1990: The Unfortunate End of an Era & How The Cathedral Quartet Still Changed Gospel Music Forever: Part 2
In the middle of the whirlwind, stood Ernie Haase, Roger Bennett, and Scott Fowler. Bennett was already an industry staple, but Haase and Fowler hadn’t been around too long. Haase had done some singing with The Dixie Melody Boys and Squire Parsons…Fowler was singing lead with an excellent, but relatively smaller market quartet, The Sound.
Obstacles became opportunities. The aftermath would open new doors. George and Glen wouldn’t see it unfold any other way. A glorious era had ended. And with it…a new legacy would soon be established.
Lurking in the back of the minds of Cathedral Quartet fans were obvious questions about exactly how much longer Younce and Payne could travel and sing. It wasn’t talked about very often, but it was there.
Haase had already been with The Cathedral Quartet for a few months before the glue (Trammell) departed. And Scott Fowler got the call.
Shortly after, one of the bravest, wisest things that a tenor singer could do, Haase did. Haase, very smartly, sealed his Cathedral citizenship by marrying a daughter of George Younce. Certainly his tenure as a member wasn’t riding on this marriage, but it didn’t hurt. Although it would never be needed, it’s hard to fire your son-in-law. His range was absolutely there in 1990, but he tended to stray with his pitch on occasion. His style was a bit more “flossy” and “breathy” than Funderburk’s and his voice led to a completely different Cathedral sound. Cats fans found this sound a bit different than what they were used to. And we all know how old folks can be. But in a short couple of years, his potential was put to rest as “actual capability”. He could carry a song emotionally as well as anybody else in the business and his transition from light and soft to hard-charging, raise the roof type songs may have even been a little “smoother” than his predecessor. His performance on “High And Lifted Up” raised new heights and expectations of Haase and solidified his presence in the gospel music industry. Another appeal for Haase was his eloquent sense of style. He’s always had a great head of hair. Who pulls against a tenor with great range, great hair, great suits, and a charming spirit that permeates the room as soon as he enters?
Fowler probably wouldn’t be your conventional baritone, at least not initially. As if Fowler had tried NOT to be the “conventional” baritone, he became one all the more, and cut a new spin on what teenage boys and young adults would identify as the brand new “conventional” baritone…at least that’s what I remember. It’s a very compelling argument to have. Trying to not to be Trammell and following in Trammell’s footsteps at the same time can be quite the daunting task. He simply had to make it his own, in the Cathedral Way of course. And by the end of Fowler’s tenure, he sharpened his presence as not only a “blender” but as a more than capable lead vocalist. By 1999, Fowler attained more texture, more density in his tone. The Haase/Fowler combo turned out to be such a contrast from previous lineups, but Cathedral Quartet nonetheless.
It seemed as if everything they touched was gold (even “Raise The Roof”). As the world awaited this new, yet to be determined sound, Younce, Payne, and Bennett knew this was in their back pocket, igniting the proverbial mecca of gospel glory for its last ride. Garnering awards, #1 hits, and appearances on popular morning shows, they had one more stop…”Faithful” and its subsequent last year of traveling. With years of singing “We Shall See Jesus”, God finally felt the call to let him do so.
To say The Cathedral Quartet went out on top would be an injustice to them (i was marginally close to inserting a “Goin’ In Style” joke right here). The Cathedral legacy etched itself into our very lives. How often do you catch yourself thinking or discussing what Younce or Payne used to do, the jokes, the cherished moments they helped us to discover, the men they groomed, the music and message that they lived.
You ask anyone in southern gospel to name their biggest influences and I would soon become a betting man to forecast that 85% of the responses would be “The Cathedrals”. I’d even go as far as to say that Bobby Clark and Roy Tremble are talked about just as much as half of the tenors currently in full-time gospel music today. How long have they been off the road? My point exactly. They have and will stand the test of time. Not just because of their music, but because of their testimony. Their resolve to do nothing less.
In 1990, we saw a very unique and dynamic sound broken. Before we could blink, Haase and Fowler brought us assurance. And that promise continues to live on from the events that took place in that 1 year span, helping to solidify the case for gospel music and why The Cathedral Quartet remains and will remain one of the biggest influences in the history of…not just gospel music, but Christian music. Wolfe, Haase, Trammell, Fowler, Funderburk were woven into the rich terrain of our past…and will help guide us into our future.