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Creekside Gospel Music Convention

November 2014 SGNScoops Magazine

Written by SGN Scoops Staff on November 15, 2014 – 7:14 am -

November 2014 SGNScoops Magazine

November 2014 SGNScoops Magazine

It’s November and we are thrilled to present the latest edition of SGNScoops for you to read and enjoy. Creekside Gospel Music Convention was a blast and we have lots of pictorial coverage in these pages, as well as on the fabulous front cover. Inside we have an update on the event with a list of the Diamond Award winners and so much more. We say an extra thank you to all of those who went above and beyond to help make Creekside the best ever. If we were to make a list, we might leave someone out, so to each and every one of you: we are so grateful to have you as part of our team.

Thanks to our artists for brightening our pages this month! Featured guests for November are: Soul’d Out, Tim Parton, Melanie Walker, the LeFevre Quartet, Triumphant, Hannah Webb, Canaan’s Crossing, Sherry Anne, the Jordan Family, Quinton Mills and DJ Ron Foster.

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and you will find several articles with different views on this holiday. We appreciate all of our artists for contributing what they are thankful for and also their favorite holiday food!
Our monthly devotional writers are back with more insights, as well as a new column entitled “Pastor’s Corner”. This month we welcome Music Pastor, Terry Snyder.
Since this is the month of giving thanks, we would like to thank all of our current authors that spend so much of their time and talents on SGN Scoops. Special thanks to Candi Combs, Chris Clay, Craig Harris, Dan Duncan, Dean Adkins, Dixie Phillips, Erin Stevens, Hannah Webb, Jennifer Campbell, Laura Kennedy, Lynn Mills, Marcie Gray, Paige Givens, Scott Rhoades, Tina Wakefield, Robert York, Sandi Duncan Clark and Vonda Easley. There are others who contribute in other ways and we are thankful to you as well: Vivian Belknap, Michelle Drummond and Bev Byrd.
We so appreciate all of our columnists, including Lou Wills Hildreth, David Staton, Laurette Willis, Jeff Steele, Kelly Nelon Clark and Sherry Anne.
SGN Scoops would look really dull without the artistic team of Stephanie Kelley and Staci and Pete Schwager. Joan Walker makes sure all of our i’s are dotted and our t’s are crossed. Lorraine Walker as acting editor pulls it all together. And of course, SGN Scoops’ Publisher Rob Patz keeps us all focused and enthusiastic about the future of the magazine. And SGN Scoops would not exist without our founder, Dr. Allen Smith.
Above all we give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whom we give our gifts and to Whom we give all praise and thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving!


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Finding Their Voice: Stability has led to success for Brian Free and Assurance

Written by Staff on October 15, 2014 – 11:20 am -

Brian Free and AssuranceBy Craig Harris

Half of the male quartet Brian Free and Assurance didn’t grow up singing Southern Gospel Music. In fact, half of Brian Free and Assurance didn’t even grow up singing. However, the “quiet” guys have found their voice and now appear to be as extroverted as they come.

“I grew up very insecure,” lead singer Bill Shivers says. “I grew up with an inferiority complex. That’s something that God has really reached down and helped me with. I never dreamed in a million years that this is what my life would be.” Shivers didn’t sing until he was 20 years old.

“I guess the transformation for me was when I started with Heaven Bound,” Shivers explains. “I had never actually stood on stage. I had always played the guitar before that, with family groups, local groups. “I would have to introduce a song, and I had to let God use me and get out of the way. When I completely depended on Him, He showed up in my life. It gave me a confidence, on stage and off stage.”

Brian Free and Assurance-Group FormalThat confidence is evident in Shivers’ personable demeanor both on and off stage. “I never had a plan in my life,” Shivers notes. “God has opened the doors. He has made a work in me. Today, I am very much a people person. I love and try to meet as many people as I can. In my younger years, I was afraid to step up and meet people. That’s a God thing, not a me thing. I thank him for that.”

Shivers has been the lead singer since Free moved from being a soloist back into a group setting, in 2000. “Phillip Hughes called me and told me that Brian was putting the group back together,” Shivers remembers. “He told me that he had thrown my name in the hat. It was close to Convention (the National Quartet Convention). Me and Craig (Singletary, who Shivers sang with in Heaven Bound before he became the baritone for Brian Free and Assurance) sought Brian out and spoke with him at his booth (at NQC). We said that we’re interested in the position and said what’s the next step.

“We did a showcase at convention. When we walked in our showcase, we were about to walk on stage to do our three songs. Craig says, ‘Don’t look now, but Brian Free is back at the sound board.’ I said, ‘Thanks Craig for telling me.’ After the showcase, Brian approached Craig and I and said, ‘We need to have a conversation.’ We went down (to Atlanta), and he had the bass singer at the time there (Bill Lawrence). We sang three or four songs around the piano. We went on the bus, and he said, ‘The job is yours.’ I said, ‘Done deal.’”

brian freeShivers and Free have been inseparable ever since. “He understands his responsibilities and what his job is, and he does it,” Free says. Free himself broke into Southern Gospel Music as the tenor singer for the Gold City Quartet before departing the group at the end of 1993. “You can’t be on the road 13 ½ years without being close. After a couple of years, you start to know each other.   There’s a fine line there between being the boss and being a friend. There’s ups and downs in anything. It’s his dedication to what he does, my dedication to making sure everything works … it’s all of us together. Everybody chooses whether they want to be here or not. Any kind of music is one of those things where if you really love it, you’ll stick with it.”

Shivers adds, “I am a very loyal person. I just felt a kinsmanship with Brian. I knew we clicked. I knew our sound together meshed really well together. Our personalities just clicked. This is my calling, and I know it’s definitely his calling. I’m not one of those guys where the grass is greener on the other side.”

Forty-four-year-old Shivers admits to having learned a lot from Free. “He’s like my mentor,” Shivers explains. “He has taught me so much – about singing, about life in general. He is a man who is very firm and who stands firm on what he believes. He’s very serious about his convictions. He’s been a great example for me. We’re very tight.”

Brian Free and Assurance-Jeremy Lile CasualFans have understandably adhered to the veteran lead singer. “People love him,” bass singer Jeremy Lile says of Shivers. “People come just to see him. He’s good with people. In my opinion, his role is just to be the best lead singer out there. I think he is the best lead singer.” Lile adds, “He could be a tenor with any group.”

Shivers admits that it can be difficult singing the part below a man who is arguably Southern Gospel’s highest tenor singer. “To sing right under Brian night after night is a challenge,” Shivers admits. “Brian Free is a freak. I mean that in a positive, great way. He pushes me, but it’s a good push. It’s a drive to be better. It challenges me. I love a challenge.”

However, it’s not just the relationship between the elder statesmen that functions well. The whole group seems to click. “We’re brothers,” Lile points out. “We’ve never had a falling out. They’re hilarious. They’re always making me laugh.”

Brian Free and Assurance-Mike Rogers CasualFree adds, “We have a good time on the road together. We enjoy each other’s company. Truly, as much as you can enjoy being gone from home 190 days a year, we make the best of it, and we are close.”

Bus activity is what many might expect for an all-male contingent. “It can be routine at times, but we always make a joke that you have to be half-crazy to be out here on the road like we are,” Shivers shares. “We get along so well on the bus. Thank the Lord, we are like a big family on the bus. We just have a great time. We play the Wii (video game system). We play Mario Cart, but we have times of great discussion and debate. We complement each other very well. That’s what keeps it fresh. We’re friends. We’re family.”

Rogers has been with the group for slightly more than a year at this point. “They’re great guys,” Rogers says. “We’re pretty much cut from the same mold. It’s comfortable. It’s been good. I just jumped in there and went with it. Everything is smooth. It’s been different singing a different part. The baritone part was different, but I love it.”

Rogers walked in after Derrick Selph had spent nine-and-a-half years with the group, which came in two different stints. “He’s fitting in good,” Free notes. “He’s young, green, but he’s learning. He’s got an amazing voice. He’s good with the people. He has a good attitude. He’s a hard worker. It’s been a very good relationship.”

In some ways, (baritone singer) Mike Rogers can relate to what Shivers has experienced. “I didn’t start singing until I was 20,” Rogers points out. “I did some musical theatre stuff. I didn’t know Gospel Music existed until I heard a couple of voices. I heard Jason Crabb. When you hear Jason, you can’t help but to ease into a little Michael English. That’s right up my alley. I researched a little bit. If you listen to Michael English, you get into the Gaither Vocal Band. Then, you run into Wes Hampton, David Phelps and Mark Lowry. You run into Marshall Hall, who is a beast.”

Rogers eventually ran into the Southern Gospel industry himself, starting his career with the Dixie Melody Boys. “Brian Free is pretty progressive for our genre,” Rogers notes. “I was like, ‘hey, that’s pretty good music.’ I saw where the Dixie Melody Boys were looking for a lead singer and I thought I’d love to get into that. Then, this job came open.”

Rogers admits that he’s still learning about the genre. “Not even an ounce of me is Southern Gospel,” Rogers points out. “I had never listened to it. This fits me better stylistically. I am into more contemporary stuff, progressive. I listen to a ton of black gospel, like Smokie Norful. I dial it back to fit our genre. It’s been great. There’s no better quality than Southern Gospel music. To be blessed enough to have an opportunity to do it at 25 years old … people go their whole life and would give their right arm to be blessed enough to do what I am doing.”

Like Rogers, Shivers prefers a more progressive brand of music. “This is a little more my style,” Shivers says. “I’m definitely not traditional. I can sing that, but I love the soulful sound … and I love the more country stuff.”

Brian Free and Assurance-Bill Shivers CasualThe group’s sound is not something that the group made a concerted effort to move toward. “It’s my preference,” Free notes. “I like music that’s challenging. The simple stuff is not as challenging to me. Each album, I want it to be more challenging. That helps me. More than setting out for a style, it just happens. It’s not like we set out and say, ‘Let’s make this choice progressively.’ I choose songs lyrically, but you have to stay within certain parameters obviously.”

The style progression was initially a concern for Lile. “When I first joined, the stylistic part of it was going edgy,” Lile shares. “I’ve always been a fan of the old Statesmen stuff. I’ve always loved singing the old stuff. Through it all, I was afraid they were not going to utilize the bass singer as much, but they’ve always made it so that I was still doing my thing.”

The group’s current project is entitled Unashamed, which released in April. “It falls in the pattern of the last five or six albums,” Free explains. “I think our society today within the church needs a shock. They need a wake-up call. We need to remember the times we live in and remember how important it is that we do what we’re supposed to do. There are so many things that are trying to dilute our stand as a Christian and the word of God. There’s no compromise. Sometimes, we’re more interested in presenting a meek message. We want to do it with love, as Christ did. There’s also a line that you kind of cross when you compromise. If you dilute it in any way, you’re not taking on the message of the Lord. These songs are a wake-up … know where we stand, what we stand for and don’t back up an inch.”

Unashamed is the sixth project that Ricky Free – Brian’s son and the group’s former drummer – has produced for the group. “I like to sit back and watch him and let him go,” Brian says. “His creativity and the direction he takes and the ideas he comes up with are much better than any of mine. I may insert something here and there from time to time, but I kind of get out of the way. He knows how I think. I know how he thinks. There’s been a real release and peace in just handing him the reigns and letting him go.”

The first radio single from the project, “Say Amen,” has rocketed up the charts. In fact, the group filmed its second concept video for “Say Amen,” after having previously comprised one for “I Want To Be That Man.”

“I Want To Be That Man” was the first short-form music video to win the video of the year award at the National Quartet Convention Music Awards. “We did it on the Pedestrian Bridge in Nashville,” Free remembers. “We did it in February or March. We were frozen, but it was a lot of fun.”

“Say Amen” was filmed in the Gallatin and Hendersonville areas, just minutes north of Nashville, Tennessee, in June. It was completed and released in late July.

“This was my first album ever,” Rogers said. “It’s fun to be doing this with people who have been doing this for so long who are the best. I love being with a group where I just have to walk on stage and do my part. Everybody pulls their weight, off stage, on stage, vocally.”

While Rogers is the newest addition, the other three have been together for more than seven years. They all view that stability as instrumental to the group’s success. “I personally think it’s very important,” Free emphasizes. “It’s important to me and the other members of the group. The less turnover, the better. The better attitudes, the better. People like consistency and continuity. It means a lot.”

View More: http://mattandrewsphotography.pass.us/daywindLile believes that Free is the key to that stability. “I think it has a lot to do with Brian,” Lile says. “He’s been out here so long. He knows what he’s doing. He’s good to us. He’s always consistent on everything. We don’t have to worry if we’re going to get a paycheck. It really goes back to Brian being consistent and being a good person. He genuinely cares for us. Once I had been here a few years and I saw how things were … I got married once I had been here and had a child. Brian loves my wife and my child. I know we’re always going to be taken care of. It is hard to see myself in another group. I know I’m going to be taken care of here in every way. ”

Witnessing the stability that trio has developed has prompted Rogers think about his long-term future with the group. “I do feel like I could be (in it for the long term),” Rogers explains. “I’m a really big dreamer. I’m always looking to grow, to get better, to do better. I definitely see this being my career, music in general. It’s been very good. It’s been a very good step in the right direction for me. I’m just soaking it up. It’s been good, and I’m learning from the best. Brian knows this inside and out. If I plan to make this my career, the best thing I can do is just sponge it all up.”

daywind 2Shivers admits to being humbled at the number of notable settings that the group has been fortunate to sing, including three consecutive years that the group performed at the Dove Awards. Brian Free and Assurance won a Dove Award for the song “Long As I Got King Jesus.”

“The first song I sang with Brian Free, ‘For God So Loved,’ the first time we sang that together, I was like, ‘Wow,’” Shivers says. “Singing on the Dove Awards was a huge opportunity, singing on Gaither videos, singing on the Grand Ole Opry stage… We didn’t go out there and sing country music. We sang Gospel Music. It’s very humbling. I never dreamed in a million years this is what I would be doing. God is an amazing God. Every door that He’s opened for me has been just that much more grand. I couldn’t praise Him enough. I don’t deserve it. For some reason, I have favor in God’s eyes. I thank Him every day for it. The lives and the people we touch is what it’s all about. It’s not about me. It’s all about Christ. I can’t praise Him enough for allowing me and trusting me enough to do it.”

Rogers added, “Sometimes, I have to take a step back. You get used to it. You take a step back and look at the platform you have, and never in a million years would I have imagined singing Gospel music even four years ago. Sometimes, God does that. He put the desire in my heart and made it happen in about two years time.”

The 25-year-old Rogers admits that it can be tough at times, especially having five-year-old daughter Coraline and two-month-old daughter Everlee at home. “When you have a week-old baby girl who just made it home and you have to leave home, that’s difficult,” Rogers explains. “If it wasn’t for having family at home, you would be on cloud nine. You have to make it work the four days a week when you are not at home. Our families are just as big a part of this as we are.”

The 34-year-old Lile echoed those sentiments. “My wife (Nikki), when we were dating, she knew what she was getting into,” Lile says. “We got married and it was hard leaving her. I have a three-year-old son. His name is Logan. It’s 100 times harder leaving (now). He’ll hang on to my leg and cry and say, ‘take Lo with you.’ I’m home Monday through Wednesday. I can spend from seven in the morning until he goes to sleep. I can spend more time with him now than if I had a nine-to-five job.”

scoopsThe motivation for Lile is the life-changing message in the music the group conveys. “It’s seeing people saved,” Lile points out. “We’ve been seeing a lot of people saved. We did a trip to Texas. We were out three days and saw 20 people saved. That’s really what is keeping me out here.”

Shivers adds, “It’s really tough. With a family, I’ve been married 16 years (to his wife Michelle). I have a 14-year-old daughter (Brittany). I have a nine-year-old daughter (Sarah). She just got saved (in June). I have a three-and-half-month-old little boy (William Brent Shivers III). God gives me peace in knowing that He has everything under control, that His hand is upon my life and that this is my calling … not only my calling, but also my family’s calling as well. If that had not been the case, I would never have been out here all that time. My wife is my biggest fan. She is my biggest supporter.”

Both of Brian’s sons – Ricky and Bryce – are adults, forcing him to leave only his wife Pam each week. “It’s 33 years full time (singing),” the 51-year-old Free notes. “(The reasons for traveling to minister) it’s a lot of things. It’s the challenge of the music, the vocals. It’s presenting them on-stage, watching the response. It’s seeing how the songs change lives. Even more important than that is when people are saved, when the Holy Spirit uses them.   As far as the travel, I hate it. That’s just part of it.”

As for the future, Free’s hope is simple. “I just would love to see God use us in a greater capacity in the church,” Free says. “I’d like our music to be put in front of a lot more people.”

 

For more information on Brian Free and Assurance, please visit http://www.brianfreeandassurance.com/http://www.brianfreeandassurance.com/

http://www.brianfreeandassurance.com/

By Craig Harris

First Published by SGN  Scoops in August 2014

For current issues of SGN Scoops visit http://www.sgnscoops.com/


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SGN Scoops NQC Photo Coverage from Saturday September 27

Written by Staff on September 29, 2014 – 9:43 am -

By Craig Harris

Triumphant-Kingdom Heirs Showcase

Triumphant-Kingdom Heirs Showcase

Once again, Craig Harris provides terrific photographs from the last day of NQC 2014 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Hope you’ve enjoyed these albums! Let us know… sgnscoops@gmail.com

Sneed Family

Sneed Family

Gold City

Gold City

Daniel Riley-Gold City

Daniel Riley-Gold City

Robert Fulton-Gold City

Robert Fulton-Gold City

Chip Pullen-Gold City

Chris West-Gold City

    Chris West-Gold City

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)

Renaissance Quartet (Bethel University)


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SGN Scoops Presents Friday Night at NQC

Written by Staff on September 27, 2014 – 1:51 pm -

Photos by Craig Harris

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound With Michael Booth

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound With Michael Booth

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound

Craig Harris once again provides on-the-scene reporting in pictures from the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, TN. These photographs are from the Friday evening concert. Enjoy!

Paul Harkey, Devin McGlamery-Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Paul-Harkey-Devin-McGlamery-Ernie-Haase-Signature-Sound.jpg

 

Ernie Haase--Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Ernie Haase

 

Jeff and Sheri Easter

Jeff and Sheri Easter

 

Morgan Easter-Jeff and Sheri Easter

Morgan Easter-Jeff and Sheri Easter

 

Friday Night Hosts Susan Whisnant, Michael Booth

Friday Night Hosts Susan Whisnant, Michael Booth

 

Canton Junction 1

Canton Junction

Debra and Roger Talley

Debra and Roger Talley

Michael Booth, Ernie Haase

Michael Booth and Ernie Haase

Diplomats

Diplomats

Triumphant singing "Old White Flag"

Triumphant singing “Old White Flag”


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SGN Scoops at NQC – Thursday

Written by Staff on September 26, 2014 – 9:21 am -

Singing News' Fan Awards Choir

Singing News’ Fan Awards Choir

Photographs by Craig Harris

Lauren Talley Alvey, Brian Free

Lauren Talley Alvey, Brian Free

The Isaacs

The Isaacs

Once again, SGN Scoops’ reporter Craig Harris gives us a look at the evening performances during the National Quartet Convention. Thursday’s events also included the Singing News’ Fan Awards.

Bill Shivers, Mike Rogers, Jeremy Lile-Brian Free and Assurance

Bill Shivers, Mike Rogers, Jeremy Lile-Brian Free and Assurance

The Taylors

The Taylors

 

Ed O'Neal of the Dixie Melody Boys

Ed O’Neal of the Dixie Melody Boys

 

Rodney Griffin of Greater Vision

Rodney Griffin of Greater Vision

Randy Shelnut Sr., George Shelton Jr. of the Dixie Echoes

Randy Shelnut Sr., George Shelton Jr. of the Dixie Echoes


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SGN Scoops at the National Quartet Convention

Written by Staff on September 25, 2014 – 3:02 pm -

Clarke Beasley

Clarke Beasley

 

 

 

 

 

Gary Casto-Tribute Quartet

Gary Casto of Tribute Quartet

Pictures by Craig Harris of SGN Scoops…one of our roving reporters on the scene at the National Quartet Convention!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connie Hopper of The Hoppers

Connie Hopper of The Hoppers

 

Bryan Walker of The Perrys

Bryan Walker of The Perrys

 

Legacy Five

Legacy Five

Ray Dean Reese and The Kingsmen

Ray Dean Reese and The Kingsmen

 

The Whisnants

The Whisnants


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The Hoppers: Past, Present and Future

Written by Staff on August 26, 2014 – 12:13 pm -

DSC_6739By Craig Harris

The Hoppers are one of Gospel music’s best-loved families. They have been given awards and accolades and number-one songs for many years as audiences embraced their powerful harmonies. After 57 years, they are still going strong and pause for a moment to remember the past, live in the moment and look forward to the future during a conversation with SGN Scoops. Excitement abounds as each of the Hoppers speaks of their history, current happenings and possibilities in the years to come.

Claude and Connie Hopper headshot“I remember when we started; we’d have probably paid somebody to let us sing,” Connie Hopper laughs. “We went to a church one night and sang and got $12.73 in the offering plate.” Needless to say, much has changed since the Hoppers starting performing in 1957. They were then known as the Hopper Brothers and Connie. “In 1970, we quit our jobs and went on the road full time,” she remembers. “It was three of the brothers and me.”

Connie joined the group as the pianist and eventually married Claude Hopper. She began singing when Claude’s brother, Steve, left the group. “We have been so fortunate to support ourselves through the work God has called us to do, and none of that has been by accident, nor any of our own doings,” Claude explains. “Every day that we are blessed to travel is attributed to the support and prayers of each individual audience. We’re like a turtle sitting on a fencepost. You know he did not get there by himself.”

DSC_6895Connie wasn’t the only current group member to come on board as a musician. Claude and Connie’s son, Dean, signed on as the drummer at the age of seven. “The only thing I knew was that I wanted to play drums, and I would do anything I could to play music,” Dean points out. “I had a chance to play all these guys’ big (drum) kits – Mark Ellerbee (of the Oak Ridge Boys), Rick Goodman, Ronnie Sego and Billy Blackwood. That’s when the big bands were the big thing. Everybody had a four-piece band.”

Dean lived the dream. He vividly remembers flying home from Portland, Ore., by himself as an eight-year-old in order get back to school after the group was out on a lengthy road trip. “Dean would sit and watch Ricky Goodman and different ones play the drums,” says Connie. “He’s always been a good boy. He worked and helped his daddy on the farm, but he wanted to travel all the time. But we kept him in school.” Dean began correspondence school after ninth grade and has been on the road ever since. Dean adds, “I played drums for everybody, played on lots of records, and played on stage with everybody that would ask.” He later played the bass guitar and eventually moved into a more visible role as a vocalist when his uncle Will Hopper left the group.

DSC_7072“(Claude) really leaned on Roger Talley a lot. Roger was an incredible part of this ministry for 10 years. Roger said, ‘you need to go ahead and put Dean into that part.’ At that time, I would sing one every now and again.”

When Dean – who is seven years older than Michael – began playing the bass guitar, the door swung open for Michael. Roger Talley and Roger Fortner were also a part of the Hoppers’ band at the time.

“Coming in as a 13-year-old kid, I was fortunate that I arrived when everybody still had a band,” Michael noted. “Every weekend, we would go out, and I could stand on the side of the stage and watch people I respected. I’m thankful.” However, he admittedly didn’t have the same passion for it as quickly as Dean did.

“Michael was a different story,” Connie explaines. “Michael wanted to stay at home and ride his motorcycle and hang out with grandpa. After Dean went out on the road, that just left Michael at home. His guidance counselor called me and said, ‘Michael is smart, but he’s just not doing his schoolwork. I think that’s because you guys are gone.’ We put him in correspondence (school). He was 13 years old when he started.”

Claude and Michael Hopper

Claude and Michael Hopper

 

Michael adds, “I didn’t envision a whole lot at 13 other than my dirt bike and my grandfather. I just loved spending time with my dad’s dad. I spent a whole lot of time with him. He was my best friend. I’ve been blessed.”

Michael is now singing the bass part during the majority of most concerts. “It seems to be working,” Michael says. “They like us all up there as a family.”

The current Hopper brothers have assumed different and more extensive roles in the day-to-day responsibility of the group. “I am proud, very proud,” Claude emphasizes. “We never pushed them to be a part of this as boys. But now, seeing what they bring to the group and family as a whole, I don’t know how we ever did it without them. Both are very talented in their own right and in very different facets. Where one is weak, the other picks up the slack, and vice versa. They know how to pry the very best from Mother and I, which is a wonderful asset to me as both a co-worker and a dad. God knew what he was doing when he blessed us with them.”

Connie adds, “We never said, ‘this is what you’re going to do.’ At this point, if one of them were to say ‘this has been great, but I’m tired of this road,’ that would be fine with me. I thank God for them. They’re just great, and they’re talented.” Read more »


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Chris Allman – Round Two Going Well

Written by Staff on June 24, 2014 – 2:14 pm -

Chris Allman 1By Craig Harris

Priorities thrust Chris Allman out of Greater Vision. Then, a lofty goal took him further away from Southern Gospel Music. However, the veteran tenor singer is enjoying his second stint as a part of the industry’s most-awarded trio. “We’re cut out of the same cloth when it comes to humor and personality,” Allman said of the group members. “We laugh all the time. We’ve all grown up too.”

Allman’s circular path to once again stand next to baritone Rodney Griffin didn’t have many stops.

In fact, Allman first performed a soloist for seven years after leaving Greater Vision in 1995, which was five years after the formation of the group. “I had three kids, and all were relatively young,” Allman said. “It was tough on me being away from them.”

Chris Allman, Rodney GriffinDuring his tenure as a soloist, most of his performances took place on the weekends, and his family often traveled with him. However, it was while seated in a pew at a Bailey Smith Real Evangelism Bible Conference that Allman’s path took a significant turn. “I heard Jerry Falwell preach a sermon that said, ‘what is your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal),’” Allman said. “I already had the calling (to preach). I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to go to school. Right then, I figured out that my Big Hairy Audacious Goal was to build a church from the ground up.”

Allman didn’t waste any time. “I heard the sermon on a Friday,” Allman said. “Me, my wife (Kimberly) and kids (Dustin, Jillian, Emory and Jules) started the Church in Burlington (North Carolina) at my house. The next Sunday, my youngest son (Emory, who was nine years old at the time) was out getting kids in the neighborhood to come. I basically preached to a bunch of kids. In three weeks, one of the kid’s moms came. We eventually outgrew the house and went to the YMCA. We stayed in the YMCA for two years. We grew from (an attendance of) 35 to right at 200.”

Allman’s father – Max Allman – served as a pastor for 32 years before he passed away approximately 12 years ago. “As far as pastoring, I said, ‘I will never do that,’” Allman said. “My father was a pastor, and I saw what he dealt with. When God called me to do it, he literally changed my heart.”

Allman pastored the church for eight years. “Looking at in respect, it blows me away that it happened,” Allman said. “My wife Kimberly was a great pastor’s wife. She had a great ladies ministry. It was by far the best ministry in the church. I couldn’t have done any of that or any of this without her. It all happened very fast. To God be the glory.”

However, Allman knew when his time in Burlington was coming to a close. “In November of 2009, I remember specifically telling my wife that my season was ending and that if God opened the door somewhere else that I was going to walk through it,” Allman said. “It was a hard thing (leaving). I loved those people. That next March, I received a text (message) from Gerald (Wolfe, one of Greater Vision’s founding members and lead singer).”

Timing was everything. A month before that text message transpired, Greater Vision sang at Allman’s church. “I jokingly said, ‘if you ever need me, give me a call,’” Allman said. “On March 20, he texted. He said, ‘Are you serious about ever moving back to Morristown (located in East Tennessee)?’ I said, ‘yes.’” Read more »


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June 2014 SGNScoops Magazine

Written by SGN Scoops Staff on June 14, 2014 – 2:28 pm -

sgnnscoopsfrontcoveJUNE2014WEB

June is bursting with great features and indepth devotionals in SGN Scoops digital magazine! We feature the family music of The Dunaways on our cover, as well as the latest Scoops on Danny Funderburk, Freedom’s Crossing, Debbie Bennett and Autumn Nelon Clark.
Check out our writers’ reviews of terrific concert events, including the Gaither Family Fest, Dailey & Vincent, Singing In The Sun 2014, the Jackie Wilburn Memorial and the Sneed Family Homecoming. Read all about the inaugural Ozark Gospel Music Festival written by guest Scoops writer Joshua Heston. It was a hit!
Don’t miss Lou Wills Hildreth’s monthly feature on Love, Life and Legends. We also have special features by Dr. Jeff Steele, Sherry Anne, David Staton, Laurette Willis and Scott Rhoades.
All this plus the SGN Scoops Top 100, New Music Review, the Creekside Gospel Music Convention Update and the Great Doughnut Caper as well as Rob Patz’s Publisher’s Point. There is so much more that we can’t fit it all in this report! You HAVE to read it for yourself.
So pick up that Iced Tea or Frozen Lemonade, sit back and enjoy the June 2014 issue of SGN Scoops digital magazine!


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The Many Faces of Phelps

Written by Staff on June 10, 2014 – 10:37 am -

David Phelps 2Gaither Vocal Band tenor continues to broaden his musical horizons

By Craig Harris

Mark Lowry doesn’t know what David Phelps sounded like as a freshman in high school.He’d guess that Phelps was already a vocal heavyweight even then. “I think he was good from the start,” Lowry said of his tenure with the Gaither Vocal Band. “I don’t really see that he’s grown in that sense musically. He had his (music) degrees way before he met us.”

However, it was at that time when Phelps had a breakthrough of sorts. “When I became a teenager, I realized I was kind of rising above other people who were doing music,” Phelps said. “There was actually a moment for me in ninth grade. I sang for our town talent show (singing Sandi Patty’s ‘Bethlehem Morning’). They gave me a standing ovation. I remember getting in the car that night and saying ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’ It grew from there. I was invited to different churches and did concerts. My parents were driving me everywhere. My dad is a CPA (certified public accountant), and my mom is a professor. From those practical professions, they began to believe and encourage me. I just had this passion and drive to do it all of the time.”

Phelps01     He’s still doing it all of the time, currently in his second stint as a member of the Gaither Vocal Band.“It’s been just fantastic,” Phelps said. “When I joined the Vocal Band at first, Mark was there. That was always a high point with me, singing on stage with Mark Lowry. He’s fantastic and a comedic genius. It was a learning experience. I remember sitting in Waco, Texas, and watching Michael English winning Dove Awards and saying to Lori (Phelps’ wife), ‘Boy, I would love to be up there singing with him some day.’ I was thrilled to be singing with Michael English. What an incredible, iconic talent. He has helped so many vocalists in and out of the church. People have mimicked his style for a decade. Wes (Hampton) took my place when I left the Vocal Band. What a generous guy. He’s literally like a little brother to me. He’s become a really good friend of mine. It’s been great to see his talent really grow. Then, of course, Bill (Gaither) is just a songwriter of the century. It doesn’t get a whole lot bigger than that to stand on stage and see how he communicates with people. In all, it’s a pretty amazing experience.”

Lowry was introduced to Phelps back in 1997, which led to Phelps’ eventual hire.“A guy named David Estes at Word Records called me and heard that we were looking for a tenor,” Lowry said. “David had come in to Word and sang for them and thought he might be a good fit. I was going to be passing by Word at that time. I told him to tell him to be there in 20 minutes. I thought he was good. Bill said, ‘Well, have him make a cassette tape of some of our stuff,’ like ‘The King Is Coming.’ He did. Guy (Penrod, the group’s lead singer at the time) and I went over and met David at his house and sang with him to see how that would go.”

David Phelps    Phelps was leaning more toward a contemporary career at the time. “I grew up in a family where our musical style was pretty eclectic, everything from ‘80’s rock to classic country and definitely gospel,” Phelps said. “I fell in love with Contemporary Christian- It was Amy Grant, Russ Taff. I had recorded an independent project that was contemporary. In all of my growing-up years, people were telling me, ‘You need to get hooked up with the Gaithers.’ I never knew how to make that happen. I just keep singing. I had moved to Nashville. We were here about six months. I was still traveling (for concerts). It was difficult as a relatively unknown artist. I was in the middle of talks with a record label to do my first national release. One of the gentlemen there said, ‘Hey, did you know that the Vocal Band is looking for a new tenor?’ Jonathan Pierce had left. I said, ‘If you could make an audition happen, I would love to have a chance at that.’ Mark Lowry was on that label too. It was Word. He came up and listened.”

Gaither added, “Mark Lowry had brought me a CD, and we were going on a cruise. We were looking for a tenor at the time. I asked Mark to tell him to go into the studio with just him and his voice. He did. We were overwhelmed.”

Phelps was not overly familiar with Southern Gospel Music at the time.“I didn’t really know what Southern Gospel was,” Phelps said. “My family used to sing four-part harmony. I knew those things. I just didn’t know the industry as a whole. I was just doing my own thing. I was just kind of who I was. I am so grateful that Southern Gospel Music has embraced me. I have fallen in love with the icons of Southern Gospel Music. It was fantastic to get to know Vestal Goodman and Jake Hess. This music has people like no other genre. I had heard of Michael English and the Vocal Band, but I had lost track of the Vocal Band a little after Michael left. I had heard the songs that had come out of Southern Gospel. Stylistically, it really is such a wide range. Southern Gospel has embraced the Gaither stuff, which has a country flair to more of a Contemporary style at times.”

Phelps joined the Vocal Band in July of 1997. “It’s truly affirming,” Phelps said. “That’s an important element to any artist’s journey. People ask me all of the time, “How do I get started in this? What is the magic pill?’ There is no magic pill. John Bisagno, who was a minister of music in Houston, gave me the best advice I ever got. I’m 6-foot-1, and my face was at his chest. He said, ‘Sing everywhere you can.’ That’s still the best advice I’ve ever been given. The people that end up doing this persevere.

David Phelps 3   Phelps continued, “You learn from it. You learn what works and what doesn’t work, how far to push your voice, what to say on stage, what not to say on stage. The most important element of that is you learn to love what you do no matter whether the crowd is there or not. It’s about creating the art of what we do in the moment and creating the joy for people. What I’ve learned over the course of my career is it’s not always about the lyric. In Southern Gospel, we have lyric that is not only theologically and doctrinally sound, but it’s also in music itself. God created music. Beauty is in and of itself something that glorifies the Lord.”

Gaither added, “Everything is timing. A lot of people ask me what it takes. You have to have talent. You have to have training. You have to have a great deal of perseverance … but sometimes, it’s just timing.”

Phelps left the Gaither Vocal Band in 2005 to pursue a solo ministry.“Before I left the Vocal Band, my goal was to define myself as an artist individually,” Phelps said. “I had actually gone to Bill and Barry (Jennings, the president of the Gaither Music Group) and said, ‘While I love being known as the tenor for the Vocal Band, I want your help in helping me define myself as an artist.’ They said, ‘Well, it’s about time you asked.’ Bill is a big part of my solo stuff. I had begun that road before I left. There were some difficult years in my solo work. To go from the first one (his self-titled project released in 2001) with ‘No More Night’ and ‘End of the Beginning,’ then, to go to Revelation, I don’t know whether it is Contemporary or whether it is Southern Gospel or if it’s just artistic. People would come to my concerts thinking they were going to get Vocal Band songs. That’s just not what I was as a solo artist. I still choose songs that fit me in both places.” Read more »


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