The Genius Gap

In Southern Gospel, there are some performers so brilliant that the average fan just doesn’t get it.

Every genre has these performers–these Channing Eletons and Stan Whitmires, these musicians and vocalists whom the reviewers claim don’t receive their fair share of attention. These are the “critic’s favorites,” the performers that make the cynics of the world sit up and pay attention.

There is a flip side, of course. Other performers do so well at relating to the average fans that they don’t need to be geniuses. The musical elite often don’t care for their unpolished music, but the fans love it.

Of course, there are also the rare few–the geniuses, the legends–who are both brilliant and somehow manage to convey that brilliance into a stage presence with that extra something that makes the fans come back for more.

While I may be able to pop back in to moderate comments (please pardon any moderation delays), I’ll be out most of the rest of the day at a conference in St. Louis, so here’s a question to discuss amongst yourselves until I have a chance to pop back in: Which SG performers fall into each category, and why?

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11 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. I’d say the late Roger Bennett would fall into this category. A great songwriter and player, but also one that was a master MC and a fan favorite for an unprecedented number of years.

    Another great player/crowdman would be Darrell Stewart of the Florida Boys. That guy could get the crowd going with his playing and grinning and was also very friendly in a crowd.

    For today’s crowd, I’d pick Garry Jones. This guy is an incredible producer and player, and he and his group, Mercy’s Mark (that is, when they were still touring) were ultra-friendly.

  2. Great players that don’t get the recognition they deserve: Stan Whitmire, Channing Eleton, Justin Ellis, Tim Parton

    Very good players who received more recognition due to their showmanship: Roger Bennett, Darrell Stewart, Roy Webb, Jeff Stice

    Great players that also have the showmanship: Gerald Wolfe, Garry Jones, Anthony Burger

    I’ll also throw out Sterart Varnado’s name for consideration in the both category. I’ve never heard or seen him play, but from word of mouth, he would fit there.

  3. I think Scott Fowler is a genius. From the beginning until Roger died – L5 had Roger about 50% of the time. I suspect much of that time – he was not nearly at 100%. Yet – L5 continued to work hard, excel, make great progress, keep fans happy, draw new fans, make wonderful music – have two large celebrations in Nashville every year, you name it. They have moved to the top tier of groups and stayed there. He has even turned into a very good MC. To attend a concert with just L5 is an evening of worship and great music.


  4. I would put the late Doug Riley into the genius who didn’t get the attention he deserved. For years, Doug had been writing material for Gold City (such as “Mighty Army Band,” “Are You Ready,” “I’m Saved, I’m Sure, I’m Ready”), and following Mark Trammell’s departure, took over production duties for the group. This is pretty rare for someone who made their trade as a drummer. I also understand he had a big hand in stage arrangements, too.

    When GC ditched the band, Doug moved back to Daniel’s old spot at the sound board. I remember someone saying that they went up to him once, asking him what he thought of his new job. He responded by laughing and saying, “I have no idea what I’m doing!” While I doubt that was entirely true, it didn’t seem to matter what it was that needed to be done, he could do it.

  5. I’ll throw Dennis Murphy’s name out there. There is no denying his ability as a musician, he’s arguably the best drummer left in Southern Gospel music, and he has written a hit song for the Kingdom Heirs (God’s Word). But his real genius is in his stage presence. When he sings his original songs, which are usually comical in nature, he has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.

  6. I’ll name you one of each category that you described, Daniel, in the order in which you mentioned them.

    Neil Enloe, Archie Watkins, and Jake Hess.

  7. No one on this site or DBM’s has mentioned Johnny Minick. That pretty much says it all. Bloggers and fans alike have no idea how talented this guy is. should be on list #1. One of the most multi-talented people I have ever seen.

    Of course, Grammy Award winner, Lari Goss, is without peer in what he does. Just ask his peers.

    I’ll give my last comment in the form of a question: Why is ED HILL not already inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame?

  8. PS: DM, I love this format! Will you let us enjoy it a while?

  9. Sure. 🙂

  10. Catagory 1:
    Dixie Melody Boys, consisting of Dan Keeton, Bryan Walker, Andrew King and Ed O’Neal.

    Chris Allman

    Jim Stewart & The Pine Ridge Boys

    current Perrys lineup

    Tony Jarman

    I’d list more, in all catagories, but there’s just too many to remember & write at one time.

  11. Category 1
    Ed Enoch
    Roy Tremble
    Haskell Cooley
    George Ammon Webster
    Brian Carter
    Jeff Pearles
    JD Sumner (songwriting abilities)

    Category 2
    1) Ernie Haase’s rendition of “Oh What A Savior”. To my ears, he’s very harsh on the original recording. But, I guess that it’s the live presentation of the song that attracted so many people, to the point where the song is almost unanimously associated with him today.
    2) Kingsmen vocal lineup consisting of Garry Shepphard, Tim Surrett, Parker Jonathan, and Ray Dean Reese.
    3) Original Dove Brothers. I just don’t hear the simillarities between John Rulapaugh & Rosie Roselle, and Burman Porter & Big Cheif that others notice. But I guess every ear hears the same thing differently.

    Catagory 3)
    Glen Payne
    Hovie Lister
    Rosie Roselle
    Tim Riley
    George Younce