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. Β 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 insightβ€”and for sharing your father with us all these years!


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70 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. This is great…again!

  2. Some excellent points are made here. Thanks for the mini-series, Daniel.

    • Well, you’re welcome, but it’s not really like I can take the credit!

  3. I want to thank the young man who is being so honest in sharing his feelings. It has reinforced what I have long suspect4ed; and only makes me admire the men and woemn who sacrifice so much to take the Gospel to so many,

  4. Wonderful Blog Entries. I thank the writer for his honesty and wonderful writing.

    I hope there is a part 3 and 4 and 5 and 6… πŸ™‚

    • There were only plans for the two-part series at this time.

  5. These articles were great. Daniel, you did agree to run it and provide the forum.

    • Well, that was an easy decision! πŸ™‚

      • Agreed, but if you hadn’t many of us would probably have never seen it.

      • I suppose you have a point. In that event, you’re welcome! πŸ™‚

      • Granted someone else MIGHT have run it, but from your stats I think you have a larger audience than many if not all of the other SG blogs. So, even if I frequent many others, it stands to reason many here might have missed it even if it showed up elsewhere. πŸ˜›

      • :shrugs shoulders:

        OK. πŸ™‚

      • Daniel, we need to further take YGG under our tutelage. She voted for Penrod instead of Payne. πŸ˜€

      • I’m inclined to take the route of patience. I am confident that she will come around in time. πŸ™‚

      • I don’t think so. It’s not like I’m unfamiliar with Payne. It was a choice made after much agonizing and deliberating, and plenty of experience with both voices. πŸ˜€

      • BTW, if you haven’t noticed this is pick on YGG day. πŸ˜‰

      • Did someone schedule it to make up for Saturday?

      • Ah, gotcha! Though if you knew Daniel like I know him, you’d know that he’s much easier to pick on. πŸ™‚

      • Actually, I think you’re equally easy to pick on and parody, but I intentionally choose to avoid anything further than an occasional comment. πŸ™‚

      • Well since you seem to think that my normal usages of the word “cute” are parody-worthy, I’m not so sure how funny your attempts to poke fun at me would appear to the rest of the world at large. I may not exactly follow the mainstream, but you are so vastly ridiculous as to be every satirist’s dream. πŸ˜€

      • Well, since you’ve kinda forced me to be a little more specific . . . some of your denominational preferences are enough outside of mainstream Southern Gospel – what would be normal for this audience – that I could get a fair amount of mileage there if I chose. (But I don’t choose to! πŸ™‚ )

      • In fact, that’s part of what’s so funny—you don’t even realize how silly you are, so that’s why you need helpful people like us to come and pick on you.

        πŸ˜›

      • Haven’t I already made comments to the effect that I’m an Arminian High-Church Baptist?

        If your readers would really like to know, I’m a denominational mutt. There, now the secret’s out. I’m so embarrassed. πŸ˜€

      • I fully realize that some of my views – say, as one example, in the area of youth ministry – are outside of the mainstream.

        But just because something is outside of the mainstream doesn’t necessarily make it either wrong or silly.

        (If that were so, Southern Gospel would be silly.)

        In fact, sometimes I think the mainstream views are so absurd that I could well call them silly myself!

      • I think the denomination and Oxford movement-related practices of the church would be more what would be outside the mainstream.

      • Well, I didn’t come here either day set to establish the national holidays, but got inspired by posts. With me, everyday COULD turn out to be the day. :p

      • You know quite well what I am referring to. Apologies, but telling people to proceed with caution when reading _Make Way for Ducklings_ and saying that you haven’t devoted enough time to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to be sure whether it’s coming from a biblical worldview or not would definitely qualify as “silly.”

        πŸ˜†

      • I’m standing by what I said on “Make Way for Ducklings.” Feminism – and the feminist notion that fathers are unnecessary – has done a whole lot more damage to our culture than many would like to admit.

        Isn’t it somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of prison inmates had fathers actively involved in their lives?

        That’s just one example of the agenda being subtly promoted and pushed by that particular book.

        Just because the agenda is subtle doesn’t make it absent (or harmles).

      • Well, at least y’all are getting back to topic.

      • You know what, I’m beginning to wonder whether you really do need people to pick on you. You’re doing such a splendid job of parodying yourself that perhaps our help isn’t required after all.

        πŸ™‚

      • That’s funny Amy! πŸ™‚

      • Amy – funny! Unintentional!

        NSGFYGG – I suspect you would agree with far more of that particular comment than you would be willing to admit.

        After all, my two points were:

        (a) Even subtle messages can have serious implications.

        (b) Fathers are important in the process of raising children.

        I doubt you’d disagree with either of them. And it’s a point of fact that the mother duck is portrayed as saying she knows all about “raising children” – not “raising duckings” – and indicates she does not need the father’s help.

        So all I’m doing is taking two propositions I suspect you would agree with, if you could bring yourself to actually admit to it, and applying them to a book you don’t want to admit has major flaws in this area! πŸ™‚

      • I am quite honestly amused, but you are free to think whatever you like. πŸ™‚

      • OK, I’ll put the shoe on the other foot and put you on the spot. Which of the two core propositions I was advocating would you disagree with?

      • Neither. It’s your process of interpretation and application that is sadly exaggerated. But if you don’t mind, I have better things to do with my time than attempt to make you a reasonable man.

        πŸ™‚

      • I likewise have better things to do with my time than to debate the issue with someone who accepts the principles but doesn’t want to apply them! πŸ™‚

      • Perhaps you think I take the things of God lightly. On the contrary, I take the things of God very seriously. It is you I take lightly.

        πŸ˜‰

      • I will confess that a few of your comments (elsewhere as much as or more than here) have left me with that impression, which I am glad to hear is mistaken.

      • Anyone with good judgment who could eavesdrop on our conversations would be left in no doubt of who and what I do and do not take lightly. πŸ˜€

      • I believe that is an overstatement. I am not the only one in this particular conversation who can be and has been misunderstood.

      • Yes, you’ve probably misunderstood me at various points, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I wasn’t being clear. πŸ™‚

      • It is folly to assume that every single time you are misunderstood, it is of necessity the other person’s fault (or that that person is less smart than you are).

      • All I ever said was that anyone reasonable would see that I take God seriously and I take you lightly. That was it. πŸ™‚

        And as for smarts, I have no idea what your IQ is, but I’d bet good money that it’s well over average. However, a high IQ doesn’t necessarily make a person sensible or reasonable. πŸ™‚

      • I’m starting to think y’all just do this to practice your English grammar skills. It never goes anywhere.

      • Brian, you’re a genius.

      • Based on feedback I have received today that certain regular readers and past commenters have had enough, I will be implementing a comment policy soon that will require that comments be on topic, among other things.

        (Comments will also be required to have at least a decent level of respect for other commenters. In the future, something like “you are so vastly ridiculous as to be every satirist’s dream” will be edited. Actually, I would have edited it if it had been said of anyone but me already…)

      • That makes sense. Scrolling up, I see that this particular little tete a tete began as a light-hearted discussion of how easy/difficult it would be for one of us to parody the other (per quartet-man’s suggestion). Things got a bit out of hand when I brought up some examples and Daniel got huffy. Right and true they may have been, but I fully understand and sympathize with regular readers who just want to read about SG music! Apologies to one and all. πŸ™‚

      • Also, there was a point where I decided to give up the thread, but Daniel pressed with a question and demanded an answer, so it continued…

        Perhaps we both should agree to keep things on topic, eh what?

      • Yes, we can agree on that. Thanks!

      • And believe me, I wouldn’t tease you nearly so much if I didn’t like you. But isn’t that how it always is? πŸ˜‰

      • Well, no – that’s not how I think, at any rate! πŸ™‚

      • Actually, I never said parody each other, just it was a day to pick on YGG because of the way the vote was cast. Although I enjoy reading the fun stuff like this or when a topic leads to another, I also realize it is bad to get way removed from the original intent. I would hope that conversations aren’t so restricted that they cannot grow a little. However, I think one thing that would help to is to have an open thread or such to bring in topics of interest that don’t happen to be the current one. I realize that is more of a message board thing, but blogs are sort of the new message boards in a way. Either way, I do hope that we are able to joke a little (just not go as far or as many posts as ones like this).

      • Well at any rate, I may have great fun, but I’m not doing myself any favors in terms of time spent, so perhaps your new policy(ies) will be all for the better.

      • True, and I plan to allow some leeway there. Conversations naturally touch on related points, at least in our language!

        I’ve said before that I consider each News Roundup post an open thread, and I’ll be fine with keeping them that way. πŸ™‚

      • Quartet-man, that was sort of my thought. We can and should work to keep things under some kind of control (myself included), but a little joking here and there shouldn’t do any harm.

      • Well, even before this I hated to see the main topic of this great article turn into something totally different for so long and I also felt bad mentioning Duncan’s departure on the thread about I believe J.D. Miller. Having a place to start new things would be great. Is there a way to find the most recent news roundup at a given time? I usually find topics either on the front page or the comment links on the side.

        Now, as far as topics growing, within reason I think those should stay where they are because it seems odd to take it elsewhere if it naturally goes there under the course of a conversation. However, if it did, at least maybe the poster could put a link to where it continues and then quote the last quote they are responding to from the thread where it started (to keep the flow going better).

      • Daniel can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that if you type “news roundup” in the search box, you should get each one in chronological order.

      • Yes, but you can also access them via the menu: News > News Roundups.

  6. I think there are some people who could use this perspective. Good!

  7. It was interesting read about SG from the child’s perspective. Now what about the wife’s perspective especially the one who doesn’t travel every week.

    • Maybe Yankeegospelgirl could rustle up something along that line for us. Subtly cued to the theme music from “Make Way For Ducklings.”

      • What theme music? It’s a book. πŸ™‚

      • Well, I was using my imagination. I did know it was a book, but I’m so used to finding people who rave over my favorite books and then I find they only know the movie, which only bears a faint resemblance, that I’ve just resigned myself to it. (And I know that sentence is longer than it should be.)

      • Amy, you’ll like this. About 2 minutes in, this imaginary (awful) youth pastor cites his biggest influences, including C. S. Lewis….’s Chronicles of Narnia…films:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLGLBVSpBzY

      • When I get a chance.

  8. β€œCan’t you do that here? At home?”

    I think this is poignant and thought-provoking. I’ve said before that I have mixed feelings about the many ramifications of a life on the road, even one devoted to God’s calling. The author of this article clearly loved his father and had special moments with him, but it was still a hard pill to swallow.

  9. Thanks for this Daniel. It really was interesting and I am impressed with the speaker, whoever he is. I hope that every one else enjoyed reading it as much as I did. One thing in particular that he said about group changes was so true. Sometimes a group change comes along just because the personalities clash. If you have someone who talks constantly or is hard headed to criticism, then it is sometimes better to ask that member to leave. There are all kinds of reasons to give the public but I sincerely believe that a lot of times group changes are caused by this or by differences in group goals. If you have a member that does not want the ministry to grow in to a much bigger “machine” then it can cause strife in the group. We must exemplify harmony in our music as well as in our relationships with each other. The fans can tell if there is any animosity in the group (most of the time) so it is some times best to make a personnel change before it causes the group any long lasting adverse effects. Once again, great article Daniel. Thanks to the son of a gospel singer!

    • It’s funny you should use the word “harmony,” because Ernie Haase discusses that very idea in the Tribute.

      We assume that group member shift must have a serious, heavy reason behind it, but sometimes it’s much simpler than we think.

      • Harmony is one of those things that will either make or break a quartet; whether that is the sound of the quartet or the relationship between the members.