The Definitives: “The Lighthouse”

This is the start of a new series of posts that I’ve been tossing around for a while.  The Definitive series will be taking a classic song from the SG genre and I will give my pick for the best version of the song.  First up is one of the most iconic songs in SG history, “The Lighthouse.”

Written by Ronnie Hinson, this song was of course originally performed by the Hinsons, but was covered by a plethora of groups.  Popular versions were recorded by the Goodmans, the Oak Ridge Boys, and the Downings among others, but pretty much every major group has covered the song at some point in their career.  There are a lot of really good versions, but the version recorded in 1972 by JD Sumner and the Stamps on Something Special rises above all the rest.  Donnie Sumner sings the verses on the Stamps’ version of the song, and it may well be the single best recorded vocal of his career.  Sumner sings the song with the power and range that really drives the song home, going up to (I think) a sustained A above middle C on the tag.  The power harmonies from the rest of the quartet are spot on.  If you’ve got a copy of the album, pull it back out and try not to take a shouting fit by the end of the song.

Many artists have covered “The Lighthouse”, and there are truly many fine versions of the song, but no one has ever been able to equal the Stamps and Donnie Sumner.


100 Years Of SG At NQC

I’m going to take a break from the top 5 listing for something that is well worth bringing up. I received this press release yesterday from the NQC:

On Saturday afternoon, September 18th during the National Quartet Convention, an event celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Southern Gospel Music will prove to be one of the most historic events ever offered at the National Quartet Convention. The showcase, produced by Norman Holland of Daywind Music Group, will pay tribute to many of the artists that shaped the genre of Southern Gospel Music down through the decades.

Here are just a few of the segments that will be featured during this showcase:

  • Bluegrass segment featuring members of the legendary Lewis Family, Jeff & Sheri Easter, and the newly formed Lewis Tradition
  • A Gospel Caravan segment with the Lefevre Quartet, the Chuckwagon Gang, and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet
  • A Speer Reunion with members Diane Mayes, Ann Downing, Sue Dodge, Jeannie Johnson, Karen Apple, Ben Speer, Faye Speer, the Speer Sisters.
  • A Cathedral Reunion with Legacy Five, Greater Vision, and the Mark Trammell Quartet
  • A Hinson Reunion featuring Ronnie Hinson, Chris Freeman, Larry Hinson, Bo Hinson and many former band members such as Gary Prim
  • A Downings Reunion featuring Ann Downing, Joy Gardner, and Donnie McGuire
  • A Rambos Reunion featuring Reba Rambo McGuire, Buck Rambo and Reba’s daughter Chastity
  • A Singing Americans reunion with Michael English, Ed Hill, Rick Strickland, and Dewayne Burke
  • A reunion of 1980’s version of Gold City featuring: Tim Riley, Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Mike Lefevre, and Garry Jones

The event will take place at 12:00 noon in Freedom Hall and is part of the Saturday afternoon Showcase Spectaculars at the National Quartet Convention. Complete schedule and ticket information can be found at or by calling 800-846-8499. Those unable to attend in person may also watch this historic event live as it happens or on demand through October 31st on the NQC Webcast. Details also available at

Wow. Let that sink in for a minute. The Gold City reunion that was the rave last week was just the tip of the iceberg. A reunited Gospel Caravan? A Downings reunion? I’m not really a fan, but a Hinson reunion? A Speer reunion? The “Evening to Remember” Cathedrals guys? A Singing Americans reunion with Michael English and Rick Strickland? Are you kidding me??

When the SN Fan Awards announced they were leaving the NQC, the natural question was “What is the NQC going to do now?” Well, I think they have answered that question and gone above and beyond any expectations that we had. I do know that they are currently looking into recording this event for an eventual DVD release. They need to do everything humanly possible to make sure this is done, as this is really a rare opportunity indeed, to see a reunion of all these greats.

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.

Another Dollar General Find

We stopped in Dollar General the other night to pick up some supplies and some cheap birthday cards (DG is a WONDERFUL place for greeting cards!) and while we were browsing around, I was looking through the CDs and DVDs.  Since I found the Johnny Cook CD a while back, I peruse the stacks everytime I’m in there.  Lo and behold, I found something else that was quite interesting.  Dollar General is selling a 6 volume DVD set of the Gospel Singing Jubilee.  These are not the Gaither issued DVDs, but are entirely different.  Here are the six volumes, I only found volumes 1 and 6 at my local store.

  • Volume 1 – The Florida Boys
  • Volume 2 – The Happy Goodmans
  • Volume 3 – The Cathedrals
  • Volume 4 – The Inspirations
  • Volume 5 – The Hinsons
  • Volume 6 – The Speer Family

I will have to say I was disappointed in the Florida Boys DVD.  After about the second or third song, the audio began lagging about a second behind the video, which made for some aggravating viewing.  However, this was not a problem on the Speer Family volume, and it was very enjoyable.  Hopefully my copy of the FB is just messed up.  Oh, the DVDs are very reasonably priced as well….2 for $10.  Gotta love DG prices!

Has anyone else seen these and/or picked them up?

Also, one of the Florida Boys cuts has a tenor I don’t recognize.  The song appears to be from the early 80’s, and the tenor is short, a little on the stocky side, and has dark, almost black hair.  It isn’t Jerry Trammell, it isn’t Terry Davis, and it doesn’t look much like Greg Shockley.  Anyone know who this tenor is?

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