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

Matt Felts to Lesters, Tony Jarman to Depart the Down East Boys

August 26, 2014 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Down East Boys, The Lesters

There were a couple of group changes announced today, the first being the completion of Matt Felts’ transition from the Dixie Melody Boys:


Matt and his family reside just outside of Nashville, TN, but he is originally from St. Louis, MO. He was actually raised not too far from where we live in South City St. Louis. His wife’s name is Jennifer, and they are Blessed with a beautiful daughter whose name is Abbey and is 5~years old. Matt is a Graduate of Missouri University in Columbia, MO, with a degree in marketing, and he’ll be the first to tell you his desire is to “Serve the Lord” through singing gospel music and will use everything he has learned to get the message of Jesus Christ out to the world! He has traveled with several different gospel groups in his young life, including just finishing a nearly 5 year stay with the legendary Ed O’Neal & The Dixie Melody Boys. We are grateful to the Lord for sending Matt our way and we’re looking forward to what God has in store for this ministry as we continue our journey for Him. Matt will join us beginning the week of September 8th, so be watching our Tour Schedule and come join The Lesters in concert; get to know Matt, and welcome him to the family.

Message from Matt:

“Growing up in St.Louis, our home was filled with the sounds of great Gospel groups like the Cathedrals and the Happy Goodmans but one group stood out to us above the rest , the Lesters. One of the first songs I ever sang in my local church was “He didn’t throw the clay away”. I never dreamed I would have the honor to sing that song with them on stage. I’m thrilled to be apart of such a rich legacy of ministry and great music. Brian, Jon and all of the Lester family have already made my family feel so welcome. Joining the Lesters is truly like coming home. I look forward to getting to know all of their friends and fans very soon.”

Here’s a video announcement from Matt:


The second announcement comes from the Down East Boys, as their tenor for the last several years is also leaving:

Reidsville, NC – Ricky Carden of The Down East Boys has announced that tenor vocalist, Tony Jarman, will be leaving The Down East Boys to pursue other ministry opportunities. Tony has been with the Down East Boys since January 2011. Prior to joining The Down East Boys, Tony sang with Poet Voices, The Old Gospel Hour Quartet, and Legacy Five.

“Tony has been a great asset to The Down East Boys and we will surely miss his presence on stage”, comments Carden. “Daryl, Joe, and I wish Tony nothing but the absolute best in his future endeavors.”

The Down East Boys are currently accepting demos to fill the tenor position. Information on how to submit a demo can be found on the Singing News Jobs Board.

In tribute, here’s a song that became a Tony Jarman signature during his time with the quartet:

Matt Felts Steps Down From Dixie Melody Boys

August 22, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In both a Facebook status and press release today, tenor Matt Felts announced his decision to step away from the tenor position at the “Ed O’Neal University” after four years:

In a statement today, Matt Felts, tenor for the Dixie Melody Boys, has announced that he will be leaving the group at the end of August.

“I want to thank the friends and fans of the group for the way they have embraced me. It has been a huge honor to sing with Ed O’Neal and the Dixie Melody Boys for over four years. Being a member of the Ed O’Neal University has been a blessing to not just me, but my family. Ed has taught me so much and gave me such an incredible opportunity. Saying ‘thank you’ will never be enough to repay Ed. The last four years have been a great season for the group, but I am very blessed to be a part of the current lineup. I think it’s been a special lineup for the group. Thanks to Aaron Dishman and Josh Garner for the last year, as well as Rayburn Lane for keeping me safe on the roads. Some may say I am graduating, but I’ve learned that you never truly leave the Dixie Melody Boys. It’s a family that you’re always a part of. I will be announcing future plans soon, but for now, I just wanted to thank Ed for an incredible journey.”

Matt joined the Dixie Melody Boys in 2010 and has been a mainstay for the group, having been a part of many awards, including the 2012 and 2013 Favorite Quartet, and was named the 2013 Favorite Tenor in the Southern Gospel Fan Awards.

There have been very few groups that have seen a turnaround in quality and direction like the Dixie Melody Boys have in the past few years, and that is due in large part to what Felts brought to the table. Yes, he sang the tenor part and sang it well, but his marketing background paid dividends in the quality of the group’s presence in the genre and the presentation of their music. I saw them in concert a couple of weeks ago, and that opinion was confirmed. Losing him is a huge blow, but the work that he has put in to building up the group, combined with the other singers that are present, will make the transition to a new lineup smoother. I look forward to seeing what happens next for both parties.

In tribute to Matt’s time with the group, here’s one of the songs I will always associate with him and his tenure with the group:

Dixie Melody Boys Begin Lead Singer Search

June 18, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Over the weekend, it was reported that Donald Morris, lead singer for the DMB for over three years, is coming off the road. As follow-up to that announcement, the group has sent out this press release about the audition process:

The Dixie Melody Boys announced on Saturday that lead singer Donald Morris has resigned. They are now beginning the process to find the next member of one of Gospel music’s legendary groups. “Through the years, Ed has developed some of Gospel’s finest singers including Ernie Haase, McCray Dove, Rodney Griffin and Derrick Selph. We are now looking for the next voice to add to that rich legacy.” said Matt Felts. The Dixie Melody Boys recently celebrated their 50th anniversary which included the historic album, The Call Is Still The Same. They are also seeing resurgence in popularity, being named Favorite Male Quartet in the SGM Fan Awards in May. The Dixie Melody Boys also host their own weekly television show, Great American Gospel, seen in over 200 countries.

“It is an exciting time for our group. God is blessing in so many ways. We have numerous things coming down the road that I am looking forward to. We know that God will send us the perfect fit to our group.” stated Hall of Fame member Ed O’Neal.

The group is now accepting demos. “We will narrow down the auditions to a few men who will then travel with the group. We will then announce the new member of our family on the main stage at this years National Quartet Convention.” added Matt Felts. Interested singers can contact the group by emailing them at dixiemelodyboys@yahoo.com.

This process for auditioning a new singer is very interesting. For one, it sets a deadline for both the group and the fans: for the group, in that they have a timeline for finding someone, and for the fans, in that they know when to expect to see a new face with the quartet. It’s not a restrictive timeline, either; this gives the Dixie Melody Boys a little under three months to find a new lead singer.

A move like this that promises the new singer’s “official” debut at an event like NQC also generates buzz for the group’s set. With the DMB, they already have a bit of buzz, since it’s their return to main stage, but this addition will add to that. Since the new vocalists will already have traveled with the group, they won’t be debuting at NQC completely cold to the group/material, which also helps.

All in all, this is a transition that I’m looking forward to seeing play out. Ed O’Neal is known for hiring “unknowns,” so it’s anyone guess as to who will get the job.

Start of the Week Odds & Ends

April 23, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Dailey and Vincent, Dixie Melody Boys, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

1. Legacy Five debuted their first ever concept video late last week. The song is “Ask Me Why,” arguably one of the finest songs the group has recorded, and the story behind the song is acted out very well in the video. One cool tidbit is that the lady that the song was written about is actually featured in the video. Check it out:

2. Dixie Melody Boys tenor Matt Felts has released a project highlighting hymns of the Civil War. The project, Angels On The Battlefield, will be carried by parks across America, and features a throwback style of music, as well as guest vocalists Johnny Minick, Aaron Minick, and Mike Allen. This website features clips and ordering information.

3. Dailey & Vincent have released an instructional video on quartet harmony. The video features the current vocal lineup of Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, Jeff Parker, and Christian Davis, and can be purchased here.

CD Review: The Dixie Melody Boys – 50 Years: The Call Is Still The Same

September 10, 2011 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Dixie Melody Boys, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: David Staton
Label: Song Garden Music Group
Website: www.dixiemelodyboys.com

Song titles: Jesus In My Boat; Bottom Of The Basket; Too Much Thunder; His Blood Alone; There’s Joy In Serving Jesus; God Will Hear Your Prayer; Good Ole Boys; That’s Why I Sing Gospel Music; Go To The Well; The Call Is Still The Same; Gotta Get The Good News Out; I’ve Got Family There


News & Such 5/14

May 14, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, NQC, Promise, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Statement of Faith

Several stories hit the Southern Gospel news this week. Here they are as they happened:

  • From a press release by the Dixie Melody Boys, their 50th Anniversary album is now complete:

Dixie Melody Boys Finish Historic Album

The Dixie Melody Boys were recently in Nashville finishing work on their 50th Anniversary album, “The Call Is Still The Same”. The monumental project is a long time in the making. “It’s been nearly ten years since we have done a project of this scale. It will be a milestone for the Dixie Melody Boys. “said Ed O’Neal, Hall Of Fame bass singer and owner. To honor the history of this legendary group, they have included two previous DMB songs on the album. The rest of the project includes new material written by Gospel musics top writers including Daryl Williams, Marty Funderburk, Greg Day and Rodney Griffen. The album also boasts two songs written by lead singer Donald Morris. The new album highlights the current groups new direction and sound. “We are excited to blend our traditional Southern Gospel roots with a fresh approach reminisant of the DMB Band era.” stated Donald Morris.

The Dixie Melody Boys will be joined on this historic album by many former DMB Alumni as well as a few friends. “When we started working on this, so many of our friends wanted to be involved. It evolved from there into having them lend their talents on several of the songs. It will truly be a special event for us.” said tenor Matt Felts. Jason Crabb, Ernie Haase, Ben Speer, McCray Dove, Rodney Griffen and Harold Reed are just a few of the guests appearing. This will be the debut album for the group since signing with Song Garden Music Group earlier this year. A release date of July 1st has been set. A “CD Release Event” will be announced soon. For more information on the new album or where you can purchase a copy of this years must have album, go to www.dixiemelodyboys.com or to www.songgardenmusicgroup.com.

If you’re going to celebrate such a monumental event in a group’s career, that’s the way to do it; bring in a lot of the more well-known alumni to sing on the project. It is interesting to note that this will not only mark the group’s 50th year of ministry, but it will also be tenor Matt Felts’ first recording with them. All in all, it is shaping up to be a project well worth the purchase

  • Speaking of the Dixie Melody Boys, it’s looking like they will be at NQC after all. In the first Singing News Showcase (the “straw poll” for the Fan Awards), the group will appear with both current members and alumni to celebrate their anniversary. It will be interesting to see exactly who will be on the stage among the alumni (the Ed O’Neal University has many graduates!)
  • Statement of Faith Trio has reorganized as Promise. Lead Joe Kitson and David Mann, along with TJ Evans starting in June, will make up the new group. Mann’s wife Jael will be filling in on tenor until Evans can join. Tenor Jacob Kitson’s plans are to be announced, so be looking for more on this story next week.

Internet Troubles Roundup

July 26, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Doug Oldham, Perfect Heart, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

There were several things that took place in the SG world last week that I was unable to cover because my Internet was down. An old pine tree in my neighbor’s yard split down its trunk and caused some problems when it hit the lines around the house. Here’s some of the items I missed:

1. Doug Oldham Passes Away at age 79 Growing up in Bedford, VA, which is a small town outside of Lynchburg, I was very familiar with Oldham’s work at Thomas Road Baptist Church and in other areas as well. Last week, he was awaiting surgery for a broken spine sustained in a serious fall, and passed away peacefully early on the morning of July 21. The funeral is today; a final dose of the reality that another legend has gone home. Here’s one of my favorite clips of Doug from the Gaither Homecoming series:

2. Matt Felts Joins Perfect Heart In a press release from the group:

One of Southern Gospel’s most beloved groups, Perfect Heart, is delighted to announce that Matt Felts has joined the group as their new tenor. “Matt has proven himself to be a premier talent in Southern Gospel but more importantly his deep desire to see God’s kingdom grow line up perfectly with our group’s main goal. Matt is a wonderful addition to our family and we look forward to all that he brings to us.” stated Mike Presnell, Legendary bass for Perfect Heart.

Matt is well known to the fans of Southern Gospel, singing for groups such as Monument Quartet and the Skyline Boys. As a member of Monument, Matt gained fans both in the Gospel and country music world through their numerous live and television appearances.

“It is an incredible honor to join a legendary group like Perfect Heart. They were the very first live concert I ever attended and I’ve always been a fan of Mike’s. Though they have a rich tradition, I am more excited about all that God has in store for us. There are so many great things coming and I can’t wait to see the fans of this group as I hit the road with them.” said matt Felts. Matt has already began touring with Perfect Heart.

Perfect Heart currently can be heard on the radio with their chart hit “Glory Waves”. Fans can see this incredible new lineup at the Showcase Spectacular on Monday at the National Quartet Convention. To learn more about Perfect Heart, fans can go to their official website at www.perfectheartqt.com

I’m interested to hear how Matt will affect their sound. The new Perfect Heart is a good quartet already, and adding a tenor like Felts will only improve them. For those unfamiliar with him, here is a clip of him with Monument Quartet singing the tenor standard, “Hide Thou Me.”