Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Southern Gospel Fandom, And Its Possible Problems

June 30, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Observations, SG Artists, SG Music

I’ve noticed a trend among some fans of this genre lately that kind of bothers me, and I’ve pondered how to state my thoughts on it without sounding like a complete jerk, but any way I’ve cut it, it’s sounded pretty harsh. I suppose a topic like this is one of those things that isn’t pretty no matter what, but the discerning reader will (hopefully) not take too much offense to what I’m trying to say.

There was a statement I read a few weeks ago that a Southern Gospel group owner made and it made a lot of sense: “The only thing as certain as salvation, is change.” Anyone who has been a fan of this music for long definitely knows this to be true. A relatively short period of time ago, a group which will remain unnamed experienced a few lineup changes in short succession that, to many people, rather came as a surprise due to longevity of this particular combination of vocalists. The group brought in new talent to fill the vacated spots, they regrouped and continued to make music, and everyone moved on.

That was how it should have happened.

Indeed, this is how it usually happens in this whirlwind world of group members coming and going from various artists all the time. Unfortunately, this was not the case this time. Each time a change occured, it was amazing to me how many people swore off of listening to the group ever again and how they wouldn’t go to any concerts for them anymore, so on and so forth. All of this because somebody left and someone new came in!

The issue here is this: people become way too attached to the people singing to the music, rather than caring about the quality of the music itself, and more importantly, the message behind it. One thing I have always appreciated about Southern Gospel artists is how friendly and accessible the majority of them try to be to the people who listen to their music. You certainly wouldn’t see most of your secular artists take an interest in each person who speaks to them at the product table like those in this genre do. The only downside to all this is that people can get over-attached to individuals, and should that individual come off the road but the rest of the group keeps going, the fans get bent out of shape, and then you have a scenario like the one mentioned above.

Now, what am I saying? I realize that this example is an extreme one, but the truth is, it could easily happen to any group. I’m sure it won’t affect this group in the slightest to no longer have the attention of a few people over such a silly reason, but what if it was a majority of their fan base that shared this attitude? You can guess what repercussions that would have.

So, the point is this: in having such a closed-minded attitude toward group changes, you’re cheating both yourself and the group. You’re cheating yourself out of possibly still enjoying the music; could it be, perhaps, that the new member brings something to the table that puts the music this artist produces a step above what came before? Could they bring a new dynamic to the sound, a songwriting talent, even some great arranging that would blow previous efforts out of the water? If you just shut the group out because Bob McFavoritesinger isn’t singing with them anymore, you’ll never know.

You’re also cheating the group, because there’s not a fair chance for them to prove they can carry on. What would have happened if people passed on Greater Vision after Mark Trammell left? We probably wouldn’t have heard a majority of the great songs that have come from the pen of Rodney Griffin. Speaking of Trammell, what about when he left The Cathedrals? There probably wouldn’t be a Legacy Five, at least not in the capacity that there is today, because Scott Fowler would have had no chance to build a rapport with the people in his tenure with George, Glen, Roger, and Ernie (who also faced a similar scenario coming into the tenor position.) Or how about when Ivan Parker, Brian Free, and Mike LeFevre were out of Gold City? There wouldn’t have been the Parrack-Wilburn-Trammell-Riley era of the quartet. And the list of examples could go on and on..

All of the other things aside, let’s not forget the most important reason this attitude can be harmful. We should be mindful to put the Gospel in Southern Gospel music above all else, including the people who sing it. Going back to the quote from earlier, the first part says “The only thing as certain as salvation,” and we can stop right there. Salvation is certain. The Gospel is certain. The Message that is found in and drives Southern Gospel music is absolutely certain. Though the messengers may change, the message is still the same. That’s what we can, and should, put stock in. When we lose sight of that, our priorities are truly misaligned.

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15 Comments to “Southern Gospel Fandom, And Its Possible Problems”


  1. Nice post, Aaron! We are in full agreement!

    1
  2. Awesome post, Aaron! You should submit that to the Singing News, either as an article or a letter to the editor (do they still have a “letters” page?). The entire southern gospel fandom needs to read this post and learn from it.

    3
  3. As the fonzie would say, Exactamundo!!!! that was right on. I’ve been saying that to people for quite awhile. Could we say Idol worship!!!!!!

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  4. You nailed it my friend! I always hate to see friends leave a group, but there are always new friends to make. We are SO blessed!

    7
  5. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Aaron. Great job!!

    9
  6. I agree with the general principle of your post. However, I do think there can be specific cases where the new lineup just isn’t as good as the old. That might indeed affect my decision to see them in concert, buy new projects, etc. However, I try to make those decisions objectively. I don’t say, “Well now that so-and-so’s gone I won’t even give the new guy a try.” I was disappointed when Ryan left Signature Sound, but I decided to give Devin a shot, and he ended up fitting in great. I was devastated when Tim Duncan left, but Ian turned out great too.

    11
    • Oh, I definitely know it’s true that changes can be a bust! That’s why I posed that part of it as “Could it be that the group is better for the changes?” A fan with a closed mind to the new guy won’t know one way or the other.
      The two examples you gave are perfect.

      12
  7. Brian Fuson says:

    Great article, Aaron. I appreciate your persepective. I do agree with the last post about some lineup changes never being “as good as the other” in peoples minds. For myself, I can give you two instances. I grew up on the Cathedrals of the 1980’s, and to this day thats my favorite quartet of all time. I loved Danny & Mark, but just never really liked Ernie & Scott. But the message & quality of the songs were the same. I still loved the Cathedrals as a whole, just those two guys weren’t my favorites. On the other hand, look at the Inspirations. Jodi Hosterman replaced an legend in Archie Watkins, and I believe the Insps are sounding the best they ever have in the history of the group. God Bless You!

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  8. philip elwood says:

    Hi Aaron, i can’t help but think that these changes and the consequences thereof have all happened before, i’m thinking the early 60’s when Jake announced his pending departure to Hovie, that that was as devastating news to anyone, fans, fellow group members and not least of all Hovie himself,but they carried on with Jack Toney, and before that when Denver died the great Rosie Rozell came along.I think the Statesmen carried on without hardly missing a beat throughout these changes until that is the irreplacable Big Chief died,sadly that was something even Hovie couldn’t handle.That was the change that knocked not only the heart and soul out of Hovie but the Statesmen themselves,a classic example of a new line-up not fulfilling past expectations. Nice article Aaron.

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