DVD Review: Sing Out America Vols. 4-10

Earlier this year, Mansion Entertainment started reissuing archival footage from the Sing Out America television series. Volumes 1-3 were reviewed here, here, and here; this post points out highlights from the remaining volumes in the series.

Volume 4: Florida Boys

Landing an appearance from stars from (and hosts of) the all-time most significant Southern Gospel television show, the Gospel Singing Jubilee, must have been a coup for any other show. The first four songs feature mid-80s tenor Terry Davis, with lineup regulars Les Beasley (lead), Glen Allred (baritone), Buddy Liles (bass), and Darrell Stewart (piano).

Tenor Rick Busby, who was with the group later in the 1980s, appears for the following six songs, the remainder of the project. Much of the footage in the series is lip-synced; either this segment is not lip-synced or more effort was put into making it appear to be fully live. Stewart is here joined by three or four other musicians for a full live band—including musicians who switch to steel, harmonica, and other instruments as necessary. “I’ll Live a Million Years” is a standout performance.

This is one of the stronger entries in the series; the Florida Boys had a certain charisma that must have made live performances from the era a special treat.

Volume 5: Gold City Quartet

Video footage of Gold City’s first supergroup lineup—Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Mike LeFevre, Tim Riley, Garry Jones, and the rest of the live band—is so hard to come by that this video has a value for that alone. Regrettably, it’s lip-synced footage, like much of the rest of the series. That said, it may be worth the purchase just for the video footage of Brian Free’s hairdo!

The audio is largely pulled from Double Take Live and Live. The personnel for the last two appear to be short-tenured lead singer Bill Crittendon, who only sang with the group in 1983, and baritone Jerry Ritchie. Rusty Goodman is credited as a guest on the back cover, but it appears that any songs featuring him may have been cut prior to duplication.

Volume 6: Rusty Goodman Family

Though billed as the “Rusty Goodman Family” on the DVD cover, the group appearing on the DVD is the final group to record as the Happy Goodmans—Tanya Goodman Sykes, Sam Goodman, Rusty Goodman, and Michael English. Tracks 1-4 and 6-8, most of which are drawn from the Chosen project, are clearly live, as they do not perfectly match the LP version. Track five, featuring Tanya, includes strings not replicated live, so it’s less clear whether the vocals were recorded live. The final two are of Rusty singing solo.

This project is a must-have for Happy Goodman aficionados—and, for that matter, Michael English fans, as “I Bowed On My Knees” may be the first surviving video footage of his lifelong signature song—and it may also be the best.

Volume 7: The Hoppers

The first nine songs feature a vocal lineup of Diane Havner (? on spelling) on soprano, Connie Hopper on alto, Dean on lead, and Claude on baritone/bass. The final track is the only song from another taping day; it features Claude, Dean, Connie, Greg Bentley on tenor, and Sharon Watts on soprano.

Volume 8: The Hinsons

The entire taping seems to come from ca. 1981, with Kenny, Ronnie, Yvonne, and (probably) Eric Hinson. There is a notable audio difference between several songs, suggesting lip-syncing to different masters, but without the original recordings at hand, it’s hard to make a definitive statement.

Volume 9: The McKameys

The entire video seems to be from one taping. It’s of particular interest now; founding member Carol Woodard was with the group from 1954-1971. When she left for the first time, Peg and Reuben Bean’s daughter Sheryl Farris joined. This taping was probably within her final two years in that stint with the group; she left in 1983, and Carol rejoined. With Carol’s retirement last year, Sheryl replaced her for a second time. So this video actually offers footage of the current lineup, approximately thirty years ago!

Volume 10: Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters

Oddly enough, the project starts with a novelty song, “A Little More About Jesus.” The trio is joined by three children, all around six to eight years old. The white girl appeared to be very nervous on camera; Little Jan Buckner (Goff)’s on-screen efforts to loosen up and relax the other two were met with more success. Songs two through four and six were from the same taping; Little Jan doubled on piano/keyboard and vocals. Song five was from a separate taping with a separate pianist to free Little Jan up to focus on vocals. Song seven came from a third taping, also with the separate pianist—though Little Jan reached over his shoulder during the intro to play a keyboard part. (The keyboard sat atop the piano.) Songs eight through ten came from a fourth taping. For songs eight and ten, the three trio vocalists did not play any instruments; it was Wendy’s first time in the project to not be behind a guitar. He did pull the guitar out for the middle song, “Forsyth County, GA.”

Conclusion

Through no fault of the video editors for this reissue, too much of the original footage was lip-synced to the LP for the series to receive an overall high recommendation. That said, the series has a number of high points, detailed here and in the earlier reviews, well worth the time to check out.

Available from: Mansion. ♦ Review copy provided.


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4 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Congratulations for finishing this series. Now you can put it behind you… 😉

  2. I group up listening to and watching many of these groups…at places like the Blackwood Brothers Homecoming in Memphis. It was a great time!

  3. Daniel, I believe you have the Gold City albums reversed. I have this DVD, and there are only 2 songs with the Parker/Lefevre lineup: “After I Bow” and “Cool Drink of Water.” The rest of the songs are from the Live album, and are the Crittendon/Ritchie group. The Double Take stuff is obviously lip-synched, but the earlier songs may well be live, as some of the instrumentation is different from the album version.