Saturday News Roundup #201

Worth Knowing

  • Tribute Quartet was in a bus accident last weekend. They posted: “Hi, folks. Ok, it’s been posted that we’ve been involved in a wreck. It is true. We are ALL ok. It is a FOGGY night in Oklahoma. We were making a right-hand turn. The driver hit us passenger side. SO, the bus needs a LOT of work over quite a bit of time. We envy your prayers and we are GRATEFUL to those who are in continuous prayer for us. It’s because of you we are all fine. Thank you!”
  • The Crist Family was also in a bus accident this week. (If two in a week doesn’t serve as a stark reminder of praying for the safety of our genre’s groups, nothing will!)
  • Last week, Tracy Stuffle marked another milestone in his ongoing stroke recovery: He was able to give his testimony during communion at his home church last Sunday. He has also been able to stand on his own for several minutes at a time.
  • Freedom Quartet posted a free live stream of a concert last weekend where they introduced their debut CD here.
  • Speaking of Freedom, their tenor/manager, John Rulapaugh, has announced plans to get into politics. He will be running for County Commissioner in Sevier County, Tennessee. Since Freedom tours with a limited schedule, it is not anticipated that this will impact his performances with the group.
  • Former Brian Free & Assurance baritone Craig Singletary owns a deer processing facility. Yesterday afternoon, a smoker blew up and injured him, requiring treatment for non-life-threatening burns.
  • Tenor Jonathan Price has left the Dove Brothers; they are seeking a replacement.

Worth Watching

The Hopper clan’s musical genes continue to run strong. Here’s little sister Lexi singing a song at a Hoppers soundcheck. (Don’t leave before the end; the spinning high-five is priceless!)


Direct link:

Also worth watching: Matt Fouch interviews Jim Brady.

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Legacy Five, Freedom Quartet Kickstarter campaigns concluding today

Over the last month—here and here—we have covered the Kickstarter campaigns from Legacy Five and Freedom Quartet. Both conclude today. Legacy Five’s campaign, which has exceeded its $25,000 goal (currently at $26,557), concludes in about ninety minutes. 

Freedom’s has 16 hours to go—it concludes around midnight—and is currently $475 away from its $5000 goal. (If they do not hit their goal, they get none of the money pledged.) So fans of John Rulapaugh, Burman Porter, and Dale Shipley may want to check out the campaign here.

UPDATE, 9 AM: Legacy Five’s project has been successfully funded. The final total was $26,492; one or more donors must have cancelled or shrunk their pledges within the last few minutes of the campaign.

UPDATE, 11 AM: Freedom has also reached their goal.

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Saturday News Roundup #195

Worth Knowing

  • Tracy Stuffle reached another milestone in his stroke recovery: The pulmonary doctor was able to take his trach out. His voice is already sounding stronger after just a couple of days.
  • Freedom Quartet (John Rulapaugh, Dale Shipley, Preston Garner, and Burman Porter) have signed a booking agreement with the Beckie Simmons Agency.
  • The Ball Brothers announced that they will be giving away four Christmas songs.

Worth Watching

Gold City lead singers are measured by how well they sing the group’s signature song, “Midnight Cry.” Here’s a look at new lead singer Chip Pullen’s take on the song:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Saturday News Roundup #191

Worth Knowing

Worth Watching

I recently had the opportunity to film a Southern Gospel group from the Faroe Islands in the studio:

Also of interest: Here’s a video of Matt Fouch interviewing contributor Sam Garms. So it’s a chance to get to know him better.

Video link:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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John Rulapaugh announces Freedom Quartet

Freedom QuartetThis evening, John Rulapaugh announced that the next chapter for Freedom is as a quartet. He will be joined by baritone Preston Garner, lead singer Dale Shipley, and bass singer Burman Porter. Rulapaugh and Porter have sung together in two previous groups, serving concurrently in the original Dove Brothers lineup and in the ca. 2006 Palmetto State Quartet.

The departure of my friend Josh Garner from Freedom’s lineup left a great void, one that could not easily be filled. Since the inception of Freedom, it was always our desire to have a great quartet. There have been several opportunities to make that move, but the timing was never right. Over the past few weeks the Lord has really made His plans evident in our lives and we are thrilled with the new starting place He has set for us. I couldn’t be more happy than with the addition of my old friend, Burman Porter, to the lineup of Freedom. Many will remember that Burman and I worked together on two previous occasions; First with The Dove Brothers Quartet and, then, with Palmetto State Quartet. There’s so much to tell about how this decision and direction unfolded…and not nearly enough space here to tell it all. Over the coming days and weeks I will share the details of how this all came to be.

They will begin their debut recording shortly. They will be booked by Mountain Top Talent, a division of Michael Davis & Associates. For more information, visit their website or their Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Saturday News Roundup #184

Worth Knowing

  • The Diplomats’ Corey Pearson was taken to the emergency room after a bad accident yesterday. He had injuries to his face, his knuckles, and his ankle; the ankle injury was “a separated bone from the ligaments in my ankle.” Yet, after a night at the emergency room, he was released in time to appear at the remainder of the weekend’s concerts.
  • Former Florida Boys tenor Rick Busby announced on Facebook that he has accepted the pastorate of McBean Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Georgia.
  • Former Cathedrals baritone/pianist George Amon Webster has been battling cancer (updates here and here). Bryan Hutson, who traveled with him in the Heartland Boys, posted on Facebook that the cancer has taken a turn for the worse, and Webster has been taken to hospice.
  • Beyond the Ashes baritone Tyler Vestal has moved over to play keyboards full-time, to make room for new baritone Casey Shepherd. Here’s a video of Shepherd imitating Vestal Goodman
  • Friends of Tracy Stuffle are launching a website,, to offer various ways to help with medical expenses of his stroke recovery.
  • Meanwhile, Tracy Stuffle’s ability to speak and even sing is returning. Here’s a video of him thanking friends for their prayers and support, and a video of him singing “God is So Good.”
  • UPDATE, 12 noon: John Rulapaugh offered his comments on Josh Garner’s departure from Freedom:

    “To quell the rumors and speculation concerning my future and that of Freedom – Josh Garner is and always will be one of my very best friends. It is with great sadness that I have to accept that he will be moving on to sing with the Dixie Melody Boys. Quite simply, Freedom does not keep a heavy enough touring schedule to allow us to make a living from it. The Lord has blessed Jennifer and I in our business, but anyone in business knows that you either run your business or your business will run away from you. For this reason my touring schedule has been and must remain limited. That does not mean that I am going to have to stop singing, or that this is the end of Freedom. I have been overwhelmed with the response and interest from those interested in coming to sing with Freedom! I am blessed and encouraged by those who have encouraged me to “keep on keeping on” and that is exactly what I intend to do.

    I am not one for hasty decisions, nor am I compelled to issue a press release for the purpose of reporting that there is nothing to tell you. As I continue the search for someone to sing in Josh’s absence I recognize the fact that there can truly be no replacement. I appreciate your continued support and covet your prayers as I carefully consider and look forward the future.”

Worth Watching

There will always be a contingent of Kingsmen fans who think it’s not really, fully the classic Kingsmen sound unless there’s live piano being played. Especially in that light, it’s interesting to note that tenor Chris Jenkins has started playing piano on several songs in the Kingsmen programs. Baritone Randy Crawford adds a bass guitar.

Playing piano and doing the incredibly high tenor vocal runs on “Glory Road”—now that takes some serious talent and multi-tasking ability!

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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CD Review: Born With a Song (Freedom)


Freedom-CD-front-2-FLAT-300Several years ago, this post used statistical analysis to quantify something we already intuitively knew: Southern Gospel table projects tend to use the same songs over and over.

That post has formed the cornerstone of our ratings of table projects ever since. How creative was the group in picking their songs? Anything at or above a 66% creativity rating—meaning that at least two-thirds of the songs aren’t overdone—is considered to be a strong rating. What you almost never see, though, is a table project hit 100% on this meter. But that’s exactly the feat that Born With a Song pulls off.

In fact, there’s a sense in which this is the first truly table project to earn this rating; both previous albums to earn the designation were hybrid albums that mixed in some classic songs and some covers of recent hits.

Put more simply, the song selection on Born With a Song is brilliant. There’s a mixture of songs that everyone knows but that aren’t overdone (“Rise Again,” “Learning to Lean”) alongside songs practically nobody has done for twenty or thirty years that are just begging for a remake of this caliber (“It Made News in Heaven,” “Closer to You,” “On a Journey.”)

Freedom co-owners John Rulapaugh and Josh Garner brought a specific and unique concept to the song selection. As Josh Garner explains:

I was having a discussion one day about the charting history of the Florida Boys’ classic, “Standing On The Solid Rock.” Unsure of my facts, I referred to the Singing News Source Book, which has a list of all the top-ranking radio songs by year. As I searched, I noticed the song charted in 1979, the year of my birth, as well as some other tremendous hits that I had not heard in a long time. The wheels were already turning, so I scanned the 1977 chart, the year of John Rulapaugh’s birth, and once more saw a list of songs that were begging to be sung again. In the end, we chose four songs from each chart to record and rounded out the album with two top charting songs that gave birth to two of our all-time favorite groups: “Somebody Touched The Lord” by Perfect Heart and “On A Journey” by Greater Vision.

The production quality is a step above many table projects. With Gerald Wolfe producing tracks and Arthur Rice producing vocals (and adding a guest baritone vocals), the CD sounds like a mainline release.

Born With a Song is strong all-around, but Rulapaugh and Garner are probably at their strongest when they’re tearing up the Kingsmen classics “One Way Flight” and “It Made News in Heaven,” and “On a Journey,” known as a Greater Vision song but another song that would have felt at home on a Kingsmen album. Rulapaugh’s tender vocal on “Closer to You” is one of the finest vocal performances of his career.

Between mainline-quality tracks and vocal production, genius song selection, a memorable concept, and vocal performances by three of our genre’s strongest vocalists, Born With a Song deserves to go down as one of the year’s two or three strongest table projects.

Traditional or Progressive: Fairly traditional.

Group Members: John Rulapaugh (tenor), Josh Garner (lead), guest vocals by Arthur Rice on baritone.

Song List: Somebody Touched The Lord (Sandy Knight); I Won’t Walk Without Jesus (Ronnie Hinson); One Way Flight (Jim Wood, Roger Holmes); What Sins Are You Talking About (Harold Lane); Learning To Lean (John Stallings); It Made News In Heaven (Gordon Jensen); Standing On The Solid Rock (Harold Lane); Rise Again (Dallas Holm); I Believe He’s Coming Back (Charles F. “Rusty” Goodman); On A Journey (Joseph DiQuattro); Closer To You (Dave Clark). Review copy provided.

Song Selection Creativity Meter: 100%. In place of radio single picks and an album rating, table projects featured in a 3:1 review are measured by a different metric—what percent of the songs on the album are pulled from outside of the 200 Most Frequently Recorded Southern Gospel songs.

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Tyler Vestal leaves Freedom

In a concert streamed online tonight, Josh Garner announced that this weekend was baritone/pianist Tyler Vestal’s final weekend with Freedom. Garner said that Vestal was leaving on good terms and with the group’s blessing. At the close of the concert, he called the church’s pastor (Charles Kirby), Jerry Goff, and one or two other men from the audience up to pray for God’s guidance on the next steps in Vestal’s life.

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Past the Press Release: An Interview with Tyler Vestal

Past the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. Meet new Freedom baritone Tyler Vestal!

Tyler VestalDaniel: I’ve heard that you come from a musical background. Could you tell us about your musical family members?

Tyler: Well my mother sings with the female trio out of Greensboro, NC called Rejoice! but even at a young age, she and her family traveled and performed around much of the southeast. My grandfather also played the piano and organ for an evangelist named Rudy Teague around much of the Carolinas. (We’re all big music people! LOL)

Daniel: So did you grow up wanting to be a singer? Or if you weren’t particularly interested as a child, what sparked that interest later on?

Tyler: I did always like to sing growing up but until I turned 13 and went to my first NQC, I had never considered that being my career.

Daniel: Outside of your family, who are your biggest musical influences?

Tyler: As far as inspiring me to want to be a singer, Gene McDonald, Mark Trammell, and Roger & Debbie Talley played a big part. Influences stylistically, however, range all the way from Jake Hess to Brad Paisley!

Daniel: Did you sing with any other groups before joining Freedom?

Tyler: I sang bass for Rejoice! for about 4 years full-time.

Daniel: When I saw Freedom in concert a few months ago, you played the piano on several songs. How long have you been playing piano?

Tyler: I started to pick it up around the age of 3 or 4 my parents say.

Daniel: Do you think of yourself as more a singer who can play piano or more a pianist who can sing?

Tyler: Well I’ve been blessed throughout my career in gospel music to be able to do both but if i had to choose, I would most likely say a singer who can play.

Daniel: Let’s suppose you had the opportunity to go back in time and hear any one Southern Gospel group you’ve never gotten to see in person live. What group would you pick, and what lineup or year?

Tyler: It would either be the Ivan, Brian, Mike, Tim, and Garry lineup of Gold City, or the Hovie, Jake, Chief, Rosie, Doy lineup of the Statesmen.

Daniel: Congratulations on joining Freedom! Josh Garner and John Rulapaugh are known for having big, powerful voices. Have you had to make any adjustments to your singing style to match the volume and intensity of their power vocals and harmonies?

Tyler: Having been a bass singer before, there were definitely some adjustments; however, it has also helped expand my range quite a bit.

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