Skylite Albums To Be Digitally Remastered, Released

In what is huge news for fans of classic Southern Gospel like myself, Syntax Distribution has announced that they have secured the rights to digitally release the vintage Skylite records catalog (hat tip, DJM).  These releases will be retouched and remastered, so I am hoping for fantastic sound quality on these albums.  Skylite has a rich history, being founded by the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers, then splitting off from those groups and becoming a fairly major label.  Artist like the Statesmen, Blackwood Brothers, Masters V, Speers, Oak Ridge Boys, Kingsmen, and others have all released albums on Skylite.  This is really exciting news and something to be watching for in the coming days, there are some great Skylite releases.  Here are a few albums I can’t wait to see released:

Statesmen – Hymns By The Statesmen
Statesmen – Get Away Jordan
Speer Family – Songs You’ve Requested
Oak Ridge Boys – I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now
Jake Hess & The Imperials
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A Piece Of Southern Gospel History

I was completely surprised during our Sunday morning service yesterday.  Since October, I’ve served as our church pianist, so I was sitting at the piano yesterday ready to start playing for our “Prelude”/”Meet and Greet”/”Organized Chaos” time, when I was called to the pulpit along with one of my fellow deacons.  It turns out Curtis had been going through some boxes of records from his parents’ house over the weekend.  I was then presented with this:

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What you are looking at is an album with  six 78 rpm records of The Blackwood Brothers, on the old Blackwood Brothers Quartet label.  A little research has shown that these records are from 1949, when the group was still based in Shenandoah, Iowa.  Personnel were Dan Huskey – Tenor, James Blackwood – Lead, RW Blackwood – Baritone, Bill Lyles – Bass, and Jackie Marshall – Piano.  Here is the label of one of the albums:

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The songs contained in this album are:

Only A Look/Hide Me In Thy Bosom
Peace Like A River/Joy, Joy
Over The Moon/Do You Know Him
There’s A God Somewhere/What Could I Do
My Desire/Working On The Building

The last record contains two songs per side, but is unfortunately broken.  It has:

Side A: The Old Time Faith Is What We Need/How About You
Side B: Is He Satisfied/Amazing Grace

Anyone out there ever been able to successfully repair a broken 78?  I’d thought about trying some epoxy, or even some super glue.  I’d love to be able to repair it, even if only long enough to create a digital copy of the recording.

The album cover and pages are in excellent shape, and with the exception of the last album, the records look to be in excellent condition as well.  I can’t tell you what it means to me that Curtis would give me this treasure, and I know he reads the blog, so for the 3000th time in the last 24 hours, thank you so much!  Once I successfully get these converted to digital, I’ll update you readers on how they sound, and give you some thoughts on this stunning piece of SG history.

Singing News Curse 2010

One of the common jokes about SG is that we have our own version of the NFL’s “Madden Curse”, the “Singing News Curse.”  With just one cover left for the year, let’s review the status of the curse for the year, shall we?

  • January: Dixie Echoes (Pat Barker departs)
  • February: Crist Family (no changes)
  • March: Brian Free & Assurance (Randy Crawford departs)
  • April: Greater Vision (Jacob Kitson departs)
  • May: Hoppers (no changes)
  • June: McKameys (no changes)
  • July: Mark Trammell Quartet (no changes)
  • August: Gold City (Roy Webb, Josh Cobb depart)
  • September: Blackwood Brothers (no changes)
  • October: Kingdom Heirs (Billy Hodges departs)
  • November: Booth Brothers (no changes)
  • December: ????

Unless my math skills have dulled over the years, that’s 5 out of 11.  It’s interesting to note of the groups that haven’t had changes, 3 are primarily family based groups, which tend to experience less turnover by nature, and one has been in existence less than a year (Mark Trammell Quartet).  That leaves us with two established non-family groups that have been stable since their cover appearance, and 5 that have experienced changes.  I’d say the curse is still alive and well!

NOTE:  This post is solely intended to be read in a good-natured, tongue-in-cheek manner.  If you have not read it as such, please check the batteries in your sarcasm meter.  🙂

Gospel Singing Caravan Makes Its Return

One of the highlights of the 100 Years of SG Celebration at NQC was the appearance of the new Gospel Singing Caravan featuring the Lefevre Quartet, the Chuck Wagon Gang, and the Blackwood Brothers.  It seems the Caravan is destined to be more than just a one-time shot for the showcase.  The new Gospel Singing Caravan is going to be doing a limited tour starting in Spring 2011.  There is a website for the troupe here. (hat tip, Diana)  The site also mentions that the groups have begun working on a studio album to be released through Daywind Records.  Be on the lookout for this tour, it should be quite a concert experience!

Mansion Releases Sing Out America DVDs

In the early 80s, Bill Traylor had a TV show called “Sing Out America!” (thanks Kyle!).  Last night after running some errands down around the mall, I told my wife I’d like to head over to Lifeway and just look around a while.  I must say that while their selection of SG CDs was decent, but fairly picked over, they did have a pretty nice selection of SG DVDs.  There were a couple of Crabb Family DVDs, Brian Free & Assurance’s latest DVD (with the songs from Real Faith), and several other non-Gaither DVDs.  As I was looking through, I came across several DVDs that were labeled “Sing Out America” from Mansion Entertainment.  Volume 5 was labeled “Gold City Quartet.”

I bought the DVD for $12.98 and took it home.  There were 10 songs on it, 8 of which were from the short lived Brian Free/Bill Crittendon/Jerry Ritchie/Tim Riley lineup.  The other two were the classic Free/Parker/Lefevre/Riley lineup.  It’s interesting to note that while a full band accompanies both eras, the earlier performances are obviously done live, while the Parker/Lefevre songs (“Cool Drink Of Water” and “After I Bow”!!) are pretty obviously lip-synched to the Double Take recording.  Still, it’s a great video to watch, as it documents the early days of Gold City, as well as being a very rare lineup.

I checked Mansion’s website this morning, and there are 10 volumes.

  • Volume 1: A Classic Collection
  • Volume 2:  The Blackwood Brothers with Guests, The Speer Family, The Dixie Echoes
  • Volume 3: The Speer Family
  • Volume 4: Florida Boys
  • Volume 5: Gold City Quartet
  • Volume 6: Rusty Goodman Family
  • Volume 7: The Hoppers
  • Volume 8: The Hinsons
  • Volume 9: The McKameys
  • Volume 10: Wendy Bagwell and The Sunliters

The video and audio are of pretty good quality, and definitely better than the Gospel Singing Jubilee DVDs I found a while back at Dollar General.  They’re not quite Gaither quality, but they’re definitely worth watching.  Though they aren’t credited as such, The Cathedrals do appear on both Volumes 1 and 2 of the collection.  One minor glitch, at least on the Gold City DVD, is that the song listing on the back of the DVD case is incorrect, and not a complete list.  “After I Bow” was not listed at all, but was instead a VERY pleasant surprise, as it’s one of my all time favorite Gold City songs.

Be watching out for these.  I know Lifeway has them, and you can get them Direct from Mansion’s website.

Classic Blackwood Brothers Recording Download

Mark Blackwood has a Facebook page for the classic version of the Blackwood Brothers.  He’s been mentioning for a while on the page about working on a recording of rare and previously unreleased tracks from the Pat Hoffmaster/Ken Turner era group.  The recording is now finished, and there is a free download of one of the tracks available here.  The track is “Blessed Assurance” featuring Patt Hoffmaster and is a nice example of the smooth blend that this particular lineup possessed.  Hoffmaster is another one of the underrated, largely forgotten tenors, but he does a masterful job on this classic hymn.  It also bears mentioning that the recording itself is of a very high quality, even though it was recorded now 25+ years ago.  The restoration is very well done, and the track truly sounds CD quality.  Mark has also stated that there will be a single released from this album, a song called “Living In The Land Of The Living.”  If you are a Facebook user, become a fan of the page, as Mark has left open the possibility of more track downloads, as well as information on purchasing/downloading the entire album.

Thoughts Of The Day: Dominant Radio Singles

David Bruce Murray has some very thought provoking posts about the lack of dominant singles in SG radio these days.  Both posts are definitely worth reading, and to dovetail on his idea, I also find it interesting that there seems to be a specific lack of dominant number 1 chart songs.  From his post, the single longest time period spent at number one by one song is three months, “Through The Fire” by the Crabb Family, and equaled by “Searchin'” from the Talley Trio.  Both of those songs were in 2000.  I can think of three or four songs off the top of my head that easily equal or beat those two.  “Excuses” by the Kingsmen stayed number one for multiple months, as did “Learning To Lean” by the Blackwood Brothers, and if I recall “Midnight Cry” and “Step Into The Water” both held the top spot for several months as well.  It’s interesting to consider the reasons why there doesn’t seem to be the chart domination that we saw 10-20 years ago.  Are more good songs being written, or is it just a glut of songs and artists period, quality notwithstanding, thereby diluting the mixture, so to speak?  What think ye?

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