Three skills a Southern Gospel group owner needs

When a group lineup stays together long enough to climb to the top, often, a member will leave to start his own group. Sometimes the new group is a major success, and sometimes not. Why?

There are any number of factors, but sometimes it is as simple as the fact that the skill set needed to be a good singer and the skill set needed to be a good group manager don’t completely overlap. Here are three skills a good group owner / manager needs:

Picking the Right Songs

Almost any professional singer who is listening to song demos can weed out poorly written songs. But not every singer can pick the right songs for the group.

Two groups’ stories illustrate this well. Through the 1970s, George Younce and Glen Payne picked good songs for the Cathedrals. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, the Perry siblings picked good songs for the Perrys. But after Kirk Talley (and later Roger Bennett) started screening songs for the Cathedrals, and Mike Bowling started screening songs for the Perrys, both groups started finding the rightย songs. The breakout hits that resulted made all the difference in both groups’ careers.

Picking the Right Singers

Much like with songs, most professional singers can weed out applicants that are simply not professional quality. But finding the rightย singer is a less common talent. Imagine the Booth Brothers today with Josh Garner or Tony Peace singing baritone, instead of Jim Brady. Both are great singers, but neither would have been the rightย singer for the group.

Given that every group is different, there’s no formula for this. It’s a talent, albeit one which can be honed.

Picking the Right Emcee

Sometimes the group owner is not necessarily the most effective emcee. Look no farther than the Kingsmen: Imagine Eldridge Fox had decided to keep the emcee work for himself, instead of handing the microphone to Jim Hamill.

Conclusion: Delegating

In several instances above, I gave examples of a group owner delegating responsibility to a member. If there’s something you can’t do well, delegate to someone who can do it well.

These are three of the most important, but there’s no way this is a comprehensive list. What are other important traits?


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29 Letters to the Editor

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  1. 1) An owner with some financial awareness of how to run a business (record companies, booking agencies, etc.). At times, it may not be a problem for an owner to pick out the right songs, but if business gets lax and lazy and stale…won’t see that group very long.
    2) Those hired: pay them. If you expect to reach top tier or close to it, lay out a consistent framework of decent pay, Christmas bonuses, insurance, and other perks of chances for pay to increase. If you keep your promises, though your group has not quite risen to sg “stardom”, they’ll see you as loyal and stick around, and if the abilities are good enough, your reward will soon come.
    3) Keep thinking outside the box. Push the envelope sometimes. Know how far you can stretch and how far you can’t. If I named 10 historic groups, 8 of them did something a little risky.
    4) And that’s another point…how do you know it’s the right risk? That may be where an owner’s spiritual state comes to the forefront.

    • Great points all around. As to #1, I had been pondering whether to go there, or to limit my post to focusing on the creative side. It is, of course, crucial!

  2. Interesting comments regarding Talley/Bennett picking songs, and comparing to Payne/Younce. I know different people bring different things to the table. Would it also have been simply a product of the times? Comparing the 60’s songs to the 80’s songs, they are almost polar opposite. Would the Cathedrals have plateaud (sp?)early if Payne/Younce kept picking? I don’t know.

  3. Here’s a question….can there (or should there) be a difference between a group OWNER and a group MANAGER?? Just because someone owns a group doesn’t make them the best manager.

  4. It seems you have to have 2 major things that have already been touched on to make it in this industry.
    #1. Sang in a big time group. I was paying attention to this at NQC this year not one group on the main stage for the exception of Collingsworth, Crist Family, Gaither (see point #2 for all the above) did not have a member that was a part of another major group or related to someone in another group or married in to another group. Or name of a major group Blackwoods,Chuck Wagon, Gold City. If there is any, that I’ve forgotten please let me know.
    #2. Lots and lots of money. Always helps in any business it takes money to make money.

  5. Well, Daniel, you probably just ticked off some owner/managers….LOL…..but, I like it. There are some owner/managers who don’t want anyone to do more than just stand there and sing or “testify”. They feel they lose control if they aren’t hovering over every little thing. I think that owner/managers should hire like the “real” business world does, in that, they hire because of many strengths, not just one. In the case of the SG world that would be just singing. Groups should a bit more smart in how they hire to begin with. To the group owners/managers…if you have a person or several persons in your group that have strengths in other areas, you’d be smart to utilize those things instead of being power hungry.

    • Of course, there are some group owners like that, and others who do well about utilizing other members’ strengths.

      I noticed that one major group looking for a replacement singer at NQC actually had a long-time member other than the manager doing most of the looking, though the manager made the final decision.

    • The information or opinion you are sharing is not important as how you communicate it.
      Brian and Daniel have done this in fine fashion.
      Brian’s idea is what sport teams do all the time.
      It’s called team building management.
      Refreshing to read from people interested in connecting on the sidewalks instead of building fences.

      • I love your closing metaphor!

  6. Sourceofpower.. Point 1…. Pick me pick me!!!

    I will add this…. Though people have started from a main line group, it does not insure sucsess as I’m sure you would agree. Scott Fowler and Gerald Wolfe are men that have taken an opportunity and made the most out of it.

    Great discussion guys!!!

    • Agreed; starting from a main line group doesn’t ensure success. But it sure helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Michael I thought of you all, but then I thought I heard somewhere, or read somewhere you all were related to a Lister, or The Toneys maybe I thought wrong.

      • I’m sure that being related to me is the primary reason for the success of the Booth Brothers. The fact that they are talented, have a gifted songwriter in the group and are sensitive to the Holy Spirit is secondary!

  7. My Dad sang with the Rebles Qt Toney Brothers and a couple others from the 60’s through about 81 ish? We started in 89 at our home church. His contacts were basically gone by the time we had a desire to sing full time which did not hit us until 93 or so. However when we were privileged to sing one song at a Rebles Qt reunion in 93 Charlie Waller was there and invited us to the GOGR the next year. In Nibember of 95 Eddie Crook picked us up. From 96-say…2001 it was ROUGH!!! We sang anywhere and everywhere we could or stayed home when no dates were available….After Gaither picked us up things started getting easier.

    So yeah I guess we got a break from Dads relationships with The Rebles…. But geez it didn’t get us any dates other than the Rebles reunion…HOWEVER I will say that the biggest break Ronnie and I got was learning from Dads experiences!!!!!!

    Ive really been impressed with the groups you mentioned that had NOTHING to start with. No doubt God has blessed them and were all benefiting from such.

    Ok I’m rambling! Your thoughts reminded me of some amazing times…. Very easy to forget how tough yet exciting the journey has been!

    • Michael, I was speed reading through everything you said until you said you things got easier in year 6. We’re finishing up year 5. =)

      • Oops! Looks like I put an extra “you” in there. lol

        5) Be able to write a sentence without a typo.

    • It also helped that you, your dad, and your brother (and later, other members of your group) were three of the most personable, well liked, and respected men in the industry.

      Stories of your kindness to others in those early years may have been forgotten to some, but they will never be forgotten by those of us that experienced them.

      • Michael, my first experience with you was on “Freedom Band”. Although I am a “quartet-man” and the Oak Ridge Boys and Gaither Vocal Band (added to the Cathedrals, Gold City and Singing Americans with English or Parker / Funderburk or Strickland are my favorite groups) you guys essentially “stole the show” on that one. Granted part had to do with your choice of material versus theirs and the fact I had heard their stuff, but beyond that you guys “brought it”.

    • Always enjoy reading your ramblings Michael.

  8. Thanks for sharing! I’m sure some struggling group member/owner/manager might read that and it could really encourage him, or her.

  9. Daniel, so what about family groups? We kind of just get whatever the Lord gives us! ๐Ÿ˜€

    That being said (in good humor, of course), we also have different strengths/weaknesses which make the group work effectively, which complement each other. God knew that before we did! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good thoughts, Daniel and everyone who commented; definitely words to consider!

    • Well … sort of!

      But let me use bluegrass groups as an example. If they have a member who is a great player but not a great singer, they will have that person mostly or entirely play, and only do one or two vocal songs a night (if that). Doyle Lawson consistently has a few members who never sing! So if you have someone who is, say, a great bass, dobro, or banjo picker, and a passable but not incredible singer, you might make a family decision that that member contributes the most in a supporting role. That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about, as applied to a group in your situation. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I, personally, think I’d sound pretty good with Ronnie and Jim!

    • Well, I, personally, think you sound better with John and Alan. And I’m entirely serious, and that’s not flattery! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. SourceOfPower… if you’re correct on points #1 and #2 then I’m in trouble. I didn’t come from a big time group and I surely do not have “lots and lots of money.”

    That said… I’m claiming Proverbs 12:15.

    Don’t just assume you know what’s best. Ask the ones who have proven themselves how they did it. And when they tell you… do it, whether you like it or not.

  12. I take all my cues from Michael. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That explains a lot! ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. I take all my cues from……… hold on……… Wait for it……… wait for it…………. From…….. shoot I gotta run!

    • ๐Ÿ˜ˆ