The Inspirations at 50, Part 1

This year, the Inspirations celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. We’re going to commemorate this landmark milestone with a series looking at ten of their all-time greatest albums.

#10: Two Shoes (1998)

inspirations1998twoshoes1000The Inspirations’ Canaan era made them legends. After signing with Crossroads, they quickly returned to the top of the genre. Two Shoes is the strongest release of the interregnum. It contained two songs, “Two Shoes” and “Resurrection Ground,” that remained concert favorites for over a decade. Perhaps partially because of how much the song meant to him personally, the latter song became Matt Dibler’s signature song. With Dibler’s recent return to the group, the song returned with him.

Song list: Thousands Of Tears; In God’s Hands; It’s Been Worth Every Mile; Walk A Little Farther; Anything Goes; Don’t You Want To Come Along; Resurrection Ground; Always Have, Always Will; I Want To Go There; Two Shoes.


#9: Touring The City (1973)

inspirations1973touringthatcitymaxIf for no other reason, this album deserves a spot on any top ten list for its title track alone. “Touring That City” became tenor Archie Watkins’ signature song.

Song list: Touring That City; The Fa Sol La Song; I Know He Hears; Love Reached Down; I’ll Make It To Heaven Some Day; Matthew 24; On Higher Ground; Only One Door; I Believe He Died For Me; When I Walk On Streets Of Gold; I Can’t Do It Alone; After The Sunrise.


#8: Pure Vintage (2001)

inspirations2001purevintagemaxAfter spending over a decade as an independent artist, the Inspirations’ decision to sign with one of the genre’s premier labels, Crossroads, proved momentous for the group’s history. After years without a major presence in awards or #1 hits, this album, and its mega-hit “I’ll Not Turn My Back On Him Now,” immediately put the group back on top. The song was a #1 hit for two months in January and February 2002, and it also won Song of the Year at the Singing News Fan Awards.

Song list: I’ll Not Turn My Back On Him Now; The Great I Am; He Broke The Chains; Prayer Moves The Heart; Mercy At Midnight; Heaven Gets Sweeter; He Swept Me Off My Feet; When Jesus Shall Reign; The Book, The Blood, The Blessed Hope; Endangered The Christian Family.


#7: Cool Water (1964 or 1965)

inspirations1964coolwatermaxWith how amazing the Insiprations’ run with Canaan was, it’s easy to overlook how strong their early work is. (Or perhaps it’s because of how hard these albums are to find.) They had been together only a year or two when they recorded this album, yet it is filled with strong performances in their already distinctive style. Songs like “On The Sunny Banks” and “He’ll Hold to My Hand” would make at least intermittent apperances in their live concerts for decades. This remarkable release is the strongest of their early years.

Song list: On The Sunny Banks; I Will Follow Thee; Gettin’ Ready To Leave This World; Gonna Sit Down And Rest A Little While; When We Get Home; Cool Water; I Love To Call On Jesus’ Name; Glorified Body; Well Done My Child; He’ll Save My Soul; He’ll Hold My Hand; Come Spring.


A Video Highlight

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Song Snapshots #30: Mary’s Wish

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

Ask Joseph Habedank which song, of all the songs he has written, is his all-time favorite. You might be surprised! He won’t name one of his #1 hits, or even his Song of the Year-winning landmark hit “If You Knew Him.” He will name a song Ivan Parker recorded in 2011, “Mary’s Wish.”

Joseph Habedank and Matthew Holt became close friends and began writing songs together when they were both members of The Perrys. They continued writing together after Matthew left the group in 2008.

One day, shortly after Matthew’s departure, the Perrys bus was parked at a Wal-Mart in Huntington, Tennessee. Matthew drove out to Huntington to meet Joseph at the bus and take him out to write and do lunch. As they walked into O’Charley’s, Matthew asked Joseph, “What’s the song you’re wanting to write?”

Joseph sang him the chorus to “Mary’s Wish.” He recalls, “Matthew started crying, which he doesn’t do very often—he’s not a crier. It moved him.” After lunch, parked Matthew’s car in an alley next to a Kohl’s, and finished the song in his car.

The song was inspired by a comment Matthew’s wife Lindsey made while she was expecting their first child (their son, Fletcher). That December, as Fletcher’s due date drew near, she told Matthew, “Now that the time’s come, I’m almost a little apprehensive about exposing him to the world. I almost wish I could keep him inside of me.”

She paused, then added, “I can’t imagine how Mary must have felt.”

“That was one of the more special songs we’ve ever written,” Habedank recalls, “probably my favorite thing that I’ve ever had a hand in.”

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Cathedrals Family Reunion expands beyond initial date

Last year, Ernie Haase, Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, Scott Fowler, and Danny Funderburk held an event they called a “Cathedrals Family Reunion” in Fort Worth, Texas. Yesterday, the event’s promotion team, IMC Concerts, posted a video to YouTube, announcing that four more Cathedrals Family Reunion dates have been added: Akron, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and, Orlando, Florida.

The video is also worth watching for a memory Ernie Haase shares about being there the day that George and Glen decided to retire the group:

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Friday News Roundup #219

Worth Knowing

  • Freedom has a new pianist, Cody McCreary.
  • Joe Kitson has left Paul’s Journey and plans to finish his college education. He will be replaced by Dennis King.
  • Marshall Hall’s younger brother, Matt Hall, passed away. He had cancer.

Worth Reading

From the “take it from someone who knows” department, this week’s Letter to the Editor is from legendary tenor Ernie Phillips, reflecting on Pat Barker’s decision to come off of the road:

I got acquainted with Pat while Eric was singing with the quartet. A great talent and sweet spirited man. I know how hard it is to have to come to a crossroads in life, and having to leave a ministry that you love and have a passion for. I also know that there are priorities in life that the Lord expects us to be aware of, that being immediate family. Been there, done that. The Lord always opens other doors of opportunity. Although he will be missed no doubt, I’m sure Pat has prayed about his decision and will be at peace. Let’s just pray for him during this transition. God Bless you Pat, and hope to see ya down the “Glory Road.”

Ernie Phillips

This was particularly neat, because Phillips and Barker made very similar impacts on the genre in a very similar period of time (around 7/8 years). They are two of a very small handful of individuals who will still be mentioned as legends decades from now despite spending less than a decade in the genre’s leading quartets.

Worth Watching

It’s Good Friday. Southern Gospel is filled with songs perfect for the day, but this old Mosie Lister song is one of the best:

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Jordan’s Bridge signs with Mansion

Jordan’s Bridge has signed a recording contract with Mansion Entertainment. Pianist Joe Lane comments: “We are so thankful to have been able to get with a great record company like Mansion Entertainment. Phil and I had worked with Bill Traylor in the past and he was always been so good to the quartets we were in and a great Christian man. I never would’ve dreamed that a group that has been together a little over a year would have gotten a break like this. … We have had a great time  and look forward to a long relationship with Mansion.”

Mansion President Bill Traylor adds, “Our paths with Jordan’s Bridge crossed due to a long friendship with Joe Lane and Phil Barker.  After learning of this new group’s endeavors they were pursing, I was personally excited about the opportunity to work again with some old friends.  As I anticipated, the sound, the blend and the extraordinary talent of these four men called Jordan’s Bridge, set them in the ranks of Southern Gospel’s best.  I’m grateful for the association and expect that all who hear them on radio, see them on TV and experience them in concert will agree with me that Jordan’s Bridge is destined for success.”

John Mathis first met the group while engineering their Mansion debut. He said, “Right away their experience and knowledge of Southern Gospel Music was evident. That’s when I get excited for the artists I work with, when I see first hand that not only are they talented but they know the music they want to sing, they know the songs they want to share and they know who they are and how to present that. They have all the right elements to make some great strides this year.”

The group’s debut single is “All Who Call,” a song penned by Rodney Griffin. Griffin comments on the song: “I really believe the heart of God was shown when He had Paul to write in Romans:  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  I’m honored that Jordan’s Bridge is singing the song that I wrote after reading this scripture all those years.” The song was originally recorded by the Mark Trammell Trio in 2003, on their first project of new songs. It can be previewed on the group’s website,

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The Taylors sign with Stow Town

Stow Town Records announced yesterday evening that they have added The Taylors, a rising Southern Gospel family group, to their roster. Stow Town co-owner Ernie Haase commented:

To see these brothers and sisters—all in their early 20’s—perform together is something to behold. I think everyone will hear what we first heard in The Taylors—passionate, tender voices blending into glorious overtones of a heavenly sound. You are going to love The Taylors!

Jonathan Taylor added: “We’ve been so impressed by Ernie always wanting to do his best in everything he’s been called to do. We look forward to seeing how God uses this new relationship to spread our music to unexpected places!”

The Taylors’ national debut release, Measure of Grace, is scheduled to come out on June 10.

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Song Snapshots #29: The Joy of Serving Jesus (Couriers, Blackwood Brothers)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

“The Joy of Knowing Jesus” is one of Neil Enloe’s best-remembered songs. But when he’s asked about the song’s inspiration, he answers, “This is not that interesting.” But then he clarifies: “I mean, it’s interesting, but it’s not inspirational.”

He elaborates: “We did missions for years in the West Indies. We were in Barbados one year for ten or twelve days. We had an outdoor crusade every night, in a park, and huge crowds. But during the day, I had an occasion to go back to the church, and on the platform, they had an old upright piano. I was sitting at the piano musing about Jim Hill’s songs ‘What a Day That Will Be’ and ‘For God So Loved,’ his two big songs.”

He thought, These songs are so simple. There’s a lot of songs in Southern Gospel that are just really ultra-simple. But simplicity is very, very powerful.” And as he was thinking about those songs, he thought, “Well, I could do that. I could write a song that simple!”

“So I wrote ‘The Joy of Knowing Jesus,’ and little did I know that it would connect! It’s not an inspiring story at all, and it wasn’t meant to be funny, but that’s just the way it happened!”

Within a decade, many of Southern Gospel’s leading groups, including the Blackwood Brothers, the Hoppers, the Inspirations, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Rebels, and the Singing Americans had recorded versions of the song. In recent years, the Dixie Melody Boys and the Blackwood Brothers both brought the song back with their 2007 and 2010 versions, respectively.

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