Mike Holcomb leaves The Inspirations

Yesterday afternoon, The Inspirations announced that long-time bass singer Mike Holcomb has left the group.

Folks, we have an announcement to make. Today, October 1st, Mike Holcomb has announced that he is resigning from The Inspirations. Mike has been singing bass for 42 years with us, and is one of the greatest bass singers to ever step on the stage. However, not only is Mike an incredible singer, but he is an amazing preachers as well! He feels that it is time for him to begin a “new season” in his life, and will be hitting the road full time in preaching and singing evangelism. We know God will use he, and his sweet wife Bavaria, in a tremendous way, but we are devastated to lose him. We love Mike and Bavaria dearly.

If you would like to book Mike Holcomb at your church, conference, or camp meeting (and we HIGHLY recommend that you do) here is his contact info: Mike and Bavaria Holcomb / “Heart’s Desire Ministries” / PO Box 1007 / Bryson City, NC 28713 / (828) 488-2025 / heartsdesiremin@frontier.com

God bless you all, and keep us all in your prayers.

For decades, Holcomb and long-time tenor Archie Watkins were the vocal anchors of the group’s sound. Add in any lead singer and baritone, but keep Watkins and Holcomb in the mix, and it was still The Inspirations. Since Watkins’ departure, Holcomb has anchored the group’s sound.

It is a bittersweet moment for many of us who have observed The Inspirations for years. Holcomb’s heart for preaching—and skill at preaching—has been unmistakable for years. While we hoped Holcomb would stay on stage until the group sang its final notes and retired, I think we all knew, deep down, that there was a chance this day would come.

The preaching circuit has gained a great preacher, but the Southern Gospel quartet circuit has lost one of its finest bass singers.

For more about —and other Southern Gospel news and commentary—follow our RSS feed or sign up for our email updates!

46 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. Wow!! This is one of, if not the biggest change of the year. Will miss him!!

  2. Clearly biggest news of the year bar none. Of course it seems that October 1 is the day of changes. I’m curious as to how this will pan out. Given the anchorship of “6’4 94”. The “change” that come with the departure of Archie was a phenomonal one that once again changed the “sound” of the Inspirations in a sense. So with this new season to quote Mike. I am most anxious to see just exactly who will assume the bass position. It will be definitely something to watch.

  3. It’s probably safe to say that Mike was one of the longest tenured bass singers ever for one group. Unless of course you count Gerald Williams with the Melody Boys Quartet. It will be interesting to see who they pick as a replacement. May God’s blessings be on Mr. Holcomb as he continues to preach the Word.

    • In a singing yesterday in NC, Jon Epley was singing bass…….of course, he’s not Bro. Mike, but he did do a good job, nonetheless……

  4. I was going to post something about SGMA Hall of Famers being actively on the road, but then I looked and realized Mike is not in the Hall of Fame. Kinda surprised me. I think that should change in the near future.

  5. I was talking about this with someone the other day. It’s going to change the groups sound so much. I’m going to miss him so much.

  6. Mike we will miss you so much, it will not be the same without you. I know the LORD has other plans for you. For 42 yrs we have went and heard the Inspirations sing when they were near us here in Ms. We were just planning our fall trip to the Smokies and the big fall singing, but this just broke my heart.

  7. Mike is in a class of his own. He is most likely the lowest bass singer in SG. His style is unique. He cannot be replaced. Could be the end of an era. Maybe Marin can pull a rabbit out a hat on this one. He has made some really good hires in the past.

    Going to see most goups is just a concert. Going to see the Inspirations (with Mike Holcomb) is an experience…

    • You are absolutely correct! You just wrote the best comment I have ever read. I love The Inspirations and Mike Holcomb and I am very, very sad….

  8. It is a sad day for all Inspiration fans. Martin has done an amazing job keeping the” Inspirations sound” that we all came to expect, even through the changes and transition of losing Archie. This one may be to hard to overcome though. I pray that someone with a passion for the heritage and legacy of the Inspirations comes on board and carries on the work to a new generation.

  9. The best rythm bass in the past half century. A world class bass that helped shaped the unique sound of The Inspirations. The Inspirations will no doubt carry on. Only now, they will have the challenge of finding and keeping a new generation fan base. The loss for The Inspirations is incalculable.

  10. We have had Mike Holcomb in our church to preach in the past. He did a great job. Bro. Mike understands the ministry of the local church. As far as bass singing, Mike is one of the best ever. Super low but able to take a bass lead and do so many things other bass singers are unable to do. Like George Younce, Mike is a pure and gifted singer before being a low singer. The Inspirations will not be the same. I wish you the best Mike.

  11. Wow! We are glad we had the opportunity to see them last Saturday. That was more historic than we imagined.

    • I couldn’t be there!!!!!!!!!!!
      Was planning on it, but I realized that I had to run sound for a 2 day event that weekend. i knew both things were coming up, but it didn’t dawn on me at first that both events were on the same weekend.

      This is like when First Lutheran in Shelby had the Blackwood Brothers before Jimmy retired. Peoples’ Baptist sure knew when to book a concert. How was the attendance?

  12. Am I correct that Mike Holcomb came from the school like the original group did?

    • Mike was not one of the originals. If memory serves me right, he is from Jasper Ga. Troy Burns was the original bass.

  13. I believe Troy burns was replaced by Marlin Schubert .

  14. We were discussing it last night and decided that this news story about Mr. Holcomb leaving the Inspirations was the #1 news story for us yesterday, while the government shutdown ranked #3. 🙂

  15. For my entire life I have watched Mike sang bass for the Inspirations. I can’t really envision the group without him. I sure wish him the best with his preaching ministry and hope Martin finds a wonderful Christian man to fill the position in a quick and hopefully painless way. I know he will miss Mike so much and my heart goes out to him. May God pour blessings on all of them!

  16. This man is so much more than just an absolutely amazing bass singer. The only thing he did better than singing is his preaching.No punt intended but he truly has been an “inspiration” to me. I started going to concerts when I was eight years old and the Lord blessed us with a great relationship. He is like a second dad to me, I have been able to talk to him about so many things and he always was willing to listen and help guide me down the right path. This is not only a loss to the Inspirations, but to the entire SG community. Praying that God will bless him in more ways than he could ever ask for or imagine. Keep him and his sweet wife, Boo, in your prayers; I’m sure this is not an easy time of transition for them. Also, pray for the group as they seek God’s will for their next steps.

  17. Alex Utech, who was recently hired by the Dixie Echoes, filled in for Mike Holcomb at a couple of concerts I recently attended. He did an outstanding job and was about as good of a replacement for Mike as I feel anyone could have possibly been. Hopefully Mr. Cook has just the right singer to fill the bass position for the Inspirations. The other three vocalists seem to be blending perfectly and it would be nice to see this group bond for the long haul!

  18. Alex Utech needs to stay with the Dixie Echoes. I’m sick of groups wanting someone else’s singer, singers always looking for something “better”, etc. Besides, the Echoes have their best lineup since the Barker/Smith/Varnado days. Let well enough alone.

    • Oh, just for the record, I wasn’t implying at all that Alex should leave the Dixie Echoes. Not sure where that idea came from; I was complimenting the abilities that the guy has, as it is not an easy thing to pinch hit for Mike Holcomb!

  19. Best of luck to you Mike. You know that God holds our future in his hands. He has helped you make this decision and it has to be in your best interest. I will miss seeing you with the inspirations, but I also would like to be in a congregation where you will be preaching. May God be with you wherever he takes you.

  20. If singers never switched groups, there’d be no SG for long because if someone gets sick or gets old you’d have no one to replace them with. If singers never switched groups, there’d be no Cathedral Quartet either (both George and Glen came from other groups).

    But by all means, if you want the genre to stagnant, you wish for all groups to stay the same forever…

  21. When personnel changes are what keeps Southern Gospel interesting, it’s time to park the buses for good.

    • Nobody would say that the Booth Brothers, Collingsworths, and Triumphant are boring, and it’s been over a decade since any of the three had a personnel change. In fact, two of the three have never had a personnel change, from day 1 through today. And since those are arguably the three most popular artists in our genre—and they certainly are if you measure by awards—it is safe to say that our genre doesn’t rely on personnel changes to keep things interesting.

      • I really don’t think it’s fair to compare others with the Collingsworths, saying they’ve never had a personnel change. Well no they haven’t, but come on they are a very young family and most of them are females. There’s not as many places for them to move to.

      • They’re hardly immune from the possibility, though, of one of those young ladies coming off the road and needing to be replaced.

      • Daniel, I find it interesting that the three groups you mentioned here with minimal to no turnover were given the top three SN Fan Awards yesterday. It may be something for you to research and get back with us on, but what is your opinion on the correlation, if any, of stability in a group’s personnel to the fact that they are at the top of their game? Not sure if I’m expressing this correctly here, but I guess I’m asking if it’s a fair or reasonable comparison to conclude that low turnover contributes at least in part to a group’s popularity and/or rise to and ride at the top. In addition to winning fan awards, these groups typically are high-demand and high-drawing groups in terms of audience numbers. Would fans remain as loyal if there were a personnel change? Maybe that’s part of the question—how much does stablity play into endearing a group to the fans ?

      • Stability helps.

    • TDK it would be wonderful if every group in Southern Gospel stayed the same but unfortunately that’s never gonna happen. As far as singers changing from one group to another this has been going on forever. I don’t know what the feeling is from the group that the person left but I have never read or heard them having a problem with it. I’m sure if you hire a great vocalist you would probably hire him with the understanding that he or she may get an opportunity somewhere else. As long as everything is above board as far as contact between the two groups I don’t have a problem with it. We are all on the same team here. Unlike secular music our mission is the same and while I know that the spirit of competition exists our main goal is to win souls. The person changing groups is still going to go to a group that has the same goal and may have an even greater platform for winning souls than he did with his previous group to which I would say Hallelujah!!!!

  22. TDK, I’m curious as to why it makes you “sick of singers always looking for something better?” Are you saying that a person in gospel music should not have the right to better themselves? I believe that certainly we need to be within the center of God’s will, no matter what we do. And yes, there are those groups who have seldom to never had a group change and we love them for their consistency and ability to be creative year after year, just as much as we love those who keep things interesting for us when they shake things up. But why should it be off-limits to promote from within the ranks? Speaking from experience as an employee in a private sector job, there is little job satsifaction in knowing that no matter how well I perform, there is no upward mobility or opportunity for advancement. I think a singer who has worked hard and paid their dues should be given the freedom and opportunity to move up in the ranks. I would not embarrass any groups by name, but there are unwritten classifications of what is an “A-list” group in this industry and what is considered B or C, and I have no problem with a singer or musician making one of their goals landing a spot in an “A-list” group. If everyone–groups and individuals–strived to be an “A-lister,” (which is really what we should be doing for the glory of God in the first place–giving our very BEST), we’d see quality improve in this business like we’ve never seen it before–instead of settling for mediocracy and then trying to pass it off as the best thing since sliced bread to the outside world looking in on us and thinking no one knows any better. I honestly am thrilled that groups like Tribute Quartet, Karen Peck and New River, and Mark Trammell Quartet have introduced gospel music to the likes of Riley Clark, Anthony Davis, Jeff Hawes, and Dustin Black, just to name a few of the new faces on the national music scene in the past few years. But I’m equally thrilled when someone who has road experience and has paid some dues and proven themselves gets the pat on the back of a deserved promotion to a top-tier group. If it’s done professionally with respectf by everyone involved, I don’t think it should be a shame and I don’t think we should begrudge anyone that honor just because it may not be what we want. If we were all honest about it, we could name group after group who were actually better off after a change than they were before.

  23. Ironically, I was just looking at the Singing News and trying to plan a fall trip and talking about all the recent changes with the Inspirations and wondering just what the problem is, when I decided to try to find out where Jodi Hosterman is now and here comes the news we all dreaded and that being that Mike Holcomb has stepped down. We understand occasional changes within a group but this just seems a little much….maybe Martin Cook could tell us more!!!
    I’m just too sad to include Inspiration Pk. in my plans now!

    • With all due respect to all parties involved, Mike has worked for the Inspirations for 42 years. He deserves the opportunity to call it a career there and do something else. I would guess that a very small percentage of employees ever put in that many years at any occupation for any one company or organization. I still contend it’s a double standard for the rest of the free world to come and go in and out of jobs and careers and no one thinks a thing about it, yet we expect our gospel artists to stay on one bus forever. It’s not accurate to believe every bus is a rolling church made up of saints who do exactly what they’re always supposed to do. Nor is it accurate or fair to think because of high turnover there are serious internal issues or problems within a group or its management. Everyone is human. It is what it is. This is both a ministry and a business and sometimes people get it right, other times they fall short of the mark. I know we all have that curiosity to speculate and wonder if the reasons press releases give about changes are true or not or if there’s a back-story, but I try to leave that up to the parties involved and God. I instead just ty to pray for the groups out there, that they would always Love God and people, please God, make great music, stay safe on the roads, and find the right people for the particular season they are in at the time. If I’m doing my part and the groups are doing theirs, then God can and will do His part, and it will all work out.

  24. I recently heard of a groupvery I would call a “fast-rising B-lister”, whose members signed a contract together, dedicating themselves to stay together for 10 years. I predict good things for this group.

  25. Who else has sang bass longer for 1 group, without interruption?
    Tim Riley is 28 Years with Gold City, although not consecutive years.
    Gerald Williams had a long run with the Melody Boys, but they weren’t consecutive, either.
    George Younce had 35 years with the Cathedrals.
    JD had 14 years with the Stamps, before the Masters V, 8 years with them, and then 10 more years with the Stamps after the Masters V changed names.

    Vocally, keeping in the same tradition, Nic Val and Tim Storms are candidates.
    Scott Fraker, who used to sing with Chosen Few, might work.
    Here’s a page about him
    Both him and Tim Storms sing at the Pierce Arrow Theater in Branson.
    Ken Turner, anyone think?
    There’s a guy, who I’ve mentioned before on here, who lives up in Morgadore, Ohio, named Bob Christie… He would just knock the socks off off Inspirations fans, as far as keeping the standards where they were with Mike. Anything Mike can do, he can do.

    • Ray Reese has to be close to that number with the Kingsmen. Seems he has been there forever.

      • Ray joined in 1971 (after a brief 1967-68 stint). This would make him tied at 42, unless you count the Carolina Boys era, in which there was no Kingsmen, as an interruption.

      • Yes, Ray Reese’s another long term bass singer.
        Ed O’Neal joined the Dixie Melody Bos in 1965. That’s 48 years.
        Yes, I know the DMB Band disbanded, but right after Ed did that, McCray Dove called looking for a job, and Ed formed the traditional quartet that we know of today.

  26. Mike is a great person and a great singer, never heard him preach but with the passion I saw in him he is great at that too!

  27. Just an observation… These “singers” are also PEOPLE. These people want the same things all of us do. They want a chance to ADVANCE. Mr. Holcombe started with the Inspirations as a Teenager, if memory serves me correctly. He has spent 42 YEARS with the same company. How many of us 1: have lasted that long in any job 2: stayed with the job we had as teenagers? SG fans also believe that these people are there only for “our” entertainment. They have another desire that many of us do, to one day RETIRE! Mr. Holcombe is, if calculations are correct, technically 7 years past retirement tenure. Now he has a desire to PREACH MORE and sing less. Let’s thank GOD for a man who still has a desire to see lost folks come to know Jesus and preach the word. Mike is not my “favorite” bass singer (he is obviously a good one) the Inspirations is not my favorite quartet (again obviously they are good) but why should they be held back….Allow them to progress, musically and ministerially. Besides when you heard Mr. Cook was forming the inspirations you thought “We don’t need another quartet,” and look how that judgement turned out to be. Wishing all involved God’s greatest ever blessings.

  28. I am so Greatly miss this Great Bass Singer, and would like to thank him for all the times he has lifted my spirit and Blessed my Soul with talent God Granted him with, also thank your family Mike for sharing you with all of us. God Bless you in your new adventure, I will surely miss you my friend:-)

  29. If you’ve been called to do something and aren’t doing it, you’re settling for less than God’s best for your life. Mike has been faithful in obeying the call of full-time gospel music for 42 years, and now he’s obeying the call of full-time gospel preaching. If his past track record is anything to go by, he’ll be used mightily in this new phase of ministry. I’ll miss him being with the Inspirations (not as much as they will, I’m sure), but I understand why he made this change and will be praying for him and his as they continue to press toward the mark.

    • Praise God you are right. He needs to follow that which God has called him to do and wonderful things in the kingdom of heaven will take place. Also he will be blessed beyond measure. Mike Gid Speed to you.

  30. I think that God is using him in a great and mighty way. He is out telling the good news of Jesus Christ. Also he is telling in the old fashion way. Which is what brought my soul under conviction and caused me to walk down to that alter and give my heart to Jesus Christ. We need more like him. The new fangled way of preaching is just not reaching lost souls. Alot of todays church’s are like going to the Broadway Show or ballew recidle. You have your bulletion that tells you what is going to happen next; guess what no where in it list GOD or Souls Saved, Conviction or anything else pretaining to that. People we need to go back to really going to church and not just a meeting. We are leaving a lot of lost souls behing because we don’t have God to do his work in the service. YOU HAVE TO GIVE GOD HIS TIME AND IT IS NOT LOOKING AT YOUR WATCH OH IT’S 12:00 WE NEED TO BE OUT OF HERE. GOD MAY NOT BE THROUGH AT THAT TIME. WE NEED TO WAIT ON GOD. IF I HAD NOT BEEN AT THE CHURCH I WAS AT BACK THEN AND WERE IN TODAY’S CHURCH I WOULD HAVE NEVER GOT SAVED, BECAUSE GOD DOESN’T HAVE THE TIME. ON THE INVITATION HYMN THEY HAD SUNG MAYBE 5 OR 6 VERSES AND STILL SINGING, BUT GOD WAS DEALING WITH ME AND I KEPT TELLING MYSELF I WILL WAIT TILL NEXT SUNDAY BUT THE LONGER THEY SUNG ANND THE PREACHER SAID I CAN FEAL GOD DEALING WITH SOMEONE AND I DON’T FEEL LIKE I CAN CLOSE THE SERVICE LIKE THIS. HE WAS RIGHT THE NEXT TIME THEY STARTED SINGING I COULD NOT WAIT ANY LONGER GOD HAD ALREADY GOT HOLD OF ME AND I WENT TO THE OLD FASHIONED ALTER AND CONFESSED MY SINS AND GOD WONDERFULLY SAVED MY SOUL. YOU KNOW WHAT BUT AT THAT SAME MEETING IT ENDED THAT 6 PRECIOUS SOULS WERE SAVED BY GIVING GOD HIS TIME. People we are going to have alot of blood of the lost souls if we don’t go back and give God his time to work with those lost people. If they had only sang one verse then i would have never went to that alter and give my all to him. Take time for God People if you have to leave out the announcements or if you have to bring you some crackers in your pocket, don’t put GOD on no time limit. My prayer is for Mike to continue to do that which God has called him to do and i really think Mike was raised up in the old time christian way and church where we may be there till 12;30 – 1:00. Hey I can stay and pray as long as God is working. And I hope that God will allow Mike to use is God given voice also in some of his church services. Mike as you always follow God’s will for your life, he will preform great things and will bless and keep you in his blessed name of Jesus.