Memories of Roger Bennett

Over the last few days, several fond memories of Roger Bennett have come to mind.

Via a Cathedrals compilation project, Roger Bennett introduced me to Southern Gospel piano playing. “I’m in the Gloryland Way” was my first exposure to what a Southern Gospel piano solo sounds like. Even now, I’m still blown away by his rendition of that song.

I remember listening to the Fan Awards live on my local radio station in 2005, I think. Roger told the audience he’d made a deal with God that if he could just see his kids graduate from high school, God could take him Home. He said that earlier that year, he had been able to see his son walk the aisle, and God had granted his request. At this point, he had the audience in the palm of his hand, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. But just as quick as that, he turned things around. He said he’d told God that he wanted to re-negotiate his agreement (“maybe grandkids?”). Of course, the audience burst laughing. Only a Roger Bennett could pull that off.

But of all my favorite Roger Bennett memories, one stands head and shoulders above the rest. In mid-2004, I first discovered Southern Gospel music and the local SG radio station. One night I turned on the radio and heard applause between the songs. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this must be the National Quartet Convention I’d read about, and that my local radio station must be carrying it live.

Legacy Five came on, and I was impressed. I knew that of the three members of the final Cathedrals lineup, two were members of that group. When Roger Bennett told his testimony and introduced “Whispers in the Night,” it was a powerful moment. Legacy Five was greeted by a “standing ovation and then some” and prepared to leave the stage.

But just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Signature Sound came on stage. Ernie Haase asked Legacy Five to stay on the stage, and the two groups sang “Oh What a Savior” together.

Now I was pretty new to Southern Gospel, but I knew a thing or two. I knew that the Cathedrals were my favorite group, bar none, and that even for a National Quartet Convention, this was something out of the ordinary.

I can still hear Ernie saying, “It’s been a long time, Roger. Let’s do it like we used to.” And that’s just what they did.

That was to my knowledge the final time Roger, Ernie, and Scott ever shared the same stage.

I’ve said before that I was never fortunate enough to hear the Cathedrals live and in person. But as I sat by my radio late that September night, for a few shining moments I knew what it must have been like.

Thanks for the memories, Roger.

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6 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I was there that night. I never saw the Cathedrals in person either, but that night, when Ernie called the Legacy Five guys back up and they sang that song…..that is the closest I have ever gotten to heaven here on earth. That’s a memory that will stay with me forever. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂

    • Did anybody have the video footage of these two groups singing together?

  2. You’re welcome.

  3. I was also in Freedom Hall when Ernie invited L5 back on the stage and they wasn’t a dry eye in the Hall. The Holy Spirit was there and the men all hugged Roger. What a memory.

  4. Hello Daniel, I’m Fagner Sousa, and I sing baritone and also play piano for a brazilian quartet called The Vocallys Quartet. I’m 19 years old but I only came to know these great american southern gospel legends back in 2006, and got to know them better when I started this quartet three years ago. And when I started to listen to the Cathedral Quartet, it solidified in my mind: Roger Bennett was a genius. I mean, a man who writes, arranges, plays and sings such a powerful song as Don’t Be Afraid must be a genius. And today, almost six years after Roger went home, I was listening to Legacy Five’s Tribute To Roger Bennett album and decided to take a look about him, and about his last years living. So I came here, and I went to Roger’s blog entrances by the time of his death, and everything made me cry. Here in Brazil we don’t have pretty much access to SG albums or DVDs, and we only get to know about the quartets and everything via youtube videos, or (unfortunatelly) illegaly downloading their albums and DVDs. So I’d like to know if you have and if you can share at least the video of this moment you said, when Ernie Haase & Signature Sound sang O What a Savior with Legacy Five. It would be a dream. Actually I believe they should reunite all the ex-Cathedrals members still alive with their groups in just one project, making something like a great homecoming celebrating the Cathedrals. It would be great to have Ernie Haase with SSQ, Scott Fowler with Legacy Five, Gerald Wolfe with Greater Vision, Mark Trammell and his quartet, and everybody who’s still alive.

    Greetings from Brazil, I’m a great fan of your blog !! Fagner Sousa.

    • Fagner, I heard this moment on the radio; regrettably, I’ve never so much as seen any video of the moment myself!