Look at what the Couriers did. Do that.

In the mid-1950s, Duane Nicholson (tenor), Neil Enloe (lead), Don Baldwin (baritone), Dave Kyllonen (bass), and Eddie Reece (piano) started performing together as The Couriers. Within about a decade, Baldwin and Reece had left, but Nicholson, Enloe, and Kyllonen carried the group forward as a trio, with Kyllonen moving up to baritone. They retired the group twice (1980 and 2000), but eventually came back both times. There were periods where others sang in the group, including a particularly extensive stretch where Kyllonen toured with his family and Neil Enloe’s brother Phil sang baritone instead. But throughout their lives, Nicholson, Enloe, and Kyllonen kept reuniting. Earlier this year, they decided that 2013 would be their final year on the road.

Last Sunday night, they performed their final retirement concert. I had the privilege of watching most of it, and it was a special and unforgettable experience. It got me to thinking about the peaks and valleys they had throughout their career.

When they started as a Bible College quartet, a student ministry outreach team based out of Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, they undoubtedly spent a lot of their time on small and medium-sized church stages. But they did so well that there was enough demand for them to go full-time in 1958. 

In their early years as a professional group, there were definitely lean years. They shared a story Sunday evening about how, between two concerts, they only had the money to buy two hotdogs and split them three ways. But they kept going.

By the mid-1960s, doors started opening for a place on the national Southern Gospel circuit. They signed with Canaan in 1965 and did a couple of records with them. But they found their greatest success while recording with Tempo Records in the 1970s. They toured the nation, won a Dove Award, and introduced a signature song—”Statue of Liberty”—that is still a classic standard today.

But then, a voice surgery gone bad for tenor Duane Nicholson forced a premature retirement in 1980. Within just a couple of years, Nicholson’s voice had recovered enough that Nicholson and Enloe returned to the road and brought the name back. God opened doors for them to sing again, but it wasn’t necessarily the same doors opened in the 1970s. By and large, they didn’t have the radio hits, Dove Awards, and other trappings of a national Southern Gospel career that they had in the 1970s.

I believe that it’s in the final decades of their career that they built their greatest legacy. They didn’t spend these decades chasing the spotlight and pining after their glory days. Instead, they walked through the doors that did open and sung at churches large and small—blossoming and bearing fruit where God planted them. 

Over the course of a long lifetime, the spotlight comes and the spotlight goes. God places singers in different places at different times for different reasons. There’s nothing wrong with touring regionally. There’s nothing wrong with being invited to the national stage. But wherever God has placed you, do your best to be faithful.

Look at what the Couriers did. Do that.

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10 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. Excellent commentary.

  2. Great read!! These are 3 of the Godliest men you could hope to meet. What an honor to call Neil Enloe my friend. If I live to be 100, I will never forget standing on the stage for their final time at NQC and singing Statue with the Couriers. Incredible memory!! Love you guy’s, and wish you the best!!

    • That moment at NQC was indeed a special, special moment.

  3. Great words, Daniel. Something all of us could learn to do. Grow where we are planted.

  4. No better example than these men. They did it right!

    • Ten words to say what took me 2,474!

  5. When Don Baldwin left the group, Phil Enloe did take his place for a little while. They stayed a quartet until Phil left the group. Also you can’t forget Little David Young who played the piano for several years. My love for southern gospel would not be if it wasn’t for growing up in York Pa and seeing the Couriers. What is even more amazing the major concerts they did have at the Penn Farm Show Building and at Hershey. How they got al those major groups there for one night is just unreal. Their was no internet, email or cell phones back than. The Couriers always had the top groups at these concerts. Just unreal.

  6. Daniel, once again you have brought your special kindness to us Couriers. Thank you for your generous remarks. More than anything, I’ll miss the people who have frequented our concerts and the singers in the many other groups who have shared the stage with us over the years. And I’ll always be grateful to our faithful God who ultimately made our lives and ministry possible. The mere fact that He kept us safe on the treacherous highways is truly overwhelming.

    I’m heartened to see the young groups who are now leading the genre and who have hearts for ministry. This music moves people toward Christ and it’s being done very effectively by many of the younger groups.

    Thank you, Daniel, for your ongoing friendship. May the Lord richly bless your every effort to promote His glorious kingdom.

    • Thank you, and you’re welcome! May God bless your efforts to promote His Kingdom – as He certainly has in the past!

  7. When my brother Alan and I started singing SGM in eastern PA as teenagers, the Couriers were our heroes. They wrote backliners for our first 2 albums. They allowed us to win the duet division of their huge talent show, at the Harrisburg Farm Show Arena. We got to open for them several times. They drove their bus to our home, and our parents had a cookout for them on a hot summer day, and they swam in our pool- then, in the evening, we got a private concert in the downstairs family room. No better men have ever graced a stage. Consistent, friendly, Godly men, who represented their Savior as well or better, than any we’ve ever known. They are legends, yet humble and unassuming. A few years ago, Duane MC’d a sing in the town where I live, and I was there to open. What a thrill, to sit at my Roland, and sing a duet with Duane…”What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” There will NEVER be another group like the Couriers. They deserve every accolade they receive, but their best “Well Done” is yet to come.