Ten On Ten – Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters
This week’s ten on ten feature looks at the recording career of Southern Gospel comedian Wendy Bagwell and his group the Sunliters. A trio that consisted of Wendy Bagwell, Jan Buckner and Geraldine Morrison for upwards of thirty-five years.
Today’s generation of listeners are not as familiar with this group, but during their prime Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters were a top concert draw. With a discography of just over forty recordings, I attempted to narrow down the ten best. Here are the results.
- Absolutely Live (1989)
- Above It All (1984)
- Roll Away The Stone (1991)
- It Ain’t Love Till You Give It Away (1985)
- The Gospel Music World (1969)
- Plain Georgia Gospel (1977)
- The Exciting (1970)
- Tell It Again (1993)
- He Was Talking About Me (1974)
- On The Road (1979)
- Just about every Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters album had one of Wendy’s funny stories along with music. In some instances Wendy released entire comedy albums. It was “Here Come The Rattlesnakes” that became a million seller in the early 1970’s for Wendy.
- The top recording in the group’s discography is the 1989 audio/video recording Absolutely Live. This album captured the trio unlike any other of their career. A full concert experience featuring great music and comedy from Wendy. The listener also gets a live version of the group’s all time biggest song, “Walk Around Me Jesus”.
- The top studio recording is the 1984 album Above It All. This is one recording where the listener gets only music, no comedy. I spent a lot of time listening to this album as a kid. “The Man In The Middle”, “Above It All”, “Nothing Works Like Calvary”, “Come See About Me”, “Heaven Heavy On My Mind” and “Rise And Walk” all highlight this recording.
- The trio had a successful recording career with Canaan Records, spending nearly their entire career with the same label. Eight of the top ten recordings were recorded on the Canaan label. The other two to land in the top ten were some really strong 1960’s albums recorded with RCA Victor.
- The top RCA Victor recording is The Gospel Music World from 1969. Ranked #5 among the group’s ten best, this album captured that folk style the group possesses during this era in their career. The other RCA Victor album to land in the top ten was The Exciting from 1970, ranked #7.
- The Exciting was the first recording to feature a song the group would go on to sing for twenty years. “This Train” was always a concert favorite where Jan would sing “Jesus” over and over again to make the train sound while Wendy would sing and throw in some comedy. A crowd pleaser for sure.
- The group released some of their best music toward the end of their career. The 1991 album Roll Away The Stone ranks #3 among the group’s ten best. This was one of the best albums released in Southern Gospel music in the year 1991. “Clinging To The Master’s Hand”, “I’m Looking For Jesus”, “Til The Answer Comes”, “Roll Away The Stone”, “On My Mother’s Side” and “Looking At Calvary” all highlight this recording.
- One of the strongest albums in terms of song selection came with the 1985 album It Ain’t Love Till You Give It Away. “I’ve Got His Footsteps”, “The Tomb Is Empty”, “They See God There”, “The Day Will Come”, “His Love Did A Work In Me” and “It Ain’t Love Till You Give It Away” are all proof of that.
- It is a rarity in an industry where personnel changes are the norm, for a group to keep the same personnel for their entire professional recording career.
- With an extensive discography, there were several albums that didn’t make the top ten but deserve an honorable mention: Our Heavenly Flight (1966); Just Over The Rainbow (1968); All Together Now (1982); Spread The Word (1992) and Both Sides Of The River (1980).