2009 in Review: Top 10 Stories

Last year was filled with big news stories, with enough major ones breaking in the last two weeks that it just wasn’t safe to put this post up until the year had officially ended.

  1. Gaither Vocal Band unveils new lineup: Penrod, Hall leave Gaither Vocal Band; Phelps, Lowry, English return. If the announcements had been spread over weeks, it would have been one thing. But to have this story hit all at once left no doubt that this belongs at the #1 spot.
  2. Gold City unveils new lineup: Riley returns, Cobb and Webb join. There were a number of other major Gold City stories over the year (Ladd leaves, McCune and Simpson leave, Cooper joins, Cooper leaves)—but beyond doubt, this was the big one. Tim Riley is probably the genre’s most legendary living bass singer, and for him to rejoin his classic group would be a big enough story itself without the addition of two talents like Cobb & Webb.
  3. Archie Watkins leaves the Inspirations and launches a solo career; Rogers and Ragan join. Some liked his voice, some didn’t—but 45 years in a major group, especially at the tenor position, earns this story a spot this high on the list. Rogers and Ragan joining ought to be ranked separately on this list, since Watkins’ departure was over a month after their addition was joined. (According to the Inspirations’ office, the plan at that time was for Watkins to be a featured vocalist, like James Blackwood with the Blackwood Brothers in the 1970s.) But there are more big stories than slots, so these will have to be combined.
  4. Devin McGlamery replaces Ryan Seaton as lead singer for Signature Sound. The #2 and #4 stories of the year breaking in the last week or two create problems for anyone who published their top year-end stories early!
  5. Joel Wood joins the Mark Trammell Trio, after Eric Phillips’ departure. This story is ranked as high as it is both since Phillips was the last founding member of the group other than Mark Trammell himself, and because many competent industry professionals and fans considered Phillips one of the most able and consistent tenors on the road.
  6. Frank Seamans leaves Legacy Five; Gus Gaches joins.
  7. Eva Mae LeFevre passes away. Thanks to Meagan for the reminder yesterday; this was certainly one of the year’s most significant stories, but it hadn’t been on my mind.
  8. The Lewis Family retires. The group’s sixty years on the road ensure them a spot on this list.
  9. Nick Trammell leaves the Perrys; Troy Peach joins.
  10. Billy Blackwood joins the Blackwood Brothers. This is significant for several reasons; first, Brad White’s departure was the first lineup change the group had in several years. Second, the group’s recent signing with Daywind ensures people will hear this new lineup. Third, this is the first time in over fifty years that blood brothers have been at two of the vocal positions in the group.

Honorable mention:

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10 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. Tony Greene’s successful lifesaving transplant barely making the honorable mentions list is way off. That was certainly a bigger and more important story than The Dove’s changing piano players! All in all though, it is a good Top 10.

    • The honorable mentions list is unranked.

  2. I’ve got to agree pretty closely with most of the first 10. I have to think that as we move farther down the list, it gets more and more subjective, probably shaded by our personal opinions and what we’re familiar with. Some of the honorable mentions had barely (if at all) crossed my line of consciousness; others seemed pretty important because I had been aware of that group all of my life.

    This has certainly been a very eventful year, not just in SG – It seems I’ve seen more “sea changes” in my life and the lives of people around me than is normal for any given year. Don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting older 😉 , or if this is part of the increasing turmoil of these times!

  3. I can’t think of any major stories you missed…which is the whole point of these lists. The order is less important.

    • Thanks, and I agree that the order isn’t that significant. That’s especially after the #1 story—I think most observers who aren’t ranking a certain group’s story higher because they like a particular group would put the GVB story at #1 (five stories, four of which were completely unexpected).

      Everything after that is up for grabs.

  4. Obviously, the Riley’s new policy concerning hiring is…all new employees must have a last name ending in “bb”!

  5. I think this is a great list, Daniel!

  6. I have no doubt that some of the SG personnel changes in 2009 were of God. He certainly does not always leave people in the same ministry/location for years.

    At the same time, I can’t help but wonder where the Billy Grahams, George Beverly Sheas, and Cliff Barrows of today are – people who commit themselves to working together for decades because their commitment is not to their personal careers but rather to common ministry for the glory of God. Such commitment to team ministry seems a rarity today.

    On a related note, I heard an intriguing comment on TV today from a member of the secular rock band Chicago. While I don’t think we need to look to the world for our cues, I found the perspective shared today to be food for thought. The Chicago band member stated today that the group intentionally does not have a front man. Rather, they have created their band’s identity to be that of the group, not an individual. He said this prevents egos from getting in the way and also allows members to enjoy the fruit of their labor and still lead relatively normal lives.

    My prayer in 2010 for all Christian artists is that Christ will be in charge of their careers and ministries and that those who watch and listen to them will see Jesus and not just a performance.

  7. Kim I agree with you whole heartedly”watch and listen and see
    JESUS and not a performance…Joe Sahadi


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