2008 in Review: News Stories

What were the highlights of 2008 in Southern Gospel? We’ve looked at the year’s best albums and songs; now let’s look at the year’s biggest news stories.

I’ll treat a group personnel change (one member leaves, another joins) as a single story.

Here’s my top ten list

  1. Dottie Rambo passes away in bus crash. If she had died of natural causes, I might not have ranked it as the year’s top story. But the suddenness of the crash sent shock waves through the SG community.
  2. Jacob Kitson replaces Jason Waldroup as Greater Vision tenor.
  3. Bruce Taliaferro replaces Jonathan Wilburn as Gold City lead singer.
  4. Guy Penrod takes sabbatical from Gaither Vocal Band. This would be higher on the list if the story was complete. But the bigger half of the story—whether Penrod will return—belongs to 2009.
  5. Shane Dunlap brings N’Harmony back.
  6. Greg & Charlotte Ritchie leave Jeff & Sheri Easter. Charlotte had been with the group for twelve years and Greg had been with them about fourteen years.
  7. Bryan Elliott replaces Matthew Holt as Perrys pianist.
  8. Wesley Smith (formerly of Palmetto State Quartet) replaces Dallas Rogers as Dixie Echoes tenor.
  9. Matt Dibler leaves the Inspirations. The only reason I didn’t rank this higher is that his replacement has not yet been named, so half the story belongs to next year.
  10. Former Florida Boys / Dixie Echoes bass Billy Todd passes away.

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25 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. Of these stories, Dottie Rambo passing would be the number 1 no matter if it was sudden or “natural”. The passing of a legend like Dottie surely is a bigger story than a group member changing?

    • Yes and no. I think how big a story a legend’s passing is partially depends on how connected they still are to the genre. Dottie was still connected to the genre enough to make it the top story, though it had been 10-15 years since she’d come out with any songs likely to make her long-term best ten.

  2. i know who the replacement for Matt Dibler is…he is one of my best friends and we graduated college together last year. His name is….well, you’ll find out soon enough.

  3. I don’t follow that logic at all. Dottie was a legend regardless of how long it had been since she recorded any new hits.

    What you are suggesting is like saying the death of a former President of the U.S. could be a smaller story than the election of a state senator in Idaho.

  4. No, it’s more like saying that Vestal & Howard Goodman leaving the Happy Goodmans (in ca. ’82) might have been even a bigger story than Vestal’s passing in ’04. Or, that the Cathedrals’ disbanding in ’99 was a bigger story than George Younce’s passing in ’05.

    I suppose some people would say that the top three to five stories each year would be of the legends who passed away. But I consider that major group changes, like (for example) the first lineup change in SG’s most awarded trio in 13 years are stories as big or bigger, in part since those stories will have a major, ongoing impact on the genre.

  5. A group disbanding (The Cats) is hardly the same as a member of Greater Vision being replaced.

    I feel certain that Vestal’s death would be very much a larger story than their leaving the Goodmans. That story, as did Dottie’s passing, made NATIONAL news. Greater Vision or most any other group replacing a member will NEVER do that.

  6. Well, I agree on some of the points, but not all. I think a member change is a bigger story than you give it credit for, even if all its impact isn’t known immediately.

  7. Either Dottie Rambo or Greg and Charlotte Ritchie.

  8. Some of this is subjective, too, if you ask me. The Ritchie’s never even made a ripple in my pond. GV’s group membership change was almost more climactic for me than Dottie’s passing. However, I would still agree that #1 & 2 belong where you placed them. 🙂

  9. You are all doing a great job so whatever you choose for the top stories, is fine with me. Keep up the great work! I love all the groups!

  10. Yeah, I agree 1, 2 and 3 are in the right order. I also think 4 will move up if Guy decides not to come back.

  11. Yes. If we knew he wasn’t coming back, I’d probably rank the story at #1, because he is the most recognizable face in (probably) the most video-taped group in Christian music. Not to mention he’s been with them longer than anyone except Gaither himself.

  12. i think the way the Booth Brothers mopped up at the NQC Awards deserves to be at least in Top 10. I haven’t heard of anyone in a long time doing that…give them a little love, Daniel!

  13. But here’s the thing: Their success didn’t exactly surprise me. With what they won last year, and the fact that GV had a personnel change and they didn’t, I expected them to win about what they did.

    Now if they were a new trio that had come out of nowhere and swept the awards, then I would have ranked it as a big story. Suppose it had been the Ball Brothers instead…that would have been one of the big stories of the year. But for the Booths, we all knew they were hot right now, fresh from the success of “The Blind Man Saw it All,” and I think most everyone was expecting a number of wins for the group.

  14. i can see that, but it just doesn’t usually happen that way. Usually the awards are kind of spread out. You’re right. I shouldn’t be that surprised…they just keep gettin better. They’re new album is terrific. they have such a great balance between the traditional and the modern.

  15. My tops off of your list, Daniel would be (in no particular order)…

    *Dottie Rambo’s passing.
    *Greg and Charlotte leaving the Easter’s. (Although the blow of that has softened now that it’s official that they will both still continue with Gaither and the Homecoming tours/videos. I thought she was an underrated vocalist when she was singing soprano with the Easter’s.)
    *Guy Penrod’s sabbatical
    *Jason Waldroup’s departure from Greater Vision.

  16. #17 – I agree that Charlotte was underrated with the Easter’s and also the Nelon’s. I hope she can now receive the accolades she deserves. She no longer has to be in the background! Good for her!

  17. It was interesting to me that the Easter’s still had Charlotte’s voice on their soundtrack at NQC last year. Her beautiful voice was booming even though she wasn’t on stage. They need a strong vocalist in that group. Hopefully their daughter can step up in coming years?!

  18. J.D., I was asked a few times at NQC this past year, that was actually Morgan’s vocal on our tracks this year. When Charlotte left, we went into the studio and replaced the soprano part on all of our tracks with Morgan singing the part so she’d be singing with herself on stage.

  19. I won’t argue with your rankings but I’m amazed that Matt Dibler leaving The Inspirations after 12 years, as well as his church minister’s post, hasn’t resulted in more info coming forth. There had to be a serious problem for Matt to leave The Inspirations to sing with The Diplomats. I find it hard to believe Matt made this change of his own free-will.

  20. Jerry, people claiming to be familiar with the situation have attempted to post rumors on several sites. I just didn’t approve them here.

  21. I don’t deal in rumors either but the only “confession” was Matt’s full page in “Singing News” & that was ambiguous at best. Last I remember forgiveness requires confession of sin(s), not an ambiguous “I was a bad boy.” “The truth will set you free” applies to all of us. Southern Gospel singers are not excluded, nor is there a separate set of rules, or commandments, for them.

  22. Personally, I am not really buying into the mindset that forgiveness requires prostration in public before a whole host of people who are anxiously waiting to get your email so they can harass you and send you death threats. It didn’t work very well for Kirk.

    I was always raised to believe that you make things right with the people you wronged and with others who are aware of it or affected by it. I don’t know what Matt did or didn’t do, and it isn’t any of my business.

    Of course, when a public figure wants to go back into public ministry, he or she is releasing the right to a lot of privacy. But my lands, how “explicit” does the confession have to be? It still is not any of my business, though if I have serious doubts about a person’s sincerity I probably won’t be buying their CDs and so on.

    I hope this isn’t inflammatory …

  23. Matt chose to go public with his full page in “Singing News.” I didn’t demand anything from him but he insults the public’s intelligence with a full page confession/apology that says nothing. Obviously his mea culpa raises more questions than it answers. I don’t find your comments inflammatory; just your opinion.