Upwards of 20 years ago, Saturday Night Live, aired a now classic skit featuring Will Farrell and Christopher Walken. It was titled “More Cowbell”.
I have mentioned on several occasions how I miss a crying steel guitar in Southern Gospel music. It was a part of the Southern Gospel sound during the 1970s and into the mid 1980s. As live bands became a thing of the past, so did the steel guitar.
I had an opportunity to see Goodman Revival several weeks ago in concert. They traveled with a full band, including a steel guitar player. It added that extra punch needed to drive home the classic Goodman sound.
So, on occasion, I am going to offer a Southern Gospel song that features a crying steel guitar. More crying steel guitar!!
“He Leads Me Each Step Of The Way” – Bowling Family (Mike Bowling/Adam Crabb/Justin Rivers; Shine, 2010)
Today concludes the year 1984 in my three-part series of the Southern Gospel story of my life for this particular year. As you know from the previous post, I attended my first week-long, outdoor event in 1984. It was the Hoppers annual singing at Watermelon Park in Berryville Virginia.
We made it to Friday night (07/27/84) of the event where the Hoppers once again opened the program. Next up on the program was another family group that I had never seen before; the Paynes.
From the moment they took the stage, their songs and stage persona captivated this young kid. Mike Payne emceed his group’s program and he was a master. He had the crowd on their feet several times and by the time they closed with “I’m A Jesus Fan”, the crowd didn’t want them to leave the stage.
I remember picking up three of their record albums at this event that afforded many hours of listening pleasure long after the event was over. Here is a musical montage of what the Paynes were staging in 1984.
To close out the Friday night program was another family group I had seen just two years earlier; the Hemphills.
I remembered the Hemphills and a lot of the songs staged on this particular night were sung when I had seen them prior. On this particular program they performed a song, that as a kid, I fell in love with; “It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built The Ark”. The group encored the song a couple of times and I couldn’t wait to buy the record.
Here is a montage of music from the Hemphills in 1984.
My first week-long, outdoor Southern Gospel event was winding down as Saturday night (07/28/84) started with another crowd pleasing performance from the Hoppers.
Second on the program that night was a new group of performers that used to sing with the Hoppers; the Talleys. They had just released their first major record album and the Hoppers band joined them on stage for several songs.
I remembered Roger and Debra being with the Hoppers when I first saw the group several years prior. As a kid, I loved fast (up tempo) songs and I remember the Talleys didn’t have very many of those, so I sort of glossed over their performance that particular night.
Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters would close the program that Saturday night, but I included them in part one of the 1984 series, so I won’t include them here. Here is a musical mash-up of what the Talleys may have performed that night in 1984.
The week-long event closed with a Sunday afternoon (07/29/84) concert with just the Hoppers and another new group for me to see; the Greenes.
The first night of the event I had seen the Kingsboys for the first time. Here, on the final day there was another group of kids performing with their father (who sang and played piano).
These kids became an instant favorite of mine and I remember every year following the group getting better and better. Next to the Kingsmen, the Greenes were my favorite group to see in concert during this time period.
Here is a musical montage of what the Greenes may have staged in 1984.
I decided to end 1984 with the group that gave six performances during Watermelon Park week; the Hoppers.
It was actually a concert at my hometown high school on August 18, 1984 with the Hoppers that forever left an impact on this young kid. I remember the group showing up late to the event. Many in the crowd and even the emcee didn’t think they were going to make it.
They arrived, set up and performed. I remembered all the songs they sang that night from the week-long performances just a few weeks prior. But, it would be what happened after the concert that forever changed a kid’s heart.
I know I have told this story before, but indulge me if you would. As a kid, you truly don’t understand the struggles your parents may go through to try to keep food on the table and a roof over your head. I remember the program closing and Connie speaking and asking those to come forward who needed prayer. My mom stepped out of the aisle and went forward for prayer, where Connie prayed with her.
At the time, I didn’t realize my parents were struggling financially and barely had enough to keep food on the table. After prayer and the concert closed, walking with my mother to the record table, she walked up and thanked Connie for praying with her. At that moment, this nine-year old boy stood there as Connie grabbed some money and placed it in my mother’s hand. A moment that left an impact on a young kid that left Connie Hopper a hero in my eyes.
Here is a musical montage of the Hoppers from 1984.
I mentioned that 1984 was a big year for this kid in that my family ventured out and attended an outdoor, week-long event; my first. That event was the Hoppers annual concert at Watermelon Park in Berryville Virginia. The Hoppers were holding this event at this specific location since the early 1970’s.
I remember the little concrete stage that faced the Shenandoah River; the crowds of people in their lawn chairs under the big oak trees that shaded the park. It was a concert memory that I will never forget. The event ran nine days (July 21-29, 1984), but my family didn’t arrive until Tuesday (July 24, 1984). What was nice is that the Hoppers sang every night and each night except the last night they would open the program. I will save the Hoppers segment for part three.
Also on the program the first night (07/24/84) was the Kingsmen and Kingsboys. I already featured the Kingsmen in part one of 1984, so I will only include the Kingsboys in this feature. The Kingsboys followed the Hoppers on stage this particular night and I remember seeing a group of kids, not much older than myself singing in a group and I thought how cool that was. This was definitely a step up from me singing around the house to all my record albums.
It’s as if the group was a mini-Kingsmen and for the Kingsmen to follow them on stage was a major memory. Here is a musical mash-up of what the Kingsboys would have staged in 1984.
Wednesday night (07/25/84) of the event opened with the Hoppers and there was only one other group on the program that particular evening; the Cathedrals. This was my first time to see the group in concert. By this point, Danny Funderburk was already singing tenor for the group.
While they didn’t quite match my favorite group as a kid (Kingsmen), I do remember the banter George and Glen had on stage. I also remember the group singing and encoring, “Everywhere I Go” several times. I couldn’t get to the record table fast enough to get that particular song.
I remember how the crowd loved them and the big ovation the group received after Glen performed “We Shall See Jesus”. Here is a musical mash-up of what the Cathedrals may have staged in 1984.
Thursday night (07/26/84) of the event came with the Hoppers opening the program. The next group on the program was one I had seen several years earlier, Heaven Bound.
The group had the same personnel and I remember a couple of the songs performed from the last time I saw them; most notably, “Canaanland Is Just In Sight” and “We Are Those Children”.
Heaven Bound were the kings of encores and I believe they may have encored “Canaanland Is Just In Sight” at least five times. Here is a musical mash-up of Heaven Bound’s 1984 stage program.
The group to headline that Thursday night concert was the Rex Nelon Singers. This was the first time I had a chance to see the group in concert. I became a fan of this group immediately.
They reminded me of the Hoppers, in that they had two male voices and two female voices in the group. The crowd nor I could get enough of “We Shall Wear A Robe And Crown”. I remember several encores and then Heaven Bound and the Hoppers joining them on stage to keep the song going.
Just when you thought the chorus was ending, Karen Peck would belt out another “I’m going to wear a crown” and the crowd would eat it up. Three days in to my first week-long, outdoor event and the Rex Nelon Singers had become my favorite performers of the first three days. Here is a musical mash-up of what the Rex Nelon Singers were staging in 1984.
I will close out part three of the 1984 feature with my final three days of the event.
Now that the new year is upon us, it is time to get back to some of my regular features. One of the most viewed posts of 2014 had to do with a feature I started titled, the Southern Gospel story of my life. I am chronicling, for my readers, how Southern Gospel music impacted me as a young boy. The series started with the year 1979, when I was just 4 years old. It is now time to take a look at the year 1984.
1984 was the first year my family decided to branch out and attend concerts outside of our home town. As a result, the year 1984 will be broken up in to three parts. It started with the local home town concert on March 18th, 1984 in Westminster Maryland. As was the case with every annual concert, there were three artists on the bill. The first on the program that day was the Florida Boys.
This was my first opportunity to see the group in concert. I particularly remember Les and Glen the most and the antics of piano player Darrell Stewart. It was a good first introduction to the group. Here is a musical mash-up of what the Florida Boys may have staged in 1984.
The concert continued with my favorite group as a kid, the Kingsmen. This was now my third time to see the group (saw then in ’81 and ’83) and they were as great as they were the first two times.
One thing that first stood out to me when the group took the stage was the little guy that sang the high part was different. As a kid, I didn’t really understand the idea of members not staying with groups. It just so happens this was the time when Garry Sheppard took over for Ernie Phillips at tenor.
‘Big’ Jim Hamill was his usual boisterous self leaving the crowd wanting more. It was just another opportunity for me to pick up the group’s newest record album from the last time I saw them. Here is a musical mash-up of what the Kingsmen may have staged in 1984.
To headline that particular show was a group I had first seen in 1981; Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters. From the moment they came on stage they had the crowd in the palm of their hand.
‘Little’ Jan Buckner moved around the stage conveying the songs she sang and would periodically move to the piano. Wendy kept the crowd in stitches with his humor and story telling. At this point in a nearly nine-year old boy, this concert stood out as a favorite.
Here is a musical mash-up of music from Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters from 1984.
I’ll close out part one of 1984 with our family’s first concert outing more than an hour from our home town. On July 14, 1984 our family would travel to the small community of Street Maryland to see one of the fastest rising Southern Gospel groups of the day; Gold City.
I remember sitting through several groups (at the time I didn’t realize were all regional) before Gold City coming on. I remember getting bored and wanting to leave, but finally Gold City arrived on stage.
From the first notes, the group tended to move from one up tempo song to the next. As a kid, I loved the faster songs and with Gold City staging mainly fast songs, I remember I couldn’t wait to get to the record table.
Gold City immediately became my mom’s favorite group, so this was the first of many concerts this kid would see Gold City. Here is a musical mash-up of what Gold City may have staged in 1984. Enjoy!
Part 2 of 1984 will continue next week, when this kid attended his first week-long, outdoor, Southern Gospel event at the Hoppers annual Watermelon Park concert in Virginia.
The Southern Gospel story of my life series continues this week with the year 1983. I only attended one concert in 1983. The annual concert in my hometown of Westminster MD featured three artists on the same program. The first up was my favorite group to see in concert as a kid; the Kingsmen.
This was the second time for the group to make an appearance at the annual concert event and I was waiting with anticipation knowing they were going to be there. The concert came and I waited for the emcee to announce the Kingsmen (who headlined) and I was so enthralled by the group’s performance once again. I was two years older than the first time I saw them and I couldn’t wait to get to the record table and buy their newest record album.
Jim Hamill remembered this lanky boy from the previous concert and joked with me and told my mom to make sure she bought me as many record albums as I wanted. Even though I only went home with two new albums I was still happy and couldn’t wait to play them. At this point I had been to enough concerts and accumulated enough records that I started playing DJ as a kid and somehow the Kingsmen were always #1 on my show!
Listen to a mash-up of music from the Kingsmen in 1983.
Another hero of mine, as a kid, was also on the same concert in 1983. That was Ed O’Neal and the Dixie Melody Boys. The group became a fixture at this particular annual concert event and I was always pleased to see them.
1983 was the year the sound/style of the Dixie Melody Boys shifted to a country-style. Their album release that year was More Than Just Good Ole Boys. I loved playing the title track from this record, because as a kid my favorite show was the Dukes Of Hazard. If you remember the show, you’ll know the theme song by Waylon Jennings was “Good Ole Boys”. The Dixie Melody Boys version was a play on this theme song.
Here is a mash-up of music from what the Dixie Melody Boys were staging in 1983.
The third group on the program that year was a family group I had never seen; the Lesters. The Lesters rarely ventured to the mid atlantic region, considering they were based in St Louis MO. But, they made the trip and allowed this kid to add another family group to my collection of record albums.
This was around the time that ‘Big’ Mo Ostrander traveled with the group and I remember Jeanie Cameron on the piano. I also remember Brian and Ginger’s mom (Alene) and dad (Herschel) joining the group on stage for a song.
The Lesters also had a song out at the time; “Gloryland Gold”, that resembled the Gatlin Brothers country hit, “All The Gold In California”. This was another song I remember playing a lot as a kid.
Here is a mash-up of music of what the Lesters may have been staging in 1983. Also, watch out because 1984 was the year my family began traveling to concerts and the slew of artists I seen in 1984 was unforgettable.
A couple of weeks ago I started a series titled the Southern Gospel story of my life. It started with my first concert at the age of four. We have now reached the year 1982 and the chance for this kid to see more of Southern Gospel’s best.
The first new artist for me to see in 1982 was the Hemphills. They came to my hometown for a unique outdoor all night singing. While we didn’t stay the entire night, we did stay long enough to see the Hemphills. I remember Candy also coming in at the end of a chorus to add extra power to a song and it always meant a repeat of the chorus.
This was probably the Hemphills biggest era in Southern Gospel music as they were riding the success of the mega song, “He’s Still Working On Me”. Joel Hemphill was a strong emcee and was able to read a crowd. I remember the many hours after the concert playing the Hemphills record albums purchased at that event.
Here is a mash-up of music of what the Hemphills were staging in 1982.
1982 was also the second time to see the Dixie Melody Boys. They were regulars at the annual concert at the Westminster High School in Westminster Maryland.
This was around the time the group began making changes to their vocal line-up and style. It was also the year they would release their career defining song, “Antioch Church Choir (Uncle Jesse)”.
Here is a mash-up of music from what the Dixie Melody Boys were staging in 1982. Enjoy!
The Southern Gospel story of my life continues this week with the year 1981. Two Methodist churches came together, in 1978, and began hosting an annual Southern Gospel concert at the Westminster High School auditorium in my home town of Westminster Maryland. 1981 was the first year my mother decided she would take me and my brother to this specific concert. The event always had three artists on the program. The group that headlined the 1981 concert was the Kingsmen.
As a kid, after seeing the Kingsmen, I thought they were the greatest thing. I remember the antics of the group on stage. I remember Jim Hamill picking on tenor singer Ernie Phillips. I remember seeing all the instruments and the band members. I distinctly remember the big crowd pleasing songs like “Beautiful Home”, “I’ve Made A Covenant With My Lord” and “When My Feet Touch The Streets Of Gold”.
Along with Connie Hopper and Ed O’Neal, Jim Hamill became a Southern Gospel hero for a young kid. I remember months after listening to Live…Naturally and re-living the concert I had just witnessed. To this day, this album is still among one of my favorite Southern Gospel albums of all time. During the rest of the decade of the 1980’s, the Kingsmen remained my favorite group to see in concert.
Listen to a mash-up of music the Kingsmen were staging in 1981.
Also on that particular concert in 1981 was Heaven Bound. Heaven Bound was just beginning to make a name for themselves among Southern Gospel listening audiences. The album, Thinkin’ ‘Bout Home had just been released and folks were just starting to hear what would become a Southern Gospel classic; “Canaanland Is Just In Sight”.
That particular song launched the career of Heaven Bound and by the mid 1980’s, Heaven Bound was the most popular trio in Southern Gospel music. The impact the Kingsmen had on me this particular concert overshadowed many of the memories I had of Heaven Bound.
The impact of Heaven Bound’s music came after when I started playing the record albums purchased at the concert. Listen to a mash-up of music from Heaven Bound from 1981.
The third group this kid saw in 1981 that made a lasting impact was Wendy Bagwell & Sunliters. The trio came to the Maryland Theater in Hagerstown Maryland (the same venue I had seen the Happy Goodmans a year earlier). I can still remember the group first walking on stage and seeing “little” Jan and Jerri wearing identical white dresses.
I don’t know why, but for a kid, it seemed like the coolest thing. I remember the group singing to only the guitar accompaniment provided by Wendy, Jan and band member Charlie Beatenbo. I remember “little” Jan moving around the stage while she sang and thinking she must really enjoy what she is doing.
While I didn’t quite understand the stories Wendy was telling the audience that particular concert, I remember the laughter from the crowd. The group became an instant favorite of my parents and as a result this wouldn’t be the last time this group saw Wendy Bagwell & Sunliters in concert.
Listen to a mash-up of music the group may have been staging in 1981.
I also want to mention 1981 was the second time I would see the Hopper Brothers & Connie in concert and also saw the Lewis Family at the Westminster High concert.
The Southern Gospel story of my life continues this week with the year 1980. After being introduced to my first Southern Gospel concert experience (Hopper Brothers & Connie) at the age of four, every year following I saw at least one group in concert.
1980 actually allowed a young kid to attend two different concerts. The first occurred at the Maryland theater in Hagerstown Maryland. The group was the Happy Goodmans and it was part of their farewell tour (at least with Howard & Vestal) in 1980.
As with the Hopper Brothers & Connie concert, I have flashes of memories of this concert. Those include Vestal on stage. I remember them calling Tanya Goodman (Sykes) out for a song. I remember Howard on the piano. Again, like before, the real memories came after when I got home and started playing the record albums purchased at the concert.
I remember singing along, at the top of my lungs, to the Happy Goodman’s version of “He Pilots My Ship” (and to this day, still one of my all time favorite songs). Enjoy this mash-up of music of what the Happy Goodmans may have been staging during their farewell tour in 1980.
The second group seen in concert in 1980 was the Dixie Melody Boys. Along with the Hoppers, the Dixie Melody Boys were one of the few groups that toured the mid-atlantic region during this era. The Dixie Melody Boys were the first all male quartet seen by this kid and I can still remember hearing Ed O’Neal’s bass voice for the first time.
Along with Connie Hopper, Ed O’Neal was one of my Southern Gospel heroes. I remember him talking to me and my brother even as kids and seeing the group just about every year following and hearing him tell us how much we were growing up.
Seeing the Dixie Melody Boys in 2014 and Ed still remembers those two scrawny boys who would come to his concerts; a true Southern Gospel giant and gentlemen. After Listening to record albums of the quartet Ed had in 1980, I believe this was one of the best quartet line-ups he ever had.
Here is a mash-up of music from what the Dixie Melody Boys were staging in 1980. Enjoy!