Groups that Stood the Test of Time: 1970s

Continuing the series we started yesterday, let’s look at which groups’ recordings from the 1970s stand up best to the test of time and hold the greatest appeal today.

I’m kicking things off with a list each day. Just for fun, if you like, indicate in your list how many recordings you have by that group from that decade.

  1. Inspirations (13 projects). The Inspirations’ sound stands the test of time so well simply because it doesn’t change. If you like the Inspirations’ sound now, you’ll like their sound then. This was also their peak era, the era in which they won most of their awards. (That is, until this decade. I don’t know if I’ve said this in this space of the Internet before, but I am of the opinion that the Inspirations’ Fan Awards success this decade is less because they are better than they were in the 80s and 90s and more because they out-lasted their peers. If the Cathedrals with George and Glen, the Kingsmen with Jim Hamill, and Gold City with Tim Riley and either Jon Wilburn or Mark Trammell were still together, they would probably still be dominating the awards.)
  2. Cathedral Quartet (25 projects). As with their work from the 60s, their 70s projects probably hold even more appeal now than they did then.
  3. Kingsmen (13 projects). In this decade, the Kingsmen brought the key personnel on board that would take them to the top and started their Big and Live era.
  4. Rambos ( projects). The Rambos peaked in the 70s. Their live recordings from that era (Alive at Soul’s Harbor and Live) are a “must” for anyone collecting Southern Gospel music from the 70s.
  5. Happy Goodmans (9 projects). The Happy Goodmans were probably Southern Gospel’s most popular mixed group of the decade, and their projects are still captivating today.
  6. Bill Gaither Trio (10 projects). In this decade, Bill Gaither went from being an unknown whose songs the big groups were cutting to being the one hiring the big groups to be his opening acts.
  7. Chuck Wagon Gang (15 projects). (See explanation on #1.)
  8. Florida Boys (10 projects). Thanks to the exposure of the Gospel Singing Jubilee, this was probably the era in which the Florida Boys had the most exposure.
  9. Blackwood Brothers (16 projects). Though this was the Blackwood Brothers’ most awarded decade, they released their best work in the 50s and 60s. However, a number of their projects from this decade were quite solid.
  10. Dixie Echoes (6 projects). This was probably their strongest decade until this one.

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

20 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. Where are the Stamps? And are the Imperials of the 60’s better than the Imperials of the 70’s?

  2. Great posting! I enjoyed reading this one.

  3. Where are the Hinsons?

  4. Hope your 80’s selections includes the Singing Americans…

    2 powerful projects from the English,Hill,Strickland, Burke group.. “Live and Alive” & “Black & White”.

  5. How about the Speer Family? 17-18 projects, singing at Expo 72 Jesus Festival to 200,000. Concert (and LP) w/ Doug Oldham.

  6. Also, The Downings music from the early ’70s is some of the best Gospel music I own.

  7. Maybe The Speers were disqualified from the listing since they share the stage at the Expo ’72 Festival in Dallas with The Archers of the Jesus Freaks movement in the same era.
    Its okay to list the Speers in you listings because Billy Graham sanctified the event by giving a sermon on the closing day and during the time wrote a book about the Jesus Generation which was a forerunner of today’s style of gospel music.

    Sorry, Daniel, something made me do this post with lots of Christian love.

    By the way, your knowledge of southern gospel music ranks on the same level as All Saved Freak Band’s knowledge of the Jesus Freaks movement.

  8. Maybe The Speers were disqualified from the listing since they share the stage at the Expo ’72 Festival in Dallas with The Archers of the Jesus Freaks movement in the same era.
    Its okay to list the Speers in you listings because Billy Graham sanctified the event by giving a sermon on the closing day and during the time wrote a book about the Jesus Generation which was a forerunner of today’s style of gospel music.

    Sorry, Daniel, something made me do this post with lots of Christian love.

    By the way, your knowledge of southern gospel music ranks on the same level as All Saved Freak Band’s knowledge of the Jesus Freaks movement.

  9. Hey, everyone – sorry I don’t have the time to reply to all of you individually.

    You suggest some great groups. Problem is, under the rules I set, I had to keep my list down to 10. So…go for it, make a better list, and post it here in the comments! Then you can decide who to drop.

    The problem is not too few but too many good groups to keep it down to just 10. After all, who should I drop? Dixie Echoes in the days when Dale Shelnut ruled the live stage? Florida Boys in their peak Gospel Singing Jubilee years? Chuck Wagon Gang, with a sound so like that of today that if you like them now you’re guaranteed to like them then? (That’s the idea, too, recordings that hold up well today, as opposed to the best of the decade then.)

    So go for it—blow us all away!

  10. And for the record, I have nothing against any of the groups I didn’t list.

  11. Chuck Wagon Gang of the 1970s??? You’re kidding. Right?

    I’ll buy the Chuckys of today or even the Chuckys of the 1960s, but the Chuckys of the 1970s were just a shell of their greatness.

    Have you really listened to those 70s recordings of the CWG? I have recently played all of those 70s recordings by the Gang and they don’t amount to much. They were no longer a touring group and went into the studio once a year to “mail in” their Columbia contract.

    I could never in good conscience list them above groups like the Speer Family or even Higher Ground (a trio with harmonies many years before their time).

    By the way, I have all the projects from that era by the CWG as well as the Speers and every other group you list other than the Rambos.

    I would list the top ten groups (in no certain order) of that era like this:

    Imperials (multiple Dove award winners)
    Oak Ridge Boys (more Doves)
    Speer Family (even more Doves)
    Statesmen (my favorite group, but this was not their era)
    Stamps (until Elvis died)
    Happy Goodmans (and it hurts to admit this)
    Downings
    Blackwood Brothers (but they were on the slippery slope after 1976)
    Cathedrals (not as good as the 60s, but better than the 80s)

  12. John – your list is at least as solid and defensible as mine. Great choices!

    You know, I still enjoy the CWG recordings I have from the ’70s – and I have 15 released in that decade! – but I can see where they might not have mass appeal.

  13. Since I wasn’t around (or at least too young) to enjoy live performances by artists in the ’70s these are the groups I would list as top ten of the ’70s based on recordings that I own.

    Downings
    Hinsons (The mid ’70s especially)
    Oak Ridge Boys
    Kingsmen
    Stamps Quartet
    Happy Goodmans
    Rambos
    Dixie Echoes
    Rex Nelon Singers
    Speers

  14. “Dixie Echoes (6 projects). This was probably their strongest decade until this one. ”

    I am and have always been a fan of the Dixie Echoes. However, I thought the Dixie Echoes went from a real show stopping group in the early 1970s to a very mediocre quartet by the end of the decade. Dale Shelnut was the glue that held the group together, but by the end of the decade he was piecing together a rag-tag group of kids that just weren’t very good. Even the great showman Shelnut needed a bit more of a supporting cast.

    Dale was a master of humor. As I once heard Dale describe the mid-70s Dixie Echoes from the stage like this:

    “I bought the quartet and one day I went out to get on the bus and there I was . . . just me and the bus. I looked at the bus and said, “BUS, can you sing??””

  15. I did have the earlier ’70s group in mind – the years of Larry Ford, etc.

  16. I’ll buy that. Although I wouldn’t consider them to be in the top tier of groups of that era, nobody wanted to follow them on stage. Ken Turner and Dale Shelnut were two of the finest entertainers I’ve ever seen work a crowd.

  17. And I personally love the recordings I have from when Larry Ford was with them – that lineup was stellar.

  18. You know, a similar example would be the Happy Goodmans. I have them on this list, but it’s definitely for their early-70s work. On the other hand, I have the Cathedrals on this list for their late-70s work. Even though they came out with some good work in the early ’70s, they had a solid lineup for 5 or 6 years at the end of the 70s, and it was that lineup got them on the list.

  19. I Sang with a Group Called the Journeymen Quartet and we had a Man who played the Piano Who’s Name was Ron C. and he was Blind and worked at a Hospital in Fontina California Jim P., Jerry M. and a 17 year old Bass singer. We had a Album were we stood in front of the Church at Knots Berry Farm if any one’s know of them please let me Know…Thank you! Bill

    • Very neat! I’m sorry, I don’t have a copy.