Can it be Gold City without Tim Riley?

I can’t imagine a Cathedral Quartet without George Younce and Glen Payne.

I can’t imagine a Weatherfords without Lily Weatherford.

I can’t imagine a Greater Vision without Gerald Wolfe.

I can’t imagine a Perrys without Libbi Perry Stuffle.

And while I have seen Gold City without Tim Riley, and it was good music indeed, after watching this video . . .

Can a post-Tim Riley Gold City ever be the same? Tim Riley steps on stage with any high-quality high tenor, soulful lead, and solid baritone, and that’s Gold City. Just like that!

Unquestionably, Gold City has had (and still has) some of the best talent out there. Alumni have started some of today’s top groups. But is the group so closely identified with Tim Riley that it should only keep the name as long as he is on the road? Or is it one of those like the Chuck Wagon Gang or the Inspirations that can put anyone on stage so long as they maintain a certain sound?

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38 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. Daniel, I’m sorry, and while I understand this post is meant to generate discussion, the question in the title is a moot point considering the group existed without Tim on the road for several years, quite successfully, I might add.

    Your second question is a valid question, though I feel the answer is pretty obvious, considering it too has played out once already. Of course Gold City isn’t the same without Tim as it with him, but no group is the same after an extremely popular singer leaves, much less when a group’s legendary bass singer/owner retires from the group.

    While I’m not the biggest fan of the country sound, I liked that Daniel Riley (with the help of Michael Sykes) was taking GC in a different direction while still staying “Gold City”. I feel that it was a near perfect direction to for the lineup that he had (Steve, Jonathan/Bruce, & Aaron). The problem is that the group has faced massive turnover in the last six months and the question about how long Tim is going to stay on the road continues to hang over them.

    Gold City can and should continue without Tim, but first, they need to figure out if Tim is going to be their bass for the next few months or the next couple of years. I love Tim and desperately want to see him with the group again, but they need to realize that the longer Tim travels, the harder it is going to be for the next bass singer to be accepted by fans. Then, after question of who’s singing bass is answered, Danny needs to find the right direction for that lineup’s sound to take. (I don’t get a vote, but I would have loved to have seen Chris West hired as the bass singer and Garry Jones hired as music director/producer/arranger, and if possible, piano player.)

    • “…they need to realize that the longer Tim travels, the harder it is going to be for the next bass singer to be accepted by fans.”

      That kind of assumes there will be a “next bass singer.” 🙂

      • Assuming? Yes, but let’s call it educated assuming.

        Also, I think a TON of publicity and bookings would result from Tim Riley being named the new permanent bass singer. If he was definitely there long term, I would think they would announce as much and capitalize on it.

      • …which I would love for them to do. 🙂

        And I would agree, it would result in a TON of publicity and bookings!

      • BTW, I’m thinking Tim may be staying a little longer than I originally thought.

  2. “Can it be Gold City without Tim Riley?”

    Like it’s been said already, they were still quite successful without Tim, even though he was greatly missed. I think the problem, however, is if and when they can recover from Jonathan Wilburn leaving.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Bruce is a great singer. But, Jon had that presence and drive — and it left Gold City along with him. Listening to this video made me wish Tim was with them, but that only fixes part of the problem. And I don’t know if this is a reflection of his overall performance, but Christ Cooper was lacking here.

    Compare this video to the one in this link.

    Watch how much more lively and energetic the group is with Jonathan, even without Tim. Then at the end, Tim joins in to make it even better.

    • Bruce will never match Jonathan’s stage presence, but this video is not the best one to critique Bruce’s stage presence on. This video was recorded right after Bruce had abdominal surgery. Needless to say, he was not moving at full speed.

      This is going off you tube videos, but vocally, Chris does seem to be hit and miss. Some nights, he sounds great (for example, his first night with GC), but other nights he isn’t as good. Again, I’m critiquing off you tube videos which isn’t the most fair thing to do. I still think Chris can grow into the position in much the same way that Jay Parrack and Steve Ladd did. Chris can definitely replace some of the energy that Jonathan brought to the stage that Bruce does not.

      • I definitely did NOT know that about Bruce. That would make more than a difference I guess in stage presence, lol. And concerning Chris, like you, I’m just going by the video as well. I have heard him do a great job in other videos, I just know that tenor spot is very demanding.

  3. I’ll agree that Gold City can survive without Tim, but from what we saw over the last few years, I’m not necessarily sure that Gold City can be industry leader without Tim that it was with him. I think the uptick in buzz around them since Tim returned shows that the popularity suffered a bit when he was gone. They were/are still good, but not at the same level without Tim that they are with. That being said, they also went through a TON of personnel changes after Tim left, and if they can keep some stability when Tim does finally leave the road for good, that would go a LONG way in keeping them at the forefront.

  4. Lily Fern & Steve could not imagine the Weatherfords without Earl back in 1992. So does this mean I should keep on keeping on if Lily ever ( quits, dies , retires, goes to work for Wal Mart ) Or should I start learning how to flip burgers and make fries now.

    Steven Earl Weatherford

    p.s. Steve and Lily could not imagine a Florida Boys without Les, Glen, and Darrel , but then any thing is possible.

    • Steve – I certainly wouldn’t say quit singing!

      But I don’t know how you could hire another alto that could possibly fill your mom’s shoes as the alto singer for the Weatherfords. For the Steve Weatherford Trio? Another story. 🙂

      • I ran across this blog again. It is very interesting, especially considering this is 2013 and Lily Fern Weatherford has, in fact, retired! PTL! She is doing very well, by the way, and happy! She is doing a little singing, here and there. After all, she retired FROM THE ROAD, not from ministering. Mom will turn 85 in November, I find it miraculous that she traveled as long as she did. So, has anyone determined if there can be a Weatherfords without Lily? It is not even a question anymore, really. Once some things are over, it is best to just let them go. And this is one of those things. You can’t build something when the foundation is no longer there. Daddy came to the realization long ago that he couldn’t keep things going without her. And really, why would anybody want to? In some cases, you can put a different spin on it and keep it out there. Not this time, though. There are too many things against it. Just my opinion.

      • This post is four years old – I’m amazed that you found it!

        “Daddy came to the realization long ago that he couldn’t keep things going without her. And really, why would anybody want to?”

        Interesting point and interesting way of putting it. I have and actually really enjoy a number of the Bobby Clark-era recordings, but I do have to admit that it wasn’t quite the same.

    • The Weatherfords will never be able to exist without Lily.

      • Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous may not have good intentions here. ( this is really about Gold City any way ) The way I’m feeling, I wonder if the Weatherfords could exist without me. ( I would sure hope so ) The truth is NONE of us are so special that the Lord cant use the rest of us who are left in some way if we make ourselves available. I don’t care about moving the bus an inch without the Lord. And if God is for me, who including Anonymous can be against me. I am for Gold City, GVB, I’m even pulling for the Florida Boyz if that’s what God wants them to do. My ego is not so large that I would have to keep the W’s going. I have spent the last 33 years achieving that. What is there left to prove. We all go by the grace of God or at least we should. It’s hard enough to keep a group together right now. You ask ANY quartet manager about that . Its tough out there.. Lily has said it’s tougher now than the last 65 years. But she is not a quitter, neither am I , sorry Sister Anonymous. By the way I spoke to Lily about if she wanted me to continue without her if it came to that. We have a real good grip on that subject. Like I said, I have been down this road before back in 92. It’s still paved. Besides I can probably count on 1 finger the only person who feels this way about our group, So lets all get over it in a big way and support anyone who makes an effort to sing his praises in a group or what ever may come. I mean no disrespect to any one. The truth is we all can support a group on not. It’s your call. it does not mean that the group should fold up if you don’t like the latest personnel. I know that Bill Gaither had a hard day when Danny left the group. You all remember him don’t you. What if he had have stopped there.. Ok I really am done now. You all just carry on. I am.

      • You know, Steve, the more you talk about it, the more I agree with you that maybe it does make sense for the Weatherfords to keep going whenever Lily has to retire.

      • cool but diluted.. or is that dilusional

  5. I have to agree with the majority here, GC has had too many personnel changes in the past few years. I think they continued to do well when Tim came off the road, but Jonathan leaving was a real blow. When you take two personalities like those two guys out of a group, you have created a bg hole. Let’s face it, Bruce will never be ” Jonathan Wilburn”. Jonathan projected so much into everything he did, not only was he a great singer, but the grin, the great job he did as an MC, you have to go far to top that. By Tim coming back on the road has definitely given them a boast, but I feel they if and when Tim leaves agein, they are going to have to fill the spot with a real dynamic person. As it stands right now, without Tim, the group has “no personality”. Nothing against Danny, Bruce, and Chris, but they are Blah!!!! Daniel, I think you hit the nail on the head with the examples you gave in the beginning of your blog. There are just groups out there that could not be what they are without certain members.

  6. About 7 or 8 years ago I was in FL on business and attended a Weatherford concert. Lily Fern was not feeling well that night. So, Steve used the wife of his lead singer, added a base and they were couched by Steve the proper way to sing Weatherford style. They sounded like the old Weatherford Quartet. All that I understood, was put together at the last minute.
    There is no doubt in my mind that Steve has enough of his Father and Mother in him to keep that sound alive for the duration of his life.
    Either that, or Steve can rescue Me, Murph and Fulton Nash from the old folks home and we can do it for him:O)

  7. Well…who thought the GVB could be the GVB without Guy Penrod?? I didn’t. 🙂

    • The GVB would not have been near as popular as they are if Michael English, David Phelps, and Mark Lowry had not returned….

  8. I grew up listening to Jonathan as the lead singer of Gold City. So, when I heard he was coming off the road I was a little dissapointed. However, Bruce is a more then capable replacement for GC. He blends so well with Daniel, he fits the sound they are going for, and he can knock off all the classics – a bit better than Jonathan could, IMO. (Ex: Midnight Cry)

    As said before, Chris is a bit hit and miss. Though I have no doubt that with time he will be more solid.

    As far as Tim goes, great singer and such a nice guy. I’m glad I had a chance to meet him a few times at concerts back before he retired. Aaron, wow, he was such a great fit. He will is one of the greatest bass singers. I guess we’ll see where it goes from here…

    • I agree with you that Bruce is capable of singing the part. I think he’s a great singer with a powerful voice. However, like has been said already, Jonathan brought so much more to Gold City than a voice. Bruce just doesn’t have that charisma, but that’s just not him and that doesn’t mean it can’t come from some other place.

      That being said, I really hope they get something great going again. I really liked the last project.

  9. I think more than anything Gold City needs stability right now! Jonathan was the excitement for that group from 1996 to 2008. I think Gold City will get it together and when Tim comes off the road Im sure he will have a great bass singer to step in.

  10. I’ve always listened to Gold City, through all personnel changes, but the true “Gold City” has to have Tim Riley in it. When he retires for good, Daniel needs to rename the group and go another direction. There was no Cathedrals after Glen and George were off the road.
    What solidified it all for me was this past NQC on Monday night when Tim took the stage with Gold City. I haven’t felt such a buzz and goose bumps at NQC in many years until that night. Tim Riley IS Gold City!

    • I was there, and I felt the same way you did!

  11. We did not get to meet Gold City until after Tim Riley’s original run with the group, so to us Gold City is Daniel’s group. They remained strong in concert after Tim’s retirement, and their recent recording projects have been excellent. I appreciate Tim Riley and I certainly understand the excitement at seeing hoim return, but Gold City for the future is Daniel’s quartet. He knows what he is doing, his heart is in the right place, and I hope Gold City will be around for a long time.

  12. Gold City is not the same without Tim Riley, and I don’t think anyone disputes that.

    But I do think they can survive without Tim Riley onstage. I just don’t think they can survive without Tim Riley’s _management._

    I saw Gold City right after Tim left and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. The lineup:

    -Steve Ladd
    -Jonathan Wilburn
    -Danny Riley
    -Bill Lawrence
    -Channing Eleton
    -Adam Borden
    -Doug Riley

    A lineup like that could survive. But if you replace these post-Tim Riley members with people that lack them same stage presence and vocal ability of their predecessors the group is going to go south.

    Tim Riley lost Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Mike Lefevre, Garry Jones, Steve Lacey, Mark Trammell and others, but he _always_ replaced the outgoing members with members of comparable quality.

    You can’t replace a Jonathan Wilburn with anyone other than a soulful, larger-than-life personality. You can’t replace a Jay Parrack with anyone other than a “soar-through-the-rafters” tenor. And you can’t replace a Tim Riley with anyone other than a “rock-your-socks,” friendly, warm bass.

    You can’t expect Gold City to be Gold City without quality personnel. And I don’t think you’ll ever match the Free/Parker/Lefevre, or Parrack/Wilburn/Trammell days without Tim Riley’s management. Ironically, I think his presence offstage is almost _more_ important than it is onstage.

    • Tyler, you posted the same things that I and several other people have been saying for several months. Great post!

      • Thank-you!

  13. As everyone knows, I’m Tim’s biggest fan… but GC just ain’t GC without Tim. 🙂

  14. Can they? Yes.
    Should they? No.

    This is part of the problem with the SG industry. No Mick and Keith. No Rolling Stones. It dilutes the brand. SG doesnt get it.

    My two cents which nobody cares about.

    PS-Steve Weatherford is a cool guy. So is Lily. Well, a cool lady that is. 😉

  15. It does not matter if I continue to sing after Lily is no longer in the group. Lily had to take some time off the stage a few years back and I had to hire someone to sing in her spot for a few weeks. She was still on the road and even on the bus, but she did not go in every night, so we went on without her, as we did with my Dad. It was not well received and not much fun for me any way, but it sounded good. I was getting discouraged and I had a talk with Jerry Goff about it one night. I told him that folks did not seem to like us without Lily even though it sounded better than what she was capable of doing at the time. He gave me some of the best encouragement any one ever has on the subject ( way more encouraging than some anonymous comment ) He said , they do not accept you because they know they don’t have to right now. But they will accept you when its time. And its not your time. Let it go on record that I do intend to try when the time comes. If the Lord shows me that no one wants to hear what we present, then I will know. I would think that Tim Riley would want his son to continue. Brian Lester did the same thing as have 2 more generations of the Shelnut family, the Blackwood boys and a lot of others. Throughout history it has been called ” The Divine Right Of Kings “( look it up ) . I don’t know if that applies to a lowly gospel singing group but this does seems to be a good example. “Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way”,or as we say on our bus almost every day, ” Get In , Sit Down , Shut Up, and Hang On “

    • Well, then, if it’s settled, let it be said that I still plan to listen to your music then, and come out to see you if you ever come within an hour or two’s driving distance! 🙂

  16. Fifteen years ago, I emceed a Weatherfords concert. If they didn’t quit after that, I think they are here to stay…lol.

  17. “All I ask for is a chance”. I’m sure that’s what every person in every group who has ever taken the place of some one else has said. I know it’s happened in our group time after time. My dad gave a lot of folks a chance, many of them made good on it. We are still blessed to this day because of them. Thanks for the fun, see you on down the road, come back to the music.

  18. I have followed Gold City since 1987 and have seen the ups and the downs of the group. I believe that the Gold City of the 80s can still be the group in 2011 and honestly it has to do with the direction and sound that Tim Riley originally built the group on. I felt that Daniel did a good job but took Gold City to a country flavor that Gold City was not meant to do. I kept thinking about the Oak Ridge Boys who went country and I didn’t want Gold City to follow that route. So Tim Riley is back and honestly I think he had to come back to get the boys back on target and not leave that sound that Gold City is so well know for. Awards are great and I’m sure they want to win awards but I honestly feel they do it for the Lord and Souls saved, after all I was saved at a Gold City Concert.

  19. I think Gold City can survive without Tim. I think what keeps groups going a long time is each individual line-up is good. Each generation will have their favorite line-up. It’s a matter of connecting. I’ll offer two examples keeping in mind I’m still a teenager.

    The First Gold City I saw was Parrack/Wilburn/Trammell/Riley. I lloved what they did, but when I saw the Free/Parker/Lefevre lineup I loved almost as much. For me though I’ll always love Parrack/Wilburn/Trammell because I saw them first.

    Same principle for the Cathedrals grew up seeing the last lineup then I saw Funderburk/Trammell and loved that too but I saw Ernie & Scott first so they’ll always be my favorite.