Does Southern Gospel really need live bands?

Live music is on the decline in Southern Gospel; an increasing number of concerts consist solely of three or four singers with soundtracks. These soundtrack-only performances often sacrifice spontaneity and excitement in exchange for perfection.

When this issue is raised, someone will invariably note that soundtracks are necessary because it is not economically feasible for many groups to add three or four more salaries. But is this a false dichotomy? Are these our only two choices?

Southern Gospel’s period of greatest visibility and cultural influence was in the quarter-century from 1950-1975. For the last 8-10 years of that period, it was common for groups to travel with bands. But for two generations of Southern Gospel prior to that point—and for most of this peak visibility period—Southern Gospel live programs consisted of three or four voices and a piano player.

The singing was so good, the piano playing was so good, and the songs were so good that these live programs were hardly inferior.

What would happen if Southern Gospel live programs went back to four voices and a piano player? Would groups still be able to execute the show-stopping anthems that are generally the high points of current live programs? For many of the best groups, the answer would be yes. If you have a featured vocalist of a Mark Trammell, Arthur Rice, or Joseph Habedank caliber, you don’t need a 60-piece orchestra to bring the house down with “Loving the Lamb,” “We Will Stand Our Ground,” or “If You Knew Him.”

Two more questions. (1) Has our culture progressed to the point where three or four top-notch vocalists and a top-notch piano player cannot put on a compelling, dynamic live concert that will draw fans to the genre?

(2) On the flip side, is three or four top-notch vocalists and a soundtrack player more or less compelling and dynamic?

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Mark Trammell’s mother passes away

Mark Trammell posted on Facebook that his mother, Elizabeth Trammell, passed away at 1 AM Central Time:\

At 1 AM central time… Mom quietly and peacefully walked thru the gates of pearl….No more broken hip, no cancer, no arthritis, no heart problems. She made it…..because Jesus said that she would!!!!!!! Yay MOM!!

Please keep the Trammell family in your prayers.

UPDATE: Singing News posted funeral arrangements: “Huson Funeral Home in Sherwood, Arkansas, will be handling the arrangements for Ms. Trammell. The visitation will be Sunday, August 5, 2012 from 12 – 2 p.m., with the celebration of life service at 2 p.m.”

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Saturday News Roundup #131

Worth Knowing

  • Inspirations bass player Myron Cook and his wife Jennifer welcomed their fourth child, daughter Abigail (Abby) Elizabeth Cook, on July 17th. She joins brothers Caleb and Josiah and sister Hannah Grace.
  • Canton Junction’s self-titled debut will be available in September.

Worth Reading

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Pre-1970 Radio and Sales Charts

The leading radio chart for the last several decades, the Singing News airplay chart, launched in January 1970. From time to time, references to radio hits prior to that point pop up. I have skimmed old issues of Billboard, but the closest thing I’ve found to an overall airplay or sales chart was a chart broken down for top sales by record label (and that didn’t appear to be in every issue).

So this is a question for old-timers: What Southern Gospel radio or sales charts were relevant prior to 1970?

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NQC Announces Final Nominees for NQC Music Awards

The National Quartet Convention has announced the final list of nominees for the NQC Music Awards. Here’s a breakdown by artist:

  • Triumphant – 7
  • Greater Vision – 7
  • Booth Brothers – 6
  • Gaither Vocal Band – 6
  • Collingsworth Family – 6
  • Perrys – 5
  • Kingdom Heirs – 4
  • Hoppers – 3
  • Two each: Brian Free & Assurance, Legacy Five, Talleys, Karen Peck & New River, Mark Trammell Quartet, Jason Crabb, Isaacs
  • One each: Canton Junction, Gold City, Whisnants, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Mark Bishop, TaRanda Greene, Ivan Parker, Guy Penrod, Gordon Mote
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Casey Rivers leaves Beyond the Ashes

Beyond the Ashes announced that lead singer Casey Rivers is leaving, on amicable terms:

Beyond The Ashes lead singer, Casey Rivers, has expressed his departure from the group. While parting is sweet sorrow, this decision is based on his growing family and the kind of season change that comes along with it. Casey and his precious wife, Doni, will be welcoming baby number three in just a few short months.

Anthony Facello (ministry leader and tenor singer) shares, “Saying goodbye to Casey is truly like saying goodbye to a brother. He is and will always be an intergral part of all God is doing in our midst. He will remain in our lives as our brother in Christ and friend, and that will ease the ache of this transition a bit, but still in all, it’s tough to let him go. We do completely support his heart, gifts, and all that God has for him in this season of change. And, at the same time, we are seeing God move in incredible ways in bringing us a new singer and we are excited about what’s ahead. No one can replace Casey, but that’s the wonderful thing about God’s plans. While Casey is being faithful and blessed in his new ministry endeavors, God is opening a door for someone new to share in ministry with Beyond The Ashes. I love how He works!”

Casey expressed his departure from Beyond The Ashes with this open letter; “For more than three years now I have been blessed to be one of those three singers that make up what many have come to know as Beyond The Ashes. Saying goodbye to family, and all I’ve grown accustomed to, is not an easy thing, but nevertheless, a new season has come for BTA and for me. I am 100% supportive of my brothers, and I know they are of me, as we all begin this new journey we’re embarking upon. Also, to pacify any wondering minds, I just want to clarify that I am leaving on an incredibly good note. After much prayer and discernment, I decided this was the best decision for me and my growing family. Most of all, I’m confident that it is God’s will for us. Thank you Anthony, Kellan, Dusty, Rob, fans, friends, and most importantly God for the awesome ride! Love you all…”

The press release also noted that a new lead singer will be announced shortly.

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Saturday News Roundup #130

Worth Knowing

Worth Reading

  • Wes Burke discusses the definitive version of “If That Isn’t Love.”
  • There’s a new Southern Gospel blogger at On first glance, it may seem odd that every review he has posted has a 5/5 rating—but when you realize that it’s because he’s revisiting the greatest projects of the past, it makes more sense.
  • David Bruce Murray has a worthwhile history lesson, on why we call 33 1/3 rpm records “albums.” [EDIT, 3/16/13: Broken link removed.]
  • Off-topic but worth the read: Voddie Baucham’s essay Gay is not new Black. Baucham, a popular Christian speaker who is himself black, focuses on the case for marriage being between one man and one woman, but builds a fascinating historical, legal, and cultural case along the way.

Worth Watching

Here’s a clip of the Mark Trammell Quartet interview that has been making the rounds. Among other things, they discuss their upcoming CD, due out next month:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Saturday News Roundup #129

Worth Knowing

Worth Watching

Word has it that the upcoming Tribute Quartet will be their best yet. And if this is any indication…

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Glenn Dustin leaves Legacy Five

Glenn DustinLegacy Five just announced in their email newsletter that founding bass member Glenn Dustin is leaving the group. Dustin’s statement read:

Dear Legacy Five Family,

If you know me at all, you know I am a man of few words, so I’ll be brief.

It is with much regret that I am announcing my resignation. Effective immediately, I will no longer be traveling and singing with Legacy Five. I have had the time of my life, traveling the highways with L5, getting to meet so many wonderful people. However, nothing lasts forever. I have been honored to see so many things that I would have never had the opportunity to, apart from L5. I have so many wonderful memories, and I will miss so many people.

Please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers, and continue to pray for and encourage L5. I will miss those men, and I doubt there will be a day that passes where I don’t think of them. I have so many wonderful memories.

In His Grip,
Glenn “Cuz” Dustin

Dustin became a fan favorite the moment he stepped on stage. He was a nominee for Horizon Individual in the Singing News Fan Awards his first year on the road—losing out to fellow Legacy Five charter member Josh Cobb.

This leaves the two Scotts, lead singer Scott Fowler and baritone singer Scott Howard, as the only remaining original members.

Dustin’s resignation is effective immediately; Legacy Five is currently accepting auditions for a replacement. Interested bass singers can submit an mp3 to .

UPDATE, 4/25/13: Glenn Dustin is now driving buses for the Hemphill Brothers coach company.

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Dustin Sweatman leaves Mark Trammell Quartet; Nick Trammell joins

The Mark Trammell Quartet has announced that Dustin Sweatman is leaving to accept the Renaissance Program Director of Choirs position at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. He will remain with the group through the National Quartet Convention and start with Bethel the following week.

He will be replaced by Mark Trammell’s son Nick Trammell. Nick has performed with the Perrys and, most recently, with his wife Jessica’s family, The Browns.

The announcement states:

Nick shares that he is excited to fulfill a dream of standing beside his father in Christian work. Likewise, Mark is pleased to have his son joining him as he carries on a quartet tradition that Mark first loved as a child growing up in Arkansas.

“This is definitely a time of growth for our ministry and the doors of opportunity have been thrown open,” says Mark. “I had to know that Nick’s desire to follow in my footsteps was not only Nick’s desire but more importantly God’s plan for everyone involved.

The announcement closes by noting that the group will debut a new recording at the National Quartet Convention—and a new full-time pianist afterwards.

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