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Oh, The Wonders of a Common Problem!

August 18, 2011

With the recent departure of Joel Wood of the Mark Trammell Quartet, I was not exactly surprised.  People come and go.  The music stays the same.  And the industry takes a while to catch up with the rest of the world, as southern gospel primarily remains over-saturated.  But three things dawned upon my reasoning, which shook previously influenced and sometimes conflicted thoughts.

1)  For the majority of artists, the pay is peanuts, and the schedule grueling…especially with a family.  Families are separated for 4 to 5 days a week, yet the opportunity to sing full-time, whether one is good or not, is the sacrifice of doing what you love.  And that is where I rest.  In a genre often criticized, without low pay, sacrificing family relationships, and doing what one loves to do, and added dose of the occasional ego, we would not have as much to talk about it.  Actually, it leaves less to criticize.  People can speculate, and a lot of times the truth is smothered, but in the end, if a person leaves like Wood did…I’ve recognized it’s easier to let it go and enjoy what you heard and saw for the time you did.  I can never criticize a family man.

2) And when these times occur, cherish it.  If artists could make more without leaving their families behind, we wouldn’t have as much to talk about.  And we wouldn’t have those special groups.  80s Gold City, 70s Kingsmen, 80s Singing Americans, 2000 GVB (joking).  The history of Southern Gospel would not be as important, intriguing, controversial, and glorious as it really is.  They create those moments, and we capture them in our minds and hearts.  And we sit around like 60 year olds, talking about their old football games, naming specific situations, opponents, and reliving them in our discussion, laughing at how “good” it was.  For the industry, the only consistent changes from year to year are personnel changes.  And we may take that for granted.  Low pay, sacrificing families, and personality conflict creates a strange paradox for enjoying what we experienced and talking about what was.

3)  Leads and Baritones are common to find.  Sometimes interchangeable, and sometimes not so much.  It’s the more natural tone among men.  Some baritones can’t sing a lead vocal to save their life.  But that same baritone can provide a harmony so surreal and pure, that it doesn’t matter.  What is hard to find, are tenors and basses.  One that is consistent from night to night.  One that can hit their notes and hold them with conviction and passion, pursuing something more than “singing the ladies part”, or simply “the bass is booming tonight”.  Good tenors are rare.  A good bass is even more rare.

And when their families are on the line, never over-simplify the issue.  Your favorite group may end up with a gem of a replacement.  Or they may not.  It may not be what you want or like.  You can talk about it.  But don’t judge it.  That’s the nature of the beast.  It’s hard to find those quality voices.  A group has to make a hire, and usually speedily. I’m not saying you have to continue to buy their music or attend their concerts.  But they haven’t failed you.  Those voices are out there.  But in many cases, they aren’t interested in coming back.  Enjoy it while it was.  And maybe you can enjoy what will become.

God bless Joel as he tends to his flock.  I hope to see him back one day.

  1. Nice find!

  2. I know it’s just one song and not a whole night of singing, but my goodness, Jay Parrack still has it. And Joel really did hit some notes I didn’t know he could there.

  3. I like this post. I’m grateful that there are still singers out there willing to step out of the spotlight for the sake of their families.

  4. DisneyGator permalink

    I remember when I used to think, “Man, that guy only stayed for two years. Two albums, and he’s gone.” I’d only see the group once a year, buy their CD, and wait until next year. What I didn’t realize until much later in life is that this dude was away from his family for two whole years – not just that one date he was in my home town. I once tried out for this very group, and I ponder now the blessing of not being the one who hit the road.

    • DisneyGator, what a blessing it is sometimes when things don’t work out our way. And I bet you have younger kids. We would get spoiled if the same group graced a stage for too long.

  5. Not to be the odd one out, but the super-high tenors have always seemed to me like just more proof of the old adage that “if you can scream it, you can sing it.” Just my .02 though, matter of taste. 😛

  6. In expounding on the extreme sacrifices made by those of us who travel an average of 175 days every year, let’s not forget those who really pay a heavy price. Those who “sign up” to serve in our military, and leave home for, sometimes, twelve months at a time. Just sayin.

    The travel schedule can be tough, at times, but it’s not what people sometimes make it out to be. The truth is, some are actually “called” to do it. Others “choose” to do it. Some can take the schedules, some can’t. It’s really as simple as that. It doesn’t speak of a person’s toughness or sacrifice, as much as it speaks to their love of what they do, and what they make of it. You can love a 9 – 5 job, or you can hate it. The same is true in our genre. You can accept what goes along with that 90 minutes on the platform, or you won’t last too many years. Truth is… it’s just not for everybody… but what is?

    • quartet-man permalink

      Excellent post, Gerald. Some people love to travel and feel tied down at home. They love change and adventure. The same day (and possibly shift) day in and day out drives them crazy. Others hate change, not having a nest so to speak, might feel cooped up on the bus and might have family and events at home they totally hate to miss, but love to sing and are willing to give it up as a trade off. Others feel called to do it in spite of their preferences or sacrifices. Even if they love to sing, they might be more willing to find a way to do that at home or other ways, but feel called to go out.

    • Agreed—I would completely crumble under the stress of that kind of life, but seem people seem to actually love and enjoy it.

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