Go Jonah

The Cathedrals recorded a song back in the ’80s called “Go Jonah” that was a spoof of the Oak Ridge Boys hit “Elvira.”  While there were many twists and turns, the basic upshot of the fiasco that followed is that a lawsuit was filed claiming copyright infringement, and the Cathedrals record company had to pull the album and re-release it without that song included.  I’m not really sure what has reminded me of all of this, but there are a couple of questions that come to mind now some 20 years removed from the issue.

  1. Did this whole situation cause friction between the Cats and the Oaks?   If so, it was apparently resolved by the time the Cathedrals retired, as the Oaks performed at their farewell concert.  I’m really not trying to dredge up some dirt here, I don’t really need to know details, I’m just curious in light of the Cat’s farewell concert video about the consequences of the whole ordeal.
  2. With the ruling in the not too distant past that parodies constitute “fair use”, and the subsequent success of groups like Apologetix, has this album or song ever been reissued?  Surely it would now fall under the category of a parody, which means it would constitute “fair use” of the Oak Ridge Boys song.
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About Wes Burke
I'm a .NET developer and Southern Gospel music fan. Married with a wonderful family.

23 Responses to Go Jonah

  1. Kyle says:

    I know for a fact that the Cats and the Oaks were friends for many years. The lawsuit was not from the Oaks; it was probably from either Dallas Frazier (the songwriter) or Acuff-Rose (the publisher). The Oaks don’t own the publishing/copyright on the song, so they would have no reason for the lawsuit (and consequently, no say in the matter either way).

    The 1992 ruling opened a lot of doors for parodies, and I’m sure if someone could find the master for that, it could be reissued, but the odds of that happening are pretty slim now since Benson is out of the SG business and Cathedral Records went belly-up.

  2. Kyle says:

    Another item of merit, “Elvira” had been recorded quite a few times before the Oaks ever got a hold of it, including by Rodney Crowell and Kenny Rogers. The song itself was written in 1969.

  3. burkesbrainwork says:

    Very interesting Kyle, I didn’t know it was only covered by the Oaks. I thought I had heard that the ORB really didn’t have anything to do with the lawsuit, I’m glad I didn’t just dream it. :)

  4. FWIW, the song is on the Cathedrals’ Oh Happy Day album (1982). I have the album, with the song, and didn’t have a particularly hard time finding it either.

  5. Quaid says:

    I have it also, found it with a huge stack of other southern gospel records in a Goodwill.
    That’s my kind of bargain shopping!

  6. volscot says:

    Triuphant Qt recently put the song on their “You Better Hurry Up” project.

  7. Quaid says:

    Triumphant’s “Jonah-song” , that is, if you’re talking about their radio single, is a different one.

  8. Chris says:

    I’ve looked for a copy of this song since I was a kid! Can anybody who has it post the lyrics here?

  9. Quaid says:

    Chris,
    Unfortunatley, I or anyone else can’t post the song in entierity due to copyright issues. Is there just specific words/lines that you don’t know?

  10. volscot says:

    In answer to Quaid’s posting #7, I’m talking about the “Go Jonah” song that is the parody of “Elvira”. See http://www.triumphantquartet.com/merchandise-cd-hurryup.php

    It’s track 10. I’ve got the project and it’s the same song discussed in this post.

  11. Chris says:

    It’s the verses that I can’t remember. I’ll check out the triumphant quartet parody that volscot mentions above.

  12. Jim says:

    Quaid,

    In the second verse I can’t remember two lines

    Instead of ….
    Jonah went ….
    ?
    The storm….
    By a big ….
    ?

    and in the third verse I can’t remember one

    Finally he …
    Preached about …
    Went outside …
    ?
    God said …
    But Jonah …

  13. John Ross says:

    Instead of going to Nineveh; Jonah went the other way but things didn’t go the way that Jonah had planned. A storm made him jump and holler by a big fish he was swallered. God made that fish cough up his prophet man. and God was saying:

  14. Jim says:

    Thanks, John Ross. I hadn’t checked in a while as there had been no posts. Do you know the third verse too?

  15. Jay says:

    Some one should upload the song to Youtube. So we can all hear it. I remember as a kid hearing it like 2 times on the radio. I always wanted the record

  16. Friendly says:

    Here’s a children’s puppet-show version … not well done, but at least you could refresh your memory on the words. A Christian a cappella group – called His Image back then, but later reworked as Acappella – also recorded the song.

  17. Jim says:

    Was there supposed to be a link on the puppet-show version?

  18. Danny Corbitt says:

    I’m not saying who wrote “Go Jonah”, but I know him personaly. You know how local groups sometime will take a tune and put words to it, thinking it will stay local. This is what happened. The Cathedrals where in Savannah, Ga. years ago. To let you know how long, Gold City was just getting started. Well, The Cathedrals started playing what sounded like Elvira, my wife and myself looked at each other, and liked to flipped out. After the show, we talked to George, to see how they came by the song. George said that they heard it from a local group who had heard it from some other group.
    Acuff-Rose some how found my friend,tred to soue him. They finely settled with my friend paying a $250.00 find and never record the song. He had to put the words in an evalope and mail it to himself.
    The only otheer proffional group I’ve heard sing “Go Jonah” was the Kingsboys.

    • Jim Hall says:

      I do know the person who was sued because of the song. It was not 250 but much more. I know your post was in 2009 but would very much like to talk with you concerning this songwriter. my personal email is jimhall171@gmail.com

  19. Neal Rhoden says:

    I enjoyed your post on “Go Jonah!” I was not aware that the Cathedrals sang it. I was familiar with it by a totally different SG group, The Kingsboys, who later became known as Chronicle. In the early to mid 80’s I was a disk jockey at WEAS-AM in Savannah, GA and I remember several other such “parodies.” For instance, the Dixie Melody Boys “More than Just Good ‘Ole Boys” a take off of the popular “Dukes of Hazzard” theme by Waylon Jennings.

    • Danny Corbitt says:

      Sence Acuff-Rose owned Elvia and it was still popular by the Oaks, they were hot about. They set out to sue the person who wrote Go-Jona. The settled with this person, and charged the cathedrals X amount of money and pull the album of the shelves. This person who wrote Go-Jona and the Cathedrals could never sing the song anymore. I don’t know how the groups now have the rights to do so.

      • burkesbrainwork says:

        Danny, these days it falls under “fair use” as a parody. The laws around this were changed sometime in the 90s, if I remember correctly. There is a Christian rock “parody” band called Apologetix that takes popular secular rock and pop songs and rewrites the lyrics to reflect a Christian message or even tell a Bible story. It was the changing in these laws that allows them to do so. That’s why “Go Jonah” can now be recorded.

  20. Danny Corbitt says:

    Thanks. That answers my question.

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