Top 25 SG Singers

About a year ago, I sent out a survey to various industry types (singers, bloggers,  label staffers, etc.) and asked them to rank their top 25 SG singers of all time.  I got the idea from Rolling Stone doing something similar with their Top 100 Rock and Roll singers.  I wanted to do something to honor SG singers as well. Though my feedback was light, I still was able to get enough responses to go ahead and post the results.  Here, by weighted average  (1st place vote =25pts, 25th place = 1pt, etc.) are the Top 25 SG Singers of all time.

  1. George Younce
  2. Glen Payne
  3. Tim Riley
  4. Vestal Goodman
  5. Jake Hess
  6. David Phelps
  7. Arthur Rice
  8. Mark Trammell
  9. Guy Penrod
  10. Kim Hopper
  11. Gerald Wolfe
  12. Jim Hamill
  13. Karen Peck Gooch
  14. Ivan Parker
  15. Bill Gaither
  16. Jack Toney
  17. James Blackwood
  18. Michael English
  19. Danny Funderburk
  20. TaRanda Greene
  21. Duane Allen
  22. Lauren Talley
  23. Rosie Rozell
  24. Mark Lowry
  25. Ronnie Booth

I actually ended up with 79 names in the list, and if you are wondering, #26 happens to be Brian Free. Again, this is simply meant to pay honor to those who have excelled in our genre of music, and is not at all meant to be a reflection of worth on any individual, named or unnamed.  I’d say that’s a pretty good list.

About Wes Burke
I'm a .NET developer and Southern Gospel music fan. Married with a wonderful family.

18 Responses to Top 25 SG Singers

  1. Lynn says:

    Looks like a great list to me.

  2. Diana says:

    There aren’t too many surprises in that list! Very interesting, Wes.

  3. Naomi says:

    I would add Scott Fowler……. 😀

  4. Dean Adkins says:

    Interesting, but there appears to be a tendency to choose artist with whom the selectors are familiar,i.e., those in past few decades. Thus no Big Chief, Smitty Gatlin, Denver Crumpler, RW Blackwood, and on and on and on.

  5. New SoGo Fan says:

    It is a good list, but it could be a lot better. For example, how did Bill Gaither get on there? On a greatest songwriters list, most assuredly, but singers? 😉

    And Ronnie Booth is a good singer, but Jim Brady is markedly superior. If Ronnie made it, where’s Jim?

    And how in the world did Larry Ford not make it on the list?

    And Mark Lowry is a great baritone, but what about Doug Anderson?

    And where’s Ernie Haase?

  6. New SoGo Fan, where’s Ernie Haase? I’m just guessing… but maybe down around #250. *rim shot* I’ve heard Ernie himself say that vocally, he’s the weakest part in EH&SS. So, he would be far down below Doug and Tim Duncan, and probably Devin as well.

    • New SoGo Fan says:

      Well, looks like you were about an order of magnitude off Brandon. 😉

      Ernie has won a lot of fan awards, but critically speaking I think he’s a very underrated tenor. Critics just don’t talk much about him, and when they do it’s to say how infinitely better some other tenor is. But he has a remarkable gift. I would definitely not say that he’s the weak link in his group, although in modesty he may himself say so.

      • Well, I gave the exaggerated #250 as a joke, but to be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Ernie’s voice. I will say that I respect him for the work he’s done in SGM and his handling of Signature Sound. I also respect him for his bluntness (you called it modesty) about being the weakest vocalist in the group. Of course, all of this is just my opinion… It really isn’t worth the bandwidth it takes to post! LOL

        BTW, the most glaring name missing from the top 25 to me is Big Chief. He was the Statesmen… Hovie, Jake, Jack, and all the others were great, but no one could replace Big Chief.

      • New SoGo Fan says:

        Sure. This kind of thing is pretty subjective. For my part, there are some highly respected vocalists in that very list whose voices I don’t care for… but I probably shouldn’t name names. 😉

  7. burkesbrainwork says:

    NewSoGoFan, I normally wouldn’t do this, but why not…..all four you listed received votes and were ranked. Consider yourself special. 🙂

    Doug Anderson – 34
    Ernie Haase – 54
    Jim Brady – 55
    Larry Ford – 79

    • New SoGo Fan says:

      That is interesting. I expected that Doug Anderson would be near the top. He may not take home all the fan awards, but critically speaking he’s very well respected.

  8. burkesbrainwork says:

    To speak to Dean’s concerns above yours…

    Smitty Gatlin – 27
    Bobby Clark – 29
    Roy McNeil – 32
    LeeRoy Abernathy – 50
    Big Chief – 57

    Many of the “old-timers” did receive votes, and Gatlin, Clark, and McNeil just missed the cut.

  9. New SoGo Fan says:

    I guess the one thing that shocks me most, coming back to this list, is Larry Ford’s last-place finish. How in the world did he come in last place, when Bill Gaither made it into the Top 25?

    I guess you must have had a REALLY small sample, huh Wes? 😉

  10. Melissa says:

    Pardon a perpetual lurker for chiming in so late in the discussion, but I did want to address an earlier comment a poster made that Jim Brady of the Booth Brothers is ‘markedly superior’ to his fellow BB Ronnie Booth. Everyone should have opinions (what a boring place the world would be if we didn’t!), and certainly there may be areas vocally in which Jim might be considered to have an edge over Ronnie. (For one thing, even the most rabid Ronnie fan will admit that no one could belt out “Trading The Old Cross” like Jim can.) But I was a little disturbed at the uncompromising definitiveness of the statement, as though it were a absolute given, instead of just a personal opinion. Surely the definition of a great singer is more subjective than that, depending as much on the individual preferences of the listener as it does the technical proficiency of the singer. For instance, Vestal Goodman came in at #4 in the ranking. Now, I grew up listening to the Happy Goodman Family, and I always enjoyed hearing Vestal, both individually and as a member of her singing group. But in my opinion, Vestal didn’t really have that good a singing voice. I don’t dispute where she is ranked, though, because Vestal brought that indefinable ‘something’ to her performances that transcended any vocal limitations she might possess. And in the case of Jim versus Ronnie (and how appalled both gentlemen would be to find themselves positioned in such a way!), there isn’t even the question of quality of voice, as there’s no doubt that both are tremendous singers who complement each other so harmonically and with such versatility that sometimes it’s hard to tell when it is Jim singing the harmony line and when it is Ronnie. But for me, the bottom line is that it was hearing Ronnie Booth sing for the first time that brought me back to an appreciation of Southern gospel music after far too many years of self-imposed exile, and it’s that ‘indefinable something’ in Ronnie’s voice that keeps me here. The fact that Ronnie Booth meets *my* criteria for a great singer (and that of others as well, since he did in fact make the top 25) doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for everyone. Jim’s voice ‘does it’ for some folks; Ronnie’s voice ‘does it’ for others. But to flatly state that one singer is markedly superior to the other, without conceding that there just might be room for dissent, seems to imply that any other assessment must of necessity be invalid. Surely the opinions of those who might prefer Ronnie’s voice over Jim’s deserve a little more respect than that. So maybe we could compromise here? Let’s just say that Ronnie Booth deserves his 25th place, not just because he’s a great singer, but because so many of the Booth Brothers’ more familiar songs feature his distinctive voice, and we’ll hope that sometime in the future Jim will also receive the recognition he deserves. (Uh…just so long as he doesn’t knock Ronnie out of the running in the process…)

    • New SoGo Fan says:

      Melissa, that was me, and I wanted to address your remark, because I think it’s important.

      Ronnie has a truly lovely voice, and I didn’t mean to put him down. I have in fact grown to like his voice even more than I did when I wrote that comment, and I already thought it was beautiful then. However, I said Jim was definitely the more skilled vocalist because he has more power and a more consistent pitch. The power thing is a taste matter, but pitch… as sweet a voice as Ronnie has, it sometimes does have to be tuned. Jimmy is the sort of singer who can knock it out of the park on take one.

      So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your preferring Ronnie’s voice, and I can think of a lot of cases where I say “Well x may be ‘technically superior’ to y, but I’d rather listen to y.” Forgive me if my remark was misunderstood–it was not intended to disregard Ronnie’s talent or the opinions of those who prefer him.

      • Melissa says:

        Well spoken! Thank you so much for taking my reply in the spirit in which it was intended. I suspected that you didn’t mean your comment to sound as harsh as it did, and I must agree that Jim does have the edge in power and pitch — although, to be fair, none of them seem to be having trouble staying in key on that a capella number on “Jubilee 2”. Looking at things in the harsh light of day, I suppose what really bothered me was the idea that Ronnie, being the lowest ranking singer and therefore the man on the bubble, should be ‘out’ and Jim should be ‘in’ with regard to a listing of the Top 25 SG singers, when both are better vocalists than some of those who ranked far higher in the standings. And I in turn apologize for the wordiness of my comment; I’m just not at my best at two o’clock in the morning!

      • New SoGo Fan says:

        Nor am I. 🙂

        Between you and me, I thought some of the choices for the list were a little odd too…

      • burkesbrainwork says:

        There were some I scratched my head at too, but I just compiled the results, I only had 1 vote like everyone else. 🙂

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