Father/son duo is in 15th year alongside each other on stage
Clayton Inman was your typical baseball dad. He was president of the Sevier County (Tenn.) High School baseball program’s booster club. His son was a left-handed first baseman who appeared to be destined to play at the collegiate level. However, a detour altered that path.
Now, the Inmans have been playing on the same team for the past 15 years. “It’s been awesome,” Clayton emphasizes. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
However, for that to happen, Scotty Inman had to don a different type of uniform … trading his jersey and cleats for a coat and tie.
“Growing up, his love for this music was always there,” Clayton points out. “He was a pretty talented athlete. I never pushed him to do this.”
At 16 years old, Scotty Inman’s focus shifted. “I went to a youth camp and basically gave into my call to ministry,” Scotty explains. “Most people go (into ministry) as a pastor. For me, it was more of a music thing.
“That helped me to get over my nerves. God definitely softened my want-to and made it more a passion. I always loved music.”
Prior to that, Scotty didn’t sing at all. “When he came back from that youth trip, he told the guy – the youth counselor – there (at First Baptist Church of Sevierville) he had a desire to sing,” Clayton remembers. “He came home and said, ‘Dad, I want to sing. Could you help me learn a song?’
“We were sitting in the bedroom, and he put a cassette in the cassette player. It was ‘Temporary Home.’ What was going through my head was that he already had the ‘it’ factor. Learning what to do would come later. Some people sing good, but there’s this it factor that some people don’t have. I thought, ‘yeah, he could do this the rest of his life.’”
Monday night was youth night at their home church, and Scotty’s debut quickly came there. “I was nervous, but I was excited too,” Scotty recalls. “I was singing in front of bunch of people who knew me. That’s scary. I get nervous singing at weddings and at church on Sunday morning or a funeral. I can sing in front of 20,000 people, but singing in front of (familiar faces) is another story.”
There was just one catch … Clayton wasn’t invited to attend. “He was going to sing at youth night, but he didn’t want me there … and I didn’t want to make him nervous,” Clayton says.
Clayton didn’t live up to his end of the bargain though, although he tried to remain inconspicuous among the crowd. “I think he knew I was there,” Clayton admits. “He did great, and they went crazy.”
Scotty adds, “I was hooked. The response was much greater than the song or the singing deserved.”
Scotty quit playing baseball after his junior season and actually joined Poet Voices in 2001 at the age of 17.
Clayton began singing in the late 1970s as a teenager with his three brothers – Greg, Keith and Phil – when they performed as the Inman Quartet in the West Tennessee area, joined the Singing Americans for four years in the 1980s, spent four years with the Kingdom Heirs and had an eight-year stint with Won By One.
With Poet Voices disbanding at the end of 2002, Clayton and Scotty had plans to join forces as Clayton looked to form a new trio. “Looking back, had we began our group, it would had been a tough road,” Clayton points out.
Coincidentally, Triumphant’s founding members – bass singer Eric Bennett and tenor David Sutton – were looking for the two parts that the Inmans could fill in December of 2002. Clayton previously sang with Bennett while with the Kingdom Heirs and also alongside Sutton for one month after Sutton joined the group.
“They asked us to join the group two or three times, and we said no,” Scotty remembers. The reason they chose to decline was because of the money that Clayton had already invested into the new venture – funds that had been sunk into sound equipment, studio recording time, etc.
“They were auditioning the next day,” Clayton says. “Scotty said, ‘Hey do you ever wonder what it would be like to sing with them?’ My wife (Michelle) said, ‘If it’s where you’re supposed to be, I don’t think we’ll miss that money.’
“I called a pastor friend of mine who I trusted dearly. I said, ‘We know our plans. We know what we’d like to do.’ But actually, God directs us. He said, ‘Aren’t you going to be singing with your son either way?’ After that, I called Eric, and we auditioned the next day.”
The original foursome stepped on stage in January of 2003 and remains intact. “Honestly, this is our 15th year of doing this, and it’s been the easiest 15 years of all time,” Scotty points out. “It’s definitely a God thing. Everybody in the group … we were friends before this.”
Clayton adds, “We’re almost passive. Fifteen years later, we are all sitting in the lounge of the bus drinking coffee. It’s like when you’re married … you can sit across from your spouse in comfort, in the easiness. We’re so comfortable around each other.”
From the start, the group’s rapidly-increasing appeal came as a surprise.
“I didn’t realize the group we were going to be in was going to be as popular (as it has been),” Scotty admits. “I didn’t see us being a group that people acted like they enjoyed as much as they do. We were just like, ‘man, sweet gig.’”
The group started off singing in the Louise Mandrell Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., which eventually became the Miracle Theater. Theater life lasted for five years, and then, the quartet ventured out on the road full time.
“They’re great to work with, even more so than they maybe even should be at times,” Scotty says of his group mates. “We all do our thing.
“Of the four, I’m probably the most outspoken. I have ideas. I’m always thinking. Sometimes, it gets me in trouble, and sometimes, it pays off greatly. At the end of the day, it’s whatever (works best). They know I have the best interest of the group (in mind) when I’m doing something.”
Clayton adds, “He’s opinionated. He knows what he loves, and he knows what he likes about it. I think it’s why he makes a great songwriter. There’s a talent there, but there’s a passion there as well. I think I get on his nerves, because I’m just too passive.”
However, that passive nature has obviously paid dividends in Clayton’s longevity in the industry.
“April was 34 years in Gospel Music,” Clayton shares. “I’ve enjoyed the journey. I’ve learned a lot of stuff. To me it’s just like any other business. In anything you do, there’s a growing phase. During that phase of growing, you have the choice of quitting or seeing it through. I could have easily quit during the Won By One days. The passion for the music was so good that I stuck it out and stuck it out.
“When this group formed, it was like, ‘this is why I stayed.’ Fifteen years later, I still feel the same way I felt back in 2003. You work so hard at something. It’s like the picture you see of a guy chiseling at the diamonds. He gets to that last little bit and quits.”
Scotty – who is also an award-winning songwriter who recently celebrated his 35th birthday – has similar feelings. “I take pride in being an original and knowing that anything that has come of this is of God’s hand,” Scotty explains. “I’ve seen it from the bottom up. I take pride in that. I think we all do.
“I’m a Triumphant member. That’s who I am. That’s what I do.”
Scotty co-wrote five of the 11 songs on the award-winning quartet’s April release, “Thankful.” The project was produced by StowTown Records co-founder Wayne Haun, who also wrote three songs with Scotty on the project (with Joel Lindsey collaborating along with Haun and Scotty on two of those cuts).
The group’s first single released to radio – “Chain Breaker” (written by Jonathan Smith, Mia Fieldes and Zach Williams) – has quickly climbed up the charts.
“We’re pumped about the new album,” Scotty emphasizes. “I’m more thrilled with each album.”
The father/son tandem remains thrilled to still be singing alongside each other as well. “I hope it’s this way for a while,” Clayton says. “Inevitably, if I sing long enough, I won’t be able to sing with him at some point, but I hope it’s a long time (away).
“I was proud of Scotty long before he was singing. The fact that he is singing with me is the icing on the cake. It’s who he has become. You can tell a lot about a guy about how his family acts toward him, and his wife and kids adore him.”
Scotty adds, “Had he not been in my life doing this, what are the chances of a young guy being around it enough (to sing Southern Gospel Music for a living)? I love music, but there’s no promise that I would have grown up with a passion for this music. He’s definitely the major reason why I do it today.”
By Craig Harris
Photographs courtesy of Craig Harris and Triumphant.
First published by SGNScoops Magazine in July 2017.
For more Gospel Music news click here.
Listen to Gospel music online here.
For the latest edition of SGNScoops Magazine click here.