The name “The Down East Boys” is practically synonymous with Southern Gospel Music. You’ve probably sat in the pew during one of their concerts, or tapped your toe to one of their tunes as you cruise the highway. The men behind the music are not only talented but are remarkable people who each have an interesting story to tell. Recently, I was privileged to get to know the men who make-up “The Down East Boys.” We sat down to discuss their newest single, which is rocketing-up the charts. I also learned more about their history and even a few fun facts about each of them. I invite you to take a moment to get to know this legendary group on a whole new level with this week’s FAST FIVE.
Stephanie Kelley: While most of our readers are very familiar with your legendary group, please give a brief introduction to someone who might be new to Southern Gospel music, including a little history of the group.
Ricky Carden: The group was started in the mid-1980s in Eastern, NC. The group transitioned to a full time ministry in 1990 and we have been singing around 175 dates each year since that time. I have been here 30 years this past April. We are on the Sonlite Label.
SK: Recently, your group had a number one song! Congratulations! Your current single, “Amazing Amounts of Amazing Grace,” just made a big jump to the Top 5. What makes this song so special? Please give a little background on this particular song and how you’ve seen God use it in your ministry.
RC: “Amazing Amounts Of Amazing Grace” has become our fastest growing song, climbing to the top 5 in only 2 months. I feel this is a song that reminds us that everyday is a blessing from God and no matter what comes our way we are blessed more than we could ever deserve. In these difficult days we have experienced as a nation, we are reminded that if we just look around, the Lord displays to us everyday “Amazing Amounts Of Amazing Grace”!
SK: At what point in your life did you know (or at least dream) that you would have such a deliberate and public music ministry? Please share at least one specific way you saw God preparing you for this ministry.
RC: I was captivated by the music at an early age. My Mom and Dad had a group that sang on a part-time basis as I was growing-up, so I spent my early years traveling on a bus from town to town and at the age of 12 I went to a concert that featured the Singing Americans. The group line-up consisted of Danny Funderburk, Ivan Parker, Ed Hill, and Dwayne Burke. That night I realized I wanted to be in a group and share the music with others. It’s been over 30 years since that day and the Lord has blessed me to do what I love!
Daryl Paschal: In January of 2007, the Down East Boys came to my church. During the concert, my wife, Amanda Paschal, whispered to me, “I can see you singing with those guys.” God started preparing me then. In March, three months later, I was offered the job.
Zac Barham: I grew up listening to gospel music loving 4 part harmony and the message behind it, so I began singing at church when i was about 15. He hasn’t stopped blessing me in music from that point on and the rest is history and I thank Him for it every day.
Doug Pittman: When I was in my junior year in high school, I participated in an event called All State Choir. While there I watched several choirs perform, but one really caught my attention. At the last song of this certain choir’s set I noticed that the conductor stepped off of the platform and conducted the choir in the song “Total Praise.” This was odd to me because I was taught that when a conductor stepped onto the platform, it represented to the performers he was in total control of the music that would be made. It hit me while listening to the song that the conductor had not made a mistake by not ascending the platform. He was simply allowing God to be in control of everything that happened during that song. And If I have ever been sure about the Lord speaking to me it was on that day. It was like He said “That’s what I want you to do.” While I wasn’t always sure about the specific path He wanted me to take, I knew that public music ministry (in some shape or fashion) would be my life’s work. That day the Lord taught me an important lesson, that no matter the situation He is in control and we are simply the vessels He chooses to use to accomplish His will.
SK: You’ve spent a lot of time together as a group and as friends. Please share a little known fun fact about each of the members.
RC: Daryl Paschal is the practical joker of the group. He’s always keeping the guys laughing. Doug Pittman is the computer wizard of the group. He’s the “Yoda” of tech stuff on the bus. And Zac Barham, he’s the talker of the bunch. Zac could make friends with a wall if there is no one else to talk to. He loves people and loves to make friends.
Daryl Paschal: At one concert, Doug was about to fall in the orchestra pit in front of the stage and a piano saved his life. I couldn’t sing for the next three songs.
Zac forgot his words one night and turned to us for help. Nobody said a word.
Ricky — we were at the house of a past group member, and we decided to walk outside. Ricky took the first step and slipped. All we saw was his feet up in the air. To this day, it is still called Ricky Carden Falls National Park.
Zac Barham: Lets see… I love all the guys like brothers but Daryl needs 20 minutes of quiet before you talk to him when he first wakes up ( found that out quickly haha).
Doug can do anything with electronics you can imagine
Ricky never stops working on and off the bus and has one of the best work ethics I’ve seen
Doug Pittman: Zac and I joke often about how we each secretly would really like to be able to sing each other’s part.
Ricky thinks he is quite the dancer. He’s constantly showing off all his new moves on the bus.
Daryl and I share a love of 70’s and 80’s music. If you stick around the bus long enough, you are bound to hear some of those old hits!
SK: Because of the pandemic, so much of our lives have changed. What positive things have resulted from the pandemic in both your personal and professional lives? Please share your plans for future projects and how you’ve had to modify those changes due to pandemic restrictions.
RC: In the middle of March, we were shut down due to the pandemic. We thought in a few weeks we would be back on the road, but as it turns out we have been limited to just a few dates since then. In 30 years of singing I had never been home for more than 3 or 4 days a week. Weekends were something I had never experienced at home. It has certainly been a challenge financially for all the guys, but it has been nice to spend a summer at home with my wife and kids. We have had time to do family things that normally we could not do. Hopefully sooner than later we will be back on the road and ready to share our new music from our new project “Faithful Still” that was released in May.
SK: Thank you to Ricky Carden, Daryl Paschal, Zac Barham and Doug Pittman for sharing your stories with us.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people behind the voices of the Down East Boys and I hope that you have too. Be sure to request, “Amazing Amounts of Amazing Grace” from your favorite Southern Gospel radio station and be sure to check-out the Down East Boys on your favorite social media platform.