Mega-groups in Southern Gospel
(Note: My apologies to readers who were expecting the weekly CD review this morning. I’m not feeling well and am not up to putting in the three or four hours necessary. So here are my thoughts on another topic.)
Over the years, Southern Gospel has had several mega-groups. These groups dominated the scene, were widely emulated, and set the standard for years to come. The two most recent mega-groups were the 1990s Cathedrals and Gold City up until 2002 or 2003. But when the Cathedrals retired and everyone except Jonathan Wilburn left Gold City, the genre was left without a clear mega-group.
There have always been popular groups that haven’t quite been termed mega-groups, for whatever reason. Current examples would be the Inspirations and Greater Vision.
Over the last few years, a small but (apparently) steadily increasing number of people have stated that Ernie Haase and Signature Sound has become a Southern Gospel mega-group. Despite the fact that within the past year or so they have moved into the #1 slot on my favorite quartets list, I have for some reason been reluctant to term them a mega-group. But why?
Perhaps it stems from the definition of a Southern Gospel mega-group. What makes a group a mega-group?
There is no set definition, yet, but here are a few marks that seem to distinguish a mega-group from other groups:
- There is a special spark when their four voices blend that those voices could not achieve in any other lineup
- They have a remarkable stage presence
- Same lineup maintained for at least five years, often closer to ten
- Consistently fan favorite in awards
- Consistently performs in front of large audiences
- Each member in the group becomes so individually well-known that they can later start a successful first-notch Southern Gospel group of their own
I don’t know what qualities I am missing, but I think these are a few that set mega-groups apart.
In a sense, the final one is the one that stands out the most in my mind. When I want to prove that the Cathedrals were a mega-group, I point to Signature Sound, Legacy Five, Greater Vision, and the Mark Trammell Trio. When I want to prove that Gold City was a mega-group, I point to Brian Free & Assurance, Ivan Parker’s solo ministry, and the Mike LeFevre Quartet (for the first GC mega-group), and the Mark Trammell Trio from the second.
But anyone who followed my criteria would only be able to term a group a mega-group after the group had disbanded or after its best days were past.
What makes a group a mega-group? I don’t really have any firm conclusions yet, but I would love to hear comments from those who do.