Presenting Southern Gospel

Apropos of our 20 vs. 2000 discussion last weekโ€”though submitted prior to that postโ€”a reader poses the following question: If you were given the opportunity to send five Southern Gospel groups to represent the genre at a “Celebrate American Culture” eventโ€”with an audience made up of a Who’s Who of American society (former Presidents and first ladies, members of Congress, corporate CEOs, the nation’s best known pastors, Hollywood moguls, military brass etc.)โ€”who would these five groups be?

The reader poses an even more intriguing follow-up: Suppose this same Kennedy Center audience was at Freedom Hall as part of the NQC audience. Would their impression of Southern Gospel be the same as if they only saw those five groups?

Naturally, we can’t run every column idea submitted, but this question is certainly intriguing enough to pass along.

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62 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. With a crowd like the one you listed , I’d (more in favor sending the police and rounding up the whole lot of them in one swoop!

    • I don’t think it’s fair to say that all civil and corporate leaders are criminals.

      • it was sacracsm. but since I live near Detroit… is easy to believe if you read the paper much! Most of them are under arrest or investigation.

  2. Well, I would probably use these groups:

    Gaither Vocal Band, the Martins, the Perrys, the Talleys and the Booth Brothers. Imagine Michael’s preaching to them. LOL. (Not implying they all need it). Besides quality, it gives a variety of quality group configurations and styles. There are other groups like Greater Vision, Mark Trammell Trio, Legacy Five, EHSS that would be of quality to do it too.

    Gold City would be one except right now they probably haven’t gelled totally as a group, but give them a little time. The Cathedrals for sure would have been there.

    • My bad, the Mark Trammell QUARTET. Besides not being all the way awake yet, and typing in a hurry, it is hard to break that habit. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Argh, I never thought of the Hoppers, Taranda, Ivan, or Jason Crabb. Really I would come closer to sending 10 than just 5 as far as choices to be made (and even that would be hard).

    • Everyone could use some good preaching, even if not everyone needs preaching for salvation!

  3. It would be a necessity to select a (at least marginally) diverse selection. Otherwise, we need not send five all-male quarters or five mixed groups. It’s important to look at this question from an “advancement of the genre” point of view, not just an opportunity to let our country’s elite here your favorite artists.

    That being said, I would send the following artists:
    1. Triumphant Quarter – Not my personal favorites by a long shot, but they are arguably the most prominent and popular quarter in Southern Gospel right now.
    2. Greater Vision – One of the top trios in our genre; incredibly professional.
    3. Hoppers – Great vocalists, wonderfully classy.
    4. Jason Crabb – Not the best picture of stereotypical Southern Gospel, but seeing as he uses almost no accompaniment tracks, I’d say it’s important for others to see that aspect of the genre.
    5. Blackwood Brothers – Not the most prominent quarter in the genre, but doubtlessly the most recognizable name in the history of our genre. Also, this group would serve as the second guartet to be sent.

    • Good reasoning. That would indeed be a great program.

  4. With that kind of audience, we’d want to put groups in front of them that will deliver a clear Gospel message of salvation, hoping it will convict their hearts to their need of Jesus Christ. I’d have to think about the five groups. I’d put MTQ on for sure so Mark could preach to ’em, then have Greater Vision along so Rodney can give the invitation.

  5. I would send The Gaither Vocal band, Signature Sound,the Triumphant Quarter, the Hoppers and the Booth Brothers.

    • What do you think about the follow-up question?

  6. Uh, that should read, the Triumphant QuarteT. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Gaither Vocal Band
    Greater Vision
    Legacy Five
    The Hoppers
    The Old Paths Quartet

    • I’m intrigued by the inclusion of the Old Paths – you’re definitely going for talent over name ID there!

      What do you think about the follow-up question?

      • The Old Paths are as talented as anyone. Tim is probably the best lead singer in SG music. Douglas is a very solid baritone and Jeremy is a freak (I mean that in a good way). I haven’t heard the new bass yet, but I imagine he’s very talented. I think they deserve to be there.

        I think the follow up is a very good question. ๐Ÿ™‚

        I’ve been to NQC once (the first few days). I can’t really speak in reference to that event. That said, I know the groups that are on the main stage. I think, for the most part, you’re getting quality music. I would expect the reaction to be very similar. There are a few groups that I have seen on the schedule for NQC that have made me wonder what the committee was thinking… but honestly, it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t have the time to go to NQC.

      • OK, and thanks!

        Jeremy is indeed a freak, in a very good way! Their new bass singer is really, really strong, too.

  8. 1. Greater Vision – male trio
    2. Kingdom Heirs – true SG quartet
    3. Perry’s – mixed quartet
    4. Talley’s – mixed group
    5. Triumphant – cause I want to see all those people trying to wave their pocket squares. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I would say anyone would enjoy this line-up and walk away with a smile and a great idea of what makes SG, SG.

    Follow up – NQC is a different environment and probably a lot more relaxed and fun than wherever the other concert would be held. Therefore, these people would probably have a lot more fun at NQC and understand the relationship between audience and the groups, which is a huge part of what makes the industry great.

    Several SG groups have appeared at the White House in past. I am guessing it has been a while though. I just don’t see the current president as a big Peg McKamey fan. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Fun discussion. Wish it would really happen.

    • I love the mental picture of your reason for #5. ๐Ÿ™‚

      The most recent White House appearance coming to mind is an early-2000s appearance by the Gaither Vocal Band, singing “Let Freedom Ring” for George W. Bush.

      • If I remember correctly, Jimmy Carter hosted some SG groups during his time at the White House. It seems like The Kingsmen and maybe the Goodman’s appeared there. And didn’t Brian Free and Assurance appear on the Today Show?

      • Speer Family also sang for President Carter at the White House.

      • Yes, several sang for Carter. I’m thinking Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters may have also performed for him.

      • Perhaps the Blackwood Brothers too.

  9. Gaither Vocal Band, Triumphant, Gold City, Signature Sound, Perry’s.

    • Sometimes I will remind readers, “Think this through and don’t automatically put your favorite group down.” I see you’ve taken that to heart! (But I’m still surprised!)

  10. EHSS
    Booth Brothers
    Greater Vision

    • I could see putting together a list myself that looked a lot like this one, though I would probably have to cut one of the two trios to get a second mixed group in (probably the Collingsworth Family, with their live instrumentals helping swing the balance.)

  11. My five would be
    1) Gaither Vocal Band
    2) EHSS
    3) Jason Crabb/Crabb Family
    4) Jeff and Sheri Easter
    5) The Hoppers

    If they saw these 5 groups only and then attended NQC (which, admittedly, I have only seen through the Internet $59.95 live feed) they would sit there in a state of complete shock (and not in a good way). Too much mediocrity and worse.

    • Some of the technical issues with the live audio transmission and the live video transmission are not issues live. Of course, the quality of the groups singing is the same either way.

  12. Wow this is really hard,

    1) Karen Peck & New River
    2) Gaither Vocal Band
    3) Triumphant Quartet
    4) The Crabb Family
    5) The Taylors

    • Interesting! Buzz seems to be building for the Taylors.

  13. Sisters
    Mark Trammell Quartet
    TaRanda Greene
    The Hoppers

    • That’s certainly off the beaten path, differing from most other lists. Why is the Mark Trammell Quartet the one male group you would pick?

      • Based upon the question, “who would you send to represent…” Those groups, in my opinion, would be the best at representing. To answer why I picked MTQ, George Younce did say that Mark was THE quartet man; also, Mark has been named Southern Gospel’s favorite baritone 5 times.

  14. “Everyone could use some good preaching, even if not everyone needs preaching for salvation!”

    My comment is a little off topic but it is in response to your comment above. Giving you the benefit of the doubt that last phrase must not mean what it says.. But it sounds like you said, even if not everyone needs preaching for salvation!

    That doesn’t sound like you, Daniel.

    Granted, not everyone gets saved by responding to an invitation at the end of a sermon but no one gets saved outside of hearing God’s Word.

    Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
    14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

    God chose preaching to give the message of salvation to the world.

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
    V21… it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    This is the short version because I’m typing on my phone but the much of the church today has discarded sound biblical preaching and your statement fits that mold although I don’t believe you do.


    • But isn’t it entirely reasonable to assume that some individuals in the audience – the specifically named groups under discussion – are already saved? Those already-saved individuals don’t need to hear a salvation message.

      Sure, that sentence does sound bad, taken out of the context at hand. But I’m sure we’ve all said things that might sound bad if taken completely out of their context!

  15. 1.) Gaither Vocal Band–The audience would need to see how Gaither continues to revitalize the Vocal Band and the artists would be in sheer awe of the David Phelps/Wes Hampton tandem.
    2.) Kingdom Heirs–A true SG quartet that also works at one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US, Dollywood.
    3.) The Perrys–Would love to see the crowd’s reaction to Libbi Stuffle…how that much vocal power comes from that little package!
    4.) Jeff and Sheri Easter–Bluegrass & Southern Gospel mix and the audience could see decent, Christian young people singing without gyrations.
    5.) Greater Vision–Class personified and Gerald Wolfe’s talent vocally and on the keyboards is without equal. They would also see how a 40-something Chris Allman continues to dazzle with his great tenor vocals.

    • Your comment about Jeff & Sheri Easter brought a smile to my face. There are three singers on stage – were you referring just to Morgan, or grouping Jeff & Sheri as young people themselves? ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Daniel, I was referring to Morgan, Madison and Kyle–the young people in their group. My group, 4 the Cause, had a chance to sing with Jeff and Sheri a week ago Friday in Charleston, WV. They could not have been nicer to us and they were very impressive. They connect with the audience and yes, the young people in their group don’t gyrate!!! LOL!!

      • OK! ๐Ÿ™‚ But isn’t Morgan the only one of the three who sings (at least regularly)?

  16. Ooh, I forgot the Sisters too. I did mix up my choices (before anyone else even mentioned it), but limiting to 5 as I said is tough. Then you could add the Isaacs or someone in the bluegrass style. So, imagine doing a setup like this”

    Male quartet (or Vocal Band ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
    Male Trio
    Male soloist
    Mixed quartet
    Mixed trio
    Female soloist
    Female trio

    and then try to mix up traditional, progressive, Blyegrass, Family etc. and you would have more than 5. Although SG has some things that separate it from other genres perhaps, there are variations and variety in SG.

    • You’d make your decision process a whole lot easier if you just dropped the soloists part. They’ve always been around in our genre, but never really been the ones who define what the genre is all about. Or, of course, you could drop the Female Trio part and have one soloist slot. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I am not a soloist fan so much myself (at least not in SG), but my way of thinking is to give a representation of the industry and variety so that those who might gravitate to those would be exposed to them as well as to give these people options.

      • Granted, but those who like soloists in other genres typically like soloists who have a live band and/or at least a more visually interesting stage show than one person on stage with canned tracks!

  17. I know for sure I would send the Collingsworth Family!:)

  18. I’d have to go with:
    1.) GVB. I don’t think anyone else in southern gospel music puts on a better show. Plus they have some serious powerhouse vocals.
    2.) The Perrys. One of the most well rounded groups in southern gospel today.
    3.) The Isaacs. Some of the best harmonies around
    4.) Mark Trammell Quartet. All around powerful vocals
    5.) Triumphant. Great vocals and great songs

  19. Gold City
    Brian Free and Assurance
    The Easters
    Karen Peck and New River
    and The Chuck Wagon Gang

    I saw brian free and assurance and gold city in the past month. My two favs. Brian talked about the time they were on GMA. Or good morning america if you’re wondering. While rock groups get 4 or 5 minutes to sing their songs BFA got 30 seconds so they picked the most in your face song they could think of. Bfa’s lyrical content is deeper than most and the talent is amazing

  20. Yes, Daniel, I see what you were saying now. I knew it couldn’t mean that…

    • Glad to clear up that misunderstanding!

  21. 1. Collingsworth Family
    2. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
    3. Legacy Five
    4. Greater Vision
    5. Kingdom Heirs?

  22. 1. Jason Crabb – The best candidate to introduce SG to a non-SG audience.
    2. The Collingsworth Family – Exquisite family harmony to showcase the strong heritage of “family” in SG.
    3. Triumphant Quartet – One of the top quartets in SG today.
    4. Booth Brothers OR Greater Vision – Only room for one trio in my list, but I can’t decide between the two.
    5. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – One of the best groups to relate to a broad audience.

    Their impression would likely not be the same at NQC, but I don’t think it should be used as a supporting opinion for the previous column. SG doesn’t need fewer groups. It just needs more defined levels and fewer gray areas between top and mid-level groups.

    • Quite a few people commenting here have had difficulty deciding between the Booth Brothers and Greater Vision. I would, too.

  23. This was more a challenge than I thought it would be. Five groups canโ€™t begin to cover the range. The closest real life audience I could imagine to the one your reader proposed would be the opening concert of a Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC, if they ever had one focused only on gospel. If I had to choose 5 SGM acts for a show like that Iโ€™d start here. (1) Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, from Alabama; (2) a demonstration choir from the Stamps-Baxter Singing School, with two pianos and a band; (3) the Perrys, but with a house band and no tracks; (4) either Tommy Bates or Jason Crabb; and just because I think that this male quartet would complement the others, (5) the Dixie Echoes.

    Then Iโ€™d tell the group of big shots that if they wanted to go to NQC to find out what drives SGM, they should drink a lot of coffee and go sit in on the regional showcase every day.

  24. I can’t think of five I would send. It wouldl be very embarrassing to send a group there then have them play tracks as their accompaniment when no other genre in the world would do that. The Dixie Echoes, the Isaacs, the Inspirations, but then I come up dry.

    • If you go that route, then toss in the Chuck Wagon Gang, and might as well throw in the Mark Trammell Quartet. The last few times I’ve seen them, they’ve done 75%+ of their program with just piano and bass guitar, and they could surely do a whole program that way if they wanted.

      (Or, you could go with the Kingdom Heirs.)

      • I forgot about the Kingdom Heirs. Good choice, as is the Chuck Wagon Gang. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard the Mark Trammell Quartet yet so didn’t know they normally eschew the tracks. Good for them!

      • Yes, indeed! It’s for that reason that I will drive farther to see them than I’ll go to see a number of other groups who have the same average level of (above-average!) vocal talent. (I just had to make sure nobody misread that as “level of average vocal talent” instead of “average level of vocal talent”!)

    • However, many of SG’s most prominent groups now use tracks….including Triumphant, Brian Free & Assurance, Gold City, the Kingsmen, the Perrys, the Hoppers…and the list goes on. To say it would be embarrassing to send groups like this is to leave out the best of the genre…..

    • EHSS

  25. Great question! That’s really hard to narrow down but I would go with:

    1) Soloist: Kirk Talley- that man has been thru the ringer and God has completly changed Him. He gives a great testimony… not only that, he’s a great emcee.

    2) Quartet: Dixie Echoes- They sing on two mics…. That’s just good southern gospel.

    3) Bluegrass Gospel: Issacs- Great family harmonies as well as musicianship.

    4) Progressive Gospel: Jason Crabb- Guy can flat out sing, band is good and tight, he gives everything in his performances.

    5) Mixed Group: The Lesters- Most underrated group in Gospel music. Period. Longest running ministry going on 86 years and they bring the family harmony. They are just flat out great.

  26. Would Bill Clinton be there? I’d say send NOBODY in that case.

    But in all seriousness:

    1. Dixie Echoes — because they represent traditional SG at its finest, with live music and zero stacks.

    2. Signature Sound — because they’re consummate showmen who understand their craft and are able to connect with a wide audience, and they have live music.

    3. Booth Brothers — because they have a tight, quality sound with well-crafted songs and Michael is an outstanding emcee.

    4. Collingsworth Family — because they’re breath-takingly versatile and smooth, and Kim could bring the house down on the piano.

    5. The Isaacs — because they’re such stinkin’ good musicians and their harmony is unbeatable.

  27. The funny thing about your comment on Bill Clinton:
    I have an old Singing News issue (1980’s) that has a picture of Govenor Bill Clinton giving The Kingsmen an award for something. Perhaps it was introduction into the state’s hall of fame, or something like that: don’t remember the specifics now.
    But anyway, the picture was really in there.