Lets start a new week by taking a look at another of Southern Gospel’s best album openers.
That opening song on an album sets the tone for the entire recording. There are times when that opening song turns into a career record for an artist.
That is the case with this week’s best album opener. “He’s Still Working On Me” comes from the Hemphills 1980 recording, Workin’. Not only did the song spend a ton of time at #1 on the Southern Gospel radio singles chart, but it would go on to be the Hemphills biggest song with listeners.
As was the case with nearly every song the Hemphills recorded in their career, “He’s Still Working On Me” was penned by Joel Hemphill.
DID YOU KNOW?: Tim and Dixie McKeithen were part of the original Singing Hemphills group, where Tim sang baritone and Dixie played piano and sang some soprano. Did you know there was a familial connection in that Tim was Joel Hemphill’s nephew. In the late 1970’s, Tim and Dixie started their own family group (McKeithens) that would have a run a success in the 1980’s.
**This tells me that my readers enjoy awards/honors (where they decide the results) and album reviews. If I had expanded this list, you would be surprised at how many of the most read posts are album reviews.
**I present the fab five feature at the start of every month to let you know my most played Southern Gospel radio songs in my musical playlists. I get asked on occasion what I am currently listening to and this allows me to let the readers know. These were the ten most played songs of the entire year.
**I started a YouTube channel in September 2015 to go along with the blog. This blog has always been about the music. I try not to play favorites and present Southern Gospel music in all its forms throughout its history. With my vast music collection, I noticed there were many classic songs missing from YouTube that may never be heard again. I wanted to change that. These were the ten most viewed clips since September.
In Honor of those who passed in 2015
Tom Armshaw (Promoter/Radio)
Jerrel Don Brashear (Artist)
Andrae Crouch (Artist/Songwriter)
Terry Davis (Artist)
Jack Lee Eubanks (Industry/Producer)
Savana Foust (Songwriter)
Chris Hancock (Artist)
LaBreeska Hemphill (Artist)
Jimmy Justice (Artist)
Carolyn Kirksey (Industry/Singing News Magazine)
Mosie Lister (Songwriter)
Margaret Mabry (Songwriter)
Dickie Mathews (Artist)
Carroll McGruder (Artist/Songwriter)
Ken O’Shields (Promoter)
Paul Roark (Artist)
Faye Speer (Artist)
Glenn Totherow (Artist)
Luke White (Industry/Public Relations)
Cheryl Jackson Wilds (Artist/Songwriter)
Ruth Ellen Yates (Artist)
Looking ahead to features you will find in 2016
3rd Annual Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row Honors
Annual Countdown of Southern Gospel’s Best Albums/Recorded Songs
Most Overrated Southern Gospel Artist Series
Southern Gospel’s Greatest Songwriter Series
Southern Gospel Tidbits Feature
Top Ten Back Then
And Much, Much More….
**I want to thank everyone who stopped by the blog in 2015. This year had to most views/site visitors of any year I have been doing this blog. As long as you continue to stop by, I will continue the blog.
Last 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…
DID YOU KNOW?: We just came out of another Thanksgiving day, thinking about all the things we are thankful for. Did you know there are just over 2,100 songs in BMI’s catalog that use the word Thanks in the title. If that wasn’t enough, there are nearly another 1,500 in ASCAP’s catalog. Giving thanks is a universal theme, even if religion is not a part of your everyday life. Southern Gospel music have had some lasting songs that also convey the word thanks; from “Thanks” to “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me”. Here are a few more that convey thanks for what Christ did for us.
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.
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!