Frequent lineup changes

A recent post prompted an email discussion over one term I have been known to employ on this site, “frequent lineup changes” (or a close equivalent). In Southern Gospel, what constitutes frequent lineup changes?

One thought first: It is far better to work with an objective definition than a more subjective option, one prone to change at any momentโ€”comparing a group’s stability to another group’s. This is typically used at one end of the spectrum or the other, e.g., “Their lineup is less stable than the Hoppers, so it’s unstable,” or “Their lineup is more stable than Gold City’s right now, so it’s stable.” That just doesn’t cut it, since one can probably always find a more stable group and a less stable group than any under discussion.

Is an objective definition possible?

I would say so. The definition I have generally followed, and plan to more consistently follow in the future, is this: A Southern Gospel group with frequent lineup changes is a group that, over the last three or four years, has averaged one or more personnel change per year.

How accurate and appropriate is that definition? Do you mentally use another when you see the term?

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60 Letters to the Editor

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  1. That definition seems pretty sound to me. Although I might say that you could expand it to one change every two years still constituting a frequent change. My question would be, are frequent changes a deterrent to following a particular group?

    • It depends on the group. Some groups have a singer of legendary status, whom you go to see no matter who’s on the bus with him that week.

  2. So, a subjective term is looking for an objective definition? “Frequent” is ambiguous by definition, allowing room for interpretation, just like “many,” or “several.”

    If it’s that big of a deal, why not just quit using the term “frequent” and replace it with the exact number of personnel changes any specific group has experienced in a time frame.

    Personally, I think this seems like an AWFULLY nit-picky post. “Help me define ‘frequent’.” Honestly….does it even matter?? Must be a slow news day.

    • Using the exact number of personnel changes within a given time frame could make for some awfully clunky sentences.

      It might not matter to you, but there are some people who read this site who seem to care quite a bit.

      • Ain’t that the truth. ๐Ÿ˜†

  3. Daniel, “frequent” is subjective, as a term – so the discussion can hardly be objective, regardless of the comparative frequency.

    Also, as in your illustration, family groups tend to less change, because they are, in the main, family!

    Perhaps a more pertinent debate might be on, “Do personnel changes alter the image and position of the group within SGM?” If so, is this a good thing or not, and does it make a difference of it is planned line-up changes or unforseen?

    The GVB, for example, has had quite a line-up alteration – witness the Reunion DVD’s – yet since its inception out of the BG Trio, the focus, style and genre position has been quite stable.

    • I say it just depends. It depends on a lot of things, from initial group image to the reason for turnover to how it’s pitched to the fans.

      For example, everybody knows Gold City is scrambling. The unusual frequency of their turnover has hurt their image by failing to give fans any sense of stability. And when Josh left so suddenly, with no warning at all, that just left everyone with questions and suspicions, and perhaps rightly so.

      The GVB is an intriguing question. I think it’s because fans of the group learned not to lean too heavily on specific group members. I suppose you could say that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Bill always was a genius at putting together blends that were good, then different good, then different again good, etc. I think people just came to expect that and got used to it. It was never constructed around just one lineup.

      • GVB might be more that they DON’T necessarily keep the same style, but get who they feel is the best or has something different to offer, and then tailor around that. They do enough things people like that even if other things on the same CD aren’t as good, we stick with them. They have also had some powerhouse lineups and I suspect since they do less dates, pay more, and Bill having the ability to put groups together, find their strengths, find good songs and do them well etc. it just works.

  4. When I think of stable, I think of L5 (even though there have been tenor changes), Triumphant, Hoppers, Booth Brothers, Primitive QT etc. When I think of unstable – I think of Gold City since ’06 & groups like Palmetto State… There will always be changes – so relatively stable includes groups like Greater Vision, Karen Peck & New River, Inspirations, Mark Trammell QT etc. If you’re hesitant to buy a ticket because you’re not sure who will be there, that is unstable.


    • That seems like a decent rule of thumb.

  5. Let me throw this out, after having read the post and comments. To me, even though groups like Legacy Five and Karen Peck and New River have had several changes in tenor and the male singer, respectively, I think of them as stable because the core members are there in L5 and because Karen and Susan have been there for the duration. So I think maybe we could further state that groups with only changes in one particular slot, even though perhaps frequent, tend to be more stable than, say, groups who are changing at nearly every position. No matter who the Florida Boys had, as long as Les, Glen, and Derrell were there, it was stable. But a group such as Dixie Melody Boys or Anchormen, who have gone through periods when you didn’t know who was going to be with them when the bus pulled up, would be perceived as unstable, at least during that time.

    Of course, a group’s status can change from unstable to stable and vice versa, depending on what is happening at any given time. I think the term “frequent” is subjective, sure, but I think that if you have an average of a personnel change every two years or so, that seems rather frequent to me. And maybe the stability factor depends on the volume of changes, too, like in Gold City, to lose a piano player and a tenor so close to each other appears to present the picture of instability. Yet the Perrys lost a piano player and changed baritones within nearly a month or tow and I don’t hear anyone talking about them being unstable. I personally believe both frequent group changes and the stability of a group have to be taken within the context of the success of the group at the time. The Perrys, for exmaple, have not missed a beat, even through their recent changes and Tracy’s heart issues.

    • But it wasn’t just that Gold City lost a tenor and a piano player close together. It was that this is merely an extension of a pattern of instability that we can see over a period of years. Josh had been with the group for less than a year, I think? Whereas Troy Peach had been with the Perrys for longer.

      So you kind of have to look and see what the overall pattern is.

      Myself, I think it is kind of subjective, and I wouldn’t spend much time trying to come with a super-specific definition. Daniel’s seems reasonable.

      Another group I would say is pretty stable would be Signature Sound. Now granted they’ve only been around for about seven years (hard to believe given the impact they’ve had), but even so, their turnover has been relatively minimal.

      I would say that the hugeness of the story when a member leaves depends on the hugeness of the group. For example, the Gaither Vocal Band is notorious for its revolving door setup, but it was still big, big news when Guy left. However, I think that was because even though the group as a whole isn’t famous for its stability, Guy in particular had been a stable fixture of the group for over a decade.

      • Who you kidding NSF?

        Who has had; 3 piano players, 3 lead singers, two sets of hair-styles, two name changes, three lengths of neck-ties, more choreography changes than Riverdance, more funny jackets, more weird cowboy boots, more influences since 2003 –

        than EH&TSSQ Dance Troupe?

        LOL. you just biased, cause Ernie he da man!


      • Funny, David. ๐Ÿ˜›

        Notice I did not say that they were completely stable, nor that they are the most stable group in SG. The commenter above me was talking about a group’s having a fairly stable nucleus, or “foundation” if you will. It’s true that they’ve had three lead singers, but one wasn’t with them for long because Ernie and Garry parted ways and Shane went with Garry. (Garry himself was more like a co-owner of the group—true, he was also the pianist, but didn’t have the same status as Roy.) From that point on they had a good five or six years with the same vocal lineup, and the bass and baritone have been there from day one (not counting the manager himself on tenor of course ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

        The style fluctuations are a separate issue—not particularly relevant in a discussion of group TURNOVER, eh what? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • I’ll take an apple turnover please. Thank you.

      • Mmmmmm… sounds good. ๐Ÿ˜›

      • Ernie is the man….It’s just I still miss Tim Duncan..
        Ian is good!!!!

  6. Ditto to everybody else, I guess. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I think I get Daniel’s desire for a definition. As a news provider, mindful of “the power of the printed word,” you wouldn’t want to unjustly pronounce a group “unstable.” This is one area, though, where I don’t see how it’s possible to avoid subjectiveness. We know if a group has frequent lineup changes – be that good or bad – and we know that another group doesn’t. We don’t really even have to pull out our calendar and check.

    Do the lineup changes affect the cohesiveness of the group? Do they fall out of step and fish around for a new style after each change? Are we left with questions about the group’s viability?

    I guess my questions go farther than Daniel’s simple question about what is the norm and who changes more frequently than that. After all, the GVB has sometimes seemed to be built on the image of a changing, yet consistent group of the best talent out there. It’s never been a negative thing to me.

    • My purpose for the post: Whether I stick with the one I offered or go with another, I think that if I have this discussion in public, at least my frequent readers will know what I mean when I use the term (and I can refer anyone minded to be objectionable to my use of the term to this post).

      • What do you mean by “frequent” readers?

      • I was almost going to ask the same thing. ๐Ÿ˜›

      • Four days or more per week.

      • LOL. [filler, filler, filler]

  7. Why do you want to track this at all? What Earthly good comes from putting a label on group changeover.

    • Ben – simply the earthly good of not wasting your time, week after week, to take three extra sentences to say what I could say in one word.

  8. why is my post getting deleted! i don’t appreciate this DANIEL!

    • It is getting deleted because it is inappropriate, and not in the spirit of the comments accepted here.

      (I wouldn’t reply publicly except that you asked publicly.)

  9. since when is the spirit of truth not appropriate? ok let me try 1 more time! I don’t think group changes are good, sometimes they can help the sound of a group, but sometimes they hurt the fan-base of a group. I do get tired of hearing the same old story on the press releases, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    • sourceofpower – it is important to make truthful statements, but there are ways to do it that are appropriate on this site, and ways that aren’t.

      That aside, that comment is fine.

    • sop, not to sound smug or anything, but Daniel is right. If you haven’t already figured out that the bar is set very high for quality of comments on this blog… learn it now. Daniel’s not trying to squelch healthy debate here, and it’s not like people are constrained from speaking their minds. But it should be done in good taste. Which is a perfectly acceptable standard, I think.

  10. If a person leaves a group for a negative reason it is best to simple say “he/she left the group for personal reasons.” It is not wise to undermine someones reputation or ability to find other work. Someone may not mesh with one group but would another.

    • True, but what if it’s a negative reason that doesn’t mean the group member is having serious problems (like a marital or abuse issue)? What if it was some sort of disagreement or falling out between employee and employer that would be embarrassing to talk about in public?

      See, it’s those cases where it gets tricky. You still don’t want to divulge details, but you don’t want to create a false impression either.

      • It is called “personality conflicts.” Just b/c two people don’t get along doesn’t mean they can’t get along with someone else. There are different types of management styles and if you don’t like the management style of the group you are with it is better to leave peacefully and don’t bad mouth the group you are leaving.

      • Completely agree. I was just saying that in some cases, it might be harder than you might think to word an honest, yet respectful press release that doesn’t shed any bad light on the employee. The “honest” part is key.

  11. well in the real world you have to put on your resume, or application “reasons for leaving prior job” listing prior 3-4 jobs with contact information, how would this float in SGM?
    please forgive me NEW SoGo Fan i will try to do better next time.

    • The reason for leaving should be revealed to the manager of the group to which a person is applying. The manager and the applicant can agree/disagree on how much information should be revealed to others. Remember there are privacy laws that have to be followed. As a manager I was very careful when a reference was requested. If I couldn’t give a positive reference it was best to just confirmed the dates of employment and say no more.

  12. The fact that we are even having this discussion is because (the bottom line) people care. SGM is about the only type of music I know of where you can establish a friendship with a singer. When you hear of that singer leaving, you naturally want to at least know what happened.

    Some people, however want to know gossip and will never be satisfied with the standard answer that seems to be used most often. With that said, if a group offers a public statement then we as the fan base need to be satisfied with that answer. Pray the the group and the individual and continue on with praising the Lord.

    As far as if a group is stable. Then I would simply ask one question. Are they still spreading the Good News of the Gospel? If so, then that = stable in my book. Past that, it’s all subjective.

    My two cents …

    • Actually I would disagree that it’s all a matter of gossip. Some people might be genuinely concerned that something under-handed is going on. I myself became concerned this year about that issue for one lineup. Like you said, people build relationships with the artists, and when something isn’t adding up, that’s a worry point. They want to know that they can still respect the artists, and when it’s a favorite group, that question is all the more urgent.

  13. OK…here’s my serious response.

    I imagine you must have said a group changes members “frequently” and that group or one of their fans complained.

    Go ahead and call it frequently, if you consider it to be frequent. If someone objects that it’s a negative characterization, let them post their objection. There’s no need to even defend yourself at all on an issue like this or try to pin down a specific definition.

    • I agree.

      (filler, filler)

  14. FYI Gold City is now looking for a new lead singer. Bruce T has resigned from the group, effective immediately.

    • What’s new… [filler, filler]

    • From the report I got, they have already find a new lead, and I for one am very excited about the choice. He hasn’t been with a really well-known group yet, but he’s a fantastic singer that has deserved some recognition for quite some time.

  15. I guess this is true. I sure do hate to see this group struggle like this, they are one of my favorites.

    • Yeah. We can be cynical about it, but it really is a sad thing.

  16. I tell you, it is getting to a point where they might as well have no pictures of members or bios on their site or CD covers. I realize that sounds snarky, but I am sorry this is getting ridiculous. It is sad to see one of the top groups of the late eighties and nineties not able to keep a steady group and their descent. Tim is THE SG bass on the road today and Daniel is a good baritone.

    • Just wait. Bet Tim is next to go…

      • If I were a gambler, I’d bet the farm against that.

      • Well . . . I wouldn’t bet a farm under any circumstances, but especially here. Chris West (of Mercy’s Mark fame) is presently riding the GC bus and singing a couple of songs each night, apparently being phased into the position.

      • True, but at that point last night, your post about Bruce’s leaving hadn’t gone up. In that case, then yes, I’d agree with NSGF. I was speaking from the point of view that Tim would be next following Roy Webb and Josh Cobb.

      • Gotcha.

  17. Has anyone been able to verify the report of Bruce leaving the group?

    • A press release is forthcoming. I would expect one sometime before January.

  18. No, I’ve not seen it anywhere else. NSGF, I thought as far as cover pictures and website updates, this would be the time for Tim to go (sarcastic). However, this might get Tim to stay longer as if he is gone too, there would be no one but Daniel who had been with the group even at NQC this year.

  19. I cannot believe that people would actually balk at buying a ticket to see their favorite group simply because one member had left? If that is the case, they’re not much of a fan to begin with. One person does not a group make. The Cathedrals had several changes through the years, but the sound and style remained constant even with the changes. At some point Tim will likely leave Gold City, and I for one will be sad the day he does. However, I am still good friends with Danny and I will continue to support GC when they are in my area. Yes Tim is a very big part of what made GC popular, but he is one man, and a group is far bigger than anyone person. Support the group, not the individual members!

    • Ben, I can somewhat understand what you are saying.

      Some people would indeed count their allegiance to a group name. Others, though, count themselves a fan of Tim Riley, with whatever group he may happen to be – Gold City, Dixie Echoes, Southmen etc. Wouldn’t you say it’s legitimate to be a fan of a specific individual?

      Let me give a concrete example. I’m a John Rupalaugh fan, such that I’d go see him with whatever group he happened to be with at any given point – Dove Brothers, Palmetto State (missed him by a week with them!), Blackwood Quartet, Freedom, etc.

      • I have to jump in here and say that I am drawn to a group by one of more individuals in that group. SG fans have been fans for different durations of time and we are not all alike in terms of allegiance to a group name or sound.

        I have only been following SG for about 1 1/2 years and I find the changes in a couple of groups that were at the top of my “favorites” to be disillusioning. Even something as seemingly inocuous as Jason Crabb’s keyboard player Justin Ellis leaving, (although that has turned out fine with his replacement Blaine Johnson).

        I went to three GC concerts in 2010 and my 2 favorites( which I knew they were before I saw them in person, from viewing YouTube videos)are now no longer with them. I am not going to drive a couple of hundred miles to a concert, not knowing what I’m going to be hearing when I get there. It is just too risky for me. Maybe after reading rave reviews, I would do so.

    • Ben, really it all depends on how significant the group change is. When Guy Penrod left the Gaither Vocal Band, I became a casual fan of the group, but that didn’t mean I “wasn’t much of a fan” to begin with. I loved the lineup with Wes, Marsh and Guy. But when Guy left, the whole shape and structure and feel of the group became completely different. It wasn’t really the same group any more.

      So no, I wouldn’t automatically say that being upset when a member leaves meant you weren’t a fan in the first place—if that member played a vital role in making the group sound the way it did when you were a fan.

  20. The NQC has cut groups out of the main stage in times past because there was too much turn-over within the year. Now do you think that rule will apply to GC? How about two tenors, a new pianist, and a new lead.

  21. Blackstone you bring up a great point. I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet but I think it’s safe to say “not a chance” of that happening.