Singing News Fan Awards: Top 5 Nominees announced

Yesterday evening, Singing News announced the top 5 nominees in the Singing News Fan Awards (). Here’s a list breaking down changes from 2012:

Favorite Artist

  • Unchanged: Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Perrys, Triumphant Qt
  • 2013: Collingsworth Family
  • 2012: Brian Free & Assurance

Favorite Traditional Quartet

  • Unchanged: Kingdom Heirs, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Qt, Triumphant Qt
  • 2013: Brian Free & Assurance
  • 2012: Inspirations

Favorite Mixed Group

  • Unchanged: Collingsworth Family, Hoppers, Isaacs, McKameys, Perrys

Favorite Trio

  • Unchanged: Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Karen Peck & New River, Whisnants

Favorite Soloist

  • Unchanged: Mark Bishop, Jason Crabb, Ivan Parker, Guy Penrod
  • 2013: TaRanda Greene
  • 2012: Squire Parsons

Favorite Male Singer

  • Unchanged: Ronnie Booth, Joseph Habedank, Ivan Parker, Arthur Rice
  • 2013: Eric Bennett
  • 2012: Gerald Wolfe

Favorite Female Singer

  • Unchanged: Sheri Easter, Karen Peck Gooch, Kim Hopper, Libbi Stuffle
  • 2013: TaRanda Greene
  • 2012: Susan Whisnant

Favorite Young Artist

  • Unchanged: Morgan Easter, Trey Ivey, Amber Thompson, Jordan Wilburn
  • 2013: Olivia Collingsworth
  • 2012: Phillip Collingsworth

The Collingsworth Family has had a completely unprecedented streak of three consecutive wins for three consecutive siblings – Brooklyn, Courtney, and, last year, Phillip. Will they manage a complete run with Olivia this year?

Favorite Tenor

  • Unchanged: Chris Allman, Michael Booth, Brian Free, David Phelps, David Sutton

Favorite Lead

  • Unchanged: Ronnie Booth, Joseph Habedank, Clayton Inman, Arthur Rice
  • 2013: Gerald Wolfe
  • 2012: Scott Fowler

Favorite Baritone

  • Unchanged: Jim Brady, Rodney Griffin, Scott Inman, Mark Trammell
  • 2013: Mark Lowry
  • 2012: Scott Howard

Favorite Bass

  • Unchanged: Pat Barker, Eric Bennett, Mike Holcomb, Tim Riley
  • 2013: Tracy Stuffle
  • 2012: Glenn Dustin

Favorite Soprano

  • Unchanged: Lauren Talley Alvey, Brooklyn Collingsworth, Karen Peck Gooch, Kim Hopper, Sonya Isaacs Yeary

Favorite Alto

  • Unchanged: Courtney Collingsworth, Sheri Easter, Connie Hopper, Libbi Stuffle, Susan Whisnant

Favorite Musician

  • Unchanged: Kim Collingsworth, Gordon Mote, Jeff Stice, Kevin Williams
  • 2013: Roger Fortner
  • 2012: Stewart Varnado

Favorite Band

  • Unchanged: Dove Brothers, Gaither Vocal Band, Isaacs, Kingdom Heirs, Primitive Quartet

Favorite Songwriter (Performing): 2013: Mark Bishop, Jim Brady, Rodney Griffin, Joseph Habedank, Scott Inman

Favorite Non-Performing Songwriter: 2013: Ricky Free, Marty Funderburk, Mosie Lister, Rebecca Peck, Dianne Wilkinson

The categories were split out from the combined 2012 category, Favorite Songwriter. Last year, the Favorite Songwriter nominees were Jim Brady, Rodney Griffin, Joseph Habedank, Scott Inman, and Dianne Wilkinson. Wilkinson was the only non-performing writer on the list; her move to the Favorite Non-Performing Songwriter category this year appears to have opened the door for Mark Bishop to make his way into the top 5.

Favorite Album

  • Unchanged: Albums from Booth Brothers
  • 2013: Hoppers, Brian Free & Assurance, Greater Vision, Perrys
  • 2012: Legacy Five, Inspirations, Triumphant Quartet, Kingdom Heirs

Favorite Song

  • Unchanged: Songs from Booth Brothers, Brian Free & Assurance, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, McKameys, Perrys, Triumphant Quartet
  • 2013: Songs from Kingdom Heirs, Tribute Quartet, Whisnants
  • 2012: Songs from Karen Peck & New River, Inspirations, Gold City

This year, the Horizon Group award was subdivided into four categories.

  • Favorite New Traditional Quartet: Canton Junction, Carolina Boys, Old Paths, Paul’s Journey, Union Street
  • Favorite New Mixed Group: Allen Family, Heaven’s Mountain Band, Mylon Hayes Family, Sneed Family, Taylors
  • Favorite New Trio: 11th Hour, Beyond the Ashes, Freedom Trio, Hyssongs, Red Roots
  • Favorite New Soloist: Chris Hester, Billy Hodges, Steve Ladd, Abby Paskvan, Angela Primm

Last year’s Horizon Group nominees were: Carolina Boys, Old Paths, Red Roots, Taylors, Wilburn & Wilburn. Of these five, WIlburn & Wilburn was automatically disqualified from eligibility this year by winning last year. The Old Paths, The Taylors, and Red Roots all make another appearance (one each in three different categories); the Carolina Boys do not.

Overall, there is very little change from last year’s top five. Other than a few changes prompted by personnel changes in the last twelve months, most of the changes are one familiar face for another. About the only two that might mark any significant shift in Singing News readers’ loyalties would be TaRanda Greene’s new top 5 nominations for soloist and female singer, and the Collingsworth Family’s top 5 appearance for favorite artist.

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Updates to #1 Hit Analysis posts

Yesterday, I updated the reference section’s Singing News #1 History page, and the accompanying analysis pages. They had been current through the January 2013 charts; they are now current through June 2013. Notable changes include:

On Singing News #1 Hits: Analyzed by Artist:

  • With their March 2013 #1 “All is Well,” The Whisnants’ thirteenth, they remain at 3rd place, but are one away from tying The Crabb Family’s fourteen.
  • With their April 2013 #1 “Just Preach Jesus,” The Kingdom Heirs’ seventh, they move up to a two-way tie for 9th place with The Inspirations. They have now surpassed The Cathedrals’ six #1 hits (though not, of course, the nineteen months The Cathedrals spent at #1).
  • With their May 2013 #1 “I Got a Hold of God This Morning,” The Perrys’ tenth, they now enter a three-way tie for 5th place, joining The Talleys and Gold City.

The page also includes an analysis of the most months spent at #1. The only notable change is that The Whisnants moved up to 11th place.

On Singing News #1 Hits: Analyzed by Label:

  • Crossroads added two #1 hits, going from 65 to 67, remaining in 1st place.
  • Daywind also added two, going from 48 to 50, remaining in 2nd place
  • United Independent Artists added one, going from 13 to 14, and remaining in 6th place.

On Singing News #1 Hits: Analyzed by Songwriter:

  • With her eighth #1, “Just Preach Jesus” (Kingdom Heirs), Dianne Wilkinson moves from a three-way tie for 5th place to a solo 5th place spot.
  • Kyla Rowland’s fifth #1, “I Got A Hold of God This Morning” (Perrys), moves her from a six-way tie for 8th place to a four-way tie for 7th (or 12th, if you account for other ties).
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What is the most popular Southern Gospel video on YouTube?

What is the most popular Southern Gospel video on YouTube?

Also, since conversions from a DVD/VHS to a YouTube video all too often aren’t sanctioned by the owners of the original copyright, what is the most popular Southern Gospel amateur video on YouTube (i.e., handheld as opposed to being from a DVD)?

In that latter category, I’ll offer Ellen G.’s Bass Singers Quartet video, at 533,373 views, to start things off:

And in the category of professionally filmed videos, let’s start things off with the Gaither Vocal Band’s “Alpha and Omega,” at 2,702,359 views:

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Great Albums: Albums with strong songs or albums without weak songs?

Every Southern Gospel – or, at least, every Southern Gospel good enough to get reviewed here – contains good songs. The greatest albums are distinguished from the good ones by an above-average number of good songs and a below-average number of weak songs.

Of those latter two categories – presence of great songs and absence of weak songs – which is a more significant indicator of an album’s greatness?

Put another way: Suppose I am reviewing two CDs. One has three five-star songs, four three-star songs, and three two-star songs. The other has only one five-star song, but it has four four-star songs and five three-star songs, and no one- or two-star songs. Which album deserves a higher rating?

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Unusual First Lines

Songwriters are always looking for creative ways to make a song memorable. Second only to a memorable title is a memorable opening line, and Southern Gospel has quite a few memorable opening lines. These four particularly stand out:

  • “Bring me my books and my overcoat”
  • “I can’t bear to stay in this house alone”
  • “Somethin’s happenin’, folks are going crazy”
  • “War is on the front page”

So, just for fun … how fast can you all name the songs that begin with these memorable lines?

And what are some of the other most unusual first lines in Southern Gospel?


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Gospel Music CSI

Several weeks ago, Steve Weatherford launched a Facebook group, Gospel Music CSI. Anyone can view posts, but you have to have a Facebook account and join the group to be able to post. The discussions involve any number of past and present performers, and some of Southern Gospel’s most noted experts—Harold Timmons, John Crenshaw, Dean Adkins, and more.

The discussions are endlessly fascinating to anyone intrigued with our genre’s history. Original Gold City tenor recently posted a perspective on Brian Free that he’d never shared before publicly:

I believe when Brian came in, it gave a shot in the arm that the group needed. I was pretty good, but Brian had a sound in his voice that I knew would be an asset to the group. History has proven it. Before I left Gold City, and I have never publicly said this, but we all listened to audition tapes. I wanted to listen to Brian’s tape more than once, because I liked his sound. I told Floyd, “I think he should be the one if he can blend with the other guys.” Of course it wasn’t my decision to make but they did ask my opinion. And as they say, “The rest is history.”

Or take  a discussion on how a number of the post-WWII generation of bass singers smoked. Big Chief Wetherington’s daughter chimed in and offered a unique perspective that only a family member would know:

Dad (Chief) didn’t smoke to lower his voice…in truth I saw him try to quit dozens of times. Dad smoked because he picked tobacco as early as age four with bare hands. Not only do we have better child labor laws now but the FDA makes them wear coated, leather gloves as nicotine gets into the blood stream and stays. He called it “his thorn in the flesh” and NEVER would encourage anyone to start. I think dad always feared that one day it would actually affect his voice, if not kill him first. But as I said recently to someone…the unrelated blood clot got him first. Fortunately I was born with asthma and was never tempted to try it once. I think my parents prayed for that.

Perhaps founder Steve Weatherford himself put it best when he said: “I’ve learned more in a week on here than in any ten years backstage.”

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Finding Replacements Quickly

There is a common impression that it is taking longer than ever before for groups to find replacement vocalists after a member departs. Several weeks ago, reader and frequent commenter Josh posted a comment to this effect. He got me thinking.

It’s probably true that we are now seeing the longest interval between when we find out about a group member change and when we find out about a replacement. I’m not sure, though, that this necessarily means that it is taking groups longer to find replacements.

Here’s why: Years ago, before social media, we often wouldn’t find out about a member change until a replacement had been hired and the official press release had been issued. In this era of social media, groups or the departing member often post news of a departure the same day a decision is made—often two weeks or more before a group member’s final day. Even groups that aren’t socially active aren’t immune from news getting out early: As often as not, word will spread on social media as soon as a fill-in appears on stage with a group.

So is it really that it’s taking groups longer to find replacements? Or is it just that we’re hearing about departures sooner?

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Southern Gospel’s Facebook Presence

Several days ago, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound passed the 50,000 follower mark on Facebook. That reminded me of an April 2009 post I wrote about Southern Gospel’s following on the platform. Four years ago, the largest Facebook presence on the platform was a Gaither Vocal Band Fans group, clocking in at 2,792 fans. How things have changed!

Here are some of the largest Southern Gospel presences on Facebook today:

  1. Jason Crabb: 100,939 likes
  2. Friends of Gaither Music: 78,641 likes
  3. David Phelps: 68,425 likes
  4. Gaither Vocal Band (wiki page): 54,610 likes
  5. Guy Penrod: 50, 228 likes
  6. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: 50,183 likes
  7. The Hoppers: 23,011 likes
  8. Greater Vision: 20,400 likes
  9. Michael English: 17,305 likes
  10. Gold City: 16,069 likes
  11. The Perrys: 15,959 likes
  12. Collingsworth Family: 15,287 likes
  13. NQC: 15,094 likes
  14. Brian Free & Assurance: 13,079 likes
  15. Booth Brothers: 11,400 likes
  16. Karen Peck & New River: 11,098 likes
  17. The Isaacs: 10,946 likes
  18. Legacy Five: 10,873 likes
  19. The Bowling Family: 10,268 likes
  20. Singing News: 10,209 likes
  21. Solid Gospel: 10,031 likes
  22. Jeff & Sheri Easter: 10,005 likes

Did we miss any Southern Gospel artists with 10,000+ followers?

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The Central Message of the Gospel

Last week, as the world was awaiting the results of the Roman Catholic papal conclave, President Obama weighed in on the sort of Pope he hoped would be selected. The New York Times quoted him as saying:

Mr. Obama said he hopes that whoever becomes pope will maintain what he called the “central message” of the gospel.

“That is that we treat everybody as children of God and that we love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love them,” Mr. Obama said. “I think that a pope that, you know, is that clarion voice on behalf of those issues will, you know, will have a tremendous and positive impact on the world.”

My immediate reaction was not political. My immediate reaction was this. It is one thing for someone to attend a church for twenty-five years, but, for whatever reason, not believe the central message of the Gospel. It is another thing altogether for someone to attend a church for twenty-five years and have no idea what the central message of the Gospel is.

After stewing over this for several days, it occurred to me that I, too, have a responsibility in this area. Hopefully Southern Gospel song lyrics alone would make it impossible for someone to read this site for twenty-five years and still be completely oblivious to the central message of the Gospel. But in matters of eternal importance, it is infinitely better to be safe than sorry.

So here is the real central message of the Gospel:

  • “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, KJV).
  • “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, KJV).
  • “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18, KJV).
  • “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19a, KJV).
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