One-hit (album) wonders

Other genres are powered by one-hit wonders. But in Southern Gospel, groups that produce one spectacular album rarely stop at one. But every now and then, in our genre, you will occasionally find a short-lived group produce that one spectacular album.

The other day, a reader mentioned one of those, Mercy’s Mark’s debut self-titled album. As I listened to it again, I remembered just how amazing that was, and I realized that it would be altogether too easy for new fans of this genre to only listen to albums by groups they already knew. It’s the responsibility of those of us who remember when albums like that one were to mention them from time to time.

Then I got to wondering if there were others A second came to mind fairly readily, Cross 4 Crowns’ major-label debut albumΒ Turning Point, which picked up a 5-star review here in 2008.

Are there any other spectacular albums by short-lived groups?

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76 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. One of my favorite projects is by the Harbingers Quartet. Their 2003 “The Cause Of The Cross” project on Zane King’s Journey label blew me away. The first half of that project would have stood up against almost any other group. The second half of the project wasn’t as strong, but still good. That was the only project I ever saw or heard by the group.

    • I’ve never heard the album; I think I’ve never even heard of it before this point. Well, if I see it in the bargain bin at Goodwill in the future, I’ll know to not pass over it!

    • I will completely agree about The Harbingers’ The Cause of the Cross. Fantastic record. Though it’s pretty progressive Daniel – not sure how much you’d really enjoy it.

      • I’ve been known to enjoy a progressive album from time to time, especially if it has incredible songs. (Case in point: BF&A’s “Never Walk Alone,” which I gave 5 stars.)

  2. One that would almost qualify is the Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet. Both of their Daywind releases were quite strong. But it would be hard to point to one as clearly better than the other.

    • I think their other releases were pretty strong as well. They were on Song Garden after that which Robbie had a big hand in. They released Restoration in 2005 and The Word Is Out in 2007. They also had a couple table projects in 2005. The first one was called Hymns and the second Classics. The group has kind of come and gone through the years. it always started as a church group that got national recognition. I even have an LP that has Robbie Hiner, Mac Evans, Don Norman. and Jerry Falwell singing bass. They are in a barn and all wearing overalls. That also reminds me that Old Time Gospel Hour Trio had a really strong project as a trio called The Lamb has Prevailed. That would be a good nominee for a one hit wonder.

  3. Posts like this make me worry about “hot” newer quartets like Mark209, Canton Junction or Union Street. I would hate to see a post go up in a year or three asking “what happened to them?”.

    • You know, I could almost guarantee that some will make it for a long time and others will hang up their traveling shoes after a couple of years. That’s just the way it goes. But God can use both the short-lived and the long-lived groups. πŸ™‚

      • Yes, he can.

        And you never know who the long-lived groups will be. On paper, Perfect Heart should have take the 90’s by storm and should today be one of the biggest groups going. And…they don’t even exist anymore. They barely lasted the decade.

      • While reading this post I could think of dozens of reasons a great sounding group would fizzle out quickly. There are multitudes of great singers out there but few that have the business knowledge to keep a group going. Here is just one example. It seems to me that newley formed groups rush to buy a bus as if having a nice looking bus means that they’ve made it. A bus is expensive to purchase and the upkeep is outrageous. I’m thinking of a new group now (won’t call names) that have been together less than two years and just went into debt for a really nice used bus. Looking at their schedule I don’t see enough dates yet to justify the bus. On the other hand I know a very busy professional group that drives a used Sprinter and pulls a trailer. They are an extremely busy group and they pay their singers more than some of the heavier hitters in the industry. This group has been singing for many years and has produced some great singers for other groups.

        Bryan Hutson (Soul’d Out Quartet) said in a Facebook post that “some are called, some are sent, and some just picked up a mic and went”. Think about that statement. He’s talking about being truly anointed to minister through music. Without that anointment any group will fizzle. Sad part is that these groups that have one really good project and then fade away have probably quit a job and suffered financially because of it.

        Whatever the reason for the fizzle, it’s sad. Daniel is right though, that one great project can continue to bless for many years.

  4. Does anyone remember a group called “Jericho” from back in the 90’s? I believe a couple members were formerly of the Singing Americans. I think I recall them having a strong debut release that was self-titled.

    • I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never heard that project.

    • I have a couple of their recordings. The two former Singing Americans members in the group were lead Scott Whitener and bass Dwayne Burke. Jon McBroom was the baritone before he left to join Brian Free and Assurance.

      • I don’t have anything by Jericho, but I do have a promotional cd with a radio special that Homeland put out.

      • To go along with your Jericho theme, does anybody remember Malachi? The group David Hill was with right after he departed Gold City? I was young, but I felt like they came on to the scene with some buzz. I had their first project, which I thought was good as a 12 year old, but it’s been lost since then…

  5. The Sound’s masterpiece, “What The World Needs To Hear” tops the list for me. That lineup of Pat Hoffmaster, Rick Strickland, Sean Riley, and Jess Farmer, along with David Foster, produced a classic recording. It’s a shame the lineup did not last. If you own that recording, I envy you!

    • That is a perfect example.

      I keep hearing good things about that recording.

    • I remember the Sound when they were trio. It was Pat Hoffmaster Rick Strickland and Steve Hurst. Not sure how long Hurst was there but I heard them when I played piano for the Greenes back in 1984. We were in concert at the old Indianapolis Convention Center with The Cathedrals and The Sound. They did the song “Here Comes the Bride”. It tore that place apart. They were truly a One Hit Wonder. Too bad they didn’t last.

      • Actually Joe, with Steve Hurst they went by the name Exodus. They made a 4 song Christmas EP that is fantastic! It’s a shame they didn’t last longer.

  6. Here’s another question: Did one-hit-album wonders exist before about 1980?

  7. One group that comes to mind is the Crossway Quartet. They might have had a few good albums, but their recording in 2004 “This I Know” was one of my favorite of all time. They had at least one hit off that recording, the song called The Long Arm of Love.

    • I remember the song, but I don’t think I ever heard that album. That’s another one I’ll have to keep my eye out for!

    • I’m not sure I would group Crossway in with one hit wonders because while they had a short run, they had multiple quality projects in the early to mid 2000s. I will agree that “This I Know” was FANTASTIC. It is also one of my favorite projects ever released.

      Daniel, I will add that “This I Know” really cemented the group’s move to a very progressive and country sound from their original traditional style (as showcased on their Spring Hill debut CD, “No Distractions”).

  8. Willie Wynn left the Oak Ridge Boys just prior to going full-time country. He spent a little time with the Statesmen – then started a country group known as Sweetwater – then eventually founded Willie Wynn and the Tennesseans. This was a great group – perhaps the best new group of that era (mid 70’s), but I think only recorded only an album or two….Sweetwater might have been after the Tennesseans – not sure…

    Go to YouTube and type in Willie Wynn and the Tennesseans!!! Kinda like Freedom QT – great from the start…


  9. I think one of the more recent one hit wonders were Crystal River (the lineup that included Dusty Barrett and Jeremy Lyle). They had a good sound and good material.

    Austin’s Bridge, I thought, were going to be a hit too. Their first cd was great!

    Cross4Crowns was one of my favorites.

    • Justin Rivers, who was in Austins, Bridge, was on “The Voice” last season, but lost to the Swon Brothers in the head-to-head battle contest where the judges decide who moves forward. In my opinion, Justin Rivers should have gone all the way to the end.

      • Bruce,

        I was keeping up with the voice as best as I could and i whole heartedly agree! Justin seemed to have the complete package. I hope that he does well in his musical career.

  10. I would also ‘Everyday Driven’ and ‘Second Mile’ (two short-lived groups featuring Channing Eleton & Buddy Mullins). Awesome music, as you would expect from Eleton particularly, whose musicianship is far beyond the typical gospel music audiences’ comprehension. Not sure why both groups disappeared as quickly as they came, but they both made excellent recordings, leaning heavy towards progressive/P&W. I know this doesn’t qualify as one-hit-wonders, but it does qualify as potentially awesome groups that sadly disappeared before anyone knew.

  11. One hit wonders are more rare because of the difficulty of creating a hit in SG. Unless you’re a spinoff of another group (Triumphant, Sig Sound), you usually have to work your way in (Browders, Crabb Fam). Then if there is a hit, someone in the group will at least keep it going even though there may eventually be a complete turn-over in personnel.
    The Reinhardts come to mind on groups that made a big splash in a short amount of time then disappeared, though I think it was over the course of a couple of years. Benton & Co (Kelly Benton, former Nelon) did a great recording with Lari Goss 4-5 years ago, but it wasn’t a hit. Living Waters Trio/Crawford’s Crossing, not sure if they still exist–both versions of that group had chart success, I believe with a single album.

  12. Hope’s Call.

    Bright New Day was the album that really put them on the map and gave them a Top 5 with “Singing Heaven’s Song.” They signed with Daywind and released one album – Live to Love – and then broke up before that album had any chart success.

    • So you’re pointing out Bright New Day as the hit album, not the following one, right?

      • Yes. I think they only released 2 singles off of that one, and neither really made a huge splash.

      • OK!

    • I actually liked Hopes Call etter as a female trio, they did a cd with Roger Talley called “Reasons” that is awesome. They were great friends of mine.

  13. One thing that concerns me more than 1 hit wonders are those groups who consistently put out one great album after another and then seemed to hit a wall and either have not put out another great album or quit/retired all together. I will name a group that is long retired so that no ones feelings get hurt. The Cathedrals put out nothing but quality until the final line-up. It was hit or miss. High and Lifted up was (in my opinion) the only solid recording they did. Radio Days was good for what it was, but as far as new material goes, they were a flop by any ones standards. They were still amazing in concert and they will always be my favorite, but it was sad to see the recording quality go so low in their final years. There are many examples today but to spare hurt feelings, I will leave that up to the rest of you.

    • I’ll just jump in here briefly with a moderator’s note: Thank you so much for limiting yourself to examples of the past, and I’d request that anyone else who joins this part of the discussion does the same. Current examples aren’t a good idea, even if they are out there. πŸ™‚

    • I agree on the Cathedrals last decade. It felt like money was trying to be saved by recording a lot of PD songs.

      • This came up back on another website back when Roger Bennett was still alive. He posted a comment with a distinct rebuttal that they didn’t skimp on song selection or on trying to find strong songs.

      • George and Glen knew the end was coming. I wonder if it wasn’t just them trying to re-live some of the great songs they sang early in their career. Pat I thought the Faithful album was good as well. The Cathedrals were and still are my favourites. But I as well, got a little tired of the same songs being cut over and over towards the end with Campmeetin Live, Reunion, Radio Days and Live…in Texas.

  14. What about the group Apppointed…i just remember one cd”The Great Escape”…which i like very much!….came out in 1999….

    • I have one that Appointed did on the Journey label called _Men On A Mission_. It’s very good. I don’t have any of their other releases to make any sort of comparison.

  15. Brian brought up a good example with The Sound. The album he’s referring to was terrific. I know they continued to travel a short while after that with some success, but it was very different configuration, and the name just dwindled. Another example, inspired by an earlier comment about Spin-off groups…might be The Brothers. I wasn’t around when they began (or ended), but I do have 2 of their albums, which were at the very least, “very solid” recordings. They were signed with the same record label as the Bill Gaither Trio, Doug Oldham, Reba Rambo, The Speers, Imperials, and Gordon Jensen, just to name a few. Maybe someone from that era can remember precisely the discussion when they come on to the scene in the late 70s/early 80s that isn’t just overshadowed by their departure from the Cathedrals & give a more objective analysis.

  16. I would agree with Pat’s statement. This is certainly not a knock against the last decade of the Cathedrals. Keeping in mind, he is making reference to entire projects, not individual songs. With the Cathedrals, for instance, while there was a perceived drop of in quality of recordings during that period, there were certainly “stand out” songs on several of their albums that have become songs that they are remembered for. For example – Wedding Music, I’ve Read the Back of the Book, etc.

  17. I agree with Dave completely. Project wise, there are groups, like the Cats who knocked it out of the ball park year after year. For some reason, usually group changes, the project provide nothing more than a song or two and then the rest were not so memorable. I wonder if one reason, these days, would be because we live in an iTunes world where full albums simply don’t matter any more?

    • That’s probably a complete discussion of its own. In a world of iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify, does it matter if the Mark Trammell Quartet (then trio) comes out with an album of ten spectacular songs (Always Have a Song)? Or does that not matter anymore.

      • As I have stated before on a post about this, it does matter to me, but I grew up at the tail end of the album being popular. I still buy full cds hoping for that same experience and I am normally disappointed. Btw, always have a song is still my favorite mark Trammell group album and I ain’t even on it!!

      • Had you heard about how many times I begged Dustin Sweatman (and I think even Mark) to go back in the studio and re-cut it with a bass part added? πŸ™‚

      • Oh, and yes, I still hope for that full-album experience, too, and I am also usually disappointed.

        I will say, though, that Lifetime is a great exception to the rule – a true full-album experience.

  18. I was a big fan of Ponder Sykes & Wright and they had some pretty good reception with their first recording but seemed to wane afterwards.I know they all worked extensively doing studio work and may not have wanted to do the touring thing but, i sure miss their music.

  19. Here’s one to look up on Youtube or buy if you come across. There was a regional group that toured throughout the Texas area back in the late 70’s and early 80’s called the Masters Four out of Grapevine, Tx. They later changed their name to the Texans and sang in Branson. They had an album that they recorded on the Eddy Crook label I believe called “Telling The World About His Love” that was incredible. The entire album was solid top to bottom. Anyone who saw their live performances will tell you there was something different about this group. They shared the stage with many of the top groups of that day and usually got better crowd response than the big name national group. Oh and they had a bass singer named David Capps who was right at 7 foot tall and boy could he rattle the speakers with his low notes.

  20. Would a group like The Trio fall into this category?

  21. A forum to discuss our favorite “Full Album Experience” would definitely be a fun discussion To have. Of course, live recordings would be highly popular – but outside of that, the feedback would be interesting.

  22. I was at the first “The Trio” concert. It was electric! I don’t consider them 1 hit wonders though.

    • As already mentioned the Reinhardts were quite good as were the Trailblazers and Heirloom. Not sure if Heirloom actually performed together. It would be nice if Sheri Easter would reissue their CDs.

      What ever happened to the Bibletones? I think they were out of Mississippi. Saw them at NQC in the early 90s and was very impressed…

      Not one hit wonders, but the most overlooked group in SG history has got to be the Thrasher Brothers. They were huge in the early 70s with their own television show. They had it all complete with twin trumpets, red suits and the hilarious Buddy Thrasher. John Gresham was their excellent bass. Don’t forget Jerry Goff’s contributions. Sadly, going country was their apparent downfall.

      • I have to agree with you Ed on the Thrasher Brothers. They were in my opinion one of the 2 or 3 best groups to see live in the history of Southern Gospel. I was introduced to them after Jerry Goff left the group but still remember the way they way they opened a concert with the trumpet player walking down the aisle playing as they sang. In my opinion they did the very best high endings ever. Each one of the brothers could have sung tenor with any group traveling. Their high notes were out of this world. I once heard them and Jim couldnt make it so Rosie Rozzelle filled in. Wow.

  23. A couple that come to mind:
    Harold Gilleu and Southern Gold – Somebody’s Knocking. Harold Gilley andoMike Loprinzi .

    Eddie Crook and Vocal Edition – Room At the Cross. Members: Eddie Crook, Charles Lockhart, Greg Toney, Charles Booth and Jim Murray.

    • I was hoping you would chime in, because I knew you would think of several that nobody else thought of – but for which we would all say “Yes, of course!” Thank you!

    • Harold Gilley – the greatest bass singer who never was…

  24. Wasn’t the Bibletones the group that Mark Lanier was with before Perfect Heart? That seems to be about the time they sort of faded.

  25. First Love (Troy Peach, Katy Van Horn Peach, J.P. Miller)…self-titled album. It was a killer project. It had great songs such as “What A Day That Will Be,” “He Made The Cross,” “That’s When I Got Saved,” “Across the River,” “First Love” and “Halleleujah For the Cross.” Katy Peach is vocally just top notch, TOP notch. J.P. Miller had a much more pleasing lead vocal than I anticipated. I still listen to this album on a regular basis. Their blend was very good. I wish they could have stayed on the road. I hope Katy Peach finds her way back to the road at some point. She’s too good to not be singing (see Loren Harris, Paul Lancaster, etc.).

    • Troy and Katy’s twin boys are still pretty little. I can understand her desire to be there for her boys while they’re little; when they get older, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her pick up a microphone again.

  26. This may not entirely qualify, but after the Kingsboys changed their name to Chronicle, they put out maybe two albums before disbanding, and in my opinion, their “Live” album from 1991 is among gospel music’s best kept secrets….they disbanded shortly after that album came out if I remember correctly.

    • I’ve never heard it. I’ll keep an eye out for a copy.

    • Yes, the Chronicle live CD is excellent. I think there may be two different covers for that CD.

      Saw a video of them doing a “modern” version of Let’s Go Out to the Program made popular by the Oak Ridge Boys. Don’t remember all of the groups they mimmicked, but the Kingsmen and Inspirations were included. It was a riot. Maybe someone could post it here…

      It would be hard to update that song these days as most current groups lack the unique sound of some of yesterday’s quartets.

      • The Inspirations, The Hinsons, and The Kingsmen

      • I got your comment as an email notification, not realizing it was a reply. Viewed as a standalone comment, it really took me aback. I’m glad I clicked through to see the context! πŸ™‚


  27. Austin’s Bridge only made two CDs, as far as I know.

    I’m not sure how either one did in terms of sales or charting, but personally, I’d consider them to be a “one hit album” group. I really liked the first CD. The second one was OK, but it didn’t really have the distinctive sound that the first one had. .

  28. I have a cassette tape of Johnny Minick and Family called How Long. Honestly I don’t know if it was a hit nor do I know if they ever did anything else, but I do love that one recording. Still listen to it after all these years.

  29. How about Mended Wings from Myrtle Beach SC? They had a tenor who won a Dove award with the Singing Americans (?), did 2 albums, and had a couple of really big hits (Everlasting Song, Count Me In)…

  30. One that comes to mind is Friends IV. They were incredibly talented and put out some great projects but it only lasted for a couple projects. One of my favorite groups was N’Harmony. They had a good run until Shane Dunlap went to Signature Sound. After that I, Shane reformed the group with Josh Feemster, who i think is one of the most talented lead singers out there today. That one didn’t last very long and I don’t even think they did a CD.

  31. WOW! Daniel, I’ve finally made it!…lol…never thought i’d ever be classified a “1 hit wonder”…I really, really do take that as a compliment! I never thought I’d ever have a hit at all! Daniel, I agree with you; Turning Point was and is one of the best albums, top to bottom, that I’ve heard in a while. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Cross 4 Crowns had 10 consecutive charting singles over 3 albums. That was pretty cool for a part-time group. We had 6 years on the road, and the main reasons that groups don’t last very long these days, especially with quartets, is that you have 4 different families that must have the same goals and the same vision of how to get there. People change, situations change, life happens. What most of the younger generation doesn’t realize is that if you can find a way to stay together, no matter what, you can succeed…most of the time just by the process of elimination.

    But the biggest reason certainly is financial. Record companies aren’t investing in groups anymore. In my case, I was self-employeed, so I could float the finances for awhile, but its gonna catch up sooner or later, and with the economic downturn, the math just doesn’t work. But the good news is, when He calls you, He will always give you a song, and a place to sing it. I wouldn’t take nothing for C4C’s time out there, and who knows what the future holds, but for a time, 4 guys were able to come together and hopefully bless a few people and help lead a few to the Lord. I will always be humbled for that opportunity…Love ya brother!

    • Thanks! I really didn’t mean to minimize the success of the other albums and songs surrounding Turning Point. I’m glad you picked up on my main intention, which was to highlight just how incredible Turning Point was. It was easily one of the five best releases of the year it came out.