2013 in Review: Southern Gospel’s Biggest News Stories

Site Statistics

In 2013, SouthernGospelBlog.com reached a significant milestone: It was our first year with more than 1 million unique visits (1,070,730). We’ve come close several previous years, but this was our first to actually pass that mark. Thank you for reading! For anyone interested, here a report with other interesting site statistics.

Top Posts of 2013

The top posts of 2013 included several from previous years, and several that were not news stories.

  1. Michael English and Mark Lowry to Leave the Gaither Vocal Band (October 29, 2013; 13,509 views)
  2. Updates on Tracy Stuffle [Update 5] (May 21, 2013; 8,982 views)
  3. Tim Duncan Joins Canton Junction (October 7, 2011; 5,886 views during 2013)
  4. Joseph Habedank Leaves The Perrys (May 22, 2013; 4,619 views)
  5. Tim Duncan leaves Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; Ian Owens Joins (January 19, 2011; 4,609 views during 2013)
  6. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (April 25, 2013; 4,461 views)
  7. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (January 18, 2013; 4,380 views)
  8. An Interview with Tim Duncan (October 27, 2011; 4,302 views during 2013)
  9. Tracy Stuffle Suffers Stroke [Update 1] (January 22, 2013; 4,004 views)
  10. Gaither Vocal Band to perform 2014 tour with Phelps/Hampton/English/Gaither Lineup (October 24, 2013; 3,606 views)

Due to the mixture of posts and topics, this list doesn’t really answer the question of what were the year’s top stories.

Top News Stories of 2013

The two biggest stories of 2013 unfolded over multiple days and were covered in multiple posts. To determine the top stories, we combined the view counts on all posts in the unfolding story.

  1. Tracy Stuffle’s stroke (1 2 3 4 5) (18,653 total views)
  2. Michael English and Mark Lowry leave the Gaither Vocal Band (1 2) (17,115 total views)
  3. Joseph Habedank leaves The Perrys (4,619 views)
  4. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (4,461 views)
  5. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (4,380 views)
  6. Mike Holcomb Leaves The Inspirations (2,407 views)
  7. Dan Keeton Leaves Gold City (2,189 views)
  8. Shane McConnell Joins Canton Junction (2,157 views)
  9. David Ragan leaves The Inspirations (1,959 views)
  10. Debra Talley injured in fall (1,825 views)

Incidentally, these view counts do not count readers reading the post on the home page, via RSS, or via email. So they don’t measure a story’s full reach; however, home page, RSS, and email views stay steady enough that the numbers provide a valid apples-to-apples comparison, even if the numbers are similarly incomplete for each post.

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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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Chip Pullen replaces Jerry Pelfrey with Gold City

Gold City has announced that lead singer Jerry Pelfrey will be leaving the group in two weeks. His final day with Gold City will be Wednesday, October 16th. He will be reorganizing his family group, The Pelfreys. The new Pelfreys lineup will feature Jerry; his wife, Mikki Pelfrey; and his sister, Kim Pelfrey Van Hoozier.

Gold City manager Danny Riley commented: “Anyone who has heard Jerry sing knows he has been a great addition to Gold City vocally and behind the scenes as well. We could make this a sad occasion over losing a valued team member, but in reality, no one knows more the importance of traveling with family than my father (Tim Riley) and I. We respect Jerry for taking this opportunity to be with his family at this time in their lives. Gold City asks that you join us in praying for the Pelfreys that God would bless their ministry and allow them to do His work for many years to come.”

Jerry Pelfrey added: “I will be honest. I am scared to death, but ever since the song Lord of Life, I have had a burden to personally be more specific in asking people who Jesus is to them. Once I made the decision with my family to re-establish The Pelfreys, I have had a peace about it. We covet your prayers as we step out in faith to launch this new ministry.”

Gold City has hired Chip Pullen as their new lead singer; most recently, he sang with the Anchormen.

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NQC 2013, Day 5: Live Blog

Highlights of the Night

The evening kept getting better and better; it is safe to call the five-song finale the strongest part of the evening. 

  • Greater Vision kicked it off with “I Know a Man Who Can.”
  • Karen Peck and New River followed it with “Four Days Late.” It’s one of the strongest renditions I’ve ever heard them offer.
  • The Booth Brothers sang “Still Feeling Fine.” 11 PM or not, I’m not sure the audience will sit down at all between Greater Vision and the final notes! (Was that Gene McDonald who came up by the end? I had to look away for a couple of minutes.)
  • Mark Trammell Quartet, “I Want to Know.” I was surprised they didn’t sing it earlier; this was why!
  • To top it all off, there was an unannounced appearance by the Gaither Vocal Band, singing “It is Finished.” Wow! Talk about a strong ending!

Other highlights, in reverse chronological order:

  • Gold City’s set: Three classics and a recent favorite that unleashes the greatest legend amongst current Southern Gospel bass singers makes for a strong set! (And a cameo appearance from Jonathan Wilburn is never a bad thing.)
  • “The King is Coming,” Mark Trammell Quartet. A rousing standing ovation!
  • The Booth Brothers brought Bill Gaither up for the final song of their set, “I Played in the Band.” Before the final encore, Gaither had everyone who had sung in a choir, driven a bus, and done several other specific things he acknowledged, stand. Most of the room was standing.
  • “He’s Alive,” David Phelps with the Gaither Vocal Band. It deserves its own mention!
  • The Gaither segment. (Of course.) “That Sounds Like Home To Me” was particularly strong.
  • Canton Junction’s surprise appearance at the start of the Gaither set was very well-received.
  • The entire Karen Peck & New River set. It’s been their strongest of the week. They started with their current, catchy single, followed with two of their #1 hits, and left the audience on their feet with “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown.” They did their two biggest hits (“Four Days Late” and “Last Night”) earlier this week; that they could do a set without either song and still turn in their strongest set of the week speaks both to their ability as performers and to strength of their repertoire.
  • “If That Isn’t Love,” Isaacs, with Bill Gaither on the piano. We’re used to the Isaacs with Bluegrass arrangements; it’s nice to see them with Southern Gospel accompaniment once in a while.
  • “The Living Years,” Isaacs. As Bill Gaither walked on stage for the next song, he talked the Isaacs into doing an acapella chorus and tag of this one. Nobody can touch Gaither’s masterful touch at making a good moment unforgettable.
  • “Something’s Happening,” Hoppers. It was good throughout, but kept getting better and better. Then, when TaRanda Greene walked over to Kim Hopper and started singing a third above Kim’s soprano part, the raw musical power was simply too much for even Freedom Hall to contain.
  • The Nelons’ entire set was incredibly strong. They started with their recent radio single, “Excuse Me, Are You Jesus.” Then, they took the daring and risky move of singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” a cappella. The set just kept getting better and better; song 3 was the Sandi Patti song “More Than Wonderful.” Soprano Amber Thompson nailed Patti’s high ending, hitting notes I’ve never heard her hit before. Then, with the Gaither band backing them up, they pulled off an energetic rendition of “I’m Going Home With Jesus.”
  • Freedom’s Showcase Appearance: If this is any indication, John Rulapaugh’s new lineup is off to a spectacular start. But get Rulapaugh, Dale Shipley, and Burman Porter all into one group, and what do you expect?

Live Play-By Play

This post got so long that we’ve hidden the live play-by-play from the home page. Click “read more” or the post title to read the complete coverage.

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NQC 2013, Day 3: Live Blog

Far and away, this evening’s program has been the strongest so far. In fact, this evening has had so many highlights that it will be rather hard for the days later in the week to top it.

Perhaps a much better attendance has energized the performers. @jon_leighton posted this picture on Twitter, commenting: “ironically,  a huge crowd on quartet night at quartet convention!”

I missed the first three hours; I was at my church’s Wednesday night service. My siblings, who live across the country and don’t have a midweek service, provided our coverage of the first three hours. 

Highlight of the Night

The moment of the night was the retirement performance of The Couriers. It was the final time most of the people in the audience or watching the webcast will see these legends live and in person; they have announced that their final performance is later this year.

One song into their set, the Mark Trammell Quartet sang one of The Couriers’ signature songs, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” Mark then talked about how he had seen the Couriers for the first time at NQC 1974, and talked about the impact they had on their fellow performers, on the fans, and on his life.

Then Mark said that the Couriers—Duane Nicholson, Neil Enloe, and Dave Kyllonen—were there, and he was going to call them up on stage. The artists in the artist circle, surrounding the stage, stood for a standing ovation.

If the audience had any clue what was coming next, the audience would have joined them.

Gerald Wolfe and Jim Brady join Mark to present The Couriers with plaques from the National Quartet Convention thanking them for their years of faithful service and integrity and commemorating their retirement, coming later this year.

Mark Trammell introduced “Statue of Liberty” with these words: “As we pay tribute to the fallen heroes tonight on 9/11, I want to pay tribute to living heroes who show us how to do what we do with grace style character, and integrity.” The Couriers sang most of the song; the Mark Trammell Quartet joined them for the dramatic final choruses.

The audience stood throughout much of the song. Based on the video feed, it looked like there wasn’t a person in Freedom Hall still in their seat by the midpoint of the song. After the song, the standing ovation was enthusiastic and prolonged. It was as if the audience didn’t want to sit down because they didn’t want that moment to end.

Mark Trammell deserves credit for giving up most of his set for this moment. The Couriers deserved this moment—their NQC retirement, and probably their final appearance at a major venue. (Their retirement concert is in two or three months.) It was the final moment most of the people in the room and watching the webcast will get to see them live, and thanks to this, they went out in grand style.

This is one of those NQC moments fans will still be talking about in ten or twenty years.

Other Highlights

My siblings noted these highlights from the first three hours.

  • The Booth Brothers Quartet (see 5:56)
  • The Quartet Choir (see 5:53)
  • The Basses Quartet (see 6:51)
  • Quartet Gilead of Rio De Verde, Brazil (7:17)

I picked up around 8:30. These are the highlights from 8:30 on:

  • The Couriers’ final NQC performance (see above).
  • Legacy Five singing “We Shall See Jesus” (10:22). Of all the times I’ve seen them stage the song, this was easily the best. They had a tough act to follow—the moment of the night, the Couriers’ retirement performance. It’s hard to turn around from that into another evening highlight, but they pulled it off. For about a dozen years after Glen Payne’s death, no major group was willing to touch the song, but, as Fowler said, “the song is too good to die.”
  • The Confused Quartet (8:35): Jeff Easter on tenor, Scott Howard on lead, Arthur Rice on baritone, Mark Trammell on bass, and Gerald Wolfe on piano. This was a highlight for comedic reasons; Easter did a brilliant Kingsmen tenor impression.
  • All-Star Quartet (8:58): On the other hand, this was a highlight for musical reasons. Riley Clark, Clayton Inman, Mark Trammell, and Jeff Chapman did an outstanding rendition of “Glory Road.”
  • The Old Paths set: They’ve had two #1 hits within the last year, and those songs carried their debut NQC appearance.
  • The Kingdom Heirs set was perfectly paced.
  • Triumphant was a great pick to close the night. Their set just kept getting better and better, and they were tearing Louisville up by the last two songs. Clayton Inman reprised his classic Singing Americans feature on “Welcome to Heaven.” And when you thought it couldn’t get any better, they pulled their best fast song—a song a few too many fans have forgotten—out of their back pocket, “I Know I’m Going Home.”

Live Play-by-Play

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NQC 2013, Day 2: Live Blog

Are you watching in person or online? Jump in; join the discussion and share your thoughts in the comments section!


In no particular order.

  • The webcast quality was greatly improved from last night. There was only one point where there were any significant interruptions—though, sadly, it was…
  • The Cathedral Family Reunion appearance—Danny Funderburk, Ernie Haase, Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, and Scott Fowler, joined by guest bass Paul Harkey—singing their new radio single, “We’ll Work.” I could only catch a few seconds here and a few seconds there, but it was enough to confirm that it was one of the evening’s highlights.
  • Even though Legacy Five’s set had the somewhat odd pacing of three bass solo songs to open, it showcased Matt Fouch’s growth into his role as a Legacy Five-style bass singer within the past year.
  • I was prepared to describe the Kingdom Heirs set much like I described one or two sets from yesterday: Solidly paced, and so great as a whole that it deserved mention here, even though there wasn’t one song that stood head and shoulders over the rest. But then they closed with their current #1 hit, “Just Beyond the Sunset.” They gave it the all-our barn-burner treatment that they’ve given to previous favorites, “He Locked the Gates” and “I Know I’m Going There.” 

Highlights of their respective sets include: “Homecoming Day” (Tribute Quartet), “Searchin'” (The Talleys with Jason Crabb), “When He Spoke” (The Perrys), “That’s What The Blood is For” (Jason Crabb), “Calvary Conquers It All” (Gold City), “Goodbye World Goodbye” (Penny Loafers), “When We Meet to Part No More” (Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver), “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More” (Inspirations), “Reason Enough” (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound), “What Remains of Me” (Dixie Melody Boys with The Isaacs), “Hold On” (The McKameys), “Four Days Late” (Karen Peck and New River), “I’ll Trust The Potter’s Hand” (The Whisnants)

Live Play-By-Play

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An Interview with Robert Fulton

I recently had the opportunity to interview new Gold City tenor Robert Fulton.

Daniel: What sparked your love for and desire to sing Southern Gospel music?

Robert: I’ve always loved music in general for as long as I can remember. In January of 2001, when I was 15, My family moved to an area with a southern gospel radio station. That’s what I really started to fall in love with it. My first Quartet especially will tell you that I knew almost none of what most consider to be classic Southern Gospel. I learned quickly though. It was also around age 15 when I really began singing and quickly discovered that it was all I wanted to do.

Daniel: What groups, local and national, have you sung with prior to joining Gold City?

Robert: My first group was a Quartet based in Gallipolis, Ohio called Forgiven 4. I spent about four years as their tenor, after joining them in March of 2005. With the exception of a couple of long trips, we sang mostly in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In January 2009, I joined the Palmetto State Quartet. I sang with them for 2 1/2 years, until I came off the road in July 2011.

In the interim between Palmetto State and Gold City, I led worship at a church and sang various solo concerts throughout my region.

In February of this year, I began singing with Gold City.

Daniel: What do you consider to be Gold City’s all-time three greatest albums?

Robert: This is such a hard question for me! Pillars of Faith and the acapella album for sure, but after that its kind of a toss up. The group has had so many great songs and projects.

Daniel: Any hobbies outside of music?

Robert: Most of my friends will tell you that I am a trivia nut, And that’s absolutely true. I love game shows and quiz shows because of that. LOL.

I love to read, and had become something of a student of a lot of great theologians and thinkers. CS Lewis and NT Wright, as well as apologists like Ravi Zacharias, and Dr. John Lennox. Brilliant men of God!

Less seriously, I love baseball, and am just about the biggest Cincinnati Reds fan on the face of the planet.

I’m also a podcaster now! Me, my brother, and our good friend Terry host a podcast called “Uncommon”. We talked about a little bit of everything, from music and theology to movies to sports. It sort of gives us all a chance to flex our inner geek, for the whole world to hear. Ha ha

Daniel: What motivates you to get out on the road every weekend – to face all the challenges of road life, like the crazy hours and time away from family?

Robert: The gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve heard it said often that with in the Gospel, there is an impelling “go”. The world desperately needs to hear what it is that we seeing and say every night, And to be transformed by the power of Christ. I can imagine no higher calling than to carry the gospel in whatever way it is that God has given you to carry it. For me that is music. I’m incredibly grateful to be able to take the good news by using a medium that I love so much, and to be a part of this amazing group, with some awesome men.

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Song Snapshots #24: I Love This Land (Gold City)

Let’s celebrate July 4th with the story behind a patriotic Southern Gospel song!

Songwriter Ben Storie grew up with virtually no exposure to Southern Gospel music. “The closest I came was when my church would sing some Gaither choruses as part of the praise and worship. But if it wasn’t in the hymn book, or it wasn’t a Gaither Chorus, then I really had not been exposed to it.”

In 1994, a young lady he knew, Tonya Norrid, invited him to fill in with her group for an event. Her family had toured for ten years, and wanted to enter a local talent contest. Her brother, who had sung with the group until that point, had moved on to other interests and did not want to travel. So Storie learned “Beulah Land” and “March Through the Water.” He recalls: “We entered this talent contest and won it!”

He ended up staying with the group—and marrying Tonya! They traveled under the name of Sweeter Rain for ten years. He recalls that they had some success in those years: “We did one recording with Jericho Records, which was on the Zion label, produced by Zane King. Then we did a project with Phil Cross and toured nationally with him and with the Ruppes. We had some measure of chart success, but after ten years, when our daughter Maggie was born, it had just kind of run its course.”

The Stories moved to Nashville, Tennessee so that he could pursue writing professionally. They lived there for three years and saw very little success. “It was a very frustrating time,” he recalls. “Right before I left Nashville, kind of as a last-ditch effort, I wrote and did some studio demos for about a dozen songs, and I took them to the National Quartet Convention. One of the nights, I handed it out to everybody. I’m sure there are probably like a few janitors with a copy of that CD!”

Discouraged by the lack of the response, he eventually moved home to Oklahoma. But even though nobody recorded any of the songs on that CD at the time, it included several songs that would eventually get recorded, including Liberty Quartet’s “Peace Like a River” and Gold City’s “I Love This Land.”

Gold City recorded “I Love This Land” on their 2008 album Moment of Truth. Their vocal lineup at that point was Steve Ladd, Bruce Taliaferro, Daniel Riley, and Aaron McCune; Bruce Taliaferro had the featured vocal on the song.

They performed the song as a tribute to America at the National Quartet Convention September 11, 2008. The performance was captured on video:

“I didn’t get to be there that year,” Storie recalls, “but a friend was taking pictures and texting me from the front row.”

He was humbled by the reaction the song received: “Gold City was performing a song that I wrote in my kitchen in my small apartment in Nashville, Tennessee, in front of this huge National Quartet Convention arena crowd, honoring the memory of folks who passed away in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s very humbling and overwhelming that I could be a part of encouraging somebody who had been through that kind of pain and hurt.”

“I think it’s just really beyond your scope of imagination as a writer,” he continues, “when you write songs in your car or living room, or a writer’s room at some publishing company on an off street in Nashville. You have no idea about the thousands and thousands and sometimes millions of people that can be encouraged or challenged or uplifted. It’s just very sobering when you actually consider. It’s kind of a heavy responsibility, but you really take it seriously. You’re responsible for not just entertaining, but saying something that’s going to make somebody’s day matter, or challenge them to dig deeper in their faith.”

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Saturday News Roundup #178

Worth Knowing

  • The Collingsworth Family recorded an upcoming DVD release, Hymns from Home, in their home on Thursday. Kim White of Viewfinders, who directed the video shoot, posted this video preview.
  • The classic Gold City lineup of Jay Parrack, Jonathan Wilburn, Mark Trammell, and Tim Riley will reunite for a featured matinee performance at next year’s Memphis Quartet Show.
  • George Amon Webster’s health has taken a turn for the worse. His son Tim Webster posted: “My dad has now found out that the cancer is not only pressing against his trachea, but it is also pressing against his carotid artery. This means that if the cancer pushes against the artery enough to tear it, that he could bleed to death. The doctors are going to do an emergency trache, and they are also giving him the strongest anti-inflammatory med available to help keep swelling to a minimum.”
  • Phil Cross has launched Phil Cross Productions, offering audio recording, graphic design, and mentoring services to rising artists.
  • Phil Cross, Mark Bishop, and Gerald Crabb are among the featured songwriters on a Song of a Lifetime mini-tour this weekend. Their Saturday night concert in McDonough, Georgia will be filmed for a future DVD release.
  • Update on Tracy Stuffle’s stroke recovery: On Wednesday, his therapists have started to test how he would breathe without a tracheostomy tube. The trial went well.
  • Worth Reading: Paul Heil’s column, Doctrinal Confusion, on the importance of Biblical literacy.

Worth Watching

Here’s a first look at the new Inspirations lineup—including new tenor Mark Clark and new lead singer Steven Srein—live at the Memphis Quartet Show:

Speaking of first looks, here’s a video of the Dixie Boys, featuring new baritone singer Aaron Dishman on their signature song “Antioch Church House Choir”:

And a third first look, this one of Mike Rogers with Brian Free and Assurance:

Finally, don’t miss a surprise guest appearance during Triumphant Quartet’s song “The Old White Flag”!

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Saturday News Roundup #168

Worth Knowing

  • The Southern Gospel Music Association has announced the 2013 inductees to the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame. They are John T. Benson, Jr. (deceased), Thomas A. Dorsey (deceased), Polly Lewis Copsey, “Little” Roy Lewis, Duane Nicholson, and Tim Riley.

Worth Watching

What do children in a Southern Gospel group do as they spend hours upon hours on the road? Well, if you’re the children of the Mylon Hayes Family, you might just make a video about the funny things you see on the road!

Here’s a video of Michael Helwig in his (relatively) new role as Blackwood Brothers lead singer:

Diana Brantley, who took that video, has posted more videos and a concert review here.

Meanwhile, Ellen Gerig—the Diana Brantley of the West Coast—has posted a number of videos taken last weekend of Liberty Quartet, with Tim Parton filling in on baritone and piano.

A number of other videos from that concert are visible on her YouTube channel.

Finally, here’s a video of Robert Fulton singing tenor with Gold City (hat tip, Aaron).

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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