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.”
During 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.’”
Allman succeeded Jacob Kitson, who was the group’s tenor singer for approximately two years. “There’s always uncertainty when you have change,” Griffin – who joined Greater Vision when original baritone Mark Trammell left the group in 1993 to join the Gold City Quartet – said. “I breathed a sigh of relief. Even after 15 years, it’s like he stepped off the bus and stepped right back on. It was easy to go back to the day-to-day living. “We just expected it to be an easy transition, and it has.”
Wolfe added, “We had traveled together so long anyway. We knew we would get along. We’re all older. Our kids are the same age. We knew it would work. It’s by far the easiest (transition). Chris got back on the bus, and it’s like we had all gotten off and gotten back on with gray hair.”
While Allman’s transition back into the group was relatively seamless, he had to adjust to once again being away from home, which is somewhat easier now that three of his four children are adults. “I love to be at home, and I love what I do,” Allman said. “You can go sometimes so hard that you get physically and mentally worn. The first part of (2013) was like that. I was running on fumes. It’s tiring. It’s exhilarating. It’s fun. It’s boring. It’s everything.”
Both Griffin and Wolfe believe that Allman is better than ever vocally, and many Greater Vision fans agree, as evidenced by the reaction of audiences when Allman sings songs such as “I Know a Man Who Can” and “Hallelujah Square.” Wolfe said, “When he was here before, he was thinner. He has a broader tone now, and he blends better. It doesn’t matter to him what time of day it is. He’s the only tenor who wouldn’t put song stipulations on you for a morning concert.”
Griffin added, “It’s just natural. When he wakes up, he can do that, and it appears he does it with ease. It looks effortless. He’s like a workhorse, so you hand him the ball.”
Allman has noticed that some elements of Southern Gospel music have evolved with the times since his earlier stint as one of Greater Vision’s original members. “We are always trying our best to stay on the (cutting) edge when it comes to the next thing,” Allman said. “Social media is a big deal now. We keep our Facebook stuff up to date. We keep our Twitter stuff up to date. We want to see this music survive, for it to be good and for it to do well.”
Allman has written more than 100 songs, with approximately 25 of those being penned since he rejoined the group. Greater Vision has recorded approximately 12 Chris Allman songs during his second stint as the tenor singer, including four on the group’s latest project. “I enjoy the creative aspect of what we do,” Allman said. “I write more now that I’m with the group. To hear that stuff leave the paper and go to the people is pretty neat … to see how the people like it, how it affects them and how they respond.”
Among Allman’s hits are “I’m Free” (recorded by the Talleys), “I Could Never Praise Him Enough” (recorded by Greater Vision and the Collingsworth Family), “Another Child’s Coming Home (Greater Vision) and “For All He’s Done,” which was the title cut of Greater Vision’s 2013 Daywind release. Writing is actually an Allman family trait. Greater Vision recorded six songs written by Chris’ sister – Robin Allman Riggins – in the 1990s, and the Anchormen, Booth Brothers and Kingdom Heirs all recorded Riggins’ songs as well.
“My sister wrote, and I started singing with my sister and another guy out of our church,” Allman said. “We recorded a couple of (cassette) tapes. She wrote, and I just wanted to write. I just couldn’t. We had a leased bus one night (in the early 1990s). I went up front and sat in the buddy seat. I said, ‘Gerald, I have something here.’ He said, ‘Do you want my honest opinion?’ Of course, I did. He said, ‘Either go back there and pray that God will give you the gift to write or quit.’ I went back to my bunk and diligently prayed that. The next day, I heard a sermon from Ephesians 6. I wrote ‘Just Stand’ that day.” ‘Just Stand’ was the first song that Allman penned, and Greater Vision recorded it on its The King Came Down project in 1993.
Goals are still firmly in place for the 44-year-old Allman, though maybe not in the same big, hairy, audacious fashion. Songwriting does have a niche in his current list of goals. “I certainly do have goals that I have set for myself, but I wouldn’t say that there’s one big, hairy, audacious one,” Allman said. “I believe a Big Hairy Audacious Goal speaks to one who is in the process of searching for a certain path in life. I’m very content with where I am at this point in my life. My goals these days have to do with things such as writing, pitching and having a certain amount of my music recorded. I set financial goals for myself and family as well, not so much regarding how much I can acquire, but what I can accomplish with what I have. I’m a Dave Ramsey junkie.”
For more on Chris Allman and Greater Vision visit http://www.greatervisionmusic.com/
First published January 2014 by SGN Scoops digital magazine.
For the current issue of SGN Scoops, click on to http://www.sgnscoops.com/2014/06/14/june-2014-sgnscoops-magazine/