Historial Re-enactment in Southern Gospel

The Southern Gospel genre spans a wide variety of sounds: traditional quartets, bluegrass Gospel, country Gospel, and progressive SG are just a few of the sub-genres that come to mind.

There is, however, another sub-genre in Southern Gospel that is rarely discussed. I touched on it on the comments to this post about a week ago, but it’s worth promoting to the main page.

Other genres of Americana–say, Civil War studies–keep the past alive by means of historical re-enactment. They attempt to give viewers a firsthand feel of what it would have been like to experience a precise moment in history.

I think there is a historical re-enactment sub-genre in the Southern Gospel field. These groups tend to be under the radar screen as far as airplay goes, but they also tend to play to sold-out audiences who respond well to their music and return to hear them over and over. Their recordings tend to consist primarily or completely of older music, and they are typically but not always led by someone who remembers the old days firsthand.

Leading examples of this genre are the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Dixie Echoes, the Dixie Melody Boys, and the Blackwood Brothers. All four tend to be more successful than groups on the main Southern Gospel circuit realize, and some of these groups actually are successful enough to pay their members a decent salary, from which a step up to a Fan Award-winning group could actually mean a pay cut.

These groups often pull out the old microphones, at least for selected songs (even if it’s just an old microphone shell with a new mike inside!) Their emcees will make repeated references throughout the concert routine to the fact that industry professionals told them they couldn’t do this, that nobody wants to hear the old songs, “but do you?”

There are groups that visit this sub-genre for a few years before moving back into mainline Southern Gospel (classic example: Dove Brothers), and there are other groups who mix a few elements of re-enactment into their programs. A classic example of the latter is Signature Sound, which in a typical concert will give audiences everything from a few two-mike re-enactment songs to one or two semi-progressive songs, everything from a big Gaither ballad to songs heavy on the choreography.

No matter which direction the Southern Gospel industry goes, I both think and hope that there will always be groups around that can show audiences what it was like to experience Southern Gospel in the old days.

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

15 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. It’s great that groups keep the stylings of the ‘old days’ alive, but it’s equally important that new music is preformed.
    For example, I love the Pine Ridge Boys’ music as much as I love Eighth Day’s.
    Each of these groups reaches audiences whose musical preferences may be totally opposite, giving each Jesus in song.
    That’s what counts.

  2. Great article!! The Dove Brothers are real pro’s at it. Watching those guys was like taking a trip back in time.

  3. I wouldn’t call this a sub-genre. I would classify it as a style.

  4. The best concert that I have been to in a while was the Dove Brothers homecoming several weeks ago. The night featured the Doves and The Dixie Melody Boys. Plenty of great traditional quartet music and each group spent plenty of time doing older style songs. To a quartet fan, this was the best ticket I had bought in a long time.

  5. I think it’s traditional four part harmony (except in the example of the Chuck Wagon Gang) performed by males. Many of our more popular groups have gone away from this. It’s not “below the radar”. Witness the Kingdom Heir’s Statesmen tribute album. Great stuff with songs written and performed 40-50 years ago. I want more of this.

  6. I think it’s traditional four part harmony (except in the example of the Chuck Wagon Gang) performed by males. Many of our more popular groups have gone away from this. It’s not “below the radar”. Witness the Kingdom Heir’s Statesmen tribute album. Great stuff with songs written and performed 40-50 years ago. I want more of this.

  7. I wish people brought back more of the old songs and did them stripped down in orchestration like everyone did in the 1970’s. I like how Mike Bowling, Weston Hinson, and Bo Hinsons, are bringing back a lot of the Hinsons’s material. I wish the Inspirations would bring back their 4-piece band.

    • Samuel, have you listened to Signature Sounds’ Influenced projects? They’re mostly composed of older songs, and the sound is deliberately done “old style.” Vocals recorded on just two mics, production has a very vintage flair. Heavy use of the organ and such. They even released their first one on *vinyl* as well as CD. :0

      • Those albums are very good… And I wish more groups would catch on and try some of the same stuff… But not copycatting… I like how EHSS takes the old Statesman style approach and makes it their own while still staying purely traditional in core sound… I can’t wait to hear their new Cats’ tribute project… I am so excited to get to be at the video taping live! 🙂

      • I’ve heard of them and seen the first record on eBay for $100. I like vinyl, but that’s just a little more than I’d want to pay. I look for the deals because I don’t have a lot of money. I was able to get the Cathedrals “Live… In Atlanta” for $11. I got Individually for about $5. I think $100 is just a little too much.

      • Samuel, the vinyl release was just for fun. You can get both CD’s waaaaay cheaper on their website. They actually have a package deal going where you can get both volumes for $25.

      • Didn’t the DBQ release one on vinyl a few years ago?

      • Vinyl’s much more authentic. Plus, I’d get more out of my turn table.

    • Orchestration is good – when the group can afford a live orchestra!

      I know tracks are convenient for smaller concerts or church service performances, but it would be good to see a move back to the old 4 piece live band era.

      I know it is going on with a few groups, but the trend seems to be away from rather than towards a live sound.

      A live backing group, however small, gives a tightness to the performance that a track can never do.

  8. I like the stripped-down orchestration.

    I also think a group should do some concept videos like the Paynes and other groups did back 20, 30 years ago.