Top 5: Most Disinctive Southern Gospel Song Intros

What are the most distinctive song intros in Southern Gospel? What are those intros the fans instantly recognize–the sort where they start applauding even before the first word is sung?

In compiling this list, I specifically focused on intros that were not just a repeat of the last line or two of the song–on unique riffs that added something to the song and in most cases were motifs repeated throughout the song.

Most of the songs on this list come from recent years, since I focus on intros that would be most familiar to a Southern Gospel fans today.

  1. “Champion of Love” (Cathedrals, Legacy Five, Greater Vision). I’m going to go out on a limb and state that this is the most distinctive song intro in Southern Gospel.
  2. “Jerusalem” (Hoppers). Although “Jerusalem” may not be the most popular song the Hoppers ever recorded (that would probably be “Shoutin’ Time,”) it is their most recognizable intro.
  3. “My Name is Lazarus” (Greater Vision). The unbridled energy of the intro set the tone for Greater Vision’s breakout hit.
  4. “Midnight Cry” (Gold City). Garry Jones came up with numerous distinctive intros during his time arranging for Gold City, but this is probably the one that is most recognizable today.
  5. “I Know I’m Going Home” (Triumphant Quartet). I’m probably going to be criticized for putting a 2007 song on the list, but this one stood out from the pack of current songs. We don’t know whether it will stand the test of time, but it at least stands a chance.

Honorable mentions include:

  • “This Old House” (Cathedrals)
  • “When We All Get to Heaven” (Brian Free & Assurance)
  • “For God So Loved” (live 2005 version) (BF&A)
  • “Not Even a Stone” (Perrys)
  • “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” (a Gold City concert opener about ten years ago)

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32 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I would say that “Learning to Lean” (1976) by the Blackwood Bros. was one of the most memorable intros ever.

  2. Also, “We Come to Worship” (1980) by the Blackwood Bros. was also very memorable.

  3. Although I don’t care for the song, I think the introduction to “Oh What a Savior” is quite recognizable.

  4. I was seriously tempted to put it on the list, but since I couldn’t make up my mind precisely which rendition was most memorable, I held off including it.

  5. I have to agree with your top 5, Daniel, and judging from a concert I was at last night, “I Know I’m Going Home” is going to be around for a long time!

  6. “Oh What A Savior” does instantly come to mind, but you’re right, there’s so many different versions that it would almost be unfair to give only one groups credit. Now you know I’m not biased :), but Brian Free does that song tremendously in a live setting. Dan Keeton also did very well at NQC this year on the song. Ernie Haase has also made a huge hit out of it.

  7. Tyler–I have to give you credit–that post gives credit where credit is due! Those are three of the four current renditions most worthy of naming; the fourth is Dallas Rogers’.

  8. Gold City’s “There Rose A Lamb” also has a very distinctive intro, as does “Oh For A Thousand Tongues” by the Nelons.

  9. That looks like a good list! Of the four of those that I knew, I could instantly recall their intros. And I like, as you pointed out, that they don’t play the first or last line of the song, but are purely distintive in their own right. πŸ™‚

  10. That’s why I picked them, and not any of the dozens of other songs quite recognizable by a last-lines-from-chorus intro.

  11. Let me add a couple for us old-timers….
    Statesmen – I Believe in the Old Time Way, Hovie stating “People often get religion but their hearts not changed. They go to church and testify but what an awful fate, to find they have no real salvation…then group comes in “But will be too late!”
    Or Statesmen Gonna Open Up All My Doors (Light of Love). Hovie says “Gimme the beat boys” and one can hear foot-patting and hand clapping setting the tempo, the the short piano run, followed by “Gonna open up all of doors, gonna open up all my doors…”

  12. DM…check out the influence of Goss on your 5 and your 10.

  13. I would say “In My Robe Of White”… When ever I have seen GC sing it as soon as the song starts the crowd goes wild.

  14. I’d say “One Holy Morning” by Triumphant has a distinctive intro…

  15. How about “Boundless Love.” Every time I have heard a group do this the crowd is cheering before they even start into “There is not a …”

  16. Now that right there is a song that everyone and their brother has sung. A great song, nonetheless.

  17. …including you and me, Aaron! πŸ™‚

  18. Well, here’s what I’d have on my list:

    “Master Builder” (Cats, MTT), “He Made A Change” (Cats, L5) “When Jesus Is All That I Have” (Bishops), “Yes I Know!” (GVB), “Sail On” (Imperials), “Come To The Water” (KQ), “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More” (Inspos), “Sweet Beulah Land” (Squire Parsons), “When He Was On The Cross” (Florida Boys) “God’s Building A Church (GC), and “He Said” (GC).

    My all-time favorite would be the intro to “Wonderful Grace Of Jesus” by the Cathedrals!

  19. For whatever it’s worth, I’m not talking about spoken-word intros here, or for that matter intros which are primarily distinguished by words sung during the intro. This post focused on intros recognizable by the music alone.

  20. In that case, I add Step Into The Water by The Cats.

  21. I didn’t mention any spoken word intros in my list did I?

    Ok, perhaps “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” may be in that idea. But it doesn’t really classify as spoken words, does it? I mean, I don’t really think they’re strictly meaning the word “Bum”! At least I hope not! πŸ™‚

  22. I’d assumed you were referring to the live version, which has no introduction other than spoken. You’re talking about the Symphony of Praise version. Duh.

  23. “There Is A River”-Greater Vision
    “That’s Him”-Hoppers
    “I Shall Wear A Crown”-Gaither Vocal Band
    “The Cross”-Crabb Family
    “The Promise”-Martins
    “John Saw”-Gold City and BF&A
    “I Wish I Could Have Been There”- Perrys
    BTW, I anxiously await for your review of last night.

    That reminds me of “Last Night”, and “Four Days Late”-both from KP&NR

  24. I love your list Daniel.

    One that I would add is “Freedom” by Legacy Five.

  25. One more worthy of mention….

    The piano riff that begins “When It All Starts Happening”.

    It is played on all three recorded versions I’m aware of(originally by the Couriers in 1965, the Happy Goodmans approximately a year later, and by the Perrys last year in their Goodman tribute album)by “Little” David Young, who wrote the music for it…and that piano intro clearly marks the song.

  26. The Florida Boys “When He was on the Cross” has one of the most recognizable intros I can think of.

  27. I’m Not Giving Up-Gold City

  28. That piano roll on “Get Away Jordan” is also rather recognizable especially if the Doves/Statesmen are/were nearing the end of their set.

  29. Ok…I know this is “old-time” stuff…but if you were around in the ’70’s you’d have instantly recognized “Greater is He” by the (who else πŸ™‚ )…Downings….

  30. Ann is right about “Greater”. In fact, I was about to add that to the list before I saw that she had already added it!

  31. Sweet Beulah Land, He Looked Beyond My Faults, Because He Lives. It depends on our age-group and our association with certain songs. I come from the 60’s and look back with fondness on Blackwood Brothers and some of RW’s great contributions. James Verner

  32. The Nelons’ I’ve Got A Right–cool bass line