In Honor: Ben Speer

The sad news broke yesterday that legendary Southern Gospel artist, Ben Speer, passed away.

His mark on the Southern Gospel music industry will forever be remembered.  From his nearly six decades performing with his family (Speer Family) to his instruction of proper singing technique to many young people at the Stamps Baxter School of Music.

Thank you for sharing your life and talent with the world!

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In Honor: Buck Rambo

BuckAfter a recent battle with cancer, Southern Gospel music legend Buck Rambo passed from this earth on Sunday February 21st, 2016.

Buck began his professional singing career after he married Dottie in 1950.  The original trio went by the name of the Gospel Echoes.  The group recorded two albums with Warner Brothers before signing with the Benson Company on the HeartWarming record label.

Once daughter Reba joined the group in 1965, the name became the (Singing) Rambos.  The family would record and release Dottie’s biggest compositions over the course of their career.  Songs that are now considered classics among the Southern Gospel listening audience.

Buck Rambo was a seasoned professional, serving in various capacities in the Gospel music industry.  The Rambos were inducted in the Gospel Music Association hall of fame in 2001, while Buck Rambo became a member of the Southern Gospel Music hall of fame in 2012.

*Both Videos Credited To (Mr. Scott)

In Honor: LaBreeska Hemphill (1940 – 2015)

LaBreeskaLast night (Saturday December 12, 2015), family and friends came together in Nashville TN to celebrate the life and home going of LaBreeska Hemphill.  The Singing News magazine reported that LaBreeska Hemphill passed from this earth on Wednesday December 9, 2015.

LaBreeska was born in to the Happy Goodman Family as her mother Gussie Mae was sister to Howard, Sam and Rusty.  She sang with the group as a young girl.  The Hemphill legacy began when she married Joel Hemphill.  They would go on to have three children (Joey, Candy and Trent) who all traveled with their parents during the group’s career.

Joel and LaBreeska began singing as a duo as Joel began getting recognized for his writing.  As a result, the duo would land a record deal with Canaan Records.  The couples first two duo (only) recordings were released in 1967 (The Country Gospel Style Of Joel & LaBreeska) and 1968 (In Gospel Country) respectively.

The Hemphill’s most noted song came in 1980; “He’s Still Workin’ On Me”.  The song spent eight months at #1 and went on to win song of the year in 1981.  LaBreeska’s rich alto and friendly personality endeared her to many fans.

LaBreeska’s most noted song, “An Unfinished Task”, was first recorded in 1970 (Old Brush Arbor Days).  The group would re-record the song on a 1990, The Hits, recording.  It just so happens both versions of the song were radio singles for the Hemphills.

The song is a fitting tribute to a women who led a full and rich life traveling the country with her family singing the praises of Jesus.  …And when my life on earth is past, there is just one thing dear Lord I ask, don’t let me leave behind an unfinished task…

*All Videos Credited To (Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row)

In Honor: Carroll McGruder

mcgruders1986praisemaxIt was announced that late Monday evening, Carroll McGruder passed from this life in to the next.  After a hard-fought battle with cancer, Carroll entered in to Heaven.  Carroll was founding member of the family group, the McGruders.

The group burst on the scene in the late 1980’s and found a decade of success with several huge live recordings; most notably Come Fly.  That 1990 recording remains one of the greatest live albums in the history of the genre, defining an era in the Southern Gospel industry I labeled, ‘high energy’.

mcgruders1992inmotionmaxFor current listeners that were not around to experience the McGruders, Carroll’s songs have remained strong including a #1 hit for Triumphant Quartet several years ago; “Saved By Grace”.  And for others not familiar with the McGruders, you are certainly familiar with the catalog of hit songs Carroll has written.  They include:

  • “I Lean On You Lord” – this was Carroll’s first composition to reach #1 in the Singing News chart.  The Florida Boys took the song to #1.
  • “I’m Going Home With Jesus” – Undoubtedly the most popular McGruders song.  Was the McGruders only career #1 song on the Singing News chart, which happened in 1990.  Most recently this song has been a concert show stopper for the Nelons.
  • “Thanks” – Speaking of the Nelons, their huge hit from 1988 was a Carroll McGruder composition.
  • “I’ve Just Started Living” – I’m sure everyone remembers this monster song from the Cathedrals.
  • “We Have A Savior” – In addition to Triumphant’s success with “Saved By Grace”, the Bowling Family had a huge hit several years ago with “We Have A Savior”.

Now that Carroll has received his ultimate reward, we are fortunate enough to have his body of work to continue to lift us up on the not so good days and feel like shouting down the walls on the good.  No greater words than those from Carroll himself;

…”When I reach that city, the gates swing open wide.  I’m gonna sing redemption’s story of how he brought me from the other Side”…

*Video Credit (Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row)

*Video Credit (gospelvideohub)

*Video Credit (BnCSGMusic)

*Video Credit (themcgruders)

In Honor: Norman Wilson (Primitive Quartet)

It was announced yesterday evening that founding member, Norman Wilson, of the bluegrass Southern Gospel group the Primitive Quartet had passed away.  Along with Norman, brother Furman Wilson and the Riddle brothers (Larry and Reagan) the group started singing in 1973.

Norman had held down the tenor singing and playing the mandolin for the past 41 years.  Even with the group’s bluegrass/acoustical style, the Primitive Quartet always had a home in Southern Gospel music and among Southern Gospel listeners.

They rose to prominence in the 1980’s with songs such as “Because He Loved Me”, “Drifting Away”, “Flowers We Love”, “Gloryland”, “I’ll Never Walk In The Valley Again”, “Just A Pilgrim”, “Only Fire I’ll Ever Feel” and “When I Get Home”.  Here are a couple of YouTube clips honoring the legacy of Norman Wilson.

1.  “Gloryland” (published by Bluegrass Country Gospel)

2.  “Gloryland” – original album cut (published by sloopjohnb324)

3.  “My Hope Is In The Blood” (published by Gary King)

In Honor: Charles Johnson (1931 – 2014)

It was announced yesterday that Gospel music legend, Charles Johnson had passed away.  When I read the news, I immediately recalled the first time I saw Charles Johnson & Revivers in concert.  It was in 1990 at the Greenes annual singing in Boone NC.  I already had a couple of the group’s cassette tapes, most importantly One Night Revival, which every Southern Gospel collector should own by the way.

I remember playing that tape and finally getting the VHS copy to watch the actual concert footage.  The anticipation of finally seeing the group live that August night in 1990 was a concert memory I will never forget.  The group became an immediate favorite and I saw the group many times in concert after that, from Lancaster PA to Cullman AL.

I want to honor Charles Johnson and his music legacy with several of my favorite Charles Johnson & Revivers songs.

1.  “I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand)” – published by gospelvideohub

2.  “Holy City, New Jerusalem” – published by MusicScribeBlog

3.  “Until Then” – also by gospelvideohub

4.  “Winds Of This World (aka Jesus Is With Me)” – published by pannellctp

5.  “Going On With Jesus” – also by gospelvideohub