Son of a Gospel Singer, Part 2
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. We shared part 1, last week, here.
You don’t really see the effects of your dad never being there until you get a little bit older.
It starts to sink in. When discipline is required in the home, mom usually took care of it. If it was bad enough, she would warn me that she was telling dad when he got home. You know the last thing he wants to do when he gets home is to whip you. But he usually did. There were some cases in which maybe mom forgot to tell dad, or he simply forgot after a particularly long road trip…but that was rare. I always thanked God for those “forgetful” grace moments. But it puzzles you in a way. Here’s a guy who I see only a couple of days a week and when I do see him, he’s just disciplining me, grounding me, spanking me, yelling at me (this was my thought process, at least). You see in the credits sometimes, “we want to thank our kids for understanding why their dads are always gone.” Well, at certain ages, you really don’t understand.
You may say you understand, just because you don’t want to cause particular problems, such as re-thinking their careers, or feeling an unnecessary burden, but you can hear, “Well, I’m out to sing the Gospel, to tell people about Jesus through song.”
You think, “Can’t you do that here? At home?”
But if you ask any further, you might get the classic, “Son, do you like to eat? Do you like that nintendo?” The thought of no food or nintendo practically shuts you up, but the question still lingers.
You have to get the neighbors and teammates to take you to baseball or football practice because you have a bunch of brothers and sisters rambling around that mom needs to take care of. Your personal feats on the ball field are many times only witnessed by the other fathers. I would count up my stats and share all of the game circumstances with my father over a telephone or replay it in the front yard when he got back home. I’m not saying he was never there, but there sure were a lot of games and practices I would have liked him to be there for. Those times we did have to throw the ball around are unforgettable to me, because they are so rare. But even in those small amounts of time, he taught me how to catch a ball, hit a ball, how to tackle, how to dribble, how to ride a bike, i before e, except after c, and so on.
Most importantly, he taught me how to have faith. He activated his faith in the Son of God and His provision for me, and the salvation that is there for me to attain because of a sacrificial death on a cross. He taught me how to have a relationship with Christ, led me to the Lord, and taught me to how to love a woman, even when you’re not always there physically. Those are hard things to do correctly when you’re home an average of 2 days a week. That is the essence of selfless.
One of the things that Southern Gospel has had no shortage in is group changes. Sometimes we think of it as “promotions and demotions” (although, many of us would not be publicly state that). That’s something else you can’t quite figure out when you are so young. Your dad sings with a guy for so many years and then you find out he’s gone. You’re never given a precise reason, but you hear things. Call me a realist, but most of the time it’s not because “the Lord is leading me in another direction.” That is not to say that I deny God is in complete control nor does He provide another avenue of ministry “after things went sour.” I do believe those things wholeheartedly. His plans are perfect.
But sometimes group members are people. They fail. When you put an artist’s life in the spotlight, are rarely with their family, and they travel hundreds of thousands of miles every year, putting on a suit and a smile, with a stage to sing on in front of crowds of hundreds, sometimes thousands, singing encouraging songs about God’s love, who you really are can be overshadowed by what you’re doing. Sometimes you forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. I don’t mean that every artist does this, but from time to time, accountability is in order. It’s important to have that Christian fellowship on the bus to be real and authentic. It’s more than a road trip. Be careful to judge certain incidents when rumors occur of a group member’s activity. Realize the context in which they live their lives.
And sometimes, personalities clash. I’ve heard and seen many great groups with great harmony. Sometimes a specific group just has “it”. Or so you think. As I mentioned above, Christian fellowship is key to a group’s success sometimes. You need to like one another, or rather, get along very well. All individuals are different obviously, but a solid connection with the ability to respect, forgive, sacrifice, willing to listen, and tolerate each other goes further than what the average fan might perceive. Even things such as having a similar sense of humor is more important than we would initially want to point out. “Does he talk too much, does he always seem to want attention, does he even understand what sarcasm is, is he OCD about everything” are some common questions group members may ask when hiring (or firing) someone. The next time speculation occurs as to why someone leaves your favorite group, it may not be because of their voice or a better job.
There is also the business side. Group members leave for business reasons. It’s not always easy balancing business, ministry, and friendships. Given the fact that many just go from one group to another, their paths will cross again at some point and usually all will be forgiven. Oh, the revolving door of southern gospel. But from a kid’s standpoint, rarely do you understand the gravity of this perspective. It absolutely becomes real to you when it’s not other guys leaving, but when people are calling your dad to come sing and with them. We’re talking top notch groups… To the point where you even consider, “Wow, that would be awesome if you sang with them!” But then you realize you’d have to move again. Immediately, the idea is no longer so awesome.
Southern Gospel does indeed have very real, genuine, and humble people. Jim Brady, Rodney Griffin, Jason Crabb, Steve Lacey, Roger Talley, George Younce, Jeff Stice, Michael Lord, Tony Greene, Scott Fowler, and even Bill Gaither are some of the most humble people I’ve ever met. There are many, many others that would take forever for me to name. But their testimonies are in who they really are. Not just in what they do. It’s easy for fans to put them on pedestals, and they realize that. But let’s not be disappointed when they only spend 30 minutes at the table after a concert or immediately begin to take down their sound equipment after they change clothes and don’t notice you hanging around, waiting for them to talk to you. They might just be missing their wife and kids after not seeing them for 2 straight weeks and want to give them a call after a concert. Maybe their wife is at home with 3 kids and is pregnant again. maybe their son or daughter may have just come down with a terrible sickness or had a horrible accident and their minds are consumed. They sing because it’s their dream or it’s the calling on their life, not about the money, and they don’t know how they’re going to pay for hospital bills.
It’s easy to criticize your favorite artist or group for not singing the song you requested at their recent concert. It’s harder to truly pray for them and their families. Which road are you going to take? I’ve taken so many aspects for granted, but these are very talented people who love Jesus Christ and want to share His Gospel to the world. That alone, is something I never want to forget or take for granted. The journey of the Gospel through music must travel worldwide. I am grateful that God has decided to use men such as my father.
Thank you for your candor and insight—and for sharing your father with us all these years!