Son of a Gospel Singer, Part 1
The son of a member of one of Southern Gospel’s all-time most awarded and beloved groups shares this inside look at what it’s like to grow up as the son of a Gospel singer. We agreed that he would remain anonymous so that he could discuss the ups and downs with full candor.
Being the child of a Southern Gospel artist is honestly like being the child of a pilot. They have a cool job that a small minority of others aspires to be or look up to and respect, go to cool places in their travels, and you hardly ever see them. Some consider them heroes. Others consider it a job, maybe a job in ministry. There’s really elements of all three aspects in SG, but the perspective of what you grow up experiencing as a child is not always what the outside world may perceive. Satan can still attack those in ministry, who have set up a solid, Christian structure at home, whether they’re on the road or not. In the midst of continuous traveling it becomes easy for things at home to get bitter, frustrating, or in some cases, merely apathetic. I was very blessed to have one of those solid structures, but that doesn’t always mean I recognized what my father’s mission truly was while on the road. Nor does it mean that things were always perfect and glamorous. The core of a SG artist’s life is much like the core of anyone else (presumably Christian). They still have failures, emotional struggles, and a vast array of blessings, which they may sometimes take for granted, and sometimes be wholeheartedly thankful for. There is another dimension of all the “hoopla” that does excite and invigorate you, in the most relevant ways. And the older I get, the more I appreciate the memories.
Growing up, SG was about the only type of music that I knew, aside from the Beach Boys. One day, you’re going to school, enjoying your friends and family, go to sleep, and the next day you wake up in another state in a furnished new apartment. I don’t really remember the events leading up to the move. I know my parents told me we were moving, obviously, but when you’re so young, not everything registers accordingly. I probably just assumed I was going for a long visit. It’s as if you really don’t believe you’re going to be hours (and another state) away from everything you’ve ever known and been familiar with. Then you begin to try make sense of it all. You see your dad on stage one night, singing with other men about Christ. I remember my first experience at their concert. That night, I realized this venture was a special thing, even if I didn’t exactly know what it was or what it meant. But there’s my father on stage, chasing his dream.
It was quite fascinating to see your dad’s face on the cover of an album, open it up, and hear him singing. Not everyone could understand what pride a kid, barely in elementary school, takes in that. Then of course, you bring it to school to show all your classmates and the only ones that seem to care or even know who they are, are your teachers. And boy, is that a catch-22. Some teachers let you off the hook because they enjoy your dad’s music. Others don’t let you off the hook because they know who your dad is and know you’re being raised better to know and distinguish right and wrong. So the whole PK type thing became a part of my life at an early age. On music day, kids are bringing in TLC, Billy Ray Cyrus, and New Kids On The Block. I have my Cathedrals, Gaither, Greater Vision, Florida Boys, Talleys, Kingsmen gear ready to show off. The only reason you promote the group your dad sings for is because after a series of concerts you’ve been privileged to attend, you see flocks of people wanting to speak to him at the table and autograph their albums and photos. You stand with your father behind the record table, yet again with a sense of pride, yet a lingering uncertainty about what your father’s job is all about. You come to the conclusion that the only conclusion you have embarked upon is that what he does is simply, special.
I’ve been on many buses. In fact, a very popular manager/singer taught me how to tie my shoes on a bus. Gold City, Kingsmen, Legacy Five, Greater Vision, Talleys, But there is one I remember best, since it was the first time I ever remember being on a bus… my first time on the Cathedrals bus. I probably wasn’t even in elementary school yet and when I was invited me on the bus to meet everybody and given a handful of cookies. It was my first meeting with the current members, but it would certainly not be the last. Fred Privett actually played a very important role in my elevating interest in SG, but more on that later. I would never say that I ever became super close with these gentlemen, but not every kid gets the access to hop on a bus, watch cartoons, and eat cookies before a concert. Considering these were the “giants” of SG, they didn’t really seem any different to me, at the time. It would not be until years later, that I realized just how important their legacy was and would be. Still, in that moment, I never considered SG artists to be intimidating. They were just like my dad and the guys my dad sang with. The only time I ever felt intimidated by someone in the industry, was when Dale Shipley (former lead singer of Perfect Heart) told me to quit throwing the football around his bus. I never threw a football around their bus again. I decided to take my talents elsewhere that night—besides, The Inspirations and Karen Peck and New River didn’t seem to mind I played around their bus.
One of the things that made the biggest impact on me was the studio. There is nothing like sitting in a studio and hearing brand new songs for the first time that no one else has ever heard, thinking to yourself which ones are going to be huge hits. Hearing the tracks, then the vocals ,watching the engineers hard at work, adding things, musicians coming back to do overdubs. There is just something special about the recording process that has always intrigued me. One of the neatest things is getting to spend that time in the studio listening to your dad and their group singing songs yet heard by the audiences.
Another of the perks was every year at the NQC. When I wasn’t able to go, I would have a list of new or old projects that I wanted. Some of them were classic favorites of dad’s that he would listen to as a kid. Naturally, he would usually get them for me and bring them back in a big bag. Enough new music for a week!! Whenever the Cathedrals were around, I’d hang around the table and talk Fred Privett into giving me free cassettes, which also usually happened. He’s largely responsible for 1/3 of my Cathedral projects. And so was the case with many groups that found their way around my area. I seemed to use that “oh, I’m so and so’s son” and ask about a particular project, which they would give me. I know that seems very bratty of me. But I just figured my dad was important enough, that they’d do it. But I got older.
You don’t really see the effects of your dad never being there until you get a little bit older.
…to be continued, next week!