Song Snapshots #37: When It Hurts So Bad I Call the Great Physician (Original Couriers)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

On their final recording, the original Couriers (Dave Kyllonen, Duane Nicholson, and Neil Enloe) recorded a new song written by Neil Enloe, “When it Hurts So Bad.”

To understand the song, Enloe recalls, you have to understand where he comes from: “I was raised in classic Pentecostalism; very, very, conservative, none of that holy roller stuff. I never saw anyone roll. I never saw anyone very holy, actually.”

“Along with other churches in the area,” he continues, “our church would sponsor a tent meeting every summer. We were bringing these healing evangelists, and they would pray for people. They’d have a ramp going up one side, the evangelist at the top, and then the ramp going down the other side.

“When someone got healed, everyone’s glorifying God, and it was really great. But I always felt bad for the ones that went down the other side, not getting anything. It always bothered me.”

One day, he realized that “there is a better healing than just having the pain go away. Paul calls it the fellowship of His suffering. And I think that pain, in and of itself, gives you a little more insight into what Jesus went through in our behalf.”

This inspired the line “When it hurts so bad I call the Great Physician.” The song’s narrator never ends up getting healed; “the actual punch line,” Enloe shares, is, “I can always count on Him to gently lift me upward, and I rise above my pain and misery.”

“I believe in healing,” he clarifies. “But the song doesn’t promise healing. I’m not going to say, ”Tis Done.'”

Read More

Song Snapshots #36: Give Me Jesus (Couriers)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

One day, the Couriers were in downtown Philadelphia. They were visiting a long-time supporter of the group who had invited them over for a meal. “She has gone on to be with the Lord now, but she would come to our concerts for years,” Couriers lead singer Neal Enloe recalls. “She had us come to her house, saying, ‘We want to fix a meal for you.’”

He recalls that her house was on a narrow street and had a tiny porch. “The food wasn’t ready,” he recalls, “so I went out to the front porch just to sit down and think a little bit.”

“All of a sudden,” he says, “the idea for ‘Give Me Jesus’ came to me,” and he wrote it in no time flat.

The song’s message of submission still resonates deeply with him. “I like songs that put me on the altar, because that’s where the most meaningful part of my life has been lived. That’s one of them.”

Read More

Song Snapshots #32: He’s More than Just a Swear Word (Couriers, Blackwood Brothers, Collingsworth Family)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

Neil Enloe’s father was a barber. He describes him as a “fun-loving, happy guy, who never had a sad day in his life.” But, Enloe recalls, “He loved his Lord, and he was dead serious about God. He was a great role model.”

“In his barber shop,” Enloe continues, “he could not stand to have the name of Jesus berated or blasphemed. In his shop, one wall had a sign, ‘No swearing, please.’ Another wall had a sign that said, ‘No profane language, please.’ My dad was a very crude person when it comes to design; he tore the flap off a cardboard box, and with a child’s crayon, he wrote a sign and thumb-tacked it to a third wall. And it said, and this one he made up, ‘A feller’s tougher who is not a cusser.’”

Enloe recalls the impact of his father’s stand: “So here I am, and going into my dad’s barber shop. In front of his customers, when they would blaspheme the name of the Lord, he would stop, mid-stroke, whether it was shaving, or cutting hair, or whatever, and he’d say, ‘Look, this is my Lord and my Savior, we don’t talk like that here.’ So at the expense of losing business, my dad stood up for his Lord, and that deeply impressed me as a little guy. So in the years that followed, I just decided to make a statement, too, and that’s where that song really came from, my childhood.”

The song was one of the most popular songs the Couriers ever introduced. It made the rounds in the 1970s; the Blackwood Brothers, Cathedrals, Dixie Echoes, Dixie Melody Boys, Downings, Florida Boys, Kingsmen, and Sego Brothers were among the groups who recorded it. After receiving little attention for decades, the song was recently brought back by the Collingsworth Family on their 2007 We Believe CD.

Read More

Song Snapshots #29: The Joy of Serving Jesus (Couriers, Blackwood Brothers)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

“The Joy of Knowing Jesus” is one of Neil Enloe’s best-remembered songs. But when he’s asked about the song’s inspiration, he answers, “This is not that interesting.” But then he clarifies: “I mean, it’s interesting, but it’s not inspirational.”

He elaborates: “We did missions for years in the West Indies. We were in Barbados one year for ten or twelve days. We had an outdoor crusade every night, in a park, and huge crowds. But during the day, I had an occasion to go back to the church, and on the platform, they had an old upright piano. I was sitting at the piano musing about Jim Hill’s songs ‘What a Day That Will Be’ and ‘For God So Loved,’ his two big songs.”

He thought, These songs are so simple. There’s a lot of songs in Southern Gospel that are just really ultra-simple. But simplicity is very, very powerful.” And as he was thinking about those songs, he thought, “Well, I could do that. I could write a song that simple!”

“So I wrote ‘The Joy of Knowing Jesus,’ and little did I know that it would connect! It’s not an inspiring story at all, and it wasn’t meant to be funny, but that’s just the way it happened!”

Within a decade, many of Southern Gospel’s leading groups, including the Blackwood Brothers, the Hoppers, the Inspirations, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Rebels, and the Singing Americans had recorded versions of the song. In recent years, the Dixie Melody Boys and the Blackwood Brothers both brought the song back with their 2007 and 2010 versions, respectively.

Read More

Three NQC Items

Three items related to this year’s National Quartet Convention:

  • The NQC Office announced earlier this week that the NQC week Friday broadcast (September 13th) will be made available to the public for free viewing.
  • The Mark Trammell Quartet announced that they will give a portion of their Wednesday night (September 11th) set to the original Couriers—Neil Enloe, Duane Nicholson, and Dave Kyllonen. Expect to see the groups performing “Statue of Liberty,” probably together, as the wording of the Facebook post would indicate a joint performance; after all, it’s a patriotic holiday, Enloe wrote “Statue of Liberty” and the Couriers introduced it, and the Mark Trammell Quartet recently recorded the song (to the Couriers’ track, no less!) It is the Couriers’ retirement year, so it would be an emotional moment anyhow. But throw in the respect Trammell has for the Couriers, the impact they have had on his life and ministry through the years, the power of the song, and the fact that it’s a national holiday, and it would be the safest prediction of the year to say that it’s a guaranteed highlights-reel-of-the-week sort of moment.
  • I don’t expect to be there in person, making this the first convention I’ve missed in several years, but I do plan to cover the events of the week via the webcast. For the last two or three years, I have done a mixture of covering some days from home via the webcast, and others in person, tapping out posts in a cheap hotel room somewhere at 2 A.M. Far and away, the webcast-based posts, where my focus is completely on writing a good blog post and not on the thousand and one other good things that happen convention week, are far and away more read and discussed.
Read More

Song Snapshots #26: The Next Time I Get Married (Couriers)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

“Even from your earliest years,” Neil Enloe observes, “the identity of your gender is very strong. And it struck me one day that we are going to be the bride of Christ. Men will be part of the bride! So I began to joke in our services about it. Dave would talk about my songs, and I would say, ‘Oh, I got another one; I already got the title. And it’s called the next time I get married, I’m gonna be the bride.'”

“That happened almost two years,” he continues. “Finally, one day, I said, ‘You know, I’m baiting this hook, but I’m not catching anything. I really should just go ahead and try to put a song together.’ And that’s what I came up with. But I established myself in the first two verses, without any question, that I am a male species. I am married, I have children, I have grandchildren. However, in the next time I get married, I’m gonna be the bride!”

The Couriers recorded the song on their most recent release, Changing World.

People ask if he has received criticism for a song. “We never got any flak,” he replies. “One time we were singing out in California at a Bible School. A friend of ours who was there said it was a good thing we didn’t sing that song for the chapel, because we would have gotten some flak. But I never have actually gotten any, to this day. I was very careful to not point a finger of accusation at anybody. The song specifically talks about me, not you. Not shame on you for anything, nothing like that. So I’m prepared to defend it because I do not put a downer on anybody for any reason in it.”

Read More

Song Snapshots #23: Euroclydon (Couriers)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

One day, as Neil Enloe was reading his Bible, he came across the Acts 27 account of Paul’s shipwreck. Unlike other versions, the King James Version, which he describes as “the version of my life,” names the storm—”Euroclydon.”

He thought it was a strange word. “But,” he thought, “maybe I can build a song around that one word and tell the story of the shipwreck and how the same solution that Paul had can be ours, too. You always make the application in the last verse.” So he read and re-read the passage, putting the story in the first two verses and making the application in the third.

The Couriers’ classic lineup of Duane Nicholson (tenor), Enloe (lead), and Dave Kyllonen (bass) toured through this year as Dave, Duane, and Neil. They recorded this song on their final album, Changing World.

As they were in the studio working on the backup tracks, Enloe told the studio musicians, “I want the haunting sound of Ghost Riders in the Sky.” He explained: “That’s always been a very haunting kind of a sound. It was a time of great turmoil in the life of Paul and those 276 people who were on the boat. So I thought it will add a little drama to it, and I think it matched up well.”

Read More

Song Snapshots #19: Statue of Liberty (Couriers, Cathedrals, Ivan Parker)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs. In a special Memorial Day edition, here’s the story behind one of Southern Gospel’s all-time greatest songs, “Statue of Liberty.”

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Southern Gospel classic “Statue of Liberty.”

Its writer, Neil Enloe of the Couriers, still vividly recalls the occasion that inspired the song: “We were invited to sing for an afternoon and evening boat excursion on the Hudson River. The Assemblies of God young people from both New Jersey and New York were together and had a boat ride. There were 2,400 kids on this big excursion boat we were using, but the auditorium only seated about 400 people. So we had to have six little twenty-minute concerts to get everyone in. At the end of one concert, it would take five or ten minutes for the people to leave, and then that many minutes for the next crowd to get back in.”

“During a break between those concerts,” he continues, “Dave [Kyllonen] and I both stepped out on the deck to get some fresh air. By now, the sun had gone down, and the lights of New York were beautiful. We went back in and did another one, and came back out after that. And this time, we were leaning against the outer rail, just watching the kids hold hands, and all that.”

“All of a sudden, it got quiet. Everyone goes ‘ooh’ and ‘aah,’ and we thought, ‘What on earth’s going on?’”

They turned to see the Statue of Liberty. “Boy, there she was, right above us. Everything American in me rose up. But I have a greater citizenship, and so my heart turned to that, too.”

He turned to Dave Kyllonen and said, ‘You know, there’s a song in there somewhere!”

Dave said, “Yeah, sure! Remember, we sing Gospel Music. Where’s the Gospel in the Statue of Liberty?”

Enloe replied, “It’s in there.”

The song took him three months to write. He explains his painstaking writing and editing process this way: “I just don’t let lyrics flow. I am terribly, terribly critical of my own lyrics. I don’t want to say something that’s not quite right. So I worked, and worked, and worked, and I revised, revised, revised. If there’s any success at all I’ve had as a writer, it’s been in the revision process, because what comes off of my tongue doesn’t really fly most of the time. I have to write it down and look at it and say, ‘No, that’s not right. How can I say that better?”

After he had completed the song, he sang it at a Couriers concert, which, as he recalls, was in a Methodist church near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He sang it as a solo for three months, “because evolution will set in. I did not want it to lose its direction and its feel. So I did it for three months so Dave and Duane [Nicholson] would not know that song any other way.”

After those three months, they began singing it as a group. “It took us a month to lock it in vocally,” he remembers. “It’s just a very strenuous song. If you notice, the melody starts in the basement and ends in the attic. The range is so wide that it almost takes a group to do it justice, although Larnelle Harris did it well.”

Enloe can be humble and rather understated; he observes, “Anyway, we recorded it three times, four times, depending on what the grouping, and it doesn’t seem to want to go away, for some reason.”

Though songs that combine patriotic themes with a Christian message are now common to the point of commonplace, the concept was revolutionary at the time. “Statue of Liberty” was among the first of its kind, and still stands at the head of its class. It is one of those songs that has been often imitated but never surpassed.

The song immediately caught on like wildfire. In the 1970s, the Blackwood Brothers, Blue Ridge Quartet, Cathedrals, Heaven Bound, Jerry and the Goffs, the Kingsmen, London Parris and the Apostles, and the Speer Family recorded the song. The song has established itself as a classic with its consistent presence in the genre ever since. In the 1980s, the Cathedrals and Hoppers each recorded versions. The Dixie Echoes, Glen Payne, and the Gaither Homecoming Friends each recorded versions in the 1990s. In the 2000s, Anthony Burger, the Cumberland Quartet, Ivan Parker (with the Gaither Homecoming Friends), Liberty Quartet, the Mark Trammell Quartet, and Triumphant Quartet all have recorded the song.

Last year, on the Fourth of July, Couriers tenor Duane Nicholson revealed a little-known chapter in the song’s history:

Neil Enloe would not reveal this to anyone so I will, after all these years! He was approached by officials coordinating the festivities for the nation’s 200th Birthday that was televised nationally to millions of people to use his song “Statue of Liberty.” The only problem was that they wanted him to change the second verse. Neil kindly thanked them for the invitation but declined to do so. His remark was that God gave Him the idea for the song and the second verse was the main theme of the song. He refused to compromise!

Read More

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!

Read More
Page 1 of 3123