An Open Letter from the Chuck Wagon Gang

The Chuck Wagon Gang issued this open letter over the weekend:

Dear friends, fans, and supporters of The Chuck Wagon Gang,

We are contacting you to advise you of a situation which we feel that you, the friends, fans, and supporters of The Chuck Wagon Gang should know. We recently learned that the National Quartet Convention board voted on which groups should perform in 2008 and determined that we, along with several other groups, would not be appearing on the main stage at Freedom Hall for the National Quartet Convention to be held in Louisville, KY in September 2008. Instead, we were offered a spot on a Saturday noon showcase, which is separately ticketed. (Showcases are normally smaller events at NQC for the up-and-coming groups and soloists.)

We were told that cutting groups from the main stage was necessary to cut some expenses and time, and that by secret ballot among the members of NQC board we did not receive enough votes for the main stage. In effect, our status as a 71-year-old group has been reduced from performing twice on main stage to an estimated crowd of some 11,000 people with a decent honorarium, to a proposed performance in a 3,000 seating capacity, with separate ticketing, and a very low honorarium. This situation would also have an adverse effect on product sales at our booth (which we pay for), as sales are directly proportional to numbers in attendance and performances.

While we recognize that the NQC is a private enterprise and they can invite whomsoever they wish, nevertheless, we were saddened and disturbed by their decision. We must remember that James Blackwood and J. D. Sumner founded the NQC based on good quality, old-time gospel music. As you know, many of the old-timers have passed away in recent years, and there are few left who represent the gospel music in its simplest form. It appears by eliminating us and others characteristic of this style, the very heritage of the NQC is being diminished or even possibly destroyed. Is that good for NQC? It would seem that somewhere during the 60-hour main stage event there could two adequate time slots for the 71-year-old, traditional, Chuck Wagon Gang.

The Chuck Wagon Gang performed at the very first National Quartet Convention, held in Memphis, Tennessee in 1957 and has been a part of many conventions since that time. The NQC has always been a good experience for us, as we get to meet many folks that we don’t get to see across the country each year, we meet many promoters, groups, and other business contacts, and of course the vast array of different talent at the event.

The Chuck Wagon is a full-time group, with salaries and many expenses as any other group at NQC. Given the situation, we have declined the side-showcase performance. As it stands right now, we must inform you that, regretfully, The Chuck Wagon Gang will not perform at NQC for 2008.

To those of you who attend NQC, we urge you to continue to support the event. We cannot change the situation, and will abide by their decision. However, you, as the friends, fans, and supporters of The Chuck Wagon Gang could make a difference. If you attend the NQC particularly to see us, or if we are one of the groups that you don’t ever or rarely see other than NQC, perhaps you would let the NQC board know your feelings. If we are variety to the mix that you enjoy, let them know.

The board will meet again in early March. If any of you would like to contact them, please do not email or call them. Please send any signed responses by mail directly to the following address:

National Quartet Convention Board
815 John Harper Hwy, Suite 8
Shepherdsville, KY 40165

We would hope that any comments you wish to make to them would be professional, nice and cordial, but to the point and the impact their decision makes on you. May we suggest that any responses be done soon, while it is fresh on your mind, and received in time for consideration at the March board meeting.

Thanks to all of you for your support through the years. NQC will not break or make us. Life goes on. . .we will too!

We hope to see you again soon somewhere.

Dave Emery, Manager
The Chuck Wagon Gang

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

17 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. It’s very sad to me that so many groups who have forged the history of the National Quartet Convention haven’t been offered a time slot on the main stage for 2008. In addition to the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Melody Boys Quartet, the Blackwood Brothers, the Weatherfords, and the Palmetto State Quartet have all played a big role in the convention. I don’t see any of them listed for a time slot on the main stage. It’s sad.

  2. I certainly some of the board members read this blog (of course I doubt that). First of I don’t understand leaving out the Chuck Wagon Gang, but for that matter the Palmetto State Quartet. The Blackwood Bros. maybe, because they have not been on the stage for quiate some time…but they too are making a come back and should be on the stage…look at it this way, if it had not been for the Blackwood’s, we would not have a convnention at all. If we forget about the founding groups, we might as well for get about the convention.

  3. I certainly hope some of the board members read this blog (of course I doubt that). First of I don’t understand leaving out the Chuck Wagon Gang, but for that matter the Palmetto State Quartet. The Blackwood Bros. maybe, because they have not been on the stage for quite some time…but they too are making a come back and should be on the stage…look at it this way, if it had not been for the Blackwood’s we would not have a convention at all. If we forget about the founding groups, we might as well forget about the convention.

  4. Are there any surviving original members in any of these groups that have been mentioned. Maybe the problem is that the quality in these groups is lacking?

  5. There are no surviving members of the original Blackwood Brothers, but Jimmy Blackwood was a longtime member, joining as lead around 1969 or 1970, I think. He leads today’s group, and sounds enough like his father that I can sometimes mistake the two.

  6. I don’t think the Blackwood Bros, the Churck Wagon Gang, and others are lacking…but I do think they have perhaps exhausted their popularity…if I am using the right words. I love the Blackwood Bros (all their music from 1934 to the present), but they hit their peak in the 70’s and 80’s, and now are simply riding on the past. They will probably never receive significant recognition unless they start singing new music. Not sure why most of the Blackwood family is still singing “older” music.

  7. Gerald Williams, current bass singer for the Melody Boys Quartet, joined that group in 1949. Although he was taking a sabbatical from the quartet when they appeared at the very first convention, he has been an integral part of that quartet for more than fifty years. It’s appalling to me that this fine quartet has been bumped from the convention.

  8. Hasn’t the group taken several multi-year sabbaticals along the way?

    That said, either way they have a long and distinguished heritage and should be there. If there simply aren’t mainstage slots available, maybe the Board of Directors could start at 4 PM on Saturday (instead of 6) and put all the classic groups up for sets. Especially if they threw in some reunion lineups (like classic Florida Boys), I think it would be one of the convention’s biggest draws.

  9. I would be one for a classic group segment. Earlier, I was just trying to understand why the NQC would want to exclude these groups. Aren’t many of the board members long time singers as well?

  10. “Hasn’t the group taken several multi-year sabbaticals along the way?”

    Yes, Daniel, there were several times that the Melody Boys Quartet took a sabbatical, just as have many other groups including the Statesmen, Harvesters, Happy Goodmans, Chuck Wagon Gang, Prophets, Sons of Song, Stamps, etc.

  11. A “legends hour” to kick off each night at NQC would be another option. I think people like it when there are certain themes to each evening…don’t know that putting them all on the same night would work, though, as it might not attract as many people and extending the time on just one night would make that particular night last too long.

  12. It’s sickning to see the founders and pioneers of SG slowly but surely being pushed out, in favor of modern music. Sadly, this issue with the Chuck Wagon Gang is just one of many such occurances. The, shall we say, “tip of the iceberg”.
    I mean, look back just 5-7 years ago, before the progressive trends prevallient today began to rise in popularity. How many southern gospel groups (by the traditional definition) were singing? How many have changed their style to more modern music since then?
    Another thing, how many of our standard bearing, quallity, legendary singers have passed away since then?
    To both questions the names are far too numerous to list.
    What groups fill the radio and dominate the charts? When was the last time you heard the Chuck Wagon Gang, Dixie Melody Boys, Melody Boys Quartet, any of the Blackwood groups, Stamps, ect. on the radio?
    Such leads me to wonder: is traditional southern gospel music threatened with extinction ? Or death because people simply forget it’s value ?

  13. I agree…to a point…after thinking about even more, let’s look at it this way…if a group came out and sang they way they did in the 30’s and 40’s how would we feel about it…it sometimes is necessary for a group to change their style somewhat.

  14. I posted what I’m about to write on the Singing News message board and then the whole thread vanished like magic…don’t know if it was due to me or someone else.

    This is the condensed version.

    1. Fans stood and exited the arena when the CWG took the stage in 2006…not in protest, but just expressing their tastes. The NQC board is aware of crowd response, and I believe that in this case they simply voted accordingly.

    2. There is no conspiracy to push old music out. NQC stages traditional groups every year. In 2006, they added a VERY traditional group that had never been on the main stage before. That group was back in 2007.

    3. The CWG was offered a spot at NQC…just not on the main stage. This was in the initial “open letter” that was posted here and in other locations on the internet and discussion groups. A Saturday afternoon showcase is a very respectable spot. This isn’t the regional showcase and showcases aren’t limited to up-and-coming groups, as they implied with their comments. Some are, and some aren’t. Last year on Saturday afternoon, one showcase featured the Hoppers 50th anniversary and another Saturday showcase was Pianorama, for example. There are similar “top tier” showcases during the week.

    4. The Chuck Wagon Gang that appeared at NQC in 2007 wasn’t the same group that appeared in other recent years. They’ve had significant turnovers, including the departure of the two individuals who had ties to the older group.

    5. I completely understand if the CWG can’t afford to attend without the money they would have received for a main stage slot. What I don’t understand is some of the fans who have took the NQC to task for making it “all about money.” That works both ways, because A) other groups appearing are just as capable of singing the gospel and B) if NQC is “bad” for keeping a close eye on their bottom line, then so is the CWG. I don’t believe either entity is wrong for doing that. It’s just the way it is.

    6. Finally, while I admire the group for putting out the word as to why they wouldn’t be at NQC, I was a bit unimpressed when I went to their website where an edited version of this “open letter” appears with no mention of the showcase slot that NQC had offered them. I suppose they decided after the fact that they could get more fans to write and complain if they left that part out.

  15. I just went to the CWG’s website. It’s certainly curious about the content missing there.
    I admit that my above comment was somewhat an elaboration. I did not mean that there was any form of “conspiracy”. Neither did I mean the post to be a complaint soley against the NQC. (should have clarified these things in my last post).
    Instead, this is a genere-wide issue. SG music is changing at an alarming rate. Like it or not, this is due largly in part to how the culture is changing.
    Let’s be honest, what groups are more widley recognized today? The Crabb Family or the LeFevres? Statesmen or GVB?
    If we’re not dilligent, our past will be ignored and eventually forgotten in the near future.

  16. Quaid,
    To clarify…I wasn’t responding directly to your comments or any others that were made here. I was just putting forth some points about the CWG that I had raised on another forum.

    (The entire thread vanished there…not just my post.)

    When I saw that several people were reading about the situation here and responding with comments, I thought this would be a good place to re-express the points I had made on the other forum.

    (I hate spending all that time writing a post only to see it go away without even a puff of smoke to show for it.)

    I apologize for not making it clearer the first time. I wasn’t taking exception to what you had said specifically.

    Now, I will respond to something you wrote:
    “Let’s be honest, what groups are more widley recognized today? The Crabb Family or the LeFevres? Statesmen or GVB?

    If we’re not dilligent, our past will be ignored and eventually forgotten in the near future.”

    I agree completely. I don’t want the past history of SG to be forgotten.

    What you’re describing is always going to be the case. The new is going to overshadow the past at all times.

    To me, the real question is whether or not the current groups are making music that will be remembered 50 years from now. Most, I’m afraid, are not. Once in a while, there’s a song like “Midnight Cry” or “Mary Did You Know” that are marked for permanence, but those are few and far between.

    I’ve looked over the list of number one songs from the Singing News monthly charts…with an alarming number of them from the past 15 years or so, I can’t even remember the tune, much less the lyrics. If I go back further, I can remember the vast majority of those. The odd thing is that I’ve been actively covering SG for the past 10 years. My only conclusion can be that the songs that make it to the top of the charts now aren’t as memorable as a whole compared to the songs that went to the top of the charts and tended to stay for several months at a time in past decades.

    That…anecdotally…says to me that the songs we remember from the past will continue to be remembered while most of the current stuff, though more popular now, won’t be as likely to endure.

  17. I just discovered on the Chuck Wagon Gang message board that CWG manager Dave Emery has responded to some of the criticism he’s faced on this and other blogs about his decision to edit his original letter.

    He goes on to say that the original letter has been restored on their blog.

    Rather than trying to paraphrase Dave’s well written explaination, I would suggest that you check it our for yourselves: