Friday News Roundup #217

Worth Knowing

  • Old Paths bass singer Daniel Ashmore got married last Sunday. The Old Paths posted a photo gallery of Daniel and Katelyn Ashmore’s wedding here.

Worth Reading

On Wednesday’s post, several artists left their thoughts about the value of meeting fans at the table before a concert:

Pat Barker (Mark Trammell Quartet):

When I went to see the Cathedrals, most of the artists were at the table before the concert. If they can be at the table, then anyone can be at the table. George was the only one who stayed backstage. It did make it exciting to see him for the first time on the stage. My point? Both sides are right. It comes down to fan perspective.

When we do multi artist dates, we are usually the only ones at the table minus Mark. I hear it more times than not, “Where are the other groups? Are they too good to come in”? I think 30 plus years ago the groups were seen as stars so it was ok to stay backstage because that’s what stars do. Now, the artists are see as family. If you don’t come to the table, you’re seen as too good to shake hands with the “regular people.” Plus groups are missing a great opportunity to sell. We do alot of product sales before the concert. These days, when it’s hard to get people to the table, every little bit helps.

Matt Fouch (Legacy Five):

Most of L5 is at the table at least 45 minutes, usually 1 hour, before the concert begins. It give people an opportunity to stop by and chat for a few minutes. Intermission is usually too busy to hold a conversation. After the concert, most of our guys are headed to the bus to get changed to start tearing down equipment. Like one other person said, it really is what the artist wants to do. We choose to be available pre-concert and intermission. So, come early and say HI 🙂

Several other artists and fans offered thoughts, here.

Worth Watching

Bluegrass band Balsam Range—the current home of Kingsmen/Isaacs alumnus Tim Surrett—takes on the Kingsmen classic “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More.” Of particular note is a hilarious comedy bit at the 3:15 about what bluegrass bass singers have to do to sing low.

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Peg McKamey’s grand-nephew passes away

Peg McKamey’s grand-nephew (her brother’s grandson), Will McKamey, was a freshman at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, and played on their football team. Several days ago, he collapsed during a practice, and was in a coma for several days. He passed away on Tuesday; he was 19. Prayers are requested for the immediate and extended families in light of this sudden loss.

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Andrew Utech leaves Dixie Echoes

Last July, when the Dixie Echoes hired Alex Utech as their new bass singer, they hired his twin brother Andrew as a musician and bus driver. Last night, Andrew announced that he was leaving the group. In a Facebook post, he commented:

“I just wanted everyone to know I am no longer with the Dixie Echoes. I’m going with the Interstate Quartet. For booking or information call 256-424-2751 or 256-599-2052. Thanks to all the fans that have been there for me. Come see me again; you can’t miss it.”

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Friday News Roundup #216

Worth Knowing

  • Gerald Wolfe has been undergoing physical therapy on his neck and shoulders. On medical advice, he has taken the last three weekends off from singing; Brian Alvey (Lauren Talley Alvey’s husband) has been filling in. Wolfe has been at each date, playing piano and emceeing. This setup with Alvey filling in on lead and Wolfe on piano is expected to continue for three more weeks.
  • Phil Cross’s father passed away on Wednesday evening; on the same day, his mother was hospitalized with extremely high blood pressure and concern about possible blood clots.
  • Primitive Quartet guitarist Mike Riddle suffered a severe injury to his left ring finger on Wednesday. His finger was broken in multiple places. He visited a surgeon on Thursday to discuss surgery options.
  • The Old Paths are recording a live DVD next Wednesday at Sagemont Church in Houston, Texas. The taping will be free and open to the public.
  • Daywind announced a date and location for a Nashville-area memorial service for their recently-deceased former A&R Director, Norman Holland. It will be from 1-3 PM on Monday, April 14th at Christ Church in Brentwood, TN.

Worth Reading

Yesterday’s discussion on radio chart speed prompted some thought-provoking letters to the editor.

From Josh:

I’ve been thinking about the difference between SG and other genres in other areas of the industry, but it has an effect here too. Its widely understood that a major difference between our industry and others is our motives.

In other genres, chart success is what drives their success on the road. If you don’t have a chart-topper, its very difficult to get your foot into the industry. In southern gospel, while chart success is important, I’m not convinced its what drives a group to continue on the road. If it does, maybe they should check why they are in this industry to begin with. Groups will (should) continue to travel if they don’t have a chart-topper. That’s not what this industry should be based on. The importance needs to be placed less on the chart-toppers and more on the lives saved.

Could the charting process be sped up? If its a core part of the industry and why groups continue to travel, go right ahead. But I won’t be hurt if it stays the way it is because I hope groups would realize that they don’t travel for chart-topping success or the royalties they could earn.

An excerpt from Kevin Kreuger’s letter:

If we look back in history from the 50′s, 60′s and in the 70′s, all formats (country, pop, etc) had songs that dominated the #1 position on the charts for months. Now that we’ve become the instant everything culture, we see songs rise and fall in a quicker manner. I think another thing that comes into play is that we have more ‘national’ groups than we did in prior decades. With more groups clammering for airplay, I see songs coming off charts sooner because we have to make room for the new addtions to the chart.

I like Absolutely Gospel’s weekly chart (disclosure: we are a reporting station to this chart) versus a monthly chart, but I believe the charts are for industry professionals. Nobody walks up to a product table and says, ‘well this CD has one number one song, a top ten song and a three top twenty songs, but that one had only one number one song and one top fourty song. I’ll take the first one’.


And, finally, an impressively lengthy one from Tony Watson:

I’m of the school that says the charts have much less impact today than they did 20 years ago. Honestly I subscribe to Singing News but I seldom ever look at the chart anymore and I don’t look at any other charts at all. I was in radio for a few years in the late 80′s-early 90′s so I looked at it then. Now with so much instant access to songs through websites, YouTube, iTunes, social media, etc. the need for charting is lessened for the consumer. It’s still a measure for the artist of what the buying public is listening to, but I think other factors have bit into that as well.

Services like Enlighten, iTunes Radio, Pandora, etc. have had a very positive effect in getting the music by the top groups “out there” more. Sure there are still some quality issues, but it’s still better quality than was demonstrated on much local gospel music radio before these were available. The push-back is this . . . artists are seeing that people are buying fewer and fewer CD’s. They either buy it on iTunes, with many just buying the songs they like, or due to the exposure with these web and satellite-based services, people don’t feel like they need to buy the CD’s/songs because they get to hear the top songs for free or for a monthly subscription.

While the artists do get royalties from services like Enlighten, the impression I’m getting from the artists is it’s many times a lesser return than they used to see from CD sales just a few years ago.

Getting back to the issue at hand, I see there being fewer “landmark” songs” today than 20 years ago. I think it’s partially because of increased exposure, partially because there are more groups who have a “national” platform than there were. The internet and it’s related venues like YouTube, social media, artist websites, e-mail lists and the like make it easier for folks to keep up with and interact with their favorite groups and really not be as interested in the industry as a whole. Used to be, Singing News was the lifeline of information – now the information is 2 months old when you receive it and it’s greater value is the behind the scenes stuff with the artists, their at home visits and the stories behind the songs. Still a great value, but much different than grabbing it out of the mailbox and seeing what song is #1 this month.

Some may argue that there are MORE landmark songs than 20 years ago, but I would disagree. I think you get some songs with “definition” for a group from time to time but I don’t think they, overall, have the lasting impact as “Midnight Cry” or “We Shall See Jesus” or “Learning to Lean” or “Touring that City” or other songs that are instantly identified with a particular group from days gone by.

It’s the same thing in the rest of society. There are many other options for music, for entertainment, for pretty much everything these days. Overall TV ratings are down for particular shows because there are so many other options for viewing. Shows come and go much quicker because networks will not stick with shows to let them breathe.

The same reality exists in gospel music. The most successful groups in recent days have had a simple formula – good songs, good people skills, believability and very little personnel turnover – period. I tell people all the time, the key to being successful in gospel music comes down to 2 words “stay there”. The problem is now, economic issues are going to swallow more and more up and those who are in debt up to their eyeballs are going to be tempted to do some unethical things to try and stay afloat (some already have) and that’s a tough place to be.

With that said, back to the issue at hand (I keep chasing my own rabbits), who can name the “landmark” song of more recent groups? It often comes down to the song you first heard them sing or the song you like the best or the song that ministers to you the best. I’m asking some hypothetical questions now because I don’t want this thread to become a list of people’s choices for “landmark” song, but what is the “Landmark” song of Triumphant Quartet? Crabb Family? Collingsworth Family? Whisnants? Mark Trammell Quartet? Booth Brothers? Greater Vision? Tribute Quartet? I’m thinking specifically off the top of my head of groups that have come to more prominence within the past 20 years, give or take. If we were to list them, we couldn’t likely come to a consensus of what those were in many cases. In some cases it’s a little clearer, to be sure.

To summarize, I’m of the opinion that radio still has much value, but the charting impact has lessened significantly in gospel music and I don’t see it coming back.

Worth Watching

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Inspirations Announce 50th Anniversary Celebration

Earlier this week, The Inspirations announced that this year’s July Singing in the Smokies will feature a lineup filled with past Inspirations members. 

The weekend lineup includes Archie Watkins and Smoky Mountain Reunion, Daron Osborne and Evidence of Grace, Chris Smith (the One Man Quartet), Baron Laws (son of Jack Laws), The McKameys (featuring former Inspirations guitarist Roger Fortner), The Troy Burns Family, and Mike Holcomb. The Inspirations’ announcement added: “Other former Inspirations have been invited, so if it fits into their schedule, you never know who might show up!”

Other artists appearing include Squire Parsons, The Dixie Echoes, and The Kingsmen. 

Mike Holcomb will do a devotion each morning at 10:00 A.M.

As in previous years, the event will be an outdoor event held at Inspiration Park in Bryson City, North Carolina.

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The Craguns Announce Formation

From left to right: Nick Adams, Elena Cragun, Jordan Cragun, Ray Cragun

From left to right: Nick Adams, Elena Cragun, Jordan Cragun, Ray Cragun

This evening, former Liberty Quartet baritone Jordan Cragun announced the launch of his new group, The Craguns. He will be joined by his wife, soprano Elena Cragun; his father, bass singer Ray Cragun, and his cousin, tenor Nick Adams.

The family’s musical roots run deep, and aren’t limited to Cragun’s short but strong run as Liberty Quartet’s baritone. Ray Cragun, who has been a senior pastor for two decades, has built his own following as a member of various college and regional quartets. Jordan Cragun is also Kim Collingsworth’s nephew.

“We could not be more excited to unveil this new and unique group to the Gospel music world”, Jordan Cragun commented. “I’m so thankful for the prayers and support we have already received from so many. I know this is going to be an incredible journey!” 

The Craguns have launched a website with several full-song previews at

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Friday News Roundup #215

Worth Knowing

  • Singing News posted the 2014 Fan Awards top ten nominees here.

Worth Reading

This week’s featured Letter to the Editor is from J.E. Butler. Commenting on yesterday’s post, Doing the Little Things, he shared some stories of his own:

My son will soon be 35. When I was probably his age – 26 years ago, I purchased for him one of the green bus/piggy banks from the Cathedrals’ table during a concert. My son wanted to meet the bass singer – and he was carrying the bus/piggy bank when we went to meet George Younce. Seeing the bus, Younce reached in his pocket and came out with a $5 bill and put it in the bus without saying a word about it. I saw him do it – but no one else did. Legacy…which I think makes the name Legacy V so perfect…

On a night that Gus Gaches was traveling with L5 but not yet a member, my sister purchased probably $100+ from the Booth Brothers. After she had made her purchase, she noticed a CD by their dad, Ron Booth. My sister told Ronnie how much she loved to hear his dad sing. He reached over, grabbed his dad’s CD, and dropped it in her bag. Steps to a legacy – and a life-long fan not only of Ron Booth, but Ronnie and Michael.

Worth Watching


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Norman Holland passes away

Long-time Southern Gospel executive Norman Holland passed away yesterday of heart failure. In his role as A&R Director with Riversong, Chapel, and Daywind, he guided and helped shape the careers of many of Southern Gospel’s leading artists. 

He entered the Southern Gospel industry in 1980, and rose through the ranks until he reached the position of Vice President and A&R of Daywind Records. He held that position for sixteen years, through his retirement last year.  Though Holland’s impact was behind the scenes, it was massive. Countless colleagues have posted tributes to him, including these:

  • “There may never be another who cares for artists like Norman Holland did. He was an innovative and dedicated employee. This is a heartbreaking loss.” —Ed Leonard, President of Daywind
  • “The wonderful memories of working and sharing life with Norman for 16 years are precious. I will cherish them as I cherished him.” —Dottie Leonard Miller, Founder of Daywind
  • “Norman and I had a great working relationship for 27 years, but more importantly, he was one of my closest friends. His laughter was contagious, and his larger-than-life, magnetic personality always lit up any room he was in. Gospel Music has lost one of its most innovative and influential behind-the-scenes personalities, and I have lost a friend. But not for long. I know where he is.” —Gerald Wolfe
  • “So sad to hear of Norman Holland’s passing. He was such a sweet man. We will miss you, Norman.” —Wes Hampton
  • “Our hearts are broken today to learn of the passing of our great friend, Norman Holland. He was sooo much more than just our A&R director for years, but he was a true friend!” —The Perrys
  • “All of us at the Harper Agency are deeply saddened to hear about the untimely passing of our dear friend Norman Holland. At one time or another over the last 32 years, Norman worked with nearly all of the artists our agency currently represents and those in years past as an A & R director. He loved the music the artists sang and the God they all sang about. He was a true friend to the gospel music community and loved by all of us.” —The Harper Agency
  • “Please pray for his family and friends. He will be greatly missed.” —Mark Lowry

UPDATE, 6:45 P.M.: A Daywind press release offers the following information on funeral arrangements: “Funeral services for Norman will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 15th, 2014, with visitation taking place from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. that day.  The funeral and visitation will take place at Sorrell’s Funeral Home, 2744 W Magnolia Ave, Geneva, Alabama, 36340, Phone:(334) 684-9999.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Norman Holland Memorial Fund c/o Norman’s sister, Edith Brown, 1209 Glenwood Street, Dothan, Alabama, 36301.  The balance of the fund after funeral expenses will be donated to the Gospel Music Trust Fund. There will be a memorial service in honor of Norman held in Nashville within the next month.”

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Friday News Roundup #214

Worth Knowing

Worth Reading

In this week’s featured Letter to the Editor, reader JSR reflects on the importance of digital availability of projects:

Everybody in SG needs to get their music on iTunes. If nothing else, the ability to hear short clips is a good way to introduce your music. I don’t think the market for SG will ever go away, but a failure to have the abiliity for people like me (who don’t go to concerts and don’t buy a lot of complete albums) to have easy access to your music will jepordize the viability going forward. There are some SG artists that I’ve never bought any of their music in a store, but I have grabbed a song here and there off iTunes, or similar venue, after hearing it on Pandora or YouTube or on a SG blog. It needs to be that Daniel is soon forced to put a link to iTunes or the Google Play Store or Amazon for a digital download for every CD that hits the market.


Worth Watching

This has made the rounds, but in case you haven’t watched it yet, it’s worth watching: Kim and Connie Hopper missed a flight, so Chris Allman, Doug Anderson, and Tim Lovelace filled in on “What a Lovely Name.”

Worth Discussing

Were there any significant Southern Gospel news stories this week that we haven’t mentioned yet?

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