Country Groups on SG Radio

This afternoon, I heard Solid Gospel play a Christian-oriented song from one of Country’s most awarded acts. Should Southern Gospel stations play country acts?

I can understand the viewpoint that we should be glad anyone wants to sing our style. And I can understand that perspective, particularly when a group with solid SG roots releases a strong SG tune (Quicksilver and the Oak Ridge Boys come to mind). But this particular song had very little that suggested any Southern Gospel influences, except (through circular reasoning) due to the extent Southern Gospel has incorporated country influences.

But there is a limited number of slots on a Southern Gospel station. And even though some programmers air sub-par material, it’s not like there isn’t enough quality material out there. To any DJ who says that the current material from the 25+ groups on major labels isn’t enough for a varied program, ask me for a list of five or ten independent groups to contact for a current single. Groups like Liberty Quartet, the Old Paths, Paid in Full, the Browns . . . and the list goes on and on.

It’s not like someone who points to that group as a favorite will start listening to Southern Gospel stations just to hear the once every two hours that song is played; if they’re listening for that act, they’ll be listening to their local country station.

There’s so much quality SG music worth playing that SG radio simply doesn’t need occasional novelty Gospels singles from mainstream country acts to fill out a set list. Let’s keep Southern Gospel radio Southern Gospel radio.

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44 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. What if that song were recorded by a gospel act? Would you still object to the song being played?

    This argument will ALWAYS irritate me. If the song is reaching souls, then let them play it. Who cares who is singing it? There are plenty of “secular” songs that have had major impacts on people. Just because they’re not by Legacy Five or Soul’d Out doesn’t mean they have any less merit.

    There is a song by William Lee Golden called “Keep Looking Up” that I uploaded to YouTube a while back. The comments I see on there, in a nutshell, talk about how the song has been inspirational and encouraging to them. Is it a gospel song? Not really. Jesus, God, Calvary, Crucifixion, Resurrection, etc., is not mentioned anywhere in the lyrics. Does that make it inappropriate? NO!! It could be the very seed that needs to be planted.

    This sounds more like a personal preference. From what I gather, you are not a fan of secular music, so you take objection when a secular artist gets airplay on gospel music. I take a different viewpoint. Forget the artist, and focus on the song and the message. God can use anyone and anything he wants to reach people. Why pigeonhole it??

    Maybe someone who is flipping through stations will hear this group (I am gonna take a guess at Diamond Rio, as they recently released a gospel project), recognize them as a country act, and listen to the song. Once that song is over, they may very well stay and listen to the Booth Brothers, then Ivan Parker….you get the idea. You have just won over a new gospel fan, but more importantly, you have given the opportunity for a seed to be planted in their hearts.

    Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. In this case, I have a feeling we’ll just have to agree to disagree….

    • Kyle,
      I agree with you on this point. For me it is also all about the song. And if it was Diamond Rio, they did an interview to which they stated they were focusing on Christian music.

  2. As I mentioned in the post, I have much less of a problem when an artist with strong SG ties releases a song that’s unmistakably SG in nature.

    It’s more the token release-a-Gospel-single that I have issues with. (And this artist certainly wasn’t the first; many have tried.)

    • Again, if the song is reaching people, who cares?? Let the prosper if that’s what they want to do. God can and will whatever He wants to reach people, even if it’s a secular artist trying to make a penny.

    • I guess the reason I care is because there are only so many slots on SG radio and so much quality music that isn’t getting played right now.

      • Perhaps I don’t put near as much emphasis on radio as you do.

      • Quite possibly, yeah.

  3. I guess it’s not really an issue for me…but I do see your point, Daniel. If it’s Southern Gospel Radio then it should be Southern Gospel. But, I like Country too and Southern Gospel and Country ARE similar sometimes. Do you mind if I ask what song it was? Or would you rather not say?

    • I’d rather not say, because I don’t want it to be about the song. Thanks for giving me that out!

  4. Daniel, I agree with you. We should play Country on a SG station when Country stations start playing SG.

    • That makes sense to me.

      Daniel, you know how to get comments, don’t you! ๐Ÿ˜€

      • I didn’t do this one just to get comments. You have my word!

        I did it because I thought it was too significant to pass unnoticed.

      • I believe you. But for all that you do a good job of encouraging dialogue on a variety of interesting topics.

      • Thanks! Now I certainly do that.

        I don’t write a post just to stir up controversy, merely to accumulate comments. I write a post because I think it’s a subject that needs to be addressed. But I do try to phrase posts in such a way as to invite dialogue instead of proclaiming myself the final word on a subject.

    • John, I love that sentiment! Great way of putting it.

  5. My parents were southerners as were my two sisters and two
    brothers and we were raised with the SG music and song…At
    85 I love it and will always…Myself, brother and sister felt the
    same…Give me that old time religion on radio or what ever and I
    will be happy…Joe Sahadi

  6. This is a really good debate, and I can see all sides of it.

    I am also not very fond of the current trend to remake old secular songs. Some of the “remakes” that certain southern groups are putting out there these days, taking old country/secular songs and trying to pass them off as gospel is just not appealing to me.

    I’m not making an assumption here, I’m just asking: does the fact that an artist sings country lead you to believe they may not be a Christian? Might that be the reason that those of you who think country artists should not be played on southern gospel stations feel that way? Because I’m sure, even in a comparatively small genre like southern gospel, there are a certain faction of folks in this business who are not living for the Lord but sing His music every night. I’d like to hope that number is small, but I’m sure there are at least a few. Just as I’m sure there are country stars who are professing Christians and live it every day. The Bible says the word will not return void, so regardless of the heart of the singer, the message will be heard and will reach people regardless of who sings it.

    I am not particularly fond of any song sung by any artist that is not Biblically correct. Take Brad Paisley’s song “When I Get Where I’m Going.” I’m not real sure I’m going to ride a drop of rain or land beside a lion and run my fingers through his mane, as the song suggests.

    So, I guess my opinion has more to do with how Biblically accurate and Spiritually strong the songs are, but in all honesty, the bottom line for me is that I’m with you on this one Daniel. I believe we have enough quality groups out there to keep the airwaves of southern gospel stations filled with southern gospel artists without having to borrow from other genres.

    • “does the fact that an artist sings country lead you to believe they may not be a Christian? ”

      No, that’s not it at all. Sincere Christians undoubtedly do sing country. Sincere Christians also sing Christian rap, too, but I hope I don’t hear that on my SG station anytime soon!

      I just want to hear SG on a SG station.

      “Because Iโ€™m sure, even in a comparatively small genre like southern gospel, there are a certain faction of folks in this business who are not living for the Lord but sing His music every night.”

      Unfortunately true. There have even been a few unsaved people singing Southern Gospel . . . and we know that because of several (two that come to mind in particular: Mark Trammell and Brian Free) who did get saved.

      • Sincere Christians also sing Christian rap, too, but I hope I donโ€™t hear that on my SG station anytime soon!
        ^OK so that I can relate to very well. hahaha There is WAY more in common with a Christian-oriented Country song and a SGM song then a SGM song and a Christian Rap song, though. Just take the Country Bluegrass Homecomings….

  7. It doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m with Kyle on this one…

  8. I agree with you Daniel, there is plenty of SG music out there, they should not have to play Country Music on a SG Station. That would be like play Hard Rock on an Easy Listening station.
    The only thing I can think of, is the station possibly getting pressure from a sponsor to add some Country into the mix. If that is the case, then they need to sensor what they play. I would not have a problem with them playing a song that has an inspirational message to it, and that the artist did record some gospel music, and was a professing Christian.
    But if we are talking about Country Music, that hasn’t any reference to anything spiritual, sung by an artist that has only did the regular run of the mill Country Songs, I say keep it off the SG station.

  9. Without naming any names, I will add that it does seem like gospel music is an attraction for artists of other genres who are now the twilight of their career or at least no longer the biggest act anymore. When some other artist comes on the scene and rules, it seems like the now-has-been artist suddenly goes back to his or her gospel roots. So, there could be an exploiting of the market in that respect.

    I would think that largely the decision of what to play would rest in the hands of the DJ on the air at the time. I don’t know how much program managers dictate what gets played when on most stations. I know they probably ultimately choose what songs to play or not, but if I’m the DJ, I would think I could choose from those songs what I wanted to play. Since I have no radio experience, I may not be accurate here.

    The more I think about this, the more I think I can say that I honestly care more about whether or not the song is good and whether or not it’s sung well. While I do still agree with Daniel in thinking we have the talent to fill a radio log with southern gospel artists without having to borrow from other genres, I really do think that if it came down to a quality song by a secular artist or a mediocre song by a southern gospel group, I would go for quality.

    • “I really do think that if it came down to a quality song by a secular artist or a mediocre song by a southern gospel group, I would go for quality.”

      Well, yeah, but fortunately we’re nowhere near that, as evidenced by the groups I named in the original post. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus you could always have a classics moment and play a Cathedrals or Gold City classic! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Brady, I like your first paragraph. Sometimes SG appears to have an inferiority complex, anxiously grasping at any hint of condescension from the “real celebrities.” (I hope I’m not just parroting talking points here.)

      I know that some people would respond like someone did to a friend of my dad who was always harping about an inferiority complex – “You don’t have an inferiority complex, you’re just inferior.”

      But I don’t believe that SG is inferior. I believe that we have plenty of groups which are really fulfilling their goals and meeting high standards. These don’t need to play second fiddle to some legend who is a celebrity because he or she usually plays to the desires of a crowd which doesn’t want the gospel, but then decides to try a little side venture with SG fans. Let’s give our support to those who really invest themselves in the genre and have a desire to see it succeed!

  10. I have a problem with anyone being played on SG radio if on Saturday night they are in a honky tonk somewhere and then on Sunday morning they want a booking at the biggest church in town. Live it and be involved every day, or go something else. Now you may think I am referring to secular acts only….that would be incorrect. ANYONE

  11. Seems to me the precedent was set many years by “The King Of Rock and Roll”, Mr. Elvis Presley. He certainly was not a SG artist. In fact, in the 50’s many ministers preached sermons about Presley and his “evil music” and suggestive dance moves. Yet groups with SG music roots became his backups. Later when it was well known that he was deeply into prescription drug abuse Elvis regularly included a “religious song” in his stage performances. He recorded at least two (possibly more that I’m not aware of) records of “religious songs”. Nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong with that picture. If they did, they weren’t speaking up.

    To many SG artists and fans this man was/is a hero, which is a mystery to me; but that’s another issue entirely. My point is many of the same people who don’t like secular artists singing SG today have forgotten how widely accepted Elvis’ gospel albums were in the SG community.

    Can you say double standard?

    • Deb,

      I think that if you really dig into the history of Elvis Presley you will find a man who loved, admired and wanted to be like the great quartet-men of his generation and before. Elvis had a deep, deep love for SG and for SG quartets to back him up live and in the studio, was somewhat of an honor.

      Elvis saw his choosing of groups like the Imperials and J.D Sumner & The Stamps as a way of pushing SG into the mainstream and to let their style and music be heard by thousands every night.

      I believe Elvis is widely accepted as he possibly responsible, indirectly, for the wider exposure that SG received since his death. Arguably the greatest entertainer ever to walk this earth also happened to have a massive love of all things Southern Gospel.

    • “Nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong with that picture. If they did, they werenโ€™t speaking up.”

      I would have then and do now. Unlike some others, I’m not an Elvis fan and don’t promote his music as being Southern Gospel.

      • Certainly the music of the Stamps and others during his concerts were SG…and when he sang along with them…he was singing SG.

      • Yes, he may have been singing SG when he sang with the Stamps, but what about all the other times that he was not singing SG. There are too many people out there that do not see past Elvis singing with the Stamps, that also goes for the Video that Gaither Music plays on TV, going on and on about how his first love was Gospel Music. If that was the case then why didn’t he make a career of singing Gospel Music. I guess I have made it pretty plain that I am not and never was an Elvis fan.

      • I guess I am missing something…so what if Elvis sang music besides SG…there are other types of music besides SG out there. Being something other than SG doesn’t make it sinful or bad. God bless Elvis for introducing people to SG. Again, maybe I am just missing the point. Oh well.

  12. Please keep Southern Gospel stations Southern Gospel. If the stations are running out of songs to play why don’t they play some of the other songs on a groups cd other than the typical “radio song”
    All the cds I own have at least 5 or 6 other good songs that could be played ,I never understood why they don’t play the other songs.

    • Larry,
      That’s primarily because radio stations don’t go out and buy the full album in a store like a consumer does. They depend on the single promoters to send them music.

      I agree with you, though. I wish radio stations would play good music regardless of the record label’s preference. I believe that pushing one song at a time out to radio is short-sighted. It would be better if labels pushed two or three songs to radio by the same artist when that artist has a new CD coming out.

      Radio’s fundamental function should be to play fresh, top quality music. The way it stands today, radio plays the same song by a particular artist for as much as five or six months at a time. This opens up so many slots, that they have too many inferior quality artists in the mix. I’d rather hear three different songs by the top 30 groups than one song each by the “top” 80 groups.

      • That was one of the great things about “the old days” when a DJ would have LPs (you know – one of those big, black discs) and could choose more than a single song. I used to love hearing some of the cuts from the newest LPs and then deciding whether or not to buy.

  13. The name of the song would matter for me to form an opinion.

    If it’s Kathy Mattea singing “Mary Did You Know?,” there’s no point in putting that on a Southern Gospel station. Southern Gospel artists have recorded that song. There’s no need to leave the genre in order to pick up her version.

    On the other hand, if the song is original with the country artist, I have no problem with it at all.

    I completely disagree with the argument against bumping SG artists in favor of Country artists. As Southern Gospel radio stands right now, many stations insist on filling their slots with material that isn’t close to radio quality.

    Which brings up another point…I don’t mind Southern Gospel acts recording Christmas music, but there’s a dearth of Christmas music that’s actually recorded in a Southern Gospel style. When many artists record Christmas CDs, they go to a generic Christmas “style”…bringing out the orchestra and singing like Bing and all the other classic crooners and covering the same old worn out standards without bringing anything fresh to the table.

    What we really need on Southern Gospel radio at Christmas are more songs like “Look Who Just Checked In” and “That Little Baby” by Gold City. These are true Southern Gospel arrangements.

  14. The more I read this thread, the more I see that I really do find that I agree with a lot of people’s opinions.

    So, what about this question: is there a difference in a secular performer recording a gospel project or putting a gospel song on an album because they like the style or it’s part of their roots but very much remaining a secular artist versus a secular artist who records a gospel project and does a whole campaign to try to rebrand himself as a gospel artist? Just curious if that would make a difference in anyone’s opinion.

    And David Murray, I agree that the best quality music should be played. I’ve seen some of the comp discs that go out, and I’d say at the most only about 25 percent of what gets sent to radio should ever actualy be played over the airwaves. I think that’s one of the biggest donwfalls of our genre. Radio plays anything. Other genres only play the best, top groups and their quality shows.

  15. I am also with David on the playing of Christmas music. I don’t like radio stations who decide it is time to play Christimas music all the time from Thanksgiving until Christmas, especially when it is the same ole song sung by different artists but arranged in the same ole way. Ugh….

  16. OK, everyone, I’m not on an anti-Elvis crusade!

    I just said what I said so you know I’m (trying to be) consistent. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I am with DBM on the quality issue. I’d rather have a quality gospel song by a country artist (or pop artist, or what have you) on a SG radio than a medicore song by a SG artist on SG radio.

    Perhaps part of the reason SG radio is playing the country artists is because they are releasing better quality recordings than SG artists are. Or should quality play a factor??

    Food for thought….

    • The whole point of my post was that there’s quality SG that isn’t getting played.

      • I agree…but it’s also true that there’s quite a bit of not so great quality SG that IS getting played. If SG radio was less concerned about playing a so called “variety” and concentrated instead on quality, there would be plenty of room to insert an occasional song by an artist that isn’t normally thought of as SG into the mix. Then they really would have variety, but it would be worthwhile variety…not simply because it’s Country, of course, but because the key determining factor is a standard of quality.

        What constitutes quality will always be a matter of opinion, of course.

  18. Well, I guess I look at it from a different angle. I would rather hear a Christian song (a song about Jesus Christ) sung by a person who truly knows what and who they are singing about. It really doesn’t matter to me if the person is a SG artist, country, rock or whatever. To me a song loses some of the meaning if the singer’s life is a direct contradiction of the life about which they sing……..which is why I made the points I did about Elvis Presley.

    I know someone is bound to say we aren’t supposed to judge others and that’s true. But the Bible also says Christians will bear fruit and we would all be wise to be a fruit inspector.

  19. let me change the subject a bit: While on Enlighten the other day, I picked up the words “doggone” in one of Jeff and Shari’s songs. Wasn’t sure if I heard right the first time, but upon further listening, it was as I heard. Now this phrase takes me back to my childhood where it was considered a substitute for another similar sounding phrase. I was disappointed in the song and disappointed in Enlighten playing it. Maybe I am a bit old fashioned, but I can’t accept that phrase on a “Christian SG” station.

  20. I agree Blackstone. I haven’t heard the song, but I don’t like those words that are substitutes for curses.