Front Porch Interview: Randy Crawford

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SGM- The Kingsmen have one of the most storied traditions in gospel music. Tell us how you ended up singing with the Kingsmen and what the experience has meant to you.

RC- I started my first tenure with the Kingsmen in 2001. Eldridge and Greg Fox called and offered me a chance to sing lead, which I accepted! I knew the guys from my years with Brian Free & Assurance, so it was an easy transition on to the Kingsmen bus. (Answer to an obscure trivia question; I am the last man Foxy hired before he passed away.) As far as meaning, it is more than an honor to be associated with the heritage of a multi-hall of fame group like the Kingsmen. So many who love this music, and desire to sing it, have dreamed about becoming a member. Having been one for 10 years now, I can say it was everything I thought it would be.

SGM- Is singing southern gospel something you aspired to do from an early age?

RC-No. I never thought about singing this style of music until I was a Freshman in college.

SGM- You are the groups Emcee during concerts. Was that a natural transition for you?

RC- Sort of! You can ask the guys, and my wife Caroline, I love to talk…A LOT! So having a reputation with the friends and fans who come to see us, I was a natural fit when Ray asked me to Emcee. It takes some work, however. It’s not all about talking and setting up songs. It’s reading a crowd, a moment, a spirit when you must go down a path you hadn’t planned on. Switch up things to best benefit the service or concert. That’s why we never have a set program.

SGM- When you perform Justified, the song really seems to resonate with the audience as you perform it with emotion. Does this song hold special meaning for you?

RC- It is just the message of redemption. Christ showing you His love and forgiveness. When man is ready to condemn and destroy, Jesus sees an opportunity to show Grace and compassion. And in doing so, creates another soul, another soldier to champion the cause of Christ – which is love and redemption. Christ said in Luke 7, he who is forgiven much, loves much. I, like the woman in this song, was sinful and bound for death. But Jesus forgave my sins, restored me, justified me through my faith in Him and His sacrifice. So now that I believe, I am condemned no more.

SGM- What is a favorite memory you have so far in singing with the Kingsmen

RC-  The first time I stepped on stage with the guys at NQC. We closed that stand out with Jim Hamill singing, “Love Lifted Me”. Thinking about it now still brings chills!

SGM- What would you say is the biggest challenge about singing gospel music professionally?

RC- Having a family. It’s beyond difficult having a wife and children (being really involved in their lives) when you are away from home over 200 days every year. Some might think they can “get through it”. But trust me, you can only do that for so long. I’ve watched countless families disintegrate because of the schedule this job demands. It’s a shame, but it happens. You miss anniversaries and birthdays, you’re never in church with your family, never see a special program your kids are in, never see a dance recital, never see the big hit your son gets on Saturday to win the game…saying its not easy is an understatement. If your’e not called of God and sold out to seeing His Kingdom furthered, you can’t make it for long.

SGM- Who were your musical influences growing up?

RC- Gospel influences were the Hinsons, Cathedrals, Gold City, Inspirations, Kingsmen, and Larnelle Harris. Many influences in secular music.

SGM- When people attend a Kingsmen concert, what should they expect?

RC- excitement in the Holy Spirit. We are excited about our Savior and His gospel. That message of salvation. We try to give that away every night on stage. You’ll hear old and new songs, testimonies, and encouragement to grab hold of Jesus and not let go. It’s a struggle in this life. We are here to help encourage the soldiers of God to press on and to recruit and welcome the ones who will take up this fight once we are gone.

For more information on the Kingsmen quartet:

For booking information contact:

  • The Harper Agency
    615.851.4500 ext: 14
    jeff@harperagency.com

Front Porch Interview: Steve Ladd

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As early as five years old while growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Steve Ladd felt the call of God to minister through song. The son of an evangelist, the youngster would mature to become one of the most well-liked and respected group member for some of America’s most award-winning Christian music ensembles like Gold City and The Anchormen. Although still considered a young artist, Ladd has spent the last four years traveling extensively both domestically and internationally. Performing inspirational songs like “Preach the Word” has become a personal anthem of encouragement Ladd takes wherever he goes and he reports “God moves and lives that are broken and hurting are leaving changed and encouraged at my services.”

SGM- You have sang with premiere groups in the industry like the Anchormen and Gold City quartet. You have also toured and sang with Gaither artist Michael English, featured with the legendary Stamps quartet and had 5 top 40 radio singles. That is tremendous success so far in your career. Can you tell us a little about how you got started in the southern gospel industry and was singing southern gospel something you aspired to do at an early age?

SL- I’ve been so blessed! All I’ve ever wanted to do is travel and sing.  Started with my family’s evangelistic team when I was about 5 years old.  We traveled around and did the music in my Dad’s revivals. That’s where I learned to love music.  It’s all we had. 
I fell in love with quartet music and Gold City in particular.  My childhood dream was to be their tenor singer.  When I turned 20 I started full-time with The Anchormen and spent 8 great years there.  When the opportunity came up to join Gold City, I jumped at the chance
and loved every minute of my 5 years with one of the best groups on the
road.

SGM- Your latest project, On My Own, which was produced by Michael Sykes and Michael English, was a combination of various styles. There was literally something for all music fans on the project. Is this type of musical diversity something you plan to do on each project?

SL- I’ve always had a diverse musical taste. It was definitely the goal for the album to have something for everyone.  I sing mostly in churches with all different styles of worship.  I love the fact that my music can appeal to audiences of every age.  I love Southern Gospel and I’ll always do SG. My next project will probably have a little different sound than the last.  I’m always wanting to push myself.

SGM- Most artists have an individual or group that inspired them to sing. Who were your biggest musical influences?

SL- Growing up it was Brian Free.  I would sit in my room for hours and sing along to Gold City CD’s. As I got older, Michael English was a big influence as well.

SGM- What upcoming events are you excited about that fans should be aware of?

SL- I’m honored to be doing some dates with The Heritage Of Gold Tour this year!  It’s always a fun night standing on stage with those great groups honoring the music and Legacy of Gold City!  I also do a cruise each year in January with some great singers and speakers!  If people are interested, they can send me a message on Facebook or my site and I’ll send out a brochure.

SGM- Can you tell us a little about the decision you made in going solo for your ministry and was that a difficult decision for you?

SL- It was a decision I didn’t make hastily.  My wife and I prayed for about a year before truly feeling it was God’s plan.  At the time we (GC) were gone a lot. Seemed that we were gone more than home.  I wanted to be with my family more.  But, also felt a desire growing in me to share my heart more on a personal level.  God has truly been so good to me. I love what I’m doing!

SGM- Of the hit songs you have sang over the years, which song really touched you the most?

SL- Preach The Word has truly opened a lot of doors for me.  It’s a powerful song that encourages everyone to share the Gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world.  Not Guilty and Jesus Saves, from my current album, are incredible songs that speak to me. I try to pick songs that minister to me. I want to be authentic when I’m singing.  If I believe
what I’m singing, hopefully the listeners will as well.

SGM- For those interested in bringing Steve Ladd to their venue, who do they contact for booking information?

SL- They can go to my website at Steve Ladd Website and leave me a msg or call the office at 256-492-1166.  I’d love to come and share my heart and music with anyone who’s willing to have me!

For more information on Steve Ladd:

 

Front Porch Interview: Richard Hyssong

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The Hyssongs travel full-time sharing the Gospel through the powerful medium of music. Dell, Susan, & Richard Hyssong encourage and delight audiences wherever they appear with their family vocal harmony, lively energetic style, humor, and brass instruments (trumpet & trombone).

SGM-  I know your family actually comes from Maine. Can you tell us a little about how your family group came into the southern gospel scene?

RH- Our family moved to Maine in 1993 when my dad accepted the call to pastor a church there. We have always loved Southern Gospel Music and attended concerts that came to our state.

Twenty years ago, when I was thirteen, a Bible Conference called and asked our family to be one of three groups singing during Labor Day Weekend. We had sung a few times together in church, but had never gone out to sing. My Dad (Dell), Mom (Susan) and I quickly learned some songs and bought some accompaniment tracks. Following that weekend our telephone began to ring. People were inviting us to come and sing at their churches. We had no sound system or CDs, but it wasn’t long before we were recording, accepting invitations, traveling, and following God’s leading. Fifteen years ago we stepped out full-time and have never looked back. Today our schedule takes us throughout the Untied States and Canada.

SGM- Your group incorporates brass instrumentation in your songs and in live performance. Having heard you live in performance I can say you and your Dad are just as talented on the instruments as you are vocally. In fact, you even released an album titled Sounds of Brass/Collection of Praise which I highly recommend to our readers to purchase. This aspect of your ministry really carves a niche for you in southern gospel. Do you find fans enjoy that aspect and appreciate its uniqueness to the industry ?

RH- Thank you for your kind words. People still love live music and so they really enjoy the trumpet and trombone. They are very powerful instruments and are so majestic. The instruments really set us apart and they do carve a niche for us as you stated.

Many promoters and churches book us because of the instruments. People don’t usually associate the trumpet and trombone with Southern Gospel Music, but our audiences and fans are won over when we play Majesty, I’ll Fly Away, When the Saints Go Marching In,or The King Is Coming.

Parents will often come up to us now and say that their kids have started taking trumpet or trombone lessons and joined the band at school because they heard us play. We think that’s awesome.

SGM- Believe was the 2015 release for the group. When can fans look forward to the next project?

 

RH- Our Believe CD has had many charting songs on the radio. Our new CD called Faith & Family will be released on April 15. One of the songs will feature my wife, Kelly, and our 7 year old daughter, Makayla. We want to encourage families in a day when families and morals are under attack.

SGM- Most artists have an individual or group that inspired them to sing. Who would that influence be for you?

RH- The Cathedrals came to Maine every year and we never missed their concert. Their sound and masterful MC work by George Younce was captivating. We watched, learned, and were greatly influenced by this group.

SGM- The Hyssongs travel 250 plus dates a year. How do you balance family time and life on the road? many artists cite this as the biggest challenge to singing professionally.

RH- We are probably different in that my wife and two children travel and are on the road with me. With 250 concerts, my syndicated radio program, and television program, it is definitely a balancing act. It would never work if my family were not supportive and by my side 24/7.

SGM- You and your wife have a precious little girl named Makayla. She has a remarkable story of God’s healing grace. For those who haven’t read the book you guys wrote about her, its called Makayla’s Heart: Moment By Moment and this is a must read in my opinion. Can you briefly share a little about her story and then tell us where fans can order the book to get the full details on how God moved in your lives and healed her?

RH- My daughter, Makayla, was born July 19, 2008 with more than 22 tumors around her heart and multiple brain tumors. The diagnosis was grave and we were told that she would probably not survive. If she did survive, we were told she’d never walk or talk. Without telling the whole story about her healing, let me say that God gave us a miracle.The book gives hope and encouragement to all those who read it. The book, Makayla’s Heart Moment by Moment, can be ordered through Springside Marketing or our website.

SGM- What upcoming events are you excited about that fans should be aware of?

RH- Wow! The rest of 2016 and 2017 are going to be the biggest years The Hyssongs have ever had! Promoters have booked us with Greater Vision, Isaacs, Hopers, and Jim Brady Trio to name a few. We’ll appear again this year at Dollywood and Branson’s Silver Dollar City. Also we have bus tours to Lancaster, PA, and Rockport, Maine. Those two tours can be seen on the Experience of a Lifetime web site. We are excited about all these up-coming events and look forward to seeing our friends and fans. Be sure to check out our web site and facebook us!

For more information on the Hyssongs:

For Booking Information: The Dominion Agency

 

Front Porch Interview: Nathaniel Justice

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In just a short amount of time, MARK209 has garnered the interest of an industry. Tagged the “best group you probably have never heard” by industry leaders, MARK209 has certainly made a mark for themselves. The 2011 National Quartet Convention in Louisville, KY was no exception as they revealed their new name; which is a reference to Mile Marker 209 in Nashville, TN (the location of Music Row … and considered the Heart of Nashville).

SGM- For those who may be unfamiliar with Mark209 and what you guys do both stylistically and ministry wise, can you tell us about the group?

NJ- MARK209 started out a little over four years ago with the main goal of seeing souls won for God and for Christians to stand up in their community.  We understood that there was a need to bring great Christian music to a wider audience.  You see, we had met so many people who enjoy great country music but didn’t have an alternative to listen to when it came to Christian music.  We decided to try and fill that void by giving them real country music with a message of Jesus.  That is why we call ourselves “Country Music with a Jesus Kick”.  In four years, we have gone everywhere the doors have been opened.  We have sung at everything from fairs, to churches, to public/city events, private events, and even casinos and prisons.  Last year, we sang in front of over 10,000 at a contemporary worship festival in California with Danny Gokey, Colton Dixon, and Tenth Avenue North … then a month later, we were at a little country church singing to 12.  No matter the size nor the place, MARK209’s goal does not change– to reach anyone and everyone we can for God.  Our style, sound, and ministry might be rooted in mainstream country with a radio ready sound… but,  true to our roots, we are and always will be Southern Gospel… “Country Music with a Jesus Kick”

SGM-  Often times when interviewing or talking to artists getting them to speak about a former group is almost impossible. When I saw you guys live with the Florida Boys, I witnessed a couple of fans pull older Mark209 CD’s out their purse for a former member, Jimmy Reno, to sign. Not only did he sign them but the high remarks on you guys individually he gave told me you guys are more like a family than business associates. Even when someone leaves. I was really impressed by that. Do you guys strive to cultivate a family atmosphere and do you find that makes what you do better?

NJ- This one is simple … in one word “YES”.  We have always been about family.  We have tried since the beginning to make sure that everyone who has been a part of MARK209 understands that we are not just 4 guys who travel together and sing music.  Instead, we are a brotherhood of guys who have been called to let the world know about God.  That is why when we have auditioned people in the past, we have always wanted to meet with their families.  When Ray joined, in many ways, so did his family.  This is why, when his daughter became a NFL cheerleader with the Jacksonville Jaguars, we celebrated with he and his wife, Sherri. We celebrated again when she got married.   The same went for Jym, when he and his wife, Christina, had the opportunity to open up a restaurant in Missouri.  It is a place where quality time can enjoyed by families and also great music can be presented to the public.  When my son, Grayson, was born, two of the first people to hold him were Jym and Christina.  There have been individuals who have been a part of MARK209 that have gone on to do other things but, we always try to continue the support and feeling of family, if possible.  That is why, when we got the opportunity to hang out with Jimmy and Joe, it was like old times; telling stories over and over and just smiling and enjoying their company.  When we hired Dustin, we took the time to get to know his family; specifically his son, Damion.  We got the chance to take him out on the road with us for a weekend.  What a great way for him to see his Dad in action and for us to get to know him.  Not to mention, it was great to have a young back on hand to help with the load-in and load-out!  I cannot imagine traveling this country, coast to coast, like we and so many other groups like us do, and not enjoy the people we are traveling with. 

SGM- The groups sound has evolved since your inception to more and more of a modern country style. Do you see this as the direction the industry is going if southern gospel is to draw interest from younger listeners?

NJ- You know, I cannot speak for the industry but, what I can tell you is this–when we started MARK209, we strove to find a way to bring in new fans to what is, in my opinion, the best style of music in the world.  I have had the opportunity to sing at many youth events and worship conferences, and what I find is that the younger generation just wants good music with a great message.  Something that we have been very mindful of is that we wanted to package our music in a way that was different; something to set MARK209 apart, in order for people to get to know exactly who MARK209 is and what we wanted to do.  Maybe there are some people out there who think we are just a bit outside of the box–everything from our Yellow Bus, to the Red mic stands, to the way we dress and act on stage … we wanted it to be completely unique to what MARK209 is.  And let’s face it … subtlety is just overrated. 

SGM-  Many artists cite traveling all the time as the biggest challenge to singing professionally. As a family man, how do you balance life on the road and family time?

NJ- Traveling is always hard to do especially when you have a small one at home. Currently my amazing wife Elizabeth and I have our first son Grayson, he turns 3 in June. The concept of leaving them every week for days, or weeks, sometimes months on end is hard. I’ll put it to you the same way it was once told to me and I couldn’t agree more. I have friends who have been called to be foreign missionaries. The idea of spending weeks, days, months, and even years in places where sometimes they’re extremely hostile to Christians is mind blowing to me.   I cannot begin to express my respect for what they do. Yet I also have friends who look at what I do and tell me “There’s no way I could spend days at a time away from my family sleeping in a bed that’s not mine. I want my bed and my pillow my space.”  You see just like the missionaries who are called to the foreign land, I am called to travel these roads and tell everyone I can about Jesus. So I don’t get excited and skip to the bus every week when I leave my family, but I also don’t do it with a heavy heart. I do this because I’m called by God to spread this message this is my ministry it’s what I’m called to do it’s more than a choice it’s a God-given desire. And that makes it easier.

SGM- Who inspired you or influenced you growing up musically?

 NJ- I can remember growing up as a kid and riding in my father’s truck; it was a pretty cool place to learn about music.  You see, my dad had his favorites … ZZ TOP, Garth Brooks, and either the Gaithers or Cathedrals.  So I grew up with a great appreciation for a wide variety of music including many genres.  As I got older, my musical taste varied drastically.  I would have to say my musical inspiration came from Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, and Jason Mraz.  But as to my inspiration to be a music minister, that I would have to say came from Gloria Gaither and her ability to connect with people.  I feel that this desire to love ALL music has allowed me the ability create my own sound.
SGM- Was singing southern or country gospel something you aspired to do from an early age?
NJ- Not necessarily.  I was a part of a vocal jazz group, I danced and sang in a hip-hop group, and I performed on cruise lines and at theme parks.  Yet, in the back of my mind something was missing … that true four part harmony.  I think this was God’s design to lead me into what He wanted me to do with my life.  Being a part of this ministry is what I was called to do.
SGM- What does the future hold for Mark209? Your newest addition in my opinion has a more traditional style in singing. Does this indicate a shift back to a more traditional style or will Mark209 continue with the sound you guys have created in the past with the more progressive country singers you have had?
NJ- I am totally excited for what the future holds for MARK209.  With Dustin coming on board it is an exciting time for us.  For the last few years, Dustin has sung very traditional Southern Gospel music.  Which is why his first weekend out with us he assumed he was singing “Baritone” for us … he quickly learned that term is fairly wide spread for MARK209.  After our first show I’ll never forget Dustin looking at me and saying “I thought I was singing baritone….” I said “Yea”.  “Well on that last song I am pretty sure I started out singing lead, then baritone, and then even sang an alto note for a second before going back to somewhere else…” to which I responded, “Yep that sounds about right!”  But the more we traveled with and got to know Dustin and about his past, we began to hear the ability that he had to place himself into so many different genres like southern rock, country, or even a very traditional Southern Gospel sound.  One of the things that I feel makes MARK209 different is our ability to adapt to who is in front of us.  When we step on stage, we never have a set list of songs to perform.  Instead, we have an open plan for what the people in front of us want to hear.  So, if they want hymns, then we do hymns.  If they want more contemporary, then we will lean that way; country, well then, hold on to your hat because here it comes.  This is why when you saw us last month, we were in front of an audience that loved tradition, so we leaned our show and vocals that direction and introduced some of our more country songs along the way.  And that is why I believe we have such a varied age of people who are fans, follow us on Facebook, or who will go out of their way to make sure they can be a part of what MARK209 is doing.  It comes down to something you brought up earlier– “the family aspect”.  It is not only between each guy, but also, we don’t want just fans… we want them to feel that they are a part of the family!
SGM- The industry in the past hasnt been accepting of country gospel artists as much.  Why do you feel the industry has shunned groups who try to appeal to a wider audience with a more modern sound?
NJ- We as humans, are creatures of habit.  We try everything we can to find something comfortable and stay there.  But if you look back over the history of southern gospel, what amazes me is we (Southern Gospel) were once the trendsetters.  We have a recording of Elvis early in his career, talking in an interview with CBS about how he stole his moves and stage antics from some of gospel’s biggest acts that he had seen growing up.  Here is the King of Rock N Roll saying he copied Southern Gospel.  So the idea that Southern Gospel is four guys in plain black or navy suits just standing behind mics is just mind blowing.  Looking back at another gospel hero, Bill Gaither, he was once considered contemporary or new-age, but certainly not southern gospel.  But he focused on the fans … the people in front of him.  That is exactly what MARK209 is going to do.  First, we focus on God and doing what He wants us to do; second, we focus on telling EVERYONE we can who He is and making sure they feel like they are a part of us; and third, we want to be an encouragement to Christians.  We will let the industry take care of itself.  And who knows, maybe someday they’ll even mention MARK209  right along with the groups of old and new that have done and are doing all they can to build up and support Southern Gospel, to keep it going for years and years to come.  We love and respect our Southern Gospel history and are excited for our future.
SGM- For those interested in bringing Mark209 to their venue or church, who do they contact?
NJ-  If anybody would like to bring MARK209 to their event, they can find us on Facebook, email us through our website (Mark209 Website), or call the office at 615-246-2667.  We do all of our own in-house booking, so no middleman just MARK209 making relationships with YOU.  
For more information on Mark209: 
 

Front Porch Interview: Randy Byrd

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SGM- You’ve sang with notable groups such as The Rebels, the legendary Blackwood Brothers quartet and now one of the premiere industry groups in the Mark Trammell quartet. Can you tell us how you got your start in southern gospel?

RB- I got hooked after hearing George Younce when I was 12. I was offered my first job at 17 by the Bob Wills Family but through a series of things in life it fell through. I was a preachers son and rebelled and left home a few weeks before I was to start. It just wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t start singing again until I was about 22 and started singing in church groups. I did the weekend warrior thing for many years. In 1997 I was offered a part time job with Majesty Qt from Des Moines Iowa. I was 34 and figured if I was ever gonna fulfill my dream I had better take it. I sang with them til 2003 when it temporarily disbanded. In early 2004 we put it back together and had been touring again for about 2 months when I got the call from the Blackwood Gospel Qt. A few months after joining them, Jimmy Blackwood joined us and we brought the Blackwood Brothers name out of retirement. The rest is history!

SGM- Most artists have an individual or group that inspired them to sing. Who were your influences?

RB- I kinda answered that in the first question!:) But I sang my first duet at age 5. I got my love of music from my moms side. I had heard quartets but had never been to an actual singing til age 12…. Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock Ar, mid 70’s…. I heard George Younce sing “There is a fountain” and I was hooked. I told my mom that night I wanted to be a bass singer…but at that age I sounded like a tenor!:)

I’ve been fortunate to have been around a lot of great singers that most people may not know but our church was blessed with some great singers. I mentioned Bob Wills earlier. He and his family are some of my biggest Heroes! His son Donnie is as fine a bass as has ever graced a stage. A few years after I couldn’t go with them they hired a young Jeff Chapman!!! Every time I saw them I told him he had my job! My biggest influence though was George. Still the greatest bass singer ever!

SGM- Your Walk Talks was the 2014 release for the group. When can fans expect the next project featuring the current lineup?

RB- We released “Rewind” with this lineup around NQC in 2015. It was a collection of hits from the MT Trio days which obviously didn’t have a bass part. We are getting ready to do a new recording of original songs asap. Hoping to have it by NQC 2016.

SGM-  What has it been like for you being with MTQ so far?

RB- So far it has exceeded my dreams! I always wanted to sing with Mark but honestly it never crossed my mind that I would get too. From day one Mark and Nick have made me feel welcome and wanted. They are very thoughtful and encouraging. Now that being said we torment each other a LOT! Dustin Black was fun to travel with and is missed. Blake Buffin has came in and just fitting in really well. We truly get along great and laugh a lot!!

SGM- What upcoming events are you guys excited about that fans should be aware of?

RB- We have a lot of great things we get to be a part of like the Cathedral Family Reunions and the Second Half Quartet but for me Gerald Wolfe’s Gospel Music Hymn Sing tour are my favorites. I love the fellowship with the other artists but getting to inner act with the fans is priceless!

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SGM-  Most artist cite traveling on the road as the biggest challenge to singing professionally. How do you balance family time and traveling?

RB- We have a lot of fun on the road. I can honestly say I’ve not had a bad road day since being here other than a couple days where we were sick. I’m grateful for that because being away from my precious wife is hard enough. I couldn’t/wouldn’t do it if I were miserable on the road. I couldn’t do the job God has called me to do without her love and support. As far as balancing the time, I just try to spend every moment I can with her when I’m home. My dream and goal is for her to be able to either quit work or go part time so that when I’m home we are together. I don’t deserve her but I’m sure grateful God brought her into my life. She is my biggest fan and supporter.

For more information on the Mark Trammell quartet:

For Booking Information:

Front Porch Interview: Joe Armstrong

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Since 1947, fans have flocked to see The Florida Boys. They appeared on the first gospel quartet concert ever held in New York’s Carnegie Hall.

SGM- In all the years I have covered southern gospel music and just listened to it, rarely have I found a bass singer with your combination of range and power on the lower notes. Was being a bass singer in southern gospel music something you aspired too from an earlier age?

JA- Yes, I have loved southern gospel music all of my life. My father was an evangelist and my parents took me to singing’s and camp meetings from the time I was born.

SGM- The Florida Boys are one of the most storied and legendary groups in the industry. Can you tell us a little about what it has been like for you singing with them?

JA- Singing with The Florida Boys has been a dream come true for me. Charlie Waller , owner and lead singer for the group, is a true southern gentleman. It is an honor to work for and sing with him and all the members of The Florida Boys.

SGM- Most artists have an individual or group that inspired to sing. Who would that person or group be for you?

JA- The Florida Boys , Billy Todd and JD Sumner.

SGM- If you were to chose a memorable moment in your career to this point, what would it be?

JA- Singing with some of the original Florida Boys at Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in South Carolina . Les Beasley, Glen Allred, Derrell Stewart and Tommy Atwood .

SGM- Vocally you remind me of a combination of former Florida Boys bass singer Billy Todd and Stamps quartet bass singer JD Sumner. Do you get those comparisons a lot?

JA- Yes and that is a great honor to me .

SGM-  I think a lot of our readers would probably wonder at what age did your voice drop so low? I’m sure you’re asked that a lot!

JA-  I was born with a low voice . My Mom used to tell folks she fed me Bullfrogs when I was little . Bass is all I could ever sing. At age 9 I started singing bass in my church choir . My voice just got deeper the older I became . Singing with Awesome gospel Quartets over the years have helped me to improve my God given instrument.

SGM- What upcoming events do the fans need to know about involving the Florida Boys?

JA- We have several events coming up. Check out our website Florida Boys Website

For more information on the Florida Boys:

Front Porch Interview: Gus Gaches

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From the Imperials, Lefevre quartet and Legacy 5, Gus Gaches has had quiet a career. We catch up with him to see what all hes been up too since Legacy 5!  

SGM- You have had quiet the career singing with premiere groups like Legacy 5, The Imperials and the Lefevre quartet. You currently work for Song Garden and serving as the interim baritone for the Jim Brady trio. What does the future hold for you? Any chances fans will see you return to singing full time or are your efforts focused more on the business side of the industry now with Song Garden?

GG-  I have been so incredibly blessed in so many aspects of my life. To have the opportunity to be involved with any one of those groups is incredible, but to have had the opportunity to be involved with all of them is more than I could have ever dreamed.

I try desperately not to think about “the path” as much as I try to concentrate on simply following where God leads. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not have that perfected, I’m very human, but I have found that life is the best when I am going where God leads. I have always been blessed to be active in both sides of the industry. I really enjoy getting to sing live, and I love being in the studio. I absolutely love this music and I’ve been given an incredible opportunity with Song Garden Music Group in that I get the chance to share some of the knowledge that has been shared with me thru the years.

I love being able to help artists both with their ministry and in the studio. I do love to get to use my voice, and I am so thankful for this opportunity with The Jim Brady Trio. They are dear friends, and when your friends need a favor you do your best to help, so I am honored to be able to help them in any way that I can.

SGM- Is singing southern gospel something you aspired to do from an early age?

GG- I started singing with my family at the ripe old age of 2 and my first experience in a recording studio was with my family at 5 years old. I guess that is why singing and the studio have played such a huge role in my life.

SGM- How has the experience been so far with Jim Brady trio? I know you havent gotten your feet wet yet with them just yet but I know fans are excited to see you return behind the microphone.

GG- As for traveling with Jim & Melissa, they are as real every day on the bus as they are onstage, so to say that it has been fun would be an understatement. I am so thankful for the wonderful friends I have been blessed with thru the years, and I have been touched by how many have contacted me in the last few days letting me know they are praying for me and many are trying to come see us over the next few weeks. It is incredibly humbling!

SGM-  Most artists have a group or individual who inspired them to sing. Who were your influences?

GG- My influences were The Hinsons and The Imperials. I loved both of those groups growing up, and they are both on my ipod today.

SGM- What is the biggest adjustment for artist to dealing with life on the road?

GG- I think for any artist it’s simply being away from home and family.

SGM- What are some upcoming industry events you are excited about that fans should be aware of?

GG- I love NQC! I really enjoy it being in Pigeon Forge. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on earth, so to have great Gospel music combined with one of my favorite places on earth, well, it’s just incredible. We also have some wonderful things in the works at Song Garden Music Group, so folks can go to our Facebook page and “like” us to keep up with all of the happenings “in the Garden”!

Front Porch Interview: Jeremie Hudson

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Three Bridges’ music is rooted in traditional ”southern gospel” and ”black gospel” music. This blended style has made Three Bridges is an internationally-acclaimed Gospel group — one that is known for tight harmonies, a unique vocal style, an exciting and energy packed stage presence and, most importantly, for spreading the joy of the Good News of Christ. They have entertained and ministered to millions through their recordings, TV appearances and live shows — which is why Three Bridges has quickly become one of the most prominent Gospel groups in Christian music today.

Tenor Jeremie Hudson is one of the industry’s premiere tenor singers. In this article, get to know a little more about him!

SGM- You’ve had an impressive career so far having sang with the legendary Imperials and now Three Bridges who is one of the premiere groups in the industry. Can you tell us a little about your journey to singing professionally?

JH- I started at 8 years old singing solos and such. I also sang in all my dad’s choirs as a teenager. My friends and I started a group called Fresh Anointing;  Jason Hallcox (former lead, The Imperials), Eric Hudson (brother) Bruce Taliaferro (former lead, Gold City), (Jimi Westbrook, Little Big Town). Then I went to be a Music Pastor. The Imperials came and asked me to join them that very day. I stayed with The Imperials for 10 years. Went back to being a Music Pastor and in Feb of 2010 and then Elliot McCoy called and asked me to join Three Bridges.

SGM- You sang with Shannon Smith in the Imperials and now again with Three Bridges. Did that relationship help your transition into the group?

JH- Oh yes. I probably would not have come back on the road at all if Shannon hadn’t decided to go with Three Bridges as well. Being “On Stage” is only about 10 percent of being in a SUCCESSFUL group. But I knew his heart and who he was and is, so I knew it would “work” AND it has.

SGM-  Jesus Saves was the 2014 release for you guys. When can fans look forward to the next CD release?

JH- We are currently working on a Hymns and Old Favorite’s album. It should be out this year. IT’S GOING TO BE GOOOOOD!!!

SGM- Was singing professionally something you aspired to do as a child?

JH- Yes. My dad sang professionally. I was on the road with him at 10 weeks old. Once you get that diesel smell in your lungs, you always want it!!! Lol

SGM- Most artists have an individual or group that inspired them to sing. Who were your influences?

JH- Harold Hudson (my Dad), Russ Taff, Michael English and Larnelle Harris.

SGM- What upcoming events are you guys excited about that fans need to be aware of?

JH- ALL OF THEM!!!

SGM- Being a family man, how do you balance life on the road and time with family? Many artists cite this as the biggest challenge to singing professionally.

JH- It is tough. But that’s exactly it, “balance”. But not just for me, or the group. But the “calling” must also be a part of the family for someone to travel and do what we do. They have to learn the balance of life with me home and with me gone. Again, it’s tough, but it can be done. I’m not saying that we’ve always done it well,  HOWEVER, we are still here and I think my family is VERY strong!!!

To bring Three Bridges to your church or venue contact: Beckie Simmons Agency – 615.595.7500 // dixie@bsaworld.com // Beckie Simmons Agency Website

For more information on Three Bridges:

 

 

Front Porch Interview: John Rulapaugh

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Freedom quartet was founded by John Rulapaugh in 2013 and has quickly carved its niche in the southern gospel industry and has become a fan favorite quartet.

SGM- You have had a nice career already with many more years to go. From the Dove Brothers to Palmetto State to now your own group in Freedom quartet where you guys were recently named Singing News fan awards Favorite Horizon group and favorite male quartet. Did you foresee having such success so quickly with Freedom?

JR- You may, or may not, remember that Freedom was started as a trio with my good friend Josh Garner (Formerly of The Florida Boys/now singing with The Dixie Melody Boys). We had a dream that, for reasons neither of us can explain, just never really got off the ground. After Josh left in pursuit of more frequent singing opportunities I really had no idea what to do…whether to pursue a new set of singers to join me or just fold it up and pursue other interests. I’d all but given up hope as everyone I had interest in working with were either already committed to another group or had made the decision to retire from this crazy life. So, I began to pray about the course of action to pursue. I heard from folks I never expected to be interested. Honestly, people I didn’t dare dream of trying to reach out to. The first was my old buddy Burman with whom I’d worked the road during the Dove Brothers and Palmetto State days. We actually met up at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. He was having some health issues that needed to be resolved and the group he was with at the time were not really amenable to his being off the road for any extended period, so the timing was right for him to make a change and I’d just started trying to figure out where we’d go from there. Burman came on to help us in our cabin rental business and sing if the opportunity presented itself. Then came Dale telling me he’d be willing to fill in for Josh’s absence from the group. My first question was “would you be interested in doing more than a filling in?!” He was interested, if the opportunity was right.

During our days as a trio Josh and I had reached out to Preston about singing baritone for the group. The timing was not right then and he had to pass…so when he called I was quite surprised and pleased. He was the last link in the chain. I say all of that to say that once the group came together and we had the opportunity to sing together a bit I knew that there was a chance that we had something special here. Everyone’s intentions are the same – to see others drawn closer in their relationship with Christ – everything else is secondary. Of course we want to entertain and have a good time, but that’s not our main focus. So, to answer you question directly, no, I didn’t expect that we’d have the success in the fan awards that we have seen – especially this soon. We haven’t really campaigned for nominations and votes beyond just making folks aware that we would be eligible etc.

Awards are nice and we appreciate the thought that goes behind folks voting for us. I don’t see them as a goal to achieve, but rather a recognition of the effort we put into our life’s work…so to be recognized in that was is certainly rewarding brings a certain sense of confirmation that we’re on the right track to reach more and more folks with the Gospel.

SGM- When speaking to your peers in the industry you are often mentioned when discussions of best industry tenor comes up. When you review your career thus far, who have you been impressed with as far as artists you sang with?

JR-  It’s kind of you to say that. Of course I’d like to think that what you’ve said is true but I’ve had the privilege of sharing the stage with far too many incredibly talented singers to believe it. It’s hard to make a short list – in this field talent really presents itself on many different planes – Of our current group I have to say Burman really has such a smooth bass voice and friendly demeanor. He is loved by audiences everywhere because of his candor. Preston has a keen sense and ability to follow the leading of The Holy Spirit, aside from being a great singer he really has the knack for changing a concert into a worship service. Dale’s commanding lead voice is the “magic” that every quartet really needs in order to stand out. This group of men represent the best top to bottom lineup that I believe I’ve had the opportunity to travel and sing with on a consistent basis.

Of course, who can compare to the great Hovie Lister, Jack Toney, and Buddy Burton with whom I was privileged to sing in the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Quartet…and Roy Pauley came as close to duplicating The Big Chief Jim Weatherington as anyone has ever done. Aaron McCune was the bass singer for the better part of my tenure with Palmetto State Quartet. He’s such a talented singer and all around great guy. Never fussy about sound reinforcement or microphones like most bass singers are…but always gave his all even when things were not optimal. He is still a great friend and one of the guys I miss most out of the groups I’ve traveled with in the past. Jonathan Sawrie of The Melody Boys is not only a great singer but also the type of pianist I dream of having along with Freedom Quartet. He has a feel for the rhythm and style of Hovie Lister like no one else I know and that is tops in my book.

During my shirt stint with The Blackwoods I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Harold Gilley who could command the attention of the audience like no one else and Steve Warren who is undoubtedly among the most talented musicians and singers ever in Gospel Music. Thanks for reminding me! I don’t think of all this very often as my mind is consumed with other things. Upon looking back, to say that I’ve been blessed would be a gross understatement.

SGM- Was singing gospel music something you aspired to do as a child?

JR- I don’t recall ever feeling as though I’d made a decision to pursue this as a career…its just always been what I was GOING to do…and then it was what I WAS doing… Never even really thought of doing anything else permanently or as a career vocation.

SGM- Most artists have that group or individual who really inspired them to want to sing. Who was that person for you?

JR- when I was a kid living in Maryland we didn’t get much southern gospel of any kind…but my family visited Gatlinburg, TN while on vacation and as we walked into “A Little Bit of Heaven” Christian Bookstore I heard something I’d never heard before…gospel quartet music. And my life was profoundly changed forever. Turns out it was the Gold City Quartet. My parents bought the cassette they were playing in the store and within a few days I’d learned every song. Before we left from our vacation we went back and purchased every title they had available! Soon after those days I started attending an annual Jubilee in Hillsville, VA that was hosted by the Mullins Family. At the time Paul Lancaster was singing tenor for them. He was kind to me as young kid (he would have barely been out of school himself) and encouraged me to pursue my passions. For both his singing abilities and his genuine love for people he became a great influence for me. Ben Speer may have had the biggest impact on me through his Stamps Baxter School of Music. My first two week session there was amazing. Bruce Northam was my voice teacher there and he most definitely had an impact on my vocal abilities. There are many people who are far more responsible than I am!

SGM- What are some of the upcoming events for Freedom quartet that you guys are excited about and want fans to know about?

JR-  As I type this Freedom Quartet is aboard United Flight 22 from Dublin, Ireland to Newark, NJ…returning from our latest trip “across the pond” where we’ve really established some great friendships. The next time we visit Northern Ireland we expect to take a tour group with us to experience some of what we’ve enjoyed there. We’re looking at a year or maybe two from now. The last weekend in May we are hosting our first two day homecoming event in Seymour, TN in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. We’ll have evening concerts at Grace Baptist Church on Friday and Saturday nights…but there will be events occurring all day Saturday. We start the day with a veterans appreciation breakfast. FREE TO VETS and their spouses, a small fee for everyone else and ALL are encouraged to attend and pay tribute to our heroes! Then we have a talent contest for groups and soloists with the opportunity to win some nice prizes. In the late morning/early afternoon we have carnival style games and bounce houses for the kids. It’s going to be a great time of Family, Fun, and Freedom! Details are posted on our website at: Freedom Quartet Website

Oh, we’re also about to embark on our first west cost trip. We’ll be leaving out on the 30th of this month headed to Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Oregon…should be a great trip and we are looking forward to seeing friends we made during tenures with our previous groups!
SGM- Our Debts Will Be Paid is the current release and with songs like My Child Well Done, Roll On Jordan and If That Isnt Love, it really establishes you guys as a force in the traditional market. When can fans expect a follow up to that recording?
JR- I’m glad that you recognize our love for the traditional music. That’s where we belong. We do, occasionally, branch out and grab some more currently popular music, put our twist on it, and sing them as a quartet…but we LOVE going back and grabbing some of that old classic quartet music to sing. It took a little longer than expected to get the final product completed on this last recording titled “Our Debts Will Be Paid.” By the way, that title is derived from the song by the same name, but the truth of the matter is that in the midst of the recording process our bus had to have a new transmission, then electrical issues plagued the bus for months (and we’re not resolved until just a couple of weeks ago!) in a short period of time we spent well over $10,000 in unexpected repairs. When I was tasked with coming up with a title for the recording that’s what spoke to me at the time! LOL!!
 So, to answer your question quite candidly, as soon as we are able to afford to get back in the studio we will be there. I hope it will happen sometime within the next 6 months, but all in His timing.
SGM- For those interested in bringing Freedom Quartet to their venue, who do they contact?
JR- For booking info please contact Beckie Simmons Agency by calling 615-595-7500 or online at Beckie Simmons Agency Website Of course we are happy to discuss booking directly as well if that makes folks more comfortable. Our office can be reached by calling 865-366-5155 or by email freedom@freedomquartet.com.
For more information on Freedom quartet visit the following sites:

Front Porch Interview: Melissa Kemper

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The Chuck Wagon Gang is a name that’s synonymous with southern gospel music. For 80 years they have traveled coast to coast sharing their unique blend of harmonies.

Chuck Wagon Gang soprano Melissa Kemper is a native of Groveton, TX, and she still resides there today, with her husband, Jamie, and children Weston, Brandon, and Alysse. Melissa sang soprano with the Chuck Wagon Gang between 2001 and 2006, then left the group to be with her children during their formative years. She re-joined the quartet in 2015.

SGM- Was being a southern gospel artist something you aspired to do as a child?

MK- I never aspired to be in the gospel music industry. I started singing specials in church at the age of 4. I turned down a position with a local gospel group when I was 16 and later accepted their invitation at the age of 24. I sang with them only a few months before The Chuck Wagon Gang called. I’ve always loved singing, but never thought someone would pay me to do it!

SGM- Who were the biggest musical influences upon you growing up?

MK- The biggest musical influences on me growing up were my mother, Martha Mericle, her father, Ray Harrison, our preacher, Robbie Bailey and The Calvary Boys quartet from Teneha, TX. I was not familiar with the Southern Gospel industry & did not follow any of the big name groups. My church had monthly singings with regional gospel groups.

SGM- Can you give us a brief summary of how you were hired by the CWG?

MK- The Groveton Volunteer Fire Department had a benefit concert in my hometown of Groveton, TX in the spring of 2000 featuring The Chuck Wagon Gang. My father, Alton Mericle, was the fire chief and did the booking. During the intermission, my mother, Bro. Robbie Bailey, James Doyle and myself sang a couple of songs. Darrell Morris was the manager of the CWG at the time. He said he was headed into the lobby to work at the product table when he heard my voice, stopped and came back in to listen. He remarked to someone nearby that I sounded like Rose. That “someone” unbeknownst to Darrell, was my father. Over a year later on September 10, 2001, Darrell contacted the Groveton VFD’s fire chief to inquire about me. The Chuck Wagon Gang had an opening for the soprano part. The fire chief wasn’t home, but my mother answered the call and gave him my name and number. Darrell called me that night and a few weeks later I auditioned in Ft. Worth with Darrell and Shaye. They hired me that day.

SGM- When can we expect the next CD release?

MK- The Chuck Wagon Gang will celebrate our 80th anniversary this November. We hope to have a new CD to honor this accomplishment.

SGM- What current events are coming up for the CWG that you are most excited about?

MK- The 10th annual Chuck Wagon Gang Homecoming is coming up soon in Pigeon Forge, TN April 8-9, 2016. The Brumley Singing in Tulsa, OK August 5th. A riverboat luncheon cruise on The Star of Knoxville September 29th in Knoxville, And many more! See:
Chuck Wagon Gang Tour Schedule

SGM- You recently performed a song with legendary country music superstar Vince Gill. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience and how it happened?

MK- It was a wonderful experience! Vince Gill is part of a band called The Time Jumpers. “Ranger Doug” Green from Riders In The Sky is also in the band and is a friend of The Chuck Wagon Gang. We had several appointments and events to attend in Nashville the second week of March, so Shaye contacted Ranger Doug to let him know we’d be in town and would love to see their show. A few days before we left for Nashville, one of our meetings was canceled due to illness. The Time Jumpers were performing on Monday, but now we didn’t need to be in Nashville until Tuesday night. Shaye called to inform me of the change and said if you and Jamie (my husband) still want to come early, Ranger Doug says you could probably sing a song with them. I think I was literally jumping up and down when she finished that sentence! I contacted Ranger Doug and gave him the song and key. Bright and early Monday morning we left Texas and drove to Nashville. We arrived at the venue around 8 pm and went backstage to visit. Ranger Doug greeted us and introduced us to Kenny Sears, a fiddle player and the band leader of the Time Jumpers. While we were visiting, I recognized someone in the corner, it was another fiddle player, Joe Spivey. The first three recordings I did with The Chuck Wagon Gang were recorded at Joe’s studio in Nashville. It was great to see him and to meet his wife Darleen. I noticed Vince Gill backstage, but I was too shy to introduce myself. I decided to wait until after the show. Jamie and I were seated in the audience and I enjoyed their music with nervous anticipation. The second half came and Kenny Sears called me to the stage. I was very nervous, mostly because this was my first time to sing this song for an audience and the band had never played the song together before. They kicked it off and I made it through the entire song! I was so relieved when it was over and I hadn’t messed it up. After the show, we went backstage again and visited with several band members including Vince Gill. He was very nice and even took a picture with me. It was definitely a night I’ll never forget! The experience is documented in pics here: Melissa Kemper Facebook Page

SGM- Lastly, how do you balance life on the road and spending time with your family and would that be the biggest challenge to you of life on the road?

MK- I love traveling & I love singing, but being “gone” is the hardest part. I left the CWG 10 years ago because I needed to slow down, but their schedule was getting busier. It was a hard decision, but I knew I only had one chance to raise my kids. They were 7, 9 & 11 when I left the road. I’ve never regretted my decision, but I sure missed singing! Now my two oldest children are in college and my youngest is a Jr. in high school. When I had the opportunity to return to the CWG last summer, my family supported me 100%. I’m very thankful for the advances in technology over the last decade. We use FaceTime a lot! I’m usually gone 3-4 days at a time and my husband travels with me whenever his schedule allows. We’re making it work and I’m looking forward to see what wonderful things God has in store for The Chuck Wagon Gang!

For more information on Melissa Kemper and The Chuck Wagon Gang see the following: