Paul Ellis returns to Liberty Quartet

paul ellisOn January 17, 2013, Liberty Quartet announced the departure of baritone Jordan Cragun. Various individuals—Tim Parton, Dehner Franks, Obadiah Neasham, and Liberty alumnus Doran Ritchey—have filled in over the last year as they searched for a permanent replacement. Yesterday afternoon, almost exactly a year to the day after Cragun’s departure, they announced that they have found a replacement: Former member Paul Ellis is returning.

Former Liberty Quartet tenor Keith Waggoner, who is now the chairman of Liberty Ministries (the group’s oversight board), commented:

Paul and his lovely wife, Kim, have three children: Emily, who is a junior at Northwest Nazarene University and will be getting married on June 20th; Connor, who is a senior in high school; and Grace, who is in eighth grade. Kim, a gifted vocalist and musician in her own right, is thrilled for Paul to be part of Liberty’s ministry again. We are blessed to have this incredible couple and add them as siblings to the Liberty Quartet family. Make plans now to see Liberty Quartet when they are in your neck of the woods and welcome Paul (back) to the group.

I believe the future is brighter than ever for Liberty and their ministry. Remember, when God says, “wait,” there is always a reason. As we surrender to His timing and His plans, we can truly say, “Good things DO come to those who wait on the Lord.”

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Ben Hart leaves Dixie Echoes

Yesterday evening, the Dixie Echoes announced on Facebook that pianist Ben Hart has left the group. They commented: “The Dixie Echoes are sad to announce the departure of pianist, Ben Hart. Ben has been a great part of the quartet, and we are sad to see him and his wife, Alisa, move on, but we know God has great things in store for them in the future.”

Hart had joined the group summer 2012; his hire was announced that August.

They are seeking auditions for his replacement. Interested pianists can email

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Joseph Brown leaves The Diplomats

Yesterday afternoon, Joseph Brown announced on Facebook that he will be leaving The Diplomats:

As of January 3rd, 2014, I have resigned as bass singer for the Diplomats. I appreciate the opportunities I have had with this fine group and  all the friends I have made traveling and singing Gospel Music across the country. I feel it is time for a change in my life and ministry. Looking forward to what God has in store for me and my family.  Thanks to the Diplomats for 8 years of some great times and happy memories. Please pray for my family and me, that we will always be in His will. God Bless.

The Diplomats commented:

For the past 8 years, we have had the honor to have what we believe one of the finest bass singers to ever sing gospel music. Joe Brown has made many fans across the country. Not only will his voice be missed but his dear friendship! Our prayers are with him and wife Debbie as they start a new journey in God’s work. Thanks, The Diplomats [Minor edits for punctuation]

Brown has never received the recognition he deserved; vocally, he’s consistently been in the genre’s top ten most talented bass singers. Here’s hoping his changes in life and ministry will still involve Southern Gospel.

We posted a feature interview with him six years ago, here.

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Promise Trio disbands

Promise Trio announced yesterday that they are disbanding. Baritone Matt Baker will be embarking on a solo ministry; tenor T.J. Evans will be joining Jake Sammons and Kasey Kemp in the trio Declaration.

The group finds its roots in May 2010, when tenor Jacob Kitson, lead singer Joe Kitson, and baritone singer Jon Epley founded Statement of Faith. Later in 2010, Jon Epley left to join The Inspirations. In December 2010, he was replaced by David Mann. In May 2011, Jacob Kitson came off the road, and the name Statement of Faith retired with him. David Mann announced that he would carry the group forward with a new name, Promise. David Mann left earlier this year to rejoin the Blackwood Quartet, the group he was part of before joining Statement of Faith. T.J. Evans carried the group forward for several more months before this announcement.

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Inspirations Announce Matt Dibler on Lead, Jon Epley on Bass

Over the last couple of months, the Inspirations’ lineup was in transition. In comments made yesterday to, the Inspirations answered most of the questions by announcing that former lead singer Matt Dibler has returned to his old job, and baritone Jon Epley has officially moved to bass.

Manager/pianist Martin Cook said, “The group is going on more determined than ever to have a good time, do our absolute best, and continue the legacy of The Inspirations.”

“We are very excited about Matt returning to the group,” shared Jon Epley, “and the morale of the group has been better the last couple of weeks than it has in a long time. Great things are in store for The Inspirations, and we eagerly anticipate the future and what God has planned for the group. Change is inevitable, and rocky times are going to happen, but we are so thankful for the privilege we’ve been given to spread the Gospel through song, and will continue to do our best to be good stewards of this responsibility.”

With Epley’s move from baritone to bass, the baritone position is the only one not completely settled. Daron Osborne, who has filled in on various occasions in the past, is presently filling in.

Here’s a look at the new lineup:

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Scott Godsey joins Daywind staff

Daywind announced yesterday that they have hired Scott Godsey to be their new Vice President of A&R. Godsey is only the third A&R director in Daywind’s 26-year history; he replaces the recently retired Norm Holland.

A&R stands for artists & repertoire; an A&R director is usually the record company staffer who works most directly with artists, helping shape the direction of their releases and overall careers. The press release states that Godsey will “give creative direction to Daywind’s artists, seek out the next generation of Southern Gospel music ministries, and develop audio, video, digital, merchandising, and live experience ventures to bring Daywind’s artists in closer relationship with their expanding audience.”

Godsey’s earliest exposure to Southern Gospel came through his father’s group, The Northmen. He has previously worked with the Eddie Crook Company and Homeland; during his Homeland years, he worked with artists like Freedom, the Toney Brothers, and Heirline; he also had a stint at the Eddie Crook Company. In May 2012, he launched his own production company, Godsey & Associates. They produced a number of successful concept videos, including Legacy Five’s “Ask Me Why” video.

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Joseph Habedank launches solo career

An attentive reader noticed that Joseph Habedank has launched a solo website, here. It lists a number of solo concerts scheduled for this month.

Habedank’s ten-year run with the Perrys ended in May. During that time, he moved from being completely unknown to being heralded as one of the genre’s most promising young talents—both for his voice and his songwriting. After a couple of months off of the genre’s radar, so to speak, it’s encouraging to see him back on the road.

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Stuart Cary leaves Down East Boys

Bass singer Stuart Cary has left the Down East Boys to accept a position in church ministry. He will be joining the staff of First Pentecostal Church in Durham, North Carolina. Cary joined the Down East Boys in 2001 and remained with them for twelve years.

Down East Boys lead singer / manager Ricky Carden said: “We appreciate Stuart’s time and service to the quartet. We wish him nothing but the very best in his new endeavor.”

Here’s a video of Stuart Cary singing “He Looked Beyond My Faults”:

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Michael English and Mark Lowry to leave the Gaither Vocal Band

Last week, news circulated that Mark Lowry was leaving the Gaither Vocal Band. Lowry confirmed the news in a video posted yesterday morning. Lowry indicated that a press release would be forthcoming. What Lowry didn’t add was that Michael English has also decided to leave the Gaither Vocal Band. 

In the official announcement, Bill Gaither commented:

I am grateful that we have had five bonus years with these incredibly talented artists. Thank you, thank you to Michael and Mark.  For those of you who have followed the Vocal Band for the past 25 years, you know that I have worked with some of the most talented male vocalists in our field, and I promise you we are not going to let that standard down in this transition. I am sad to see Michael and Mark leaving, yet I am so excited about the new possibilities we are considering.  So stay tuned for an exciting voyage in 2014!  We will update you when we have made final decisions.

While Lowry will fill all remaining 2013 dates, English’s departure is effective immediately. English’s departure comes as a surprise, and not just to the fans; in the Gaither tour’s concert schedule, posted last week, notes on each Gaither Vocal Band 2014 concert indicated that the 2014 dates would be filled by a four-man lineup of Wes Hampton, David Phelps, Michael English, and Bill Gaither.

While the replacement vocalist(s) have not yet been announced, there are evidently finalists in mind; the Gaither organization announced yesterday that there would be no open auditions.

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Mark Lowry confirms departure from Gaither Vocal Band

UPDATE, 10/28/2013, 5 PM: It’s official: Michael English and Mark Lowry are both leaving the Gaither Vocal Band.

Last week, the Gaither website indicated that Lowry would leave the Gaither Vocal Band prior to their 2014 dates. In a video posted to Facebook this morning, Lowry confirmed his departure:


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