Top 5: Most Distinctive Southern Gospel . . . Drum Tracks

Three years ago, I did a post on the all-time most distinctive Southern Gospel song intros. The list hasn’t required much revision since then, though Lari Goss’s iconic trumpet crescendo introduction to the Booth Brothers’ “A Higher Throne” has earned itself a spot on that list (though whether it bumps #3 or #5 is anyone’s call).

The other day, I was pondering a more esoteric top 5. What are the five most instantly recognizable drum tracks in Southern Gospel?

  1. “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” Gold City (20th Anniversary Celebration, Vol. 1, 2000). When I was new to Southern Gospel, I wasn’t that keen on Jonathan Wilburn’s bluesy style or Jay Parrack’s voice tone. This was the project that changed my mind, and this opening track played no small role. The late drummer Doug Riley improved on the drum track of original studio version, singlehandedly turning the song from a straightforward Couriers remake to an invigorating concert opener—all without getting in the way of the singers or the lyric.
  2. “Boundless Love,” Ernie Haase and Signature Sound (A Tribute to the Cathedral Quartet, 2010). As if it wasn’t audacious enough to place a yet-to-be-released track on the list at all, I’m placing it at #2. Why? Well, you thought you knew this song. It’s perhaps Dianne Wilkinson’s most recognizable song ever, yet virtually every rendition recorded has used a note-for-note remake of the original Cathedrals intro. It required an incredible level of daring to reinvent a song this beloved with a drum-only four-measure intro—and for a verdict on whether it works from someone who knows a good song and a good arrangement when she hears it, check this out.
  3. “Jerusalem,” Hoppers. A case could be made for this song being #1. In this case, though, it’s not just the drums—it’s the perfect match of drum track and orchestra that make this song the only one to make both this list and the most distinctive song intros list discussed above.
  4. (tie with #5) “Onward Christian Soldiers,” Florida Boys (Up in the Sky, 1964). While this marching band treatment is not uncommon in marching bands, it is far less common in Southern Gospel.
  5. (tie with #4) “The Journey,” Liberty Quartet (The Journey, 2009). The drums alone kick off the track for two measures. Then, for the next two, a piano plays a single-note-at-a-time riff. At measure five, the orchestration. This drum track is more distinctive than the Florida Boys track, but the song was never singled and is rarely staged live. So this had to be a tie between the more uniquely distinctive and the more recognizable contenders.

Honorable mention goes to the three percussion sounds at the beginning of the Happy Goodmans’ 1971 Wanted Live recording, followed by the emcee’s remark, “We’re reinforcing the stage!” It doesn’t make the list since it’s not part of a song, and the percussion sound more likely comes from a hammer than a drum. But it’s one of Southern Gospel’s most recognizable and beloved moments nonetheless.

Admittedly, the competition is far less active for best drum track than for most distinctive intro. But surely there are a few I didn’t think of, a few that should have made the list, or at least earned an honorable mention. Nominations?


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22 Letters to the Editor

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  1. How could you forget “There Rose A Lamb”?? Hi-hat, sixteenth-note tom fill, and drum roll, punched with the timpani. As soon as I hear it, I know I’m in for a treat.

  2. Although not as distinctive as the songs above I always liked the intro to “Steppin on the Clouds”, The Hoppers.

    • The post was about drum tracks – were you talking about the drum track or the intro? 🙂

      • I guess both. Also Shoutin’ Time. It’s almost like The Hoppers have a really good drummer in their group. 🙂

  3. Who could not forget the Hoppers’ intro to “Shoutin’ Time”? “If You Knew Him” by the Perrys is definitely a qualifier as well. 🙂

  4. Huh, I don’t think I even know any of these! I’d have to think for a while. There’s something playing in my memory, but I can’t pull it out.

    • You don’t know the Hoppers’ “Jerusalem”?!

      It’s worth a listen.

      • I heard it on the radio too much a lot back when it was big. It’s just not my style, I guess.

  5. How about “Holy Highway?” Can’t mistake that one.

  6. In Jesus Name – Nelons not typical beat in SG when Karen Peck sang with them.

  7. I would say a distinctive drum track would be (at least for the studio version) is “through the fire”. Even though its short, it really brings the song in and keeps directing the song throughout.

  8. I’d say:

    “I’m Not Giving Up” Gold City
    (Standing In The Gap 1994)
    Back when I was in High School we had a roller ring and got them to play Southern Gospel every Tuesday night for Christian night. That was about the time this album came out. The drum intro was unmistakable for this song. Fun memory.

    “Lord, Do It Again” Gold City
    (Lord, Do It Again 1995)
    It’s not hard to imagine why Gold City had some unique & distinctive drum intros with Doug Riley on drums for many years. This song, though not one of their more widely known selections, was definately easy to recognize was the drums kicked off.

    “Pain In Full” Greater Vision
    (My Favorite Place 2005)
    I have no trouble figuring out what song this is when it pops up on my iPod. While many drum intros begin to sound alike and are variations of each other, this once sits alone as a fade in drum intro. Very unique.

    “This Same God” Greater Vision
    (Take Him At His Word 1995)
    One of my all time favorite and least remembered GV songs. This intro was one of the first times I remember a drum openning really setting the table for the song. Great power openning, great power song.

    “Joys Gonna Come” Kingsmen
    (I Will 2001)
    This project was about all I’d listen too when it came out. Great song selection, but none better than the kick off song. Great drum lead in and with that this song is off and running.

    There’s my picks.

    • Your #3 is really strong (though the typo making it “Pain in Full” just made my day! 😆 )

      • Typo….maybe….maybe not.
        Thoughts on the remaining 4?

      • Well, I have heard the other 4, and the drum part isn’t immediately coming to mind, but that could be my memory.

      • Ok….some I’m a bit slow. Those are my drum intro picks. However, Paid In Full spills over into the the current discussion.

    • “Paid in Full” – That’s the one that was playing in my head! Thank you!

  9. I think once everyone hears the new “Oasis” album from The Crist Family the song “Rhythm of Grace” will definitely fit in this category.

    • Agreed! For more than just the drum intro, though… 🙂

  10. As soon as I saw “Drum Tracks” I instantly thought of the intro to the Isaacs’ “Friend ’til the End.”

    • Yeah.. That’s a good one!

  11. Are we talking drums TRACKS or drum LOOPS?? There is a BIG difference, as one is played by a live musician (in which case, I’d say that the 1999 cut of “He Came Down To My Level” by the GVB is one of my favorites), and the other is programmed electronically.