What should we call regional groups?

What should we call groups that are not one of Southern Gospel’s nationally known recording artists to distinguish them from the groups that are?

Of course, we must start this discussion by realizing that the line is blurred, and there are always artists in AAA, big league quality but one step away.

But when I’m writing a review of an artist that is indisputably good but not nationally known (recent examples: Daybreak Quartet, Shiloh Mountain Trio), oft-times I’m at a loss for words for what to call them. “Regional” seems to be the most common term, but it’s not strictly correct; a number of regionally known groups travel across 8-12 different states on a consistent basis, and the national groups often don’t go much further.

“Semi-pro” is a term used in other fields, but it implies a lower level of professionalism which is true of some groups but decidedly not true of others.

In CCM, the term “indie” is frequently used. And there’s some merit to the term: Though there are a few exceptions, practically every major group is or has been on a major label. Groups like the Dixie Echoes that might be independent but nationally known now came to prominence on major labels.

On this blog, I want to be accurate without demeaning. I’d like to use a term where if someone stumbles across the website without any prior knowledge of the genre (and this happens), they can understand which groups are nationally known and which aren’t. At least for the purposes of this blog—and to some extent, in our wider discussions elsewhere—which term is best?

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

29 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. a lot of groups refer to themselves as “part-time” groups…but then again, George Younce called the Cathedrals “part-time singers and full time eaters”…guess that blew that one out of the water.

    • How many dates do you have to do to be “full-time.” I have always used this term, too. I find it offends some groups. Many of the folks we would call “part-time” are as active as some of the “full-time” groups. ??

  2. How about the term “aspiring” to be at a higher level according to His calling or to be content in the arms of Jesus at your present level?

    Personally, I have a tendency to have three level of classification of groups.

    Nationally are groups that make news or the charts in the Singing News, singing on the main stage at the NQC or asked to sing at a daytime showcase at the NQC , asked to sing at the nearby hotel during NQC week to attract the people to the showcases.

    Regional are the groups that sing in a smaller market but some can bounced up onto national stage from time to time.
    You might see them in the showcases of multiple night events. They might be seen on the stage of a multiple night event during pre concert or opening up for the night.
    Many regional groups do a better job filling their schedules than the higher level groups.

    Local groups stay within the confines of 100 miles of their home base. Some of these groups are caught between the love for singing God’s music, help building up their local home church and maintaining a normal family life. They would be happy to be invited to a regional level showcase.

    I have a perfect case where “aspiring” turned into national.
    A few years back,The Brown from Iowa started popping up on the regional level. It wasn’t too long that The Browns were at Singing in the Sun.
    One afternoon at MB, a couple of the younger female members of The Browns were manning their booth at the opposite end of the afternoon showcase stage when The Talley Trio.
    The members stood on chairs to watch The Talleys sing a couple of songs.
    They look like they were in awe of The Talleys.
    Now, The Browns are up there.
    That is what it all about.

  3. Well, if you talk about them on this blog, they are then nationally known, right? Problem solved! 😉

  4. I simply call them “regional.” Simple enough.

  5. DayBreak isn’t exactly regional. Their tours bring them all the way out to the Northwest.

    • My point exactly. So what’s the proper word to use?

      I want to use a term so that someone who’s an outsider to the genre knows they don’t have the same name ID as Greater Vision or the Hoppers, but what’s better than regional (flawed though it certainly is?)

      • Well … Maybe they’ve earned “full status”? I mean, there are a lot of “full-time”/”professional”/”national” groups that don’t have that much name ID. I guess they’re not on the NQC main stage, but neither are the Kingsmen, if I understand correctly. Just a suggestion.

        I liked GospelMusicFan’s and Susan Unthank’s points best out of all these, I think.

      • Well, I suppose I can see where you’re coming from. And I wouldn’t doubt that they may well get there.

        But if I was to use “full status” at this point, then I’d have to make some sort of a first tier / second tier / third tier distinction to accurately describe things.

      • Sorry – I didn’t make myself clear. And your #11 reply makes what you’re after more clear, so this may not be it. I wasn’t suggesting that term. I meant to suggest that groups like DayBreak and Liberty should perhaps be … classified at about that level, whatever term you use. However, when you think about budgets and a level playing field in that respect, they perhaps shouldn’t be.

        I seriously do like GMF’s ideas on classification best. Other ideas would be, “There’s nothing necessarily wrong with subjectivity,” or if in doubt, asking the group and saying “a self-described ‘regional group'” or whatever. Just brainstorming here!

  6. Regional is not a demeaning word. I think the separation is whether or not the owner & personnel are employed elsewhere. If income from the group’s concerts & recordings etc. account for the overwhelming vast majority of their income, they are professional. The Liberty QT. is regional in travel – but I believe their group is professional.

    You can probably nit-pick my definition as many SG artists are involved in other businesses. Claude Hopper is a huge businessman in his little corner of North Carolina. But, the Hoppers are professional – not regional. Tony Greene has a funeral home – but the Greene’s are professional. There are tons of other exceptions.

    Most groups you would define as regional get home in time to go to work on Monday morning. The Dills travel nationally – but they still have jobs. They might be a hybrid since they are now charting.

    Most all businesses start small and grow. Same as with a singing group. Few groups start up and are professional from the start.


  7. I’d say regional means a group restricted to a certain place such as the Southeast, Northwest, or Northeast. A group based in an area where SG is NOT predominant, such as Oregon and Washington (and I stress NOT in the Northwest) can still be national.

    • And as a matter of fact, Liberty does a couple of non-west-coast tours each year and ventures into Canada rather frequently.

  8. Personally, I see no reason to distinguish them. If they are “national/professional” most readers already know it. If they are not then you just introduced them.

    I wish we placed more emphasis on the gospel part of our industry and didn’t worry as much on the name. I don’t think the disciples ever argued over who was national and who was regional.

  9. For lack of a better term I think Regional is the best term, but really for the most part they could be called “weekenders” because for the most part these groups are limited in their travel because of work, family, or church ties, so limit their concerts to Friday-Sunday as the “full-time” groups can leave on Tuesday or Wednesday for a long distance Thursday night concert and get back monday night if needed. Many of these “weekenders” work harder than the fulltime groups that can rest when they get home as my guess is that many, if not most of the weekenders have full-time jobs.

  10. i’m kinda with joseph. how about just call them by their name and evaluate their music. let the chips fall where they may.

    • That’s exactly what I want to do. But here’s the thing. I try not to evaluate / review a regional group’s CD of ten hymns, produced for a budget of $2,000, the same way I would evaluate a nationally known group’s CD of ten original songs from the top songwriters, produced for a budget of $20,000.

      When I’m reviewing a CD by a regional group with a smaller budget, I try to give them a fair chance for being the best they can be without comparing them to another group with more resources. And it’s in that light I pose the question.

  11. Why get so tecknical…Gospel singers should suffice…We are praising he who deserves to be praised’our Savior’…My family
    background is southern so southern western or what ever it be
    praise’HE’ who we are praising…Love to you all…Joe Sahadi

  12. i see what you are saying. how about just saying this is a low budget project? that’s not necessarily insulting.

    however, given modern technology, there is really no excuse for making a bad sounding project anymore. there can be less flamboyant projects (ie: the indie projects you referenced above) but that should never be an excuse for poor quality.

    just my two cents.
    i’m out

    love & mercy

    • You have a great point that there’s never an excuse for poor quality. I rarely if ever review poor quality projects here!

      Modern technology has been able to help bridge the gap between a hymns project where they had one day in the studio and a full-blown new songs project where the producer flew to Prague for recording the orchestral tracks. But there’s still a gap, and I want to be fair to good quality projects on both sides. 🙂

  13. Just to have some fun and I understand the point made by commentator #9, I would like to have a different perspective on Jesus, disciples and us.
    Jesus is King of the universe. He is universal.
    The disciples were international.
    We, believers in Jesus based on John 3:16, are followers of Jesus Christ without the dot com.

    Agreeing with the same commentator about names or labels,
    let me offer a old saying that goes like I do not care what you say about me but just spell my name right!

    keep up the good work, David, for giving us this opportunity to have this discussion.

    • Speaking of spelling names right … 🙂

      • Sorry, Daniiel, did it again!
        Can not get David out of my mind.

      • He’s unforgettable, and that’s a good thing. 🙂

  14. I have heard the term “Weekend Warrior” used. That denotes that the person has a full time job or at least they have some other source of income other than singing.


  15. Regional works for me. Regional groups can also be called professional groups. A professional group in the strictest sense of the definition denotes a group who makes their living from their travels. “Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career” is how the American Heritage Dictionary defines a professional.

    On a side note, I find it interesting that many of the “national” groups don’t tour nationally. They travel in the Bible belt and the midwest but rarely (if ever) make it to the northwest, southwest, west coast or east coast.

  16. Enought said-Please on with the good worshiping music and good
    singing to our’ LORD ‘ who hears our every note…Bless you all…Joe sahadi

  17. It used to be professional: (Full-Time)

    Part-Time :

    Semi-Professional: were groups who were probably good enough to go pro or were of a higher caliber than your average part-time group.

    However, today they market is saturated with full-time groups
    who may in some cases not be considered professional.

  18. I think “Weekend Warriors” is a good way to identify most groups. Whether they are professional or not depends on their musical talent and how they apply that talent. The miles traveled, the number of dates per year does not really matter.
    If group A can make a good living and do only do 60 dates and group B has to do 300 to make the same living which is the more professional?