Ask and Ye Shall Receive

John Scheideman recently posted a response to a discussion I started in this post. It’s a good read that I mostly agree with. He closed by expressing the wish that I list my favorite iterations of the Cathedral Quartet, in order. Ask and ye shall receive:

  1.  Haase, Payne, Fowler, Younce, Bennett
  2. Tremble, Payne, Webster, Younce, Cooley
  3. Talley, Payne, Trammell, Younce, Bennett
  4. Clark, Payne, Koker, Younce
  5. (tie with #6) Taunton, Payne, Webster, Younce
  6. (tie with #5) Funderburk, Payne, Trammell, Younce, Wolfe
  7. Funderburk, Payne, Trammell, Younce, Bennett

One thing you will notice is that I generally list them by tenor, because the tenors defined their sound far more than most of their baritones did. This does eliminate a few short-lived combinations (such as the Horne and Young eras).

DISCLAIMER: The above is strictly opinion. It is opinion based on having heard nearly everything that every named version recorded, but it remains opinion.

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

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. This is a testament to how differently two pairs of ears can hear things! If you flipped numbers 6 and 7, my list would duplicate yours, except in the reverse order. You’re the aficionado on these Cats, so I’d expect you could discuss at length how you arrived at your ranking, citing examples where necessary. I’d definitely enjoy reading it. Good topic. I miss these guys.

  2. Thank you, Daniel, for obliging(notice I didn’t use the non-word “obligating””-))…now I can sleep tonight!:-)

    Now to get you to start referring to the recordings as “albums”(as they’ve always been)instead of “projects”, the transformation will be complete! j/k(sort of)

  3. Thanks for ranking the Tremble / Webster group so high. I loved their full sound when they moved from solo to full quartet. I would love to hear that right now!

  4. John, I’m glad you can sleep now!

    I often refer to them as albums. I use projects virtually interchangeably. At least I don’t refer to them all as CDs!

  5. There’s one Cathedral line-up that you don’t have listed that was one of their better combinations.

    Roger Horne (tenor), Payne, Tremble, Cooley.

  6. Let me clarify my response above. I meant to add that although you considered the combination I mentioned as short-lived, I would still consider that combo as on of the better ones.

  7. I have to admit I’m not as familiar with Horne’s voice. I do have one or two albums he did with them, but since I’m not as familiar with it I’m not comfortable ranking it compared to the others.

  8. Dean, I believe we cross-posted. I shall have to pay closer attention next time I listen through those albums!

  9. I’d put any combination with Danny Funderburk MUCH higher. Second to Tremble,Webster, and Cooley

  10. I’m not sure why I went all the way back to this page but I was reading it and I have to say that I agree with you on your number one Daniel but I would have put one of the groups with Danny Funderburk closer to the top.

    • Agreed. I’d definitely put something with Danny over the Talley formation anyway. Kirk was okay but sounded kind of weak to me. Danny wasn’t my favorite (everybody knows who is…), but at least he had power.

      • Hi Guys!

        Just 2c worth, I would put 3 & 4 at 6 & 7, and move the rest up 2 places.

        Ernie has matured wonderfully. I like the comment, without irony I’m sure, that the ‘Farewell Concert’ show-cased why George & Glenn hired him.

        I do fall somewhere between Amy and SoGoBro in relation to Ernie’s range. He has grown into his voice and maybe his present group lineup suits him for blend. Sometimes a single change in an established group, ‘forces’ a newish singer to fill the vocal range of the outgoing singer.

        Ernie is neither a Danny nor a Kirk, maybe he was trying to be in his early days.

        Just as Mark Trammel did not have the range of Roy Tremble, so he is a [quality] solid baritone, not a 3 octave “freak”.

        Every man to his calling, and position, but ‘fit’ and ‘blend’ don’t happen overnight, in any discipline!

      • I’ll say this much: This is from his early years, but I absolutely love Ernie’s rendition of “Daystar” from Campmeeting Live. It really shows what he was capable of, even at such a young age. And once again, zero effort on those high notes. He doesn’t even blink on some of them. He just hits them. Does anybody else remember that one?

        And maybe this is unfair because the other guys were a little out of season, but I think the ending of “Boundless Love” on the Reunion video is unintentionally funny because Ernie so obviously out-strips both Danny and Kirk.

      • David, I think I agree with you on pretty much all of that comment.

  11. Wow…this post is almost three years old. My order would also be almost the reverse of yours. The Funderburk/Trammell version was, IMO, the greatest quartet in the history of SG.

    I’ve tried to warm up to Ernie’s voice, I really have. I want to love his tenor very much because he was in the Cathedrals for almost a decade. But I can’t get into it…it always seemed to stick out too much for me. He’s got a very good tenor voice (you have to to sing at that level for so long), but he’s probably not in my top ten of tenors. But very few know the Cathedrals better than you, and you have him on top…so it’s obviously purely a matter of personal taste.

    • What I find so fascinating about Ernie is that even though he has a good range, he’s really not the highest tenor in tenor history. But that’s a good thing actually. He has a fullness of tone in his lower register that I’ve found to be a bit unusual for gospel tenors.

      Have you ever heard any of his solo stuff? The songs are a little uneven, but one in particular really impacted me. It’s called “An Unexpected Cross.” I strongly recommend you give it a listen. It’s a quiet ballad, and Ernie doesn’t really “show off” on it, but the understated nature of his vocal really heightens the poignancy of the lyric. You can hear it here. It’s Track 10:

  12. I prefer Funderburk / Trammell / Bennett over Funderburk / Trammell / Wolfe, but other than that and the short-lived Young era, each change after Funderburk joins gets worse. (Not an insult, just meaning I prefer each previous combo better.)

    • I will say this—some of Ernie’s very early work is a bit thin. You can see this in some of his first videos with the group. The depth and richness his voice would later acquire isn’t quite there yet. I still preferred him to Danny even then, but I can see why somebody might not agree with me. But I think he just got better from there, and by the time you get into the late 90’s, he’s got the complete package.

      • Now, present it that way, and you might get me to agree with you! That early album with “Wedding Music” kind of soured me, sorry, but it did! Honestly, he flats on that song, and on a prominent note held out at the end of a line.

        But I also remember listening to him on the Farewell album and saying, I can see why the Cathedrals hired him. My true opinion is that he and Jason Waldroup have one similarity (not saying they sound alike at all). I think that their strength and highest quality is in their lower/mid ranges, and they just don’t need to be trying stratosphere stuff. Now, everybody here (I think) knows that I’m one of Jason’s biggest fans; his normal singing range was not an issue at all. I’m just after quality music. And when Ernie stays in (what is, IMO) his strongest range, he’s a really good singer. I just don’t want to hear him trying to stay in, say, Danny’s or Kirk’s strongest range.

        I tremble to hit submit, because I know that people will be all over me with “Oh What a Savior,” but I’m used to having minority opinions … and in this case it is that Ernie is a much finer singer than what used to get presented to us. FWIW, I think the same thing about Mark Trammell. I think the Cathedrals frequently pitched him too high, out of his best range, and from the time he moved to Gold City on, I think he’s had the freedom to showcase his voice to better advantage.

      • The notes Mark is singing now – as in, say a B-flat or B on “If Only Just a Few” – are as high or higher than in his Cathedrals days. His voice has come a long way since then!

      • I don’t know; it’s just a general impression, and I guess his voice has matured as well. But I really, really liked his work, post-Cathedrals, on “When He Knocked on the Door of my Heart.” I’m also sure that’s pitched a lot lower, and it’s where I (personally) really enjoy hearing him.

      • Have you see his performances of Loving the Lamb and If Only Just a Few (say on YouTube)? That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about – he spans octaves in those songs, but he maintains the same richness at the upper end of his range than he does at the bottom!

      • No, I haven’t. Probably I should confine my comments to Gerald Wolfe, and I’m kind of losing it there! I still haven’t got those 20th Anniversary songs off of iTunes. :& Maybe I should excuse myself by saying I have other stuff on my mind! 😀

      • That excuse works!

        But do me a favor and take a few minutes to watch this video: (Loving the Lamb)

        At least you’ll know what I’m talking about.

        Early on, he’d sing anything. Then he stayed lower, because that was where he found a richness in his tone. But he’s expanded that richness throughout his range now.

      • OK, I’ll believe that. I’m at work right now, and I think YouTube is blocked, but I don’t have computer speakers anyway. I’ll try to give it a listen at home some time.

      • OK. And if you can only spare 90 seconds, skip to 1:55, where Mark’s solo starts.

      • So Amy, are you saying you don’t like Ernie’s rendition of “Oh What A Savior?” :O Heresy! Honestly, he owns that one. Some of the other versions I’ve heard have been downright excruciating.

        And I will say this. I think Ernie actually has developed a very smooth upper range in addition to his lower register. Just listen to him effortlessly nail that high D flat in the Get Away Jordan version of OWAS. He’s smoother there than he was in his younger days, albeit a little less powerful. So I would agree with you there that he’s improved with age.

      • Amy – let me see if you can agree with this (but it probably depends on how many you’ve experienced) – at any rate, his current rendition is to be preferred to many of the tenors, particularly in local and semi-professional groups today, who think they can sing the song.

      • Whoa, whoa! I didn’t say I didn’t like OWAS. He certainly does own that song. It was more on stuff like “Calvary Answers for Me” where (if I remember right) he would try to do some sustained, really high notes on that bridge. I just don’t think he sounds as good up there.

        He’s certainly a professional and knows how to get everything out of his voice. But since I heard him sing “What a Difference a Day Makes,” I can’t understand his focus on the high tenor singing. I think his strength is a little lower, a little less “freak of nature,” much as I enjoy hearing the other from Brian Free, Kirk, Jay Parrack, and the like. (Yes, I know I’m lumping some rather disparate sounds into that. What I have in mind is Scott Fowler calling the bass and tenor two “freaks of nature.”)

      • I wasn’t jumping on you or anything – just saying that it’s been done far worse, no matter what someone thinks of his rendition. And I’ve had to sit through a few too many of the far worse renditions! 🙂

      • Honestly, I have the opposite feeling. It’s precisely because Ernie is a more balanced singer that I vastly prefer his high work to that of the other singers you mentioned. There’s a substance to his high notes that lighter, more mosquito-like tenors like those guys just don’t have.

      • It’s OK, I didn’t expect anybody too actually agree with me. 😀 I don’t even know myself if I’m “right.” I would just leave it at, “There’s no disputing matters of taste.” (Sorry, I don’t know the Latin for that, but it ought to be at the head of every SG 2.0 site.)

      • “De gustibus non est disputandem.”

      • Thank you. (And don’t tell me you didn’t use Google for that.)

      • Actually, I only used Google to confirm that it was “est” and not “es.” Not to brag or anything, but I’ve had about ten years in Latin… (although for this particular quote, we just use it around the house so much that I had it basically memorized)

      • Really? I always wanted to do Latin, but I ended up in Spanish. Which is good, but I would have enjoyed Latin too.

        OK, back to topic.

      • I had been wondering, too. Thanks, Amy, for being brave enough to ask!

      • plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!