Someone Else’s Signature

Yesterday evening, I caught a concert by The Old Paths. One highlight of the evening was lead singer Tim Rackley’s version of “I Bowed On My Knees and Cried Holy.” The song, of course, is a signature song for current Gaither Vocal Band lead singer Michael English. English’s vocal gymnastics on the song could not be farther from the solidly straight-ahead lead vocals Rackley typically offers. Rackley wisely did not attempt to match English’s gymnastics, but he added enough runs to his more straightforward rendition to convey an appropriate level of passion.

This got me wondering. What are some of the other signature songs for one singer that have become exceptionally strong showstoppers in the hands of another singer?

(Note: Keep the discussion positive and constructive; no comments, please, about perceived weaknesses of the original renditions of signature songs!)


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39 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. “Champion of Love” is an obvious example…I consider it a Gerald Wolfe signature song, but Scott Fowler made is his own as well.

    “Oh What a Savior” was originally Rosie’s sugar stick, but countless tenors have brought down the house with it since, most notably Ernie Haase.

    “Midnight Cry” is Ivan Parker’s signature song, but Jonathan Wilburn sang it many, many times with Gold City.

    • How about “Glory Road,” originally Johnny Parrack’s signature, but imitated by most tenors since. It still gets the crowd going.

    • Great points all around!

    • Doug Wiley with Liberty Quartet does a great job on Champion of Love. He sang it at the Gospel Fest in Visalia,and Gerald Wolf complimented Him on a great job.

      • Here’s a recent video clip of Doug Wiley performing “Champion of Love” with Liberty Quartet. This has been Liberty Quartet’s closing song at every concert of theirs that I have been to in the last several months–and rightfully so! I would say that this is an “exceptionally strong showstopper” for Doug! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkdawMNv2tk

  2. Was OWAS considered a signature song for Rosie Rosell?

    • Even though it may look like it, this was not in response to Brian’s comment. He just has faster fingers than me.

    • Yes! and Yes! and Yes! some more. Its like some female singer trying to do “Crazy”. The song has been song and Patsy Cline did it and that version will always be the one by which all others are judged. Rosie’s version of “Oh What A Savour” is the same thing.

  3. How about “I Know A Man Who Can” by Kirk Talley and later Chris Allman?

    • Yep, good one.

    • That is a perfect example. There was nothing wrong with Talley’s rendition, but this one deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with it.

  4. Get Away Jordan…that is a Statesmen classic that has been re-done very successfully by the Dove Brothers and Ernie Haase + Signature Sound. I understand that it isn’t exactly a specific singer’s signature song. It’s more of a group number. However, a devoted fan of any of those three groups would automatically associate that song with the particular group.

  5. I am amazed at the number of songs that were originally recorded by the Gaither trio, and then became signatures of someone else. They didn’t have a signature except Danny singing there’s something about that name. On a personal note, it also amazes me when a singer can keep a signature their entire career like Mark Trammell. I can’t think of one “Mark Trammell” song that has been made a sugar stick for someone else. I may be wrong. Someone is more than welcome to correct me.

    • Great points. It’s also noteworthy how many of those Gaither Trio songs later became signature songs for a Gaither Vocal Band member, especially for David Phelps and Guy Penrod.

      I’m sure there are songs that Mark Trammell has sung (say, on a table project) that were signature songs for someone else, but for all his central signature songs, I think you are right; I can’t think of any that became a signature song for someone else.

    • What would those signature songs be? The most obvious one is “Master Builder,” though I don’t believe he sings it all that often anymore. His current signature song, and perhaps what will be most enduring, is “Loving the Lamb”. After those two, I think about “He Is Mine” and “Calvary’s Hill”. There are no notable renditions of those songs that I know of since Mark’s.

      • Those are the top tier. But even, once you delve into the second tier – songs like “Sin Will Take You Farther” or “Once Upon a Cross” – you’re still not going to find many that became notable for someone else.

      • “He Is Mine” would be a good candidate for MTQ’s next table project, in my personal and totally unprofessional opinion. So would something like “He Saw What I Could Be,” a great song that deserves to be heard again. And I’ve been beating the drum for “Come on Home” for a while.

        OK, sorry for the off-topic drift. But Pat mentioned Mark Trammell, knowing full well that you and I are big Trammell fans, so it’s his fault. 🙂

    • I can think of one song maybe that could fit this category for Mark but the other group or person slips my mind. When with George and Glen he sang His Tomb is Empty Now. I remember when I was with the Singing Americans we did a few concerts with them and Mark would sing that song with such power and excitement that him and Danny both looked like they had ran a marethon by the time they ended it.

  6. “This Ole House” which originally written and performed by Stuart Hamblen became the #1 song of 7 different countries at the same time at the hands of Rosemary Clooney, but I don’t think with her rendition she had in mind the true meaning of the song. I would have to say, the Cathedrals made it their signature closing song with the wonderful and deep voice of George Younce.

  7. I guess I don’t know if it could be considered a signature song for either guy, but what about Plan of Salvation by George Younce and Tracy Stuffle.

  8. If a singer sings another singer’s signature song is that considered vocal plagiarism? 🙂 Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

    • Actually, I think it’s a forgery.

  9. His tomb is empty now was not originally recorded by Mark if I remember correctly. I believe it was Steve Lee who recorded that with the Cats.

    • The Cats version with Mark singing it is the only version they did, as far as I know. The song does predate the Cats version, going back to the Singing Echoes (Lela Epperson is the writer).

      • Cats recorded it only on Especially for You, ’85.

    • I traveled with Steve and played piano for his group Crimson River and don’t ever remember him wanting to sing that song or say anything about it. You’ve got my curiosity now so I’m gonna call that rascal and see if he’ll send me a copy of that. We never sang too many of the Cat’s songs. Maybe one or two. I’m glad you’ve told me that Pat. Awesome.

  10. How about “If You Knew Him”? Its even been discussed on this site once that many considered it to be Joseph Habedank’s signature (it even bears his signature) but David Ragan (and Bryan before) have been tearing it up in concerts lately.

    • They have both been doing splendid jobs. I think it’s a little too soon to tell whether it will be a signature song for David, too; that may also partially depend on if Joseph Habedank stays off the road.

  11. What about Please Forgive Me a big Signature song for Jason Crabb and became a favorite when Michael sang it also Winds of this world a huge song for Charles Johnson and become a new signature somg for Michael English

    • That also brings to mind “He’s Alive,” which was Don Francisco’s signature song, but has become a show-stopper in recent years for both Lauren Talley and David Phelps.

  12. My favorite version of he’s alive is Dolly Parton’s live version at the country awards program back in the early 90’s. Its on YouTube. Worth the search.

  13. What about when a group covers their own signatures multiple times? Ernie Haase has recorded no less than 5 studio version of “Oh What A Savior” (at least one solo, one with the Cathedrals, one with Old Friends, and two with Signature Sound), while Michael English has done as many as 6 rendition of “I Bowed On My Knees” (Goodmans, Singing Americans, Gaither Vocal Band, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and two solo).

    It should also be pointed out that both of these songs were not original to these artists – both songs had been around for decades before either artist started singing them.

    • I think that would mainly fall into the “someone else’s signature” category if it’s another group member doing the song, e.g. anyone on the Gaither Vocal Band doing a Guy Penrod song or David Ragan doing “If You Knew Him.”

  14. The Isaacs have been staging “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master” for some time now. I think most would say that is the Bowlings’ signature song, though the Isaacs girls are the writers of the tune. ‘Tis interesting.

  15. “Calvary’s Hill”, though Mark Trammell’s singing of it is awesome in every way, he was not the first to sing it with Gold City. Mike LeFevre was featured on it during his tenure with Gold City (somewhere around 1985-1992). -Rev. Slade Alday

  16. “I Wanna Know” James Wetherington and Pat Barker

    • Perfect example – taking Wetherington’s signature back up the charts, all the way to the #1 spot. Pretty impressive.

  17. Johnny Parrack sang Look For Me At Jesus Feet on the Big&Live album back in the 70s. And really, every Kingsmen tenor since then has made it the go to song of the night. The Michael Booth did it 10 years ago and made it song of the year.

    Also, Peg has one hit that transcends the ages, but Lynda Randle also recorded God on the Mountain, and it’s the song that everyone waits to here from her.

    • Both are great examples. “God on the Mountain” is one that I wish I had thought of when writing the original post.