Best Versions Of Popular SG Groups Part 1

Quartet_Drawing

The southern gospel genre has produced some amazing talent over the past 70 years. Many popular groups have had numerous variations of themselves as industry turnover is a given for every group who sings for any length of time. Here we list some of our favorite versions of some popular groups in southern and country gospel, including a few current newcomers who have caught some attention. This is a 2 part series. Part 2 will be posted next month. This 1st edition features 10 groups from the past to the modern era. The rankings will go from very best lineup in slot A to other notable lineups on B and C. The final group listed on each edition will be a current group we feel has potential to make some noise in the industry. If we miss a lineup you like, please let us know in the comments!

1). The Statesmen Quartet- The Statesmen are one of the most prestigious quartets in the history of southern gospel music. Their hit song Get Away Jordan was one of the groups show stopping tunes. Elvis Presley loved the Statesmen and often cited lead singer Jake Hess as one of his biggest musical influences. Best Lineup:

A

  • Hovie Lister- Owner & Pianist
  • Rosie Rozell- Tenor
  • Jake Hess- Lead
  • Doy Ott- Baritone
  • Jim Wetherington- Bass

B

  • Hovie Lister- Owner & Pianist
  • Claris Freeman- Tenor
  • Jake Hess- Lead
  • Doy Ott- Baritone
  • Jim Wetherington- Bass

2).  Blackwood Brothers Quartet- The Blackwood Brothers are the other great prestigious quartet of the last 70 years. In the 1950’s the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen toured as a team and they were a formidable force in the music industry. They have recorded over 200 albums and sold over 50 million records. Best Lineup:

  • Bill Shaw- Tenor
  • James Blackwood- Lead
  • R.W. Blackwood- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

B

  • Bill Shaw- Tenor
  • James Blackwood- Lead
  • Cecil Blackwood- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

3).  Gold City Quartet- This legendary quartet really made their mark during the 1980’s. Their signature song, Midnight Cry, was one of the biggest hits of the modern era in the genre. After numerous hit singles and awards, the group has proven their staying power. Their current lineup ranks up there with the best. Best Lineup:

A

  • Brian Free- Tenor
  • Ivan Parker- Lead
  • Steve Lacey- Baritone
  • Tim Riley- Bass

B

  • Steve Ladd- Tenor
  • Jonathan Wilburn- Lead
  • Daniel Riley- Baritone
  • Aaron McCune- Bass

C

  • Thomas Nalley- Tenor
  • Chip Pullen- Lead
  • Daniel Riley- Baritone
  • Chris West- Bass

4). Kingsmen Quartet- The Kingsmen have produced some of the most notable talent in the industry over the years. They are one of the most awarded groups in southern gospel history with 14 top 40 number 1 songs, that ranks 2nd all time in the history of the chart. The current lineup ranks with the best.  Best Lineup:

  • Ernie Phillips- Tenor
  • Jim Hamill- Lead
  • Squire Parsons- Baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese- Bass

B

  • Harold Reed- Tenor
  • Bryan Hutson- Lead
  • Randall Crawford- Baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese- Bass

C

  • Chris Jenkins- Tenor
  • Bob Sellers- Lead
  • Randall Crawford- Baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese- Bass

5).  The Hinsons- This family group took the industry by storm. The Hinsons were recognized by both the Dove Awards and the Singing News Fan Awards for the 1972 Song of the year, “The Lighthouse“. In 1973, they again won the SNFA Song of the Year for “He Pilots My Ship.” In 1979, they were the SNFA choice for favorite group. Best Lineup:

  • Chris Hawkins Freeman- Tenor/Alto
  • Kenny Hinson- Lead
  • Larry Hinson- Baritone
  • Ronny Hinson- Bass

B

  • Yvonne Hinson- Tenor/Alto
  • Kenny Hinson- Lead
  • Bo Hinson- Baritone
  • Ronny Hinson- Bass

6). Three Bridges- Three Bridges music is rooted in traditional “southern gospel” and “black gospel” music.  This blended style has made Three Bridges one of the prominent internationally-acclaimed Gospel groups in Christian music today. The groups last 12 radio releases have been in the top 40 charts.  Best Lineup:

A

  • Jeremie Hudson- Tenor
  • Shannon Smith- Lead
  • Elliot McCoy- Baritone

7). The Florida Boys Quartet- This legendary quartet has been going since 1946. They have won numerous awards and had a number of top charting songs. Their signature song, When He Was On The Cross, remained on the top 40 charts for over a year. Their current lineup is the best they have had in ages. Best Lineup:

A

  • Tommy Atwood- Tenor
  • Les Beasley- Lead
  • Glen Allred- Baritone
  • Billy Todd- Bass

B

  • Harold Reed- Tenor
  • Josh Garner- Lead
  • Glen Allred- Baritone
  • Gene McDonald- Bass

C

  • Nathan Parrish- Tenor
  • Charlie Waller- Lead
  • Jimmy Reno- Baritone
  • Joe Armstrong- Bass

8). Cathedral Quartet- The Cathedrals were one of the most beloved and decorated groups in southern gospel music history. They went from 1964 until their retirement in December 1999. They enjoyed numerous charting singles and awards. Best Lineup:  

A

  • Kirk Talley- Tenor
  • Glenn Payne- Lead
  • Mark Trammell- Baritone
  • George Younce- Bass

B

  • Ernie Haase- Tenor
  • Glenn Payne- Lead
  • Scott Fowler- Baritone
  • George Younce- Bass

9).  The Nelons- The Nelons was started by founding member Rex Nelon and started out as The Rex Nelon Singers in 1977. The group was a spin-off of the family group the Lefevres. They became known as the Rex Nelon Singers in 1976 because the Lefevre family members had left the group. The group’s first number-one song was “Come Morning” on the Singing News Chart, and was awarded the Southern Gospel Song of the Decade for the 1980s. The current edition of the Nelons ranks as one of the groups best. Best Lineup:

A

  • Karen Peck- Soprano
  • Kelly Nelon- Alto
  • Jerry Thompson- Tenor/Lead
  • Rex Nelon- Bass

B

  • Amber Nelon Thompson- Soprano
  • Kelly Nelon Clark- Alto
  • Jason Clark- Tenor/Lead

Our newer group spotlight: 

10). Mark209- In 2011, the Mystery Men quartet announced a name change at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, KY. The new name, a reference to Mile Marker 209 in Nashville, was Mark209.   The group’s initial radio release, My Home In Heaven, remains their most notable release to date staying on the Singing News top 80 charts for 10 consecutive months. The group has earned several awards and has a loyal following. The groups original lineup remains its strongest ensemble of talent. With a tenor and baritone who could take country features and a traditional vocal on lead to tie the group to their roots, along with a powerful bass, they were a force vocally. It would have been interesting to see where this group would be today had the original cast stayed in place. Best Lineup:

A

  • Nathaniel Justice- Tenor
  • Jym Howe- Lead
  • Jimmy Reno- Baritone
  • Joe Armstrong- Bass

  • Nathaniel Justice- Tenor
  • Jym Howe- Lead
  • Jimmy Reno- Baritone
  • Ray Woconish- Bass

C

  • Nathaniel Justice- Tenor
  • Jym Howe- Lead
  • Josh Arnett- Baritone
  • Ray Woconish- Bass

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Best Versions Of Popular SG Groups Part 1

  1. Nice shout out to Mark209 and the Florida Boys! I have to ask this question about the Kingsmen, What about the long running combination of Garry Sheppard (Tenor) Arthur Rice (Lead) Ed Crawford ( Baritone) and Ray Dean Reese? Arguably one of the longest running and most successful iterations of this long running quartet. How about the Oak Ridge Quartet? With Willie Wynn, William Lee Golden and the mid 60s lineup?

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    • Alan, Oak Ridge is in part 2 next month. Honestly, Sheppard & Crawford were not vocalists that I felt were better than the lineups I chose. From a technique standpoint especially. However, that line up did do quiet well for the Kingsmen. I evaluated on vocal range, style, intonation and overall quality of tone.

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  2. I would say that ONE of my favorite lineups of the Kingsmen Qt. was Jerry Martin on tenor, Bryan Hutson on lead vocals, Parker Jonathan on baritone, and of course Ray Deane Reese singing the bass. May be my top lineup of the group.

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  3. For me the Cathedrals with Funderburk, Payne, Trammell, Younce, and Wolfe was tops. As was the Parrack, Wilburn, Trammell, Riley Gold City lineup.

    Also, JD joined the Blackwoods after RW was killed with Bill Lyles.

    Great concept!

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  4. Glad I found another good SG blog!

    For me the best Cats groups was Funderburk, Payne, Trammell, Younce, and Wolfe. No weak spots in that group. Five stellar voices that blended epically, and Wolfe takes a backseat to no one on the piano.
    My favorite Gold City was Parrack, Wilburn, Trammell, Riley. Fantastic group with incredible range in style and vocals. Put out great music and stayed together for nearly a decade.
    A lot can be said for the Rick Busby/Greg Cook Florida Boys years. With the three mainstays and Tim Lovelace they had solid group.
    As far as the Blackwoods, I don’t believe JD ever sang with RW. His tenure began due to the death of RW and Bill Lyles.

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