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1990: The Unfortunate End of an Era & How The Cathedral Quartet Still Changed Gospel Music Forever: Part 2

June 17, 2011

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.

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22 Comments
  1. JSR permalink

    Another great read, thanks!

  2. This was awesome….sure enjoyed reading it!

  3. Good read, though I wouldn’t have put quite the same spin on Haase’s marriage to Lisa. I realize you weren’t saying it was a deliberate strategic move to keep the job, but your saying it was a “very smart” thing for him to do because it made it hard for him to be fired could come off that way. Yes, it did in fact seal his Cathedral citizenship, but one could get the idea that that was his main goal from the outset!

  4. quartet-man permalink

    Haase was with them between 8 and 9 months by the time Fowler arrived. So, although not a spring chicken, he still wasn’t firmly entrenched or schooled yet. Although I prefer and the Funderburk / Trammell era is my favorite, the last group did a lot of great stuff Their being together so long definitely worked to their advantage. They were good enough that they did the legacy proud.

    Haase didn’t do the breathy voice right away nor was his hair in the style it later become. In fact, it seems both came at about the same time. Granted, I didn’t see them often, so it may not be as close as I think. The first time I recall seeing the hair and hearing the breathy tones was a performance on “Nashville Now”. The breathy tone was used on “Oh What a Savior” whereas before he didn’t sing that way. If I recall correctly, they had also changed the key from G to Gb/F#. Another tidbit is that unlike other times I recall, they used the intro that was on the studio recording (although the key was a half step lower) and Bennett’s finger slipped during the intro and hit a wrong note. I also believe this was the time when they also performed “Old Campmeeting Days”. Both songs were done with the Nashville Now band. So, I suspect this was not long past the era of the “Campmeeting Live” album and video. Of course on that video Haase sings and looks much like he did when he joined. Fowler is a bit rough too, so although there are good songs and performances on that video and CD (I prefer the version of “What A Meeting” on there to the original, the group is more rugged than they were prior or later. Even Younce missed the entrance on his solo on “I’ll Worship Only At the Feet of Jesus” but the instrumentalists caught him. I think he forgot the words because as I recall he sort of hummed and then came in later. Also, there were some overdubs at the very least that seemed to be done on “Dig a Little Deeper”.

    There were some good performances on CDs such as “The Best of Times” and “Raise the Roof” although those projects are probably not as good as the others this configuration did. One problem that “Raise the Roof” had was following such a landmark recording as “High and Lifted Up”. One great song from “The Best of Times” that I love that never really seemed to get the recognition it deserved (from my observation and opinion) is the Haase penned “He Came Up”.

    • Ernie was a little breathy at the outset, but I actually thought he was getting better by 1992/3. His performance of “Daystar” on _Campmeeting Live_ is one of my favorites, and he did a lot of great stuff on _High and Lifted Up_.

      By the way FNR, are you sure that you were referring to Ernie’s performance on that song as a watershed moment? It was a Glen feature, not an Ernie feature, so I wondered if you actually meant “Death Has Died.”

  5. quartet-man permalink

    YGG, I understand your view, but I don’t think he meant that at all. He basically just meant that even though he wasn’t likely to be fired, being in the family would make it even less likely. One could argue it helped the Cats too, because Haase was less likely to leave for other pastures since he was in the family. (I know it does happen, but not as often).

    There were several times when Younce introduced Haase that he would make a point of saying that the marriage didn’t get him the job that he was already in there. I don’t recall the exact wording, but it included something like “and sparks flew and x number of months he became my son-in-law.” He also might have made the comment about it being a smart thing to do.

    • I know, and that’s why I said I didn’t think that was his intention. George was very funny setting up that story! “Sparks flew, lightnings crashed, thunder rolled…” 🙂

  6. David J. Stuart permalink

    Great article. Thanks for the memories! I think their only project that had Haase and Trammell together was “Climbing Higher and Higher”.

  7. quartet-man permalink

    Yes, David that and the “Live in Nashville” VHS. Well technically they were together on the reunion album and video and several compilations. 😉

  8. JSR permalink

    I don’t believe Ernie married George’s daughter for any reason other than love. However, I do believe his marriage to Lisa (?) Younce has done wonders for his career. That and “Oh What A Savior” have made EHSS second only to the GVB in the SG genre, in my humble opinion. I believe the family link to the Cathedrals has allowed him to build off the Cathedrals legacy much more than any other ex-Cathedral.

    • At this point, the GVB is pretty mediocre. No contest between them and EHSS right now, IMO.

      • JSR permalink

        GVB mediocre? I will not delve into this discussion lest I’m reprimanded for getting off topic. However, I don’t see any group with David Phelps, Michael English, and Wes Hampton could be mediocre even if they tried to be. Ok there. I’m off topic. Reprimand deserved.

      • No reprimand for that comment. I thought it was common knowledge that when it comes to talent, GVB is not mediocre, nor anywhere close to it. Song selection and hair styles can have their own separate arguments.

      • quartet-man permalink

        I totally disagree too. Although I am not a fan of some of the material off the most recent CD, they are hardly mediocre. With all due respect ot EHSS, I would rather listen to GVB. Back in the day, I enjoyed GVB and Cathedrals and both were different enough it was like comparing apples and oranges, so I couldn’t necessarily pick a favorite (at least not easily). Now, it is no contest. No, that doesn’t mean I dislike Ernie and the Boys, it just means I liked the Cathedrals a lot more and like GVB more than I do them as far as music etc.

      • I do like Wes.

  9. quartet-man permalink

    JSR, I agree that he didn’t marry her for that reason as well as your assessment of what it did for his career. However, I don’t know how much the family link has done to help him build on the legacy. It made him in the place too, but I think he was played a lot of things smart in the business end. Face it, I don’t see how anyone can say that he is more talented than Mark Trammell (for one example). Mark also has had a much longer career in three of the top quartets of the era and also being a member in one of the most popular trios. Yes, that could also prove your argument, but then you look at Glen’s son with Cathedral Records. It helped get him in the door and yes he wasn’t as visible as Ernie, but it takes more than associations or name recognition. I also realize the record business is a different beast.

    • So nobody saw the satire in that?

    • I’m not really sure how you could compare Mark and Ernie. It’s like apples and oranges. Two completely different voices.

      • quartet-man permalink

        I just re-read these Cathedrals posts and just now saw your response, YGG. Yes, they are completely different, but once can still compare the level of talent in different voices or styles. My point I believe was that Trammell is at least as talented vocally as Ernie (and I would say more) yet Haase has had a more popular group. Although I do believe that Haase had help from the Younce family that the others didn’t have, he still has had talent, hard work etc. involved to partially make that happen.

  10. JSR permalink

    Satire sometimes provokes interesting discussion. While I don’t believe any of us think Ernie’s marriage was a strategically planned career move, it is interesting to ponder how his career might be different without being married to the former Mrs. Younce. Personally, I don’t wish to insinuate that he rode someones coat tails instead of his own talent.

    Another interesting thought. Where would SG be right now if Bill and Gloria Gaither had not met and married?

    Ah, the endless possibilities of speculating about a past that didn’t happen.

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