Song Snapshots #28: Ordinary Man

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

Several months after Joseph Habedank joined The Perrys, Joel Lindsey invited him to Nashville to co-write songs together. “Joel was the first person to bring me to Nashville to write,” Joseph recalls. “I was eighteen years old. It’s been almost ten years ago.”

One day, they met at Daywind to work on a different song. After they worked on it for a while, Joel said, “I’ve got another idea,” and brought up the idea for “Ordinary Man.” The Booth Brothers were looking for songs at the time, and Joel and Joseph wrote the song with them in mind. (They passed on the song.)

It ultimately took five or six years for the song to get cut. At the time Joel and Joseph wrote the song, it probably would not have occurred to anyone to pitch it to the Kingsmen. But in April 2008, they released a CD entitled When God Ran; its title track became a #1 hit in February 2009.

Joseph Habedank recalls that he was surprised when he heard that The Kingsmen had cut “Ordinary Man”; “It’s not what you think if when you think of the Kingsmen.” But, he added, it made more context in light of “When God Ran”—“That song was an old Contemporary Christian song from back in the ‘80s. In that light, I could understand why they cut it.”

 

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Song Snapshots #27: That’s All I Need

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

Joseph Habedank had the idea for “That’s All I Need” on a Singing at Sea cruise in 2009 or 2010. “I just had this chorus going in my head,” he recalls, “and I thought, ‘Nothing will ever come of that. It’s too traditional, it’s too quartety.’”

He sang the song for his fianceé Lindsay. (She is now his wife). She said, “I actually think that could be good.”

He said, “Yeah, but it’s so traditional!”

She replied, “Well, just keep working on it.”

So he kept working on the song; he would write it while driving from his home in Nashville to visit Lindsay at her home in Kingsport, Tennessee.

He wrote it with his own group, The Perrys, in mind. “Troy Peach was with us at the time,” Joseph remembers; “He wanted to cut that song. And it just didn’t work out; he couldn’t convince the rest of the group to cut it. And then the Kingsmen cut it, and had a #1 with it!” It was his second #1 hit, and the first he’d written by himself.

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Song Snapshots #26: The Next Time I Get Married (Couriers)

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

“Even from your earliest years,” Neil Enloe observes, “the identity of your gender is very strong. And it struck me one day that we are going to be the bride of Christ. Men will be part of the bride! So I began to joke in our services about it. Dave would talk about my songs, and I would say, ‘Oh, I got another one; I already got the title. And it’s called the next time I get married, I’m gonna be the bride.'”

“That happened almost two years,” he continues. “Finally, one day, I said, ‘You know, I’m baiting this hook, but I’m not catching anything. I really should just go ahead and try to put a song together.’ And that’s what I came up with. But I established myself in the first two verses, without any question, that I am a male species. I am married, I have children, I have grandchildren. However, in the next time I get married, I’m gonna be the bride!”

The Couriers recorded the song on their most recent release, Changing World.

People ask if he has received criticism for a song. “We never got any flak,” he replies. “One time we were singing out in California at a Bible School. A friend of ours who was there said it was a good thing we didn’t sing that song for the chapel, because we would have gotten some flak. But I never have actually gotten any, to this day. I was very careful to not point a finger of accusation at anybody. The song specifically talks about me, not you. Not shame on you for anything, nothing like that. So I’m prepared to defend it because I do not put a downer on anybody for any reason in it.”

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Song Snapshots #25: Sweet Beulah Land

Here’s a recently-posted video where Squire Parsons tells the story behind writing “Sweet Beulah Land”—forty years ago this year:

Interestingly, this was recorded at the church where he first sang the song, so there are some local details that he probably doesn’t usually share.

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Song Snapshots #24: I Love This Land (Gold City)

Let’s celebrate July 4th with the story behind a patriotic Southern Gospel song!

Songwriter Ben Storie grew up with virtually no exposure to Southern Gospel music. “The closest I came was when my church would sing some Gaither choruses as part of the praise and worship. But if it wasn’t in the hymn book, or it wasn’t a Gaither Chorus, then I really had not been exposed to it.”

In 1994, a young lady he knew, Tonya Norrid, invited him to fill in with her group for an event. Her family had toured for ten years, and wanted to enter a local talent contest. Her brother, who had sung with the group until that point, had moved on to other interests and did not want to travel. So Storie learned “Beulah Land” and “March Through the Water.” He recalls: “We entered this talent contest and won it!”

He ended up staying with the group—and marrying Tonya! They traveled under the name of Sweeter Rain for ten years. He recalls that they had some success in those years: “We did one recording with Jericho Records, which was on the Zion label, produced by Zane King. Then we did a project with Phil Cross and toured nationally with him and with the Ruppes. We had some measure of chart success, but after ten years, when our daughter Maggie was born, it had just kind of run its course.”

The Stories moved to Nashville, Tennessee so that he could pursue writing professionally. They lived there for three years and saw very little success. “It was a very frustrating time,” he recalls. “Right before I left Nashville, kind of as a last-ditch effort, I wrote and did some studio demos for about a dozen songs, and I took them to the National Quartet Convention. One of the nights, I handed it out to everybody. I’m sure there are probably like a few janitors with a copy of that CD!”

Discouraged by the lack of the response, he eventually moved home to Oklahoma. But even though nobody recorded any of the songs on that CD at the time, it included several songs that would eventually get recorded, including Liberty Quartet’s “Peace Like a River” and Gold City’s “I Love This Land.”

Gold City recorded “I Love This Land” on their 2008 album Moment of Truth. Their vocal lineup at that point was Steve Ladd, Bruce Taliaferro, Daniel Riley, and Aaron McCune; Bruce Taliaferro had the featured vocal on the song.

They performed the song as a tribute to America at the National Quartet Convention September 11, 2008. The performance was captured on video:

“I didn’t get to be there that year,” Storie recalls, “but a friend was taking pictures and texting me from the front row.”

He was humbled by the reaction the song received: “Gold City was performing a song that I wrote in my kitchen in my small apartment in Nashville, Tennessee, in front of this huge National Quartet Convention arena crowd, honoring the memory of folks who passed away in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s very humbling and overwhelming that I could be a part of encouraging somebody who had been through that kind of pain and hurt.”

“I think it’s just really beyond your scope of imagination as a writer,” he continues, “when you write songs in your car or living room, or a writer’s room at some publishing company on an off street in Nashville. You have no idea about the thousands and thousands and sometimes millions of people that can be encouraged or challenged or uplifted. It’s just very sobering when you actually consider. It’s kind of a heavy responsibility, but you really take it seriously. You’re responsible for not just entertaining, but saying something that’s going to make somebody’s day matter, or challenge them to dig deeper in their faith.”

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Song Snapshots #23: Euroclydon (Couriers)

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

One day, as Neil Enloe was reading his Bible, he came across the Acts 27 account of Paul’s shipwreck. Unlike other versions, the King James Version, which he describes as “the version of my life,” names the storm—”Euroclydon.”

He thought it was a strange word. “But,” he thought, “maybe I can build a song around that one word and tell the story of the shipwreck and how the same solution that Paul had can be ours, too. You always make the application in the last verse.” So he read and re-read the passage, putting the story in the first two verses and making the application in the third.

The Couriers’ classic lineup of Duane Nicholson (tenor), Enloe (lead), and Dave Kyllonen (bass) toured through this year as Dave, Duane, and Neil. They recorded this song on their final album, Changing World.

As they were in the studio working on the backup tracks, Enloe told the studio musicians, “I want the haunting sound of Ghost Riders in the Sky.” He explained: “That’s always been a very haunting kind of a sound. It was a time of great turmoil in the life of Paul and those 276 people who were on the boat. So I thought it will add a little drama to it, and I think it matched up well.”

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Song Snapshots #22: We’ll Meet Again (Palmetto State Quartet)

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

In the 1990s, Ray Scarbrough was a member of the Southern Gospel group The Supernals. He left the group at one point; when he returned, they had nearly completed a new album, but were still one or two songs short. He brought “We’ll Meet Again” to the group, and they recorded it.

“We ended up having some minor charting success,” he recalls. But the song’s biggest success was yet to come; the Palmetto State Quartet recorded it on their 2004 album It’s Settled.

Palmetto State’s version featured the group’s baritone singer, Tony Peace. “Tony’s rendition of it knocked it out of the park for me. I’m humbled by it.”

Incidentally, “We’ll Meet Again” wasn’t Scarbrough’s only cut on It’s Settled; the group also cut “I’m On My Way.” “I’m not the song factory yet that other people are,” he notes, “but when I get my cuts, usually I get multiple cuts on an album somewhere. I’m honored to say, if there’s one Ray Scarbrough cut on there, there’s usually another one on there!”

It’s Settled came out during a period in Scarbrough’s life when he had walked away from any active involvement during Southern Gospel songwriting. One day, a lady showed him a polaroid picture of a tombstone. “The headstone read, ‘We’ll Meet Again,’” Ray recalls. “She said, ‘My daughter passed of leukemia, and that was her favorite song ever.’”

“If I never got a trophy, but if I had that polaroid picture, what I wouldn’t give…that means as much to me as anything.”

“It’s strange,” he adds; “it’s one of those little lures that God uses to bring you back. That happened to be one of those things that God was using to bring me back to the music that I love.”

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Song Snapshots #21: Room With a View (11th Hour)

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

One year, at the Singing News Fan Awards, Joseph Habedank was talking with Chuck Trivette. (Chuck is a former Perrys pianist and is Libbi Perry Stuffle’s brother-in-law.) Chuck told Joseph, “I was thinking it over; when we get to Heaven, we’ll have a pretty good view. We’ll have a room with a view.”

Joseph thought it was a cool idea. At the time, he was dating his future wife, and had long car drives from Nashville to Kingsport, Tennessee to see her. Over the course of these trips, he started writing the song.

One day, he joined Daywind Publishing Vice President Rick Shelton for lunch at the Chop House in Hendersonville, Tennessee. During lunch, Dianne Wilkinson called Rick. As they were talking, Rick told her, “Well, I’m sitting here with Joseph Habedank.”

Dianne said, “Sing me something.” So Joseph sang her the chorus to “Room With a View.”

“She said, ‘Oh, honey!’” Joseph recalls, “and then she asked if she could finish it. And sure enough, she finished it!”

“When Joseph sends me something,” Dianne adds, “it’s just his marvelous voice with no music. He records what he has on his phone and sends it to me. I heard exactly what he heard in his head—chord progressions, et cetera. And the first thought I had was, ‘WOW.’”

“The next thought I had,” she continues, “was how we’d develop the thoughts of exactly what the view would be (or more accurately, Who). What Joseph sent was so wonderful, it didn’t take me long to add the verses. I think we did the bridge together. When I heard the demo, it was just stunning: Joseph and Katy Peach on vocals, with Matthew Holt’s flawless piano work.”

Habedank would ultimately pitch it to 11th Hour, a mixed trio from Monroe, Louisiana. “They just absolutely are incredible,” he says. “They’re with Crossroads now. I pitched them songs, and sure enough, they picked that as their new radio single. I think it could be a big song for them. I love to hear Candace sing this song; she is the soprano in the group, and man, she’s a great singer.”

“When I heard their cut of the song,” Dianne adds, “it was exactly what it says in the lyrics—’shining perfection.’ It was one of those times when you just know you couldn’t have gotten a better cut on a song. So, Joseph and I are absolutely sure that God got “A Room With A View” to the right group. My goodness, but they can sing!”

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Song Snapshots #20: I Have Seen the Lord (Signature Sound)

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

Like so many of Southern Gospel’s finest songs, “I Have Seen the Lord” was inspired by a sermon. At the time the song was written, co-writer Belinda Smith was attending Grace Church of the Nazarene in Nashville.

“When you work in music all week,” she explains, “it’s kind of fun to slip into the balcony and sit back and listen to what other people do. I’m not going to say I wouldn’t support a church musically, but it’s Nashville. Everyone’s so talented musically! So nobody there knew I was a songwriter.”

One Easter, Pastor Richard Ball kept using the phrase “I have seen the Lord” in his sermon. The phrase stuck with her. One day, in a co-writing session with Sue C. Smith, she mentioned the idea, saying, “We should write this.” They did; Signature Sound Quartet recorded it on their debut recording, Stand By Me.

After the recording came out, she mailed a copy to Pastor Ball. She said, “Hey, I write songs, and you don’t know this, but I thought you would get a kick out of hearing this.”

Videos

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Song Snapshots #19: Statue of Liberty (Couriers, Cathedrals, Ivan Parker)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs. In a special Memorial Day edition, here’s the story behind one of Southern Gospel’s all-time greatest songs, “Statue of Liberty.”

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Southern Gospel classic “Statue of Liberty.”

Its writer, Neil Enloe of the Couriers, still vividly recalls the occasion that inspired the song: “We were invited to sing for an afternoon and evening boat excursion on the Hudson River. The Assemblies of God young people from both New Jersey and New York were together and had a boat ride. There were 2,400 kids on this big excursion boat we were using, but the auditorium only seated about 400 people. So we had to have six little twenty-minute concerts to get everyone in. At the end of one concert, it would take five or ten minutes for the people to leave, and then that many minutes for the next crowd to get back in.”

“During a break between those concerts,” he continues, “Dave [Kyllonen] and I both stepped out on the deck to get some fresh air. By now, the sun had gone down, and the lights of New York were beautiful. We went back in and did another one, and came back out after that. And this time, we were leaning against the outer rail, just watching the kids hold hands, and all that.”

“All of a sudden, it got quiet. Everyone goes ‘ooh’ and ‘aah,’ and we thought, ‘What on earth’s going on?’”

They turned to see the Statue of Liberty. “Boy, there she was, right above us. Everything American in me rose up. But I have a greater citizenship, and so my heart turned to that, too.”

He turned to Dave Kyllonen and said, ‘You know, there’s a song in there somewhere!”

Dave said, “Yeah, sure! Remember, we sing Gospel Music. Where’s the Gospel in the Statue of Liberty?”

Enloe replied, “It’s in there.”

The song took him three months to write. He explains his painstaking writing and editing process this way: “I just don’t let lyrics flow. I am terribly, terribly critical of my own lyrics. I don’t want to say something that’s not quite right. So I worked, and worked, and worked, and I revised, revised, revised. If there’s any success at all I’ve had as a writer, it’s been in the revision process, because what comes off of my tongue doesn’t really fly most of the time. I have to write it down and look at it and say, ‘No, that’s not right. How can I say that better?”

After he had completed the song, he sang it at a Couriers concert, which, as he recalls, was in a Methodist church near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He sang it as a solo for three months, “because evolution will set in. I did not want it to lose its direction and its feel. So I did it for three months so Dave and Duane [Nicholson] would not know that song any other way.”

After those three months, they began singing it as a group. “It took us a month to lock it in vocally,” he remembers. “It’s just a very strenuous song. If you notice, the melody starts in the basement and ends in the attic. The range is so wide that it almost takes a group to do it justice, although Larnelle Harris did it well.”

Enloe can be humble and rather understated; he observes, “Anyway, we recorded it three times, four times, depending on what the grouping, and it doesn’t seem to want to go away, for some reason.”

Though songs that combine patriotic themes with a Christian message are now common to the point of commonplace, the concept was revolutionary at the time. “Statue of Liberty” was among the first of its kind, and still stands at the head of its class. It is one of those songs that has been often imitated but never surpassed.

The song immediately caught on like wildfire. In the 1970s, the Blackwood Brothers, Blue Ridge Quartet, Cathedrals, Heaven Bound, Jerry and the Goffs, the Kingsmen, London Parris and the Apostles, and the Speer Family recorded the song. The song has established itself as a classic with its consistent presence in the genre ever since. In the 1980s, the Cathedrals and Hoppers each recorded versions. The Dixie Echoes, Glen Payne, and the Gaither Homecoming Friends each recorded versions in the 1990s. In the 2000s, Anthony Burger, the Cumberland Quartet, Ivan Parker (with the Gaither Homecoming Friends), Liberty Quartet, the Mark Trammell Quartet, and Triumphant Quartet all have recorded the song.

Last year, on the Fourth of July, Couriers tenor Duane Nicholson revealed a little-known chapter in the song’s history:

Neil Enloe would not reveal this to anyone so I will, after all these years! He was approached by officials coordinating the festivities for the nation’s 200th Birthday that was televised nationally to millions of people to use his song “Statue of Liberty.” The only problem was that they wanted him to change the second verse. Neil kindly thanked them for the invitation but declined to do so. His remark was that God gave Him the idea for the song and the second verse was the main theme of the song. He refused to compromise!

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