they are doing and take a different approach to become and leaner, more efficient operation that might provide less content, but a higher quality of what is offered?

  48. Chaz wrote:

    Mr. Bailey, I’ve been amazed at some of the ‘over-the-top’ claims that you’ve made during your product pitches over the years.

    But I must admit, very sincerely, that I am a fan of your posting here on AVFL. You said EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking the last week or so. Thank you for that! You may not be so bad a guy after all… LOL…

    So, BTW, what ‘treasure’ is ‘your’ record company gonna come up with next?

  49. apathetic wrote:

    Here is the reason the Southern Gospel genre will die off unless there is fundamental change. I have seen several comments about people mellowing out with age, their musical taste changes, etc. That is not the case.

    Look at the secular market. There are oldies stations still on the air because there are still people who like that music. Why? Because it reminds them of their youth. It is what they grew up listening to. Those stations are not on the market because people are growing older and realize they just now started liking oldies music. Oldies stations will also die out or change their meaning of the term “oldies” to music from the 70’s and 80’s instead of music from the 50’s and 60’s. How many radio stations do you hear playing Fred Astaire or Dorothy Dickson these days? Not many. Why? Shouldn’t people be “mellowing out” and changing their musical taste to artists from the 20’s and 30’s? Nope. They will continue to like the music of their youth. They were born in the 50’s, so they will continue to like music from the 50’s and 60’s. Those born and raised in the 20’s and 30’s have started to die off so the number of stations playing that music has died off as well. The same will happen with the 50’s and 60’s music.

    This is the reason older folks like Southern Gospel. It reminds them of the music of their youth. Music they grew up listening to. Southern Gospel’s sound is always behind the times. Quartets sound like music from the 50’s. Other groups sound like music from the 60’s and 70’s. SO, that is why the majority of the SG crowd is older. Even if it is a brand new group on the scene, their music likely sounds dated, so the old folks enjoy it because it sounds like the music they grew up listening to.

    Most of the young people today did not grow up listening to southern gospel. Therefore, they will not turn to it when they are older and the Genre of Southern Gospel will die off just like the Big Band and Jazz music of the 20’s and 30’s has.

  50. matureman wrote:

    #49…interesting comment. If what you say is true, then there isn’t much we can do to prevent the inevitable demise of SG. What we do know…

    #1. We all continue to get older if we live.

    #2. Standing slouched in front of a mic with torn jeans and a rumpled shirt with the tail out will not make a SG singing group progressive nor change the music. It simply makes them perform with a distinct disadvantage at the start of the program.

    #3. Most of us elders don’t care if the tenor can shatter glass or the bass can crack the cones on the speakers. We like the group to sing with skill, in harmony with a comfortable key for their voices, with originality and a keen ear for quality songs. We don’t mind a little whoopin’ and hollerin’ on one or two songs but for goodness sake, keep it to a minimum along with the talking between songs. We pay the preachers and teachers to talk. We go to hear singers sing, if they can. If they can’t, well, the group won’t be very busy and we get to where we largely are in SG today. FWIW, a lot of us older people are on the church boards and music committees.

    The truly successful group of the future, IMO, will appeal to a broad cross-section of fans. When a group performs with indisputable talent and sincerity to a house full of all age groups (eg: Cathedrals and others), they won’t be wondering where the fuel money is coming from for the return trip.

    Not all SG groups will be financially successful. Just as most new businesses do not survive past startup, so goes the average SG singing group. But… it surely is fun to try to get established.

    Heres to all the gutsy folks that love to sing and try to make our music productive and better. Personally, I like better singing. May God bless the effort.

  51. Michael McIlwain wrote:

    #51, Well said, brother. The challenge is trying to be excellent and creative in a way that appeals to a large group of people, but it can be done.

  52. Alan wrote:

    There’s something going on here that I don’t understand. I cut my teeth on sgm growing up. I remember when I was a teenager, going to hear the Statesmen, Blackwood Brothers, Stamps, Cats, etc. - the biggest groups of the day, and every single one of the singers was a whole lot older than I was. Big Chief and Hovie seemed like pretty old men then, as did James, JD, and the rest. The Goodmans, my dear friends later in life, were roughly the age of my parents. As time went on, I got older, until many (most?) of those who sing today are my age or younger. The audience that was my age or a little older when we cut our teeth on this music years ago, are the audience now. Life was simpler then. There weren’t as many diversions or forms of Christian entertainment (or any other kind) then as there are now. What some of you are taking as a real negative against this genre of music seems to me to be just an inevitable demographic shift. I just don’t think it’s as major of a deal as a few of you are making out to be. One commenter pointed out that today, we have many more alternatives to the NQC for days-long concert events. I live in Myrtle Beach, and can assure you that the promoters of “Singing In The Sun” and Gaitherfest aren’t exactly complaining. Our Convention Center will only seat around 4500, at least until the new one gets built; but when I can, I
    drop by there to see some of my friends in the business, and every seat is filled every night. And these are just two of the major events available.

    This is a limited genre of music by its very nature. Not everyone likes jazz, country, rock, etc. It’s name says it all, “southern” gospel music. Not everyone is going to like it, but it is what it is. If you go so far as to reinvent the music into what it’s never really been, it will lose its inherent identity. I’m not saying that’s a terrible thing…country music had a major change. Veteran artists were banished from radio, a flock of newcomers who all sounded alike came in, and country grew exponentially. We could push for that in sgm, and it might prove successful. But, would it be for the best? Everything is cyclical, really. Things might seem to be in a lull period these days, but hang in there.

  53. quartet-man wrote:

    #51, Mike, if you needed someone to affirm your post, I would have done it so you wouldn’t have to your own. Just kidding, my friend. I realize a post probably got shifted. I couldn’t resist (or at least didn’t discipline myself.) :D

  54. quartet-man wrote:

    Okay, I don’t have the answers about Southern Gospel. I can see both sides of the arguments here. Let me give you my history (or at least in part. ;) ) I grew up listening to pop, country and gospel I guess, but probably mostly country I suppose. At least that is my suspicion with what 45’s I got as a kid (Rhinestone Cowboy, Lucille and other Kenny songs, but I also had Ariel, Lay Down Sally (had no idea what the lyrics were) the No No Song (oh my), Delta Dawn (Helen Reddy version), You Light Up My Life etc. However, I remember more country songs which I probably heard prior to getting 45s.

    We had a few SG albums (Exciting Sounds of the Stamps, Blackwood Singers, Top 10 of I think 74, etc.) In the early eighties there was a Masters Five cassette or two. I started buying Oak Ridge Boys lps because I wanted harmony singing. I do like the Countrypolitan stuff. Later I got into Lee Greenwood, Kenny again etc.

    I didn’t get into Sg until right after High School in the late eighties. I also got into the New Gaither Vocal Band and other CCM or inspo at the same time.

    As far as High School, I did listen to some Journey, REO Speedwagon, Survivor etc. I like that stuff and there are times they bring back High School. I still don’t listen to them a lot. It is mostly Southern Gospel. So, although I was only slightly out of High School, that is the music I mostly stick with. Nonetheless, the style has changed some since then and my tastes in SG have broadened.

    I guess I want to say I was pretty late to the party, but now over half my life I have listened to at least some, but really I started out with mostly the GVB (contemp then), Cathedrals, Stamps, Gold City, and some of the Singing Americans stuff. It wasn’t until Gaither that I discovered the Hoppers, Talleys, Greenes and others. Years after High School, but I like them.

  55. Michael McIlwain wrote:

    Q-man, thanks for pointing out my mistake. I’m a terrible proof-reader. I intended to affirm poster #50.

  56. CWG wrote:

    From experience, I have found that one thing that does not work, is thinking that when this demographic reaches old age, they will turn to gospel music. I was under this impression in the 1960’s, but with time found out that the children of those attending my concerts didn’t follow in their parents music tastes. In fact, probably didn’t even enjoy gospel music. So, as you can see, this certainly turns into a shrinking audience base.
    Within the next decade, I think that there will be many trends that will have an impact on audiences and ticket sales to gospel concerts. There will always be gospel music performers, and audiences that will listen, but will they pay for tickets and attend gospel concerts as they are at present today. I don’t think they will. Today, we are faced with such fast technological changes, that the music business finds it difficult to keep up. Video stores are closing because of the way music, videos, movies, etc are marketed. I think that those in the business should be looking at ways to reach their audiences or fans in different ways. I do not think that groups will be filling auditoriums like Freedom Hall , and that the industry should be looking at new ways to market their products. We can not stand still and sit playing our LP records in hopes that our crowds will increase with the introudction of more youthful groups and contemporary songs. I don’t have the answer, but if I did, I would be able to make a lot of money in being ahead of the change, and not trying to catch up.

  57. quartet-man wrote:

    #51 - You know I was just messin’ with ya. What made it funny was it directed to your own post. I certainly let things pass by at times. Seriously though, you have made some especially good posts as of late.

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