Was George Younce the Best?

Was George Younce the greatest bass singer of all time?

In a word, yes.

I am finding that some of the most insightful posts in Southern Gospel right now are coming from The Inquiring Mind. In a recent post (edit: link removed due to site being down), he makes the case against George being the greatest. With all due respect to one of the most knowledgeable Southern Gospel historians out there, let’s look at some of his arguments.

First off is that people who think of Younce as the greatest haven’t heard the other great bass singers:

And leaving aside the obvious talents of great bass singers such as Arnold Hyles, Jim Waites, and Aycel Soward, does anyone seriously believe that Younce was the superior talent to men such as JD Sumner, London Parris, Jay Simmons, Herschel Wooten, Bill Lyles, Jim “Big Chief” Wetherington, Herman Harper, Bob Thacker, Armond Morales, Noel Fox, Billy Todd, Doug Jones, Gerald Williams, Brock Speer, or even Chalmers Walker?

Perhaps some of these men…but certainly not the majority of them. I would be willing to wager that most of the supporters of the idea that Younce is the greatest of all never even HEARD of most of those men. What basis, then, does someone have for making such a claim without the ability to make a fair comparison?

I can’t speak for others who perceive Younce as the greatest, but I know that as for myself, I have heard and have songs, albums, or CDs in my collection featuring the bass voices of Arnold Hyles, Jim Waites, J.D. Sumner, London Parris, Jay Simmons, Bill Lyles, “Big Chief” Wetherington, Herman Harper, Bob Thacker, Armond Morales, Billy Todd, Gerald Williams, and Brock Speer. I’m not positive I have heard the others mentioned, although chances are I have.

So I think I have the ability to make a fair comparison.

Inquirer1 does make an interesting point in that Younce was not recognized as the greatest when he was at the top of his game in the 1960s and 1970s.

When Younce really entered gospel music’s “big leagues” and joined the Blue Ridge Quartet in the late 1950s, he was in one of gospel’s most popular and visible quartets, and yet, despite his voice being at its’ arguable best, no one even thought of Younce as among the very best basses. The names mentioned most in that regard were JD, Chief, Morales, even Parris(from some!), but Younce was never ever regarded as the best. This despite the fact that he could probably do what he’s so adored for today as well(if not better)than he could at any time. He just was not seen in that light.

That is a valid consideration, but it is worth remembering that becoming the “greatest” isn’t something that happens overnight; it is a verdict rendered at or after the culmination of a lifetime on the road.

Having said all that, why do I believe George Younce was the greatest bass singer of all time?

I believe that the greatest bass singer is the one who best connects with his audience, whether on stage or on record. And in that regard, I believe that George Younce was the complete package.

Until his last years, he could rattle the floors with a double low A-flat. And on the very next song, he would sing a melody in a range which bass singers normally leave to the baritones or lead singers. He knew how to read a crowd like few others and did a masterful job emceeing concerts. And his recitations had an emotive quality that would still send chills down the backs of his fellow group members, who heard him do them every night.

And then, when the concert was over, many are the stories of the little kindnesses he showed to his many fans, young and old, who were waiting for a chance to meet their hero.

So why do I believe he was the greatest? It wasn’t because he was the lowest singer ever. He may not have been the most musically talented, either. Quite possibly, other bass singers were even more entertaining. But George Younce connected with the hearts of his listeners in a way that few have equaled and none have surpassed.

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131 Letters to the Editor

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  1. No doubt Younce was a great bass. But JD Sumner could out sing him, equaled him in the narratives, and connected with the audience just as well. Plus, he wrote hundreds of songs and is responsible for a lot of the innovations in SG. You compare Younce’s live performances to recordings of the others. I saw most of those names live, which is the only way to compare, and while Younce was one of my favorites he wasn’t on a par with Sumner.

    • No offense JIM but George could “outsing” JD on an off night. JD had the rumbling bass but even he would tell you that George was a much better singer than he was. Having the ability to hit double low C’s does not make a bass singer the greatest, the greatest has to have the complete package and I am a firm believer that no one did it better! Just my opinion though!

      • I agree with J.C. George’s singing was smooth, as opposed to J.D’s, and I heard them both in person.

  2. Wow…somebody commented on my page. Thanks! Appreciate the compliments. Take care n ttyl.

  3. But how many of those that you “write off” have you seen in a live in-concert setting? You mention ability to connect with the audience – a difficult comparison to make without being a part of the audience. Even a video of a live set is not the same as being there.
    I agree with Inquirer.

  4. Thanks for the mentions, Daniel…I appreciate them!

    But don’t you think that if it was so apparent how great Younce was, people would have noticed it well before he was on top of the industry with the Cathedrals? The things you cite Younce doing were done just as well(if not better)by a lot of the names I cited…perhaps that’s why audiences of the 1950s and 1960s didn’t notice Younce as much.

    Keep in mind that Younce and these other bass singers were onstage in the same concerts with Younce night after night, and if audiences then noticed what they say they did years later, they never said so. Furthermore, none of the other singers noticed all that either, though they did respect Younce for his talents.

    And most of the qualities you cite in Younce as being special to him weren’t. London Parris’ low A-flats were far more authoritative than Younce’s. As Jim said, JD could sing everything Younce ever sang, and he was also well known for moving audiences with his recitations, as did Big Chief and the often overlooked Bob Thacker. Even Younce’s vocal quality was far surpassed by singers like Aycel Soward and Armond Morales.

    Those are my opinions, but I’m willing to wager that people who heard these other gentlemen extensively would be more in agreement with me than disagreement.

    Again, Younce was a very good singer…but to say he was the best ever is a bit of a stretch, especially when most of the people who say that have no basis to make a comparison.

    By saying that, I don’t mean you, Daniel, because at least you make the attempt to hear as many different singers as you can. But all of us, to one degree or another, tend to gravitate to those who we heard the most, and first.

    • I have been to the concerts through 50 years, and Younce was wonderful, a man of God. However he was not the greatest.
      I must agree with Inquirer in everything he said. I produced the “Rangers” memoral album that all of the quartets carried to help pay his medical bills. He was one of the greats but with the Big Chief, and Armond he would have to come ina slow third. Vocal Artist..Younce knew how to do it and had all of the sound equipment to make it work. V.O. Stamps was no slouch.

  5. Inquirer, thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is true that George Younce was not on top of Southern Gospel in the 1950s and 1960s. But let me ask a question: When the Big Chief stepped on stage in the late 1940s as the bass singer for the Melody Masters Quartet, would his peers or his fans have thought of him as the best ever?

    I don’t know how you would answer the question, but I would answer it “no, probably not.” Big Chief did not really become legendary until he was with the right combination of voices.

    And by the way, I agree wholeheartedly with your final comment: “But all of us, to one degree or another, tend to gravitate to those who we heard the most, and first.”

    You know that I have a love for Gospel Music history. The Cathedrals got me hooked on Southern Gospel music, so even if the day comes when I acknowledge another bass as the best, I have to admit the Cathedrals will always have a special place in my heart.

  6. To answer your question, Daniel…no, I don’t think people were calling Big Chief the best ever that early on…but I must remind you of something.

    The Statesmen were formed under much different circumstances than were the Cathedrals. Hovie Lister wanted to assemble a “supergroup”…the best singers he could find. Once Jake Hess joined, he suggested to Hovie that they get Big Chief as well…for his reputation was growing even then, and Hess, JD Sumner, and others all thought Chief was the kind of singer Hovie wanted…and it turned out, he was.

    The Cathedrals were formed to be the house quartet for a major church, and Younce was chosen on that basis. They had no ambition to be #1 in the gospel music business, they were just trying to form a good group. Younce fit that bill as well.

    As it turned out, both men were perfect for their groups…it’s hard to imagine anyone else singing bass with either group.

  7. Daniel,

    Both you and Inquirer are engaged in an excellent debate, and I think both of you have made some well-nuanced arguments and counterarguments.

    But I’m a bit curious how you might distinguish between naming “the best” and naming one’s “favorite.” Do you see those as different categories, such that it would be possible to name a different person for each?

    And how would the category of “who do you believe to have been the most popular of all time?” fit in with the categories of “best” and “favorite”?

  8. I don’t know why people think JD Sumner was so great. Sure, he could get real low, but he was breathy and it just severely lacked in richness and fullness that makes a bass singer great, in my opinion. If I had to illustrate this point, I’d have to liken Tim Riley’s low bass voice to a tuba-like brass instrument, while JD Sumner just sounds like somebody who has been smoking for 50 years when he gets really low.

    Personally, when looking at vocal sound alone, I believe Tim Riley is the greatest bass I have ever heard. Forget about emcee work or connecting with the audience, and all that other stuff. It’s like Tom said, you really turn this into a discussion about who your “favorite” bass singer is when you start bringing up such things like that into the mix. In my opinion, Riley is vocally the most impressive bass I have ever heard because he has such a rich and full sound to his low pitches that JD certainly didn’t come close to having, and Younce couldn’t quite match.

    I am not the historian that the two of you fellows are, and I have not heard a whole lot from the other singers that have been mentioned. I’m only speaking based on what I have personally heard.

  9. There is no question about it George Younce is the best bass singer to ever to come along in Southern Gospel Music. He knew when to hit the low notes, but most of all knew when and how to blend with the rest of the guys. Most bass singers today just want to Boooarrrrr in the “special microphone” and see how low they can get all through the song.

    In my opinion, Jeff Chapman (Kingdom Heirs), Jeff Pearls (Kings Herald), and Burman Porter (Palmetto State) are the finest bass singers singing today that can carry on the legacy that George left them.

  10. Jared,
    I wonder if you are familiar with JD’s work with the Sunshine Boys and stint with the Blackwood Brothers as well as his early Stamps years. Some of the comments you made are those I have heard before from those who are only familair with JD’s latter years – a far cry from his younger days. BTW, JD isn’t my pick for best.

    • I think Will Adkins can keep up with the best mentioned above!

  11. Dean,

    I don’t know about Jared, but I do have at least two dozen pre-Stamps J.D. records. If he had continued singing that way throughout his career, I believe I would have rated him differently. As it is, I still believe he was one of the best.


    I think that George Younce may well have been the favorite, and some other bass, even perhaps one unheard of, may have been the best musically. You are right, it can be confusing to try to distinguish different terms. I think it all comes down to the question of what makes someone the best.

    It would be fascinating to know the total number of records and videos the Statesmen sold as compared to the total number of records, CDs, and videos the Cathedrals sold (in addition to the Gaither Homecomings in which they were star performers).

  12. Wow – big subject and one of my favorite ones. I was a huge Cathedrals fan starting in the late ’70s with Kirk and Mark, but I would have to say while George was one of my favorite people in SG and the best emcee I have seen I have never ranked him as the best bass singer. George was certainly better on recordings in the 70s and 80s then when I finally had the privilege of hearing him live in the late 90s. George’s last 5-10 years were tough for me to listen to because he had lost the breath support to sustain a note longer than a few beats, he was wonderful at getting the most out of what he had left.

    Of the bass singers I have heard in concert —

    Low notes with no end – JD Sumner, even towards the end of his career he would put more on key low notes in a song than most basses put in a concert.

    Biggest Voice – Tim Riley, his low C’s and B flats would fill a building like no one I’ve ever heard.

    Range and flexibilty – Gene MacDonald, listening to Gene’s rendition of “When They Ring Those Golden Bells” in concert was one of greatest bass leads that I have ever heard.

    Consistent Pitch – tie Tim Duncan, Jeff Pearles — I’ve never heard either of them hit a sour note.

    I never heard Armond Morales, Big Chief, Arnold Hyles, Aycel Soward or many others live but of all the “old” basses the one who impressed me the most on recordings was Bill Lyles, not thunderously low but an incredibly precise singer with a smooth voice.

    The “greatest” bass singer ever?? Of those I’ve heard – I’ll go with Gene MacDonald.

  13. Trying to say who the “greatest bass singer ever” is like trying to say what the greatest hymn or gospel song ever written would be. There is too much personal preference that goes into the mix. I have read all of the above and in part agree with most of it. But there are other really great basses that could also be touted as GREAT. Where is Noel Fox, Herman Harper, John Gresham. These guys were fabulous!

    I personally had such a fondness for George Younce – his singing, humor, testimony, emceeing, etc. He was a great man, in my estimation, not just a great bass.

    I believe JD, in his early years, took bass singing to a different level. He is always the first person I think of when I think of a Gospel Bass Singer. Yet there are so many others who are great in their own right and in the eyes of their own fans, that it is nearly impossible to say “Who the greatest bass singer ever” is.

  14. Dean, I probably am not familiar with those earlier recordings. All I have heard is what they have played on XM Enlighten channel 34 in the last 7 months. I guess it’s possible that they primarily play later recordings. So I’m not gonna argue with you on the point that he was much better in the younger years, because I don’t know if I have heard those older recordings.

    Sheldon, I agree that Gene McDonald does have an exceptional range. I was at NQC during the “Bass Singer Competition” (which really wasn’t a competition, but more of a showcase of some of today’s SG bass singers), and at the end they made a traditional SG quartet with 4 of the basses for one song, and Gene sounded surprisingly well as the tenor.

  15. Never had the opportunity to hear the early guys sing except on records but I would have to vote for Tim Riley. Didn’t pay much attention to bass singers until I heard him singing with the stellar Gold City of the early 80’s.

    Loved George Younce, but more for his big heart and audience communication. What set him apart from the rest? He was in the ultimate group of the 90’s and no one could compete with – as Daniel mentioned above – the complete package which included Glen Payne and the gang. Not to mention the most elaborate platform of the century created by Bill Gaither and a video camera. Only the angels really know…they are hearing them sing side by side all the time!

  16. Crispness, rhythm as no other bass has had, recitation as none other, range – whether high or low with no thin areas, percision in hitting the notes, tone, inflection, control, volume, interpretation that fit the message of the song, durability, innovation, stage presence, congeniality and looks – Big Chief was the complete package. Few, if any other basses, could have swelled and tapered a lyric in keeping with a lead like Jake Hess, much less stay up with him and mirror his phrasing the way Jim Wethrington did. Listen to all Statesmen recordings (from the early 50s through the mid 60s), and when it fit, he not only could lay down the low notes (What a Day That Will Be, When My Soul Takes Its Flight, Where Could I Go?, etc.), but he could enunciate while doing so. Most, if not all, current basses that have a true exposure to the last 50 years of SGM will tell you Chief is the benchmark. Younce was great – maybe the third or fourth best. Sumner was fun but lacked so much of the above qualities of the Chief. Not only do the pioneers deserve due credit, but remember their equipment (live and in the recording studio) was inferior to what groups have today. Pearles is fine. Riley has some of the Chief in him. Porter has pretty good rhythym and shows respect to the Chief by mostly staying with his interpretation when he sings his signatures songs. Buy, hey, I am thankful for the great music that basses have embellished through the years that shows why trios never quite have it – unless it is a ladies group. Above all, it is for God’s glory and not man’s, as we all know and as the truly great basses have told us in song.

  17. Tim Riley, Big Chef, Jeff Pearles, David Hester, and (the most underrated and unrecognzed talent in bass singing today. Also the best of all of these mentioned in this theread)
    He’s like Tim, rattles the building with a very rich, full tone. Yet Jim’s like JD with depth. His version of “Rainbow Of Love” maks JD seem an amateur.

    • Love to hear Jim Stewart sing…reminds me of Arnold Hyles updated with a good mike and sound system!

    • I don’t think anybody could ever make JD sound like an amateur, especially when it comes to singing low. Although Not my favorite, JD was nearly impossible to match in depth. I’m a bass singer myself, although not with a group,(I would like to be someday). This is a very hard topic, considering it basically comes down to personal preference. But being a bass singer, I would say that London Paris, and Tim Riley would be the ones I think of, when think of very loud room filling/Tone bass singing. I think JD could singer lower than almost anybody on a consistent basis. I feel the same way about George Younce, he seemed to be one of the nicest christian people around. He was also a very good bass singer. I grew up practicing to all these bass singers, with a music teacher helping me to make sure that I stayed on the right notes for as much as possible, because I didn’t know what keys I was hitting. I know that Tim Riley’s favorite bass is/was Big Chief. I think another very underrated bass singer was London Paris. He could really belt out a very loud powerful note, very similar to Tim Riley.

  18. i like younce for his singing and clarity of his bass notes– some guys have the ability to talk really low and sing loww notes, such as sumner and lest we forget the great paul downings? but their voices didn’t project with clarity as younce , who may not have the lowest voice but clean.

  19. As a Southern Gospel Quartet fan from waaaaay back in the days before amplification, and a retired Gospel Music DJ, I have heard, in person and via other means, most all of the “Great Basses.” I could never attempt to name “The Greatest,” but my all time favorite was Berl Strevel with the Blue Ridge. “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” was and will remain the number one song on which he led as far as I am concerned. I sure do miss those old timers.

  20. nobody sang lower than J D Sumner, but in the area of smoothness you must go with Armand Morales. Not to forget Richard Sturben, of the Oaks and Stamps, never overlook Paul Downing, one of the lowest, smoothest and best loved bass singers ever.

  21. Also Tommy, kudos to the Noel Fox mention. His vocals on the Oaks album (Light) were maybe as good as it ever gets

  22. I will love the Chief til the day I die

  23. All wonderful bass singers with special attributes noted only to each one. However,I’d like to add on that is rarely mentioned, but those who knew him will vouch for him – Fulton Nash, formerly with the WEatherfords. Actually Earl tried to hire him when Armond joined the ranks as I understand. Fulton is one, of not the smoothest bass and a phenominal ‘blender’ – as highly required by the Weatherford sound. This is also not to mention his recitations which, by the way were some of the best rendered – especially, “Heaven’s Sounding Sweeter”. Earl left the concert arena’s and sung mostly in churches, thus perhaps why Fulton isn’t included in many accolades as others.

  24. While I am not a bass, I have been singing gospel music for almost 55 years. I have heard and listened to all of the bass singers in this article. Some of them, are very good and some are just okay. I won’t go into that.
    There is no doubt in my mind that George Younce was the greatest bass I’ve ever heard. JD Sumner was known for his ability to sing lower than just about anybody. However, musicians can tell you that he was frequently sharp and his sound was sometimes muddy. George Younce had what I like to call nice round notes. I never heard him sing off key once even in the last years before his death.
    There were other basses who were more popular at times but lets face it, at different times, different sounds are popular. But fron=m a musicians standpoint, Grorge Younce was always musically far superior to most of the basses out there.

  25. George Younce was the best bass singer from mid 70’s until the late 90’s when his health started to fail him. George could do more than just hit the low notes, he could flat out sing. J.D. didn’t have the voice George did. Although Tim Riley doesn’t solo as well, he is a close second. Tim Riley hit the low notes with as much power and clarity as anyone and his voice blended in with the others beautifully.
    I think Gene Mcdonald is the next best bass out there today. Armon Morales was smooth and was part of a group Glen Payne said may have been the best ever. I think George and Riley liked the Big Chief as well as anyone. One can argue George may not have been the best ever, but I think he was the best during a certain period. I also think Noel Fox was a great bass who could sing who should have stayed around longer.

  26. Gene McDonald, Jeff Chapman, Eric Bennett, Mike Holcombe, and Jeff Pearles stand out from most of the bass singers out there today. I forgot to mention Herman Harper as one of the greats in my last post.

  27. I will have to agree with the writer of this column when it was written some two years ago. His last paragraph sums up George perfectly. George will always be on top for me. George tought me much about the whole package traits.

  28. Through the years, whenever I’ve heard a professional asked for his “all-star” lineup, there would be various names mentioned for the different parts; almost always, when the bass was chosen, it would be the Big Chief.

  29. IMO All these guys were awesome in their prime like JD with the Blackwoods, London Parris with the Rebels,George with the Cats,Chief with the Statesman,Herman Harper with the Oaks and so on,,,, Ive loved to hear bass singers from an early age and I think as mentioned above all had their time in the spotlight as the “best”. I still am amazed though at the quality and smoothness of Herman Harper and equally London Parris during the early sixties. If you can watch the videos on youtube i would highly recommend it as it is WONDERFUL to see these old videos, Its very sad that most of the GREATS are no longer with us.

  30. I haven’t had the privilege of hearing all of the bass singers mentioned, but of the ones I have heard George Younce is my favorite. And it is entirely possible that it’s because my earliest memory is him singing “The Laughing Song” on the Homecoming Kids “I’m Something Special” tape. I think he was definitely one OF the best ever, but I think that to name a “best ever” is not only difficult but impossible. None of has heard all the bass singers that ever lived, so we can’t make a real decision. And everyone has different qualities they appreciate. For pure lowness, yes J.D. Sumner had George beat. But George was, in my personal opinion, easier to understand. Of today’s basses, Tim Duncan is my favorite. Although, Josh Turner (who is actually a country singer) has a great, smooth voice…

  31. The inquirer stated in a previous post that when the cathedrals were looking for a bass they were only looking for someone to round out a house quartet for a major church, not a #1 quartet.
    While they were a group for a church the talent assembled was as good as any quartet anywhere. George Younce had performed for some notable groups before joining the cathedrals and was offered a job by the blackwood brothers shortly after joining the cathedrals. The blackwood brothers were a great group and they obviously recognized George’s talent despite inquirer’s suggestion that George was not considered one of the top bass singers. Also, J.D. could sing everything George did but just not nearly as well. J.D. was deep but his singing ability was nowhere near George’s. The inquirer also mentions Armond Morales. A great bass but to suggest that he was much better than George is quite an overstatement. I personally preferred George.

  32. I’ll back up #31 on one historical statement he made – I have also heard from reliable sources that George Younce turned the Blackwood Brothers down in the mid-60s to stay with the Cathedrals.

  33. I think that was in their book.

  34. Younce’s ststements like, “I am all ready and packed to go” have made a great impact on his listeners. He is the greatest. Not just his voice but all his truthful words and pleasent attitude makes him the greatest.

  35. I must first qualify by saying that “Chief” Wetherington was my uncle and that I have spent over 44 years in professional Gospel Music myself.

    I have had the pleasure of seeing, listening , and sharing the stage with all of the above mentioned bass singers. I was personal friends with J.D., Jake, Younce and some of the others being discussed. My input would only be to say that there is no such things as the “best” bass singer ever. Each of these men contributed their very lives to a common goal of attempting to sing the best Gospel music ever heard.

    I know for a fact that Tim Riley’s favorite bass singer ever was the “Big Chief” and that “chief” spent many night long sessions tutoring his buddy and pal, George Younce.

    I was there with my Aunt Liz when Chief died, and over heard J.D. say, “Let’s face it”. “Chief” was a bigger influence on our craft than any other individual”. “He looked better going for a note than anyone else did when they hit it”.

    I think that one could only say that certain entertainers may be better at one segment or more of what they do for a career, but not “the best”.. Also, whoever said that George was the best emcee has never seen Hovie Lister at work……………..Great discussion.

    • I have been looking up each name listed in the various entries here and listening to them on YouTube. I agree that it’s hard to compare bass singers. They are in groups that focus on different things. My favorite and IMO the best of all was Big Chief Wetherington. He is copied to this day by many of the above mentioned. Who can blame them? He influenced even J.D. Sumner. He could have been the “rock star” of his day! He was great looking, moved well, and could rock a song! This isn’t to say the others can’t – I enjoy them, too- but there will never be another Big Chief!

  36. I have not read all the entries posted but I would like to leave a comment of my own. I have to agree. There is no “best” bass singer, they all have their on qualities. Now like myself I have always loved bass singers the lower they go the better I like them. I would have to say my FAVORITE one will always be Rex Nelon of the Nelons then Mike Holcomb of the Inspirations. I love listening to any of them, the guys of old like the “Cheif” and George. I also love to listen to ones today like Tim Duncan with Signature Sound and Aaron Mccune of Gold City. My family thinks it is funny when I can be listening to the radio and know the group singing by the the bass singer.

  37. I love listening to the oldies on u tube, like Angie I think I could tell most groups by the bass, although some of the tenors were pretty distinctive too. Love Big Chief, London Parris for smoothness and body as well as ennunciation, surprised Rex Nelon only got one mench, he had those qualities too.
    G.Y. has got to be runaway for his banter line to J.D. ” …J.D. there ain’t nobody I wouldn’t rather hear sing than you…”
    They all served the Lord and blessed His people, my humble opinion? Big Chief with London a close 2nd.

  38. I would never want to hurt any other Christian brother or sister, but I do have a strong opinion about groups that have followed a similar path as The Cathedrals.

    I’ve had the opportunity to see The Hinsons, The Florida Boys, The Happy Goodman, Bill Gaither’s Vocal Band, and precious gospel singers like these. Its been marvelous from each one of them. The difference with any ministry; truly; is the annointing of the Holy Spirit from the Living God. From being a preacher’s son its so obvious when any gospel ministry is spending their time in prayer. With out knowing them personally its obvious to me that The Cathedrals spent time with God, and also had the annointing of the Holy Spirit. Its easy to discern this when a person has got the baptism of The Spirit him or herself. You all have great points, but from many years of listening to different ministries its obvious which ones have spent time in prayer.
    The Cathedrals had spent that time.

    • Could’nt agree more. His anointing is more important than any ability we have. You could tell the Cathedrals believed what they sang. I heard Mark Trammels testimony where he told how he was saved as a result of George and Glen’s witness.

  39. It’s true that George Younce was a wonderful bass, and a great emcee who could connect with his audience especially in the role of emcee, and I’m not taking anything away from his singing. James S. “Big Chief Wetherington had it all, great timing, knew his music, the ability to know each man’s part. rhythm-which is un-surpassed, showmanship-where he is un-equaled, low voice-actually lower than people usually heard him sing, this I know personaly because I was going to an auditorium where the Blackwoods and Statesmen were appearing and being a little late when arriving outside the building-I heard a bass singer sluring a bass note very low, and I thought-that’s J.D.Sumner, well when I got inside I saw Big Chief onstage. And I also wittnessed how Chief could hold an audience in the palm of hand when he did the recitation “The Common Man” at the NQC.

  40. As a teenager, I loved gospel quartets and sang bass in local quartets. When the Blackwoods and Statesmen changed the whole face of southern gospel, I was there, in person, taking it all in and loving it. — The Statesmen and Blackwoods were a package, always appearing together. The Blackwoods would appear first and warm up the audience and the Statesmen would go on next and sing until the end of the night. Hovie Lister, the greatest showman, would work the crowd into a fever, much like a rock concert of today. — JD was easily the lowest voice of the age but he did not have great harmonics and did not blend into the group. It always sounded like “JD and the Blackwoods.” His voice could vibrate the seats but it never sounded like an integral part of the quarted. I loved JD and wished I could hit the low notes like he could. — But I loved Big Chief more. He could not hit a double low C on his best day. But he could hit all the notes in all the music he ever attempted to sing. His voice had great harmonic quality. He could sing high up in the baritone range and it still sounded like full-blown bass. Most of all, his voice blended perfectly into the group. There was never any sense that he wanted to be more important or better heard that the rest of the group. — JD considered Chief the best bass singer in the business. He considered the Statesmen the best quartet in the business. His public statements made that clear. — So, who is the best bass? If you want to be entertained by sub-low sounds, then JD or Tim Storm. If you want to hear a great voice blended with three other great voices, then Chief wins by a clear margin. — I love them all. Most nights, the last sound I hear before sleep is from the Statesmen, Blackwoods, or Rangers. I consider Chief to be the best bass quartet singer of all time. — Thank you for allowing me to give may historical observations.

  41. George Younce was undeniably a great bass singer. Was he the greatest? That’s a good question. Personally, I think he had a better voice than J.D. Sumner. J.D. could certainly sing lower than George, but he lacked George’s tone quality and annunciation. George had a smooth, sweet voice that was pleasant to the ear. J.D. had a really nice voice in his younger days, but it got pretty gravelly as he got older.

    In short, I agree with those who think Big Chief Wetherington was the greatest bass singer of all time. I didn’t become acquainted with his music until several years after his death, but I still get goose pimples when I listen to him. I would rank Younce a close second to Chief, though.

    Has anyone here mentioned Brock Speer? I think he was one of the most underrated bass singers of all time. By the time he appeared on the Gaither videos, he had gotten on in years and was past his prime. In his younger days, though, he could hold his own with the best of them.

  42. I grew up in Southern Gospel music during the 50’s and 60’s and lost interest as the older singers/musicians started to pass on. Vocally speaking as far as bass singers go, nobody has the resonance, smoothness and ability to blend like Armand Morales. J.D. will always be the one with the lowest range. Burrel Strevel had a clarity in his lowest notes (b flat a, g ) that others didn’t. London Paris had power to burn and a good low range but not always big and full, nobody, but nobody was nor is a showman like Big Chief. Noel Fox had class and blended well with the Oaks and a good bass voice.
    The best all around bass singer in my opinion sang with many, groups and did over 200 characterizations for Disney. He was the ONLY Tony the Tiger for Kellogs from 1954 to present and his name was Thurl Ravenscroft. His voice, whether speaking or singing was so resonant yet crisp and clear like noone else I’ve heard in my 56 years of living.

  43. I have heard most of the bass singers mentioned on this page and agree with alot of the points that have been made. I feel that while the older generation may have set that standard for what we have come to love, the bass’s singing today have taken this standard to a whole new level.

    The best bass singer in my opinion is Eric Bennett. This guy is smooth and low. Great rip and solid down to an Eb below low C . He also has an exceptional ability to sing the lead part and connects with their audience every time. Jeff Chapman, Gene MacDonald, and Christian Davis are other great examples of this new era of Southern Gospel Bass Singers. All the old time bass singers in heaven have got to be proud of this new bunch of singers carrying on their traditions.

  44. Oh and by the way, great blog! I love these . . .

    • As someone above suggested, there is no “best ever”. It’s all a matter of opinion. It’s whomever suits your ear and your eye. I became an avid southern gospel quartet fan in 1958 and have seen most all of the top groups in the years since. I’ve seen all of the bass singers in my ranking below, most of them multiple times. I have not seen nor heard Tim Riley so I can’t say about him. Here are my favorites and how I would rank them……

      1. Jay Simmons Best ever. Could sing low with good, crisp tones, could sing higher melody and knew how to “sell” his part. I saw him in person many, many times.

      2.George Younce, Gene McDonald, Richard Sterban, Eric Bennett, Gerald Williams and Big Chief. I saw George with the Blue Ridge & The Cathedrals, saw Gerald many times, the Statesmaen several times and the Oaks several times.

      3. Mike Holcomb, Cecil Stringer, London Paris and Billy Todd. I’ve seen Mike and Billy several times and Cecil many times.

      4. Noel Fox, Rex Nelon, Brock Speer and Herman Harper.

      A distant 5th. Buddy Liles, Burl Strevel, Bob Thacker (all air)

      A distant last. J.D. All air, no quality, no good crisp tones.

      My opinions pertain only to their bass singing, nothing personal.

  45. As someone above suggested, there is no “best ever”. It’s all a matter of opinion. It’s whomever suits your ear and your eye. I became an avid southern gospel quartet fan in 1958 and have seen most all of the top groups in the years since. I’ve seen all of the bass singers in my ranking below, most of them multiple times. I have not seen nor heard Tim Riley so I can’t say about him. Here are my favorites and how I would rank them……

    1. Jay Simmons Best ever. Could sing low with good, crisp tones, could sing higher melody and knew how to “sell” his part. I saw him in person many, many times.

    2.George Younce, Gene McDonald, Richard Sterban, Eric Bennett, Gerald Williams and Big Chief. I saw George with the Blue Ridge & The Cathedrals, saw Gerald many times, the Statesmaen several times and the Oaks several times.

    3. Mike Holcomb, Cecil Stringer, London Paris and Billy Todd. I’ve seen Mike and Billy several times and Cecil many times.

    4. Noel Fox, Rex Nelon, Brock Speer and Herman Harper.

    A distant 5th. Buddy Liles, Burl Strevel, Bob Thacker (all air)

    A distant last. J.D. All air, no quality, no good crisp tones.

    My opinions pertain only to their bass singing, nothing personal.

  46. How can a person who has heard all the singers mentioned in the above post and is an avid southern gospel fan not know who Tim Riley is or not have heard him. In the 90’s Riley and Younce were the basses that were mentioned when it came to who was the best out there during that time.

  47. George was the best in the old days, and Tim Riley’s the best in todays time !

  48. What makes a bass singer great? Low notes? Rich baratone range? Great recitations? Harmonics?

    If low notes is the criterion then J. D. Sumners wins. After all, he was listed in Ripley’s as the world’s lowest bass singer. But later, so was Tim Storm.

    We forget that gospel music is not written with double low C notes. Most of the notes on the page can be sung by a regular person at a Sunday meeting. The double low C’s are added as grace notes by the performer.

    If you like double low C’s, then J.D. or Tim is your man.

    But, there are three other singers in a quartet, in addition to the bass. It is the job of each person to blend in with the others when he is not singing a featured part. I love J.D., but he seldom blended in.

    I personally attended the “Wally Fowler All Night Sings” in the 50’s. I heard the Statesmen and the Blackwoods in person. In terms of harmony and overall performance, there was no comparison. The Statesmen were far superior. The audience agreed.

    When the Statesmen took the stage the audience went wild. It was like watching the Beatles take the stage in later years.

    Big Chief could hit all the notes in the song, could do slides down into subterranean depths, his recitations were (and still are) unmatched, could sing way up into the baratone range while still sounding like a bass, and best of all, could harmonize with the other three singers.

    If the audiences were any indication, Big Chief was the best loved bass ever to take the stage.

    Today, I occasionally enjoy playing J.D., and some other great basses. But nine times out of ten I listen to the men who, in their own time, were called “The Perfect Quartet.” The Statesmen consisted of Hovie Lister, Denver Crumpler, Jake Hess, Doy Ott and Big Chief.

    Many other quartets were (and are) fabulous. But in terms of harmony, precision and vocal dicipline no quartet has ever matched that Statesmen group. No sounds of that quality were ever again recorded after Denver went home to his Savior.

    Each member of that group was, individually, the greatest voice of his time. More than sixty years later, I still have not heard their match, individually and collectively.

    Thanks for bearing with me. I believe that Big Chief was the best bass singer I have heard in my sixty-eight years of loving, listening to, and singing Southern Gospel Quartet Music. Bill Lyles was cast in that same mold and was also a great bass.

  49. This has been a very informative and historically interesting conversation piece. Like many in here, I have followed Southern Gospel since I used to go see Jake, Mosie, Wally, Cal Newton, & the Big Chief as the Melody Masters Quartet in the 1940’s. I also followed J.D. Sumner & the Sunny South Quartet and then the Sunshine Boys.

    I studied Hovie and the Statesmen for years before discovering just what made them the “perfect” quartet. I learned that their success was from absolute teamwork and dedication to their craft. I discovered that what made them great was the fact that any one of them (to the man) was capable of entertaining their audiences by himself. However, they worked together and achieved perfection as a group.

    I also observed their faith habits. Each was a sold out, born again believer with a heart for service. I have also noticed that the Cathedrals built a large part of their accomplishments by singing old Statesmen (Mosie Lister’s & Chief’s) arrangements. It is said that duplication is the highest form of compliment. I believe that George Younce once said that the Big Chief was the greatest bass singer ever.

  50. I loved this comparison, but must agree with some who’ve said how can you say who is best? It’s totally a matter of opinion. I would like to add a name to the pantheon of great bass singers and that would be Ken Turner. While I don’t like his voice quite as much as George’s I feel Ken was the very best at blending with his group. It was magic when Pat, Jimmy, Cecil and Ken would sing one of those smooth songs like “Heaven for Me”. If I was starting a quartet George or Ken would be my pick.

  51. Forgot to mention several others whose names have been left out. First would be Harold Gilley. What a beautiful deep voice. He could have sung in any era. Then I would add Big John Hall. Not really a quartet bass singer any more but what a big voice. I don’t know of anyone with a bigger voice. He was the Gene McDonald of his day. Or maybe I should put it that Gene is the John Hall of this present day.

  52. I thought your initial post here was interesting because it seemed like at a certain point, the musical considerations got wrapped up with George’s personality. You said he was a consummate showman, could connect with fans, had a big heart—every word of which is true. But when I talk about who was the “greatest bass of all time,” or for that matter greatest tenor, baritone, whatever, it seems to me like it makes sense to focus solely on the voice. Even if I disapprove of a singer or musician’s personal life (I could name names, but I won’t), if they are hugely talented (which is true in some of these cases), then I would still consider them when considering who “the best” is at what they do.

    Vocally, I’ve always said either Armond Morales or Tim Duncan would be my pick. But there’s no denying George’s gift. And actually, one of the things I liked about George was his relaxed, smooth upper register. He almost did better when he sang in more of a baritone range. Even though I still prefer Timmy, I don’t think he’s as comfortable in his upper register yet as George was.

  53. If you have read my previous comment you will know that I consider Big Chief the best quartet bass of all time. But, the difference between “best” and the “next twenty” is small. There are, and always have been great bass singers.

    But here is something to consider. Until JD’s time, the entire quartet shared one or two mics. All the mics were identical. JD ushered in the “one mic per person” era. Even more, the mics were “tuned” so that the bass had a bass mic and the tenor had a tenor mic.

    Just think how great the old-timers would have been with a tuned mic shoved into their mouths. Big Chief almost never had a dedicated mic, and neither did most of the fine old bass singers about whom many of you have written.

    One special bass singer that is seldom mentioned is Billy Todd. If you are lucky enough to have some very old Florida Boys records you can enjoy Billy’s wonderful voice.

    Billy’s voice was so strong that he could mimick a trumbone and fill the building with sound. He could delight audiences with his trumbone rendition of “On The Jerico Road.” Billy was a special, gifted singer. He is gone to his maker now, and the world seems incomplete without him.

  54. Maybe two comparative charts are required:

    BASS singers & SINGING Basses?

    Those who feature at the top end of BOTH charts & communicate the GOSPEL message as well, should be worthy of the “best” accolade – not in ‘Ripley’s’ but in SGM?

    Big Chief,
    George Yonce,
    Tim Riley,
    Mike Holcombe,
    Gene McDonald…

    would make my personal preference in the “combined” category.

    Of those who would top one list but not another:

    Tim Duncan,
    Eric Bennett,
    Rex Nelon,
    Harold Gilley.

    But, in terms of communicating the GOSPEL as a BASS singer –

    George Yonce is the benchmark that the younger generation can emulate.

    Timmy Duncan is probably the best young BASS singer in fulltime SGM today, but for communication of the gospel [not just the song] he still has a bit of work to do.

    Funny thing is, in following the thread on the ‘super group’, discipline and work ethic aspect; I can’t help but compare Hovie Lister & The Statesmen, with today’s: Ernie Haase & Sig Sound – basses and all!

    • By the way…

      I should have said, a) I don’t have the knowledge some of these commenters have, and b) this is a great informative historical discussion – on a lovely Christian blog site.

      Lets keep the GOSPEL and Christian testimony near the top of the agenda always, brothers and sisters, the “salt” of “grace” makes good seasoning, even on blogs!

  55. I read all of the posts here today (even though I read at least some of them a long time ago.) I agree with quite a few posts and some made the points I would have made.

    I will add that my three favorite basses are George Younce, Tim Riley and Richard Sterban. Each had / has quality voices, depth and cut, resonance, fullness, etc. Even these three are different from each other though. As far as more recent basses, I feel that Aaron McCune put most other current basses to shame. It was impressive the richness and depth he has at such a young range. As good as he is now, I can hardly fathom what a couple of decades will do for him. Duncan is okay, but I prefer McCune. In my mind the only current SG bass who bests him is Riley.

    Herman Harper and Noel Fox were very good. Harper had a more classical sound, richness, fullness, cut, and probably some low notes on Fox. Even if he hadn’t, he certainly sounded lower on the same notes or even higher. Fox, was great on soulful leads, higher leads, but could still sing low notes. He also had a more modern sound that I feel helped the Oaks when their style changed and pushed the envelope even more. Sterban was a nice combination of the two. He kind of split the middle. He gave them depth and cut of Harper, but smooth and more modern sounding like Fox. He didn’t have the soul or higher notes like Fox, or the almost operatic sound of Harper, but probably was the most flexible in that he had some gifts of each of the two which allowed them to do some of both.

    Morales has a melodic, almost mellow voice. He did blend good, but at times blend can happen because they don’t have cut. I am not sure how much cut he has, but he gets lost in the mix a lot. Solo wise good though. Sterban supposedly offered the Imperials job, but turned it down. I have never been able to substantiate this though. However, back then, Sterban had a lot of Armond’s qualities, but with still a bit more cut. If you listen to his bass in the Stamps days and before, you see that after he joined the Oaks he gained several low notes and more cut.

    J.D. was a good entertainer, and yes had more cut in his earlier days, but even in the seventies lacked the depth and cut (if he had them before.) When it came to dragging out the bottom, no one touched him for a long time, but like mentioned above there was a lot of air. He even said that Younce had more projection (even though an owner on another site tried to argue that Younce didn’t. It was real obvious already, but the fact that Younce grabbed his mic and finished the lick on First Day In Heaven is proof. I assume the mic level and adjustments were kept the same when Younce grabbed it, and Younce’s low C was far more solid than George’s G above (a note that most choir basses can hit.) The owner argued that it was because J.D. was slumped over and unable to support, but later I saw a clip from another performance presumably the same day and session, where J.D. did the entire phrase and there was no blatant difference.

    I haven’t heard a lot of the earlier stuff mentioned above, but even the ones I did haven’t changed my mind on the ones I mentioned.

  56. Well George Younce in my opinion is the best bass singer there will ever be in the SG field. Many people take note of him not holding notes and all this other things after a certain point in his career, which was probably due to his heart attack/attacks in the 80s and before he went on to heaven. I feel that early on in his career the groups he was with did not need for him to be such an outward person, not saying that Younce was never the kind gentle spirit most of us have come to known through the latter portion of The Cathedral years, with Trammell and Funderburk, to the Gaither Videos. But I am just saying in his earlier year’s the groups he was in were not centered solely around him, as were groups like the Blackwoods or Stamps with JD or London Parris, or even the Big Chief and the Statesmen, etc. Hope you guys are following me, it’s just those very early groups needed those larger than life personalities to set them aside from all the others in order to gain the reputations they all had, at their respective times. By the time Younce joined Payne, Koker, and Clark at the Cathedral of Tomorrow, they were just a paid church quartet. Once the left in 63 or 64 that’s when more people began noticing Younce as he had to become the groups official emcee. It was then and after much group changes that their recognition fully took off, I dont think many people really realize how long The Cathedrals somewhat suffered until they finally got a break in the 80s and came into the spotlight with the aforementioned lineup. But through it all Younce has always been very clear in his low notes, not a gravler like many of his counterparts. I sit and awe when I listen to him scale down and the words are as clear as day, where as singers like Sumner, Parris, Chief, Speer, Nelon, and so on. All these men and more bass singers I have heard from Tim Riley to Tim Duncan, Glenn Dustin, past and present and makes no difference. Their quality, tone, resonance, emotion, and general singing ability are just not overall as rounded as Younce’s was. I mean even the fans agreed, go to the Singing News Award Archive and who won the most Awards for Fans Favorite Bass Singer? George Younce. How many times did he win it you asked? 14 times, yes 14, who is the next closes? Mike Holcomb who has only 7. And mind you the last time this happened with any other Singing News Award, they Renamed it the Anthony Burger Award before its revisions after 1990, and he only won his award 9 times and that was 20 years before his death. Younce won his awards from the span of 1983 til 1999 the year the Cathedrals officially retired. So say all you want, yes some people lean to the first bass they hear singing, to a point. Some people dont know everything about every bass singer known to man, yes this may be true in part. But I know this, I found a fascination of SG music when I was a child, I love bass singing. I am a bass singer, and I have listened to nearly every bass singer major and minor, how many of you have even heard of Jim Ayars? If you have do you even know what group he is in? If the fans say he is the best, his counterparts such as Sumner and Nelon even bowed out to his emotion and tone, Sumner even asking Younce to sing at his wife’s funeral because of his love and friendship that no one else could give him. Even Bill Gaither himself dedicated an entire tribute to younce, none of the other basses who passed away from the gaither videos have even received that honor, just a 15 min segment in a 2 hour video honoring those others who had passed on from the homecoming. Just listen to Younce from the beginning of his singing tenure as a lead singer, to when his voice changed and he began singing bass, you see and he even admits that the time spent singing those lead parts those many years helped him get the range and control of his voice that was and still is unique to bass singers in SG. No one will ever have the power and clarity of Younce, and the funny thing is, no one truly knows how low he could even go, Younce never showed off on stage or in the studio. Younce many times sang the song the way the Lord touched his heart and made him know how to sing it, very few times did he go into the cellar under the basement, but when he did you could just stand back and see that this man was indeed an all around bass singer.

    • Hey Inquirer Mind,

      i love Jim Ayars’ voice. he was with King’s Heralds from 1977-2005. I know he’s not in SG league, but if ever Jeff Pearles give him a try at NQC, every one would be surprised!

  57. Numero uno – George Younce! Always has been the best. Nuff said.

  58. I’ve never heard such a supple upper range as George had. He didn’t even sound like a bass singer sometimes.

  59. This post has gathered an astounding amount of attention over the years. I read the comments. Sometimes I disagree. Sometimes I have to nod my head as I see their point.

    But I never one time have been shaken or even jiggled from my complete conviction that George Younce was The Best Ever.

  60. If we’re talking low notes, Younce hit a low Eb on a Johnny Cash Recording. Richard Sterban hit the same note on their From the Heart recording, and I heard that Riley can hit the same note (but there are no recordings of it to my knowledge.) Granted, Sterban told me he didn’t have that note everyday and I imagine that none of the three did. However, the very lowest notes (although very important to me for a bass to have at least a low Ab or G), is only part of what makes these basses stand out.

    • What recording was that?

      Younce’s lowest recorded note on a Cathedrals project was a low F-sharp on “I’ll Live for Him” from Land of Living (1987).

      • I didn’t know that! I have that recording, and I always find it funny. It seems like he’s out-singing the Statlers’ bass on their own song, and deliberately rubbing it, in the way he slows it down.

      • I will answer this now in case I didn’t do it elsewhere here. The Johnny Cash album is “Believe In Him”. George also hit a real solid low E on “The Love of the Lord” on one of his solo CDs. As far as “I Believe I’ll Live For Him”, I think that is a low F, not F#.

      • Aaaaaarrrrrrrrrgh. Tapes and tape deterioration over time…

        I still only have been able to get my hands on the cassette tape version of that one. I haven’t found a CD yet. In fact, that was the single one I had the hardest time obtaining – harder even than the two Cathedral Trio projects.

      • Are you referring to the “Land of Living” tape or the Younce one? I have never seen a CD for “Land of Living”. Kyle once said he saw one as a reissue, but I have never even seen evidence of it anywhere. Check your email in a bit. By the way, some cassette decks don’t have good standards and run fast. Many boomboxes are this way. When they do, of course not only do the songs’ tempos increase, but the pitch is raised.

      • The Land of the Living one. I have seen a CD somewhere, presumably a reissue, but it wasn’t for sale.

        I’d still pay a decent amount of money for an LP version – even that would beat the tape version! But I’d love to find a CD/mp3 for sale of that one one of these days. 🙂

        Maybe the tape player is the culprit. All I know is that, as it plays for me, it’s an F-sharp!

      • You ought to check out songs on cassette in known keys and see what happens on that deck. I would love to see the CD copy and info from it if you know where it was. Is it on your discography?

        Also, if you notice, several (if not all) of the Cathedrals Records You Tube videos suffer the same problem with the tempos and keys. I had a boom box that did that and recently at church I replaced a professional deck that started doing that. There is a pitch adjustment on the deck, but that wasn’t where the problem lie. I think something happened with a belt or maybe heads or something on it.

      • I have also had at least one LP player that was a half-step or more off. It was my first or second one.

        (It just occurred to me that this was off-topic, so we’d probably better discuss deteriorating record players and tape players further via email or in an open thread!)

      • I thought you snapped the LP version of that one up back when I “met” you on your Cathedrals forum. I found a site with two for sale, perfect condition, and bought one. I PM’d a person who’d been asking on your forum, and when they didn’t respond, I posted it publicly, and I was sure you got it!

      • I only vaguely remember that – I think something fell through, but I don’t remember what exactly.

      • 🙁 That’s too bad. I’m not selling! 😀

      • I was in the studio the day he recorded “I Believe He Died For Me, So I Believe I’ll Live For Him”…played piano on that cut. At the time, it was the lowest note George had ever recorded…according to him.

        Sadly, that album has never been legally released on CD. Thankfully, I do have a few of the LP versions in my collection, since it was my first recording with them. Great memories, and a great recording!

        BTW… for the purpose of this discussion… I believe George was the best bass singer…ever. I heard him sing over 500 concerts, and he never seemed to have a bad night. He was certainly the most consistent and versatile bass singer I’ve ever heard…and I’ve heard just about all the “greats” mentioned in this thread…in person. They’re all great in their own rite, but George was unique.

      • My copy was an audio cassette. Great project, and it’s regrettable that it’s so hard to find these days!

        The timing of your concept was interesting, since I had actually been, over the last few days, working on building up the nerve to ask if George ever had an off night. Fascinating!

      • Amy, no offense to Harold (Statler’s Bass), but lots of basses can outsing him. He might have a low B, but I think that is about it. One time the Oak Ridge Boys were on the Statler’s show. (I think the first episode even). The joke was the Oaks came out as if they were the Statlers. They started singing “I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You” and let me tell you the whole group sounded worlds better than the Statlers. Now, I already knew they were much better, but it was funny to hear them do it with a Statler’s tune. 🙂

      • Yeah, I know they can. I enjoy the Statlers’ harmony, but I know they didn’t have jaw-dropping talent. But it does seem like George is really rubbing it in; he slows that run down so it really catches your attention. Anyone familiar with the original has to hear what’s going on!

      • I have said it several times, but as far as I am concerned Younce, Riley and Sterban are the three best basses I have heard. Granted Big Chief had style, Morales is smooth, J.D. was lower, and there were some strong basses in the sixties and before, but the three I mentioned have low ones, cut, and nice voices. They are all good singers who sing low.

  61. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_4BOLieR0M

    here is a good, nay great, example of younce’s clarity and emotion while singing in some of the lowest ranges i have ever heard a bass singer of past or present sing on a record.

  62. All of these singers were great in their day. I am partial to my daddy “Bob Thacker”. Miss him so very much since his dealth in 1999. I can we will never forget their voices because all we have to do is put on a tape, record or cd to remember all of the great bass voices.

  63. J.D.Sumner has always been my favorite bass as far as sheer low notes goes. But I have to agree with the majority that Big Chief was the most well rounded of them all.

    And I’m also impressed that this discussion thread has been going strong for nearly 5 years. 🙂

    • It is surprising and impressive! This is one of those threads that just never dies!

      • That’s because George Younce was the best. 😀

      • (laughs)


      • Yes, he’s the best person that brought me to the Southern Gospel field. 🙂

  64. Absolutely, George was the best. I have heard most of the other basses. Yes, it’s somewhat subjective, but he had the total package. Voice, personality, spirit. He was an awesome singer, who just happened to have a low voice. Tim Riley comes close, but his vibrato takes away from his tone…IMO. Tim is though my current favourite.

  65. I was recently able to purchase one of the Cathedrals classic albums. Just listening to that original group of Bobby Clark, Danny Coker, Glenn Payne, and George Younce. What and incredible sound this group had!!! Hope this doesnt sound disrespectful but contrary to the opinion of some Southern Gospel did not begin and end with the Statesmen of the 1950’s. Getting back to the Cathedrals Classics album, George’s voice was to me the highlight. He sang in the era of the Great Crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and others. I’ll tell you what George could have made millions with that beautiful voice, but instead used it for the Lord. Name me another bass singer past or present who could have made it as a crooner.

  66. “I sang with both Younce and Riley in their respectives “peaks”…Younce was the best singer to sing bass…Riley was the best bass singer”- Mark Trammel (talking to me at NQC 2007)
    I loved to hear George and all of us have such fond memories…but I prefer Riley…simply beacuse of the cut and the resonance…Younces endings seemed a bit sloppy to me but the man could sell a song…love them both…but for me it’s Riley

  67. Actually I believe Younce probably peaked in late 60s, early 70s. The first Cathedrals were untouchable. Trammell joined around 79. Younce had health problems in the 80s. Riley was truly in his prime when Trammell sang with him. Both are great. I talked to Mr. Riley who said his favorites were George and the Chief. Riley and Younce both set themselves apart.

  68. Re-visting this dicussion severall years after it was started, I have to say this….
    The pianist at my church (who plays in the save vein as Haskell Cooley) has said severall times that to sing gospel music, you have to feel it.
    I got to thinking on that a day ago, and started to compare some singers, with Bob’s (the pianist) statement in mind.
    Clairfying, I beleive that what my friend means, is those performers who “flow” with the music. It’s like the song is an extension of who they are. Or, more percisly, they unite as one solid unit with the song. Singing with their whole body; hands, head, feet, ect. They’re extremly at ease on stage, and they just seem to rule the stage as they sing.
    In shoret, they love to sing, and the audience really, REALLY sees it when they are on stage.
    Immediatly I thought of “Big Cheif”, how he let his whole person be in communication with the audience. Saw a YouTube video today where he’s even using his eyes to connect with the audience, showing his special “charm”.
    I saw Palmetto State Quartet in 2004 or 2005, (Rick Fair, Kerry Beatty, Andrew Ishee, and John Rulapaugh were the rest of the group.) and during that concert, came to the mental conclusion that Aaron McCune is the closest to Big Cheif that this generation of Gospel Music fans will ever see in person.
    He had “it”.
    Like was said about George, the complete package.

    As far as my favorites now, I still have to say “Big” Jim Stewart is on top.
    After him, Tim Riley, Gerald Williams, London Parris, and another that I just simply cant remember who it is…..
    AAGGGHHH!!!!!!!! SHAME on me.

    Worth mentioning is a man from Akron, Ohio, named Bob Cristie…….. Wow!! There are YouTube videos of the group he was with, called The Gospel Echoes. But most have not soo good sound, doesn’t convey Bob at his best. Videos sound like it’s muffled: Bob is not muffled.
    Seen him severall times live, full sound, good lead voice, and when he sings low, it’s like a bottomless pit. Very full and “punchy”.
    Watch him….. he could REALLY go somewhere.

    • What do you call a thread that runs for five years?

      No, I don’t know either. But great to see Aaron McCune get a late mention.

      Now that he is back on stage, and singing with 3 other great guys, he deserves mention.

      Top Three Younger Basses?

      Aaron McCune, Tim Duncan, Ian Owen.

      Who sound very like?

      Big Chief, George Younce, Armond Morales.

      Praise indeed.

      • What do you call a thread that runs for five years?

        Successful! 🙂

        And, by the way, David Mac, you made the 100th comment in the thread. 🙂

      • David, I actually mentioned Aaron before that and Angie beat me to it. I had to re-read this thread again and it was nice to enjoy it all over again.

    • @ Quaid, thank you for your kind words about my husband, Bob Christy. Interestingly enough, George Younce was always his favorite bass singer and who he models himself after.

      • KCHRIS,
        Just re-visited this thread, and saw your comment.
        I think credit should be given where credit is due. I’ve heard severall of our “locals”, and honestly say that Bob is the best bass in the state of Ohio.
        Tell him I said that he should try out for Legacy 5. Justin won’t want to let him go, but, oh well, he can hire me to replace Bob!
        I’m better than I used to be!
        Anyway, good to hear from you.

  69. Pull out your copy of the Cathedral’s “Oh Happy Day” (1982). This album really display’s George’s versatility.
    “Yesterday” is a great example of his great “lead” voice.
    “Go Jonah” displays some good deep notes.
    “Keep On Walking” is a highly impressive bass lead. Lower than most bass singers today would lead a song.
    For a multitude of reasons, I am really impressed by this album.

    But the best of the best of the Cathedrals, as I’ve said before here, is “The Cathedral Quartet Sings Albert E. Brumley Classics”. This album lets fans hear the way quartet music is supposted to sound. Everythis was great. George was at his peak.
    As much as I’m a Danny Funderburk nut, I still have to say that this album is the best they ever recorded.

  70. I totally forgot about the song “Turn Your Back”, (from “Something Special”) George totally rules this song.

    Here’s the studio version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOWwBh1xu9M

    The song’s arrangement on this video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hVcsjGEyWw ) is more like Gold City’s arrangement than the Cathedrals’ studio cut.

    • It seems like Aaron discovered the song from Youtube videos, so if that is true the fact that Gold City’s is close is probably not coincidental.

  71. I have heard several times now the term”air” when referring to some of the bass singers. At no time has the term “falsetto” been mentioned. There is such a thing as a bass falsetto and a bass voice can be cultivated so finely that a bass falsetto is hard to detect. I think most of you have been polite when referring to the bass falsetto as “air.” Of the “true” bass singers in SG, George Younce and Bir Chief were two of the best “true” bass singers of all time.

    • Are you talking about what voice teachers term “vocal fry”? If so, even George would utilize it on occasion – take the live 1997 version of “Echoes From the Burning Bush” – but he rarely used that portion of his range.

      • Although a big fan of Ken Turner, the Blackwood Brothers 1980 album “On the Jericho Road” illustrates a perfect example of a disastrous attempt at “vocal fry” on the title song. Not to belabor the point, but “vocal fry” is forcing a bass voice to sound lower than the singer can naturally sing, (aided by the use of a special mic.} In my opinion, there should be an asterisk by J.D.’s name in the Guinness Book of World Records.

  72. Many good opinions here, but I have to go with Big Chief. He was the total package of one of the greatest bass voices coupled with movie star good looks and moves/style all his own. His recitations were the best of anyone in Southern Gospel music. Check out Little Boy Lost on Youtube…

  73. Daniel, you are right, the thread never dies! 🙂
    “I’ll Live for Him” off of Land of Living is an excellent recording for showcasing George’s low notes. Thanks for the comment Gerald. I have heard his E & E Flats as well on those 2 songs mentioned.
    Being a bass singer myself, I have studied many, many, bass singers, and I have lots of recordings imcluding: studio, live, as well as live recordings people recorded in the audience from years past with no editing. George Younce was without a doubt the best bass singer of all time. The ones mentioned are great, but when it comes to the complete package, Younce is the best. Vocally, he could hit low notes with power, right tone placement, and correct pitch. Not only could he hit low notes, but he could sing lead in a range most bass singers would not even try and do it with excellence. My top 3 would be George Younce, Tim Riley, and Big Chief Wetherington. Each bass singer has great qulaities, but for the all time best, this title goes to George Younce.

  74. Well…here I am at the desk finishing off trades and saw this thread and i had to re-read it…LOL…we never get enough of bass singer discussion…Riley is my number 1…then Younce and Sterban, but I am thankful to have heard so many good ones…down through the years…a couple that nobody mentions are Mike Bullock and Harold Gilley….Gilley would be at the top of most peoples list if he had a run with a major group!

  75. Roy Pauley, in the June 2102 Singing News, said the following about Gerald Williams:
    “His consistency and durability is only matched by perhaps Brock Speer and one or two others. Gerald has it all as a bass singer-he has the ability to solo, he has rythym and plenty of depth.”……….
    “Gerald-along with Cheif, George, Brock and J.D.-you’re one of the industry’s true heavyweights.”

    A wonderful voice, for sure! He’s one of the last a dying breed… the thick, “ol’ time” basses. Of bass singer’s I’m aware of, only Jim Stewart (who is also, tragically, grossly unrecognized and underrated), and Ken Turner (If I’m not mistaken as to who is singing on a particular Blackwood Brother’s song.) have the same type of “sound” that Gerald has.

    • Jim Stewart has been with the Pine Ridge Boys for 50 years or so. They were very popular back in the day, but you rarely hear of them now. Jim is probably the most overlooked bass singer. He is still singing with them on a part-time basis. His son Larry is also a very fine bass singer and was with the Singing Americans about 20 years ago.

      • I glad to see that there are others who recognize what a talent Jim is. You’re only the 2nd person (that I remember) commenting in agreement with me.
        Quite a shame. If more people knew about him, his popularity would most likely skyrocket. We wouldn’t be talking about many of the bass singers that we do today, cause they just don’t have “it”, they fall short of the standard that Jim sets.
        Even thos that I’d consider the “creme of the crop”, Paul Harkey, Tim Riley, ect., IMO, take a back seat to Jim.
        Larry, as you may also know, joined the Anchormen in 1990.
        I had a chance to see the PRB’s in August, and Larry aptly does the job. No, his voice isn’t quite the same as Jim’s, but you can still tell there’s a Stewart there.
        Larry & the guys have done quite a bit of work to improve the quartet. He could really take the guys to the “next level”.
        As a side not, did you know that Ray Dean Reese, Charles Burke, and Eldrige Fox were all with the Pine Ridge Boys? A man named Harold Pickens, who used to drive bus for the Oak Ridge Boys, told me one time that he has a record that Ray did with them. (He didn’t say if Eldridge or Charles were on that LP or not.) That’d be quite a find, if you could ever get a hold of another copy.

      • “If more people knew about him, his popularity would most likely skyrocket.”

        Well, that would stand to reason. 😛

      • I’ve always loved hearing Big Jim Stewart sing. He has a big full bass voice that needs little amplification to carry.

        He’s always been content to sing with the Pine Ridge Boys rather than working his way up the ladder to better known groups. He’s never impressed me as the sort of person who was interested in major fame in the industry. He just enjoys singing.

        The Pine Ridge Boys have been a fairly solid group through the years. Jim has always been the one with “star potential,” but I don’t think he minded singing with some average singers. That’s not to say the other three group members were always average at any given time. Some were very good, but like any regional group, some who came through the group were better than others.

  76. The pre-58 Statesmen Quartet was an interesting group. Two of them were of American Indian decent and one was a Mormon. Chief was, of course, Indian as was Doy Ott (a Mormon). Perhaps we remember Chief as a top bass singer because he had such a harmonious group within which to sing his songs.

    Denver Crumpler was easily the best quartet tenor I ever heard. And Jake Hess is a legend. Anyone who wishes to hear Doy Ott demonstrate his superior baritone voice should listen to “Wait for Me”, a song he wrote and sang. Hovie Lister was not only one of the all-time best piano players, but his rich baritone voice seldom failed to bring the “All Night Sing” audience to its feet. And there never has been a better showman.

    I am not taking anything away from modern quartets. They are a different sound for a different time. But if any of you young people want to hear what is possible when great talent is combined with a work ethic that is seldom found in today’s world just get your hands on a decent album of the Statesmen pre-58 group. The recording will be more than half-century old and will not be in pristine condition. But you will not fail to recognize that you are listening to something unique, a performance of harmony that may never be equaled. You will understand why they were labeled by their peers as “The Perfect Quartet.”

    • I do have a number of LPs collecting their pre-LP-era singles, and the Statesmen’s sound never got better than what they did. I love Crumpler’s voice.

    • I have read that Chief was not Native American at all, but was actually of Middle Eastern heritage. Supposedly, a group (Pakistanis?) migrated to Florida many years ago and Chief was related to them. Seems far fetched, but maybe it’s true. Maybe someone can confirm this???

    • Let me clarify….
      To me, Paul is in the creme of the crop of the younger basses, although not in my top 5 favorite basses. Tim is one of the best from any generation of bass singers.

    • I gather that Hurricane Sandy hasn’t hit you too hard, since we’re able to converse today.

      • 60 mph winds, and two trees down across the parking lot at my apartment building, but I was able to make it into work safely.

        You weren’t rescued from work, so………
        Stay as dry as you can. I’ll let this thread get back on topic now….
        Those songs could use a bass! Many here might nominate George, if it were possible.

  77. Here’s a clip of the original Pine Ridge Boys, recorded at the 2005 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. Jim Stewart is featured on “We’ll Soon Be Done With Troubles And Trials”.

    The rest of the group members are Charles Abee, Charlie Burke, Miles Cooper, and Wayne

    This is a 28 min. clip of the Blackwood Brothers, J.D., Wally Varner, Cecil, James, and Bill Shaw, from the 1990 GOGR.

    The video starts with “The Holy City”, then J.D. adds some comedy into “Rock Of Ages, Hide Thou Me”. He mentions the baby crying, and someone makes a crying sound.

    • Actually, it was Jackie Marshall playing the piano.

  78. Having heard so many bass singers live in concert for about 65 years I’ve heard some great bass singers but I would name James “Big Chief” Wetherington as the greatest bass of all-time, I recall George Younce saying “Chief was the best”. Big Chief could sing low, he had probably the best rythym of any bass singerthat ever lived, and had such great showmanship-well Chief had it all when it came to Bass singing, and he was outstanding when it came to doing a recitation.

  79. I have not heard all the great bass singers, but the ones I have heard, and would rate in the top five, are, and not necessarly in this order, Geo Younce, Jeff Chapman (Kingdom Heirs), and Gene McDonald, they can not only sing Bass they can do it all from bass to lead, and Jeff is a great immitator of people like Willie Nelson. This does not mean they are the best, but I think all three are great bass singers!!!!

  80. I have heard a few bass singers and they are very good singing bass parts but George Younce is my favorite when it comes to singing a solo or lead.