Line-ups like the classic Masters V (Hovie, James, Jake, JD, and Rosie) and the 2009-2013 version of the Gaither Vocal Band (Bill, Mark, Michael, David, and Wes) are rightly described as “all-star.” You already knew who I was talking about even before you read their names.
More recently, Cana’s Voice (Taranda, Doug, and Jody) and The Second Half Quartet (Gerald, Mark, Chris, Rodney, and Pat) are finding success and critical acclaim. The term “all-star” applies to these groups as well. All of the members of both of these groups still have ongoing careers aside from what they do as a group.
So, what happens if the fans just can’t get enough?
When Matt Fouch interviewed the members of Cana’s Voice some weeks ago, he asked if they were going to give up their solo careers to focus solely on the group. Doug Anderson said it was something they were in the process of figuring out. Taranda Greene agreed, saying there’s not really a plan in place yet. Jody McBrayer said, “If it takes off and there’s more dates being offered for Cana’s Voice…” but then didn’t really complete the thought, concluding that they’re still “playing it by ear.”
He was on to something, though. They’d probably be foolish to insist on maintaining a solo career at the expense of the group once the group hits in a big way. The same might be said of The Second Half Quartet, although it would obviously be a more difficult transition for Mark Trammell to leave his namesake group for a popular all-star configuration.
Finding that balance between what the fans want and creating something fresh has to be a struggle. Fans have come to know what sort of sound to expect from Greater Vision, for example. Their formula for years has combined Rodney Griffin’s trademark style of songwriting with (until his death) Lari Goss’ orchestrations. Despite a few changes at the tenor position, Gerald Wolfe’s and Rodney Griffin’s vocal blend maintained a consistent sound.
Having alternate outlets like the Jubilee tour, the Red Back Hymnal events, the Cathedrals Reunion, and the Second Half Quartet brings some variety to the mix. The Second Half Quartet is also a hit due to the nostalgia factor of having Mark reunited with Gerald and Chris, the original members of Greater Vision.
Ultimately, one would think that the bottom line on a decision like this IS the actual bottom line. If Taranda, Doug, and Jody separately are seeing 200-300 people at their events vs. 1000 and up at Cana’s Voice events, the path forward seems clear.
If Greater Vision routinely sees a 50% bump or more in attendance when the fans know The Second Half Quartet is going to finish out the concert, again, it seems like a no-brainer to appear in that format more often. Of course, they’ll have to really sell Mark on the idea, but remember, JD and Hovie had a similar challenge with James Blackwood when they were in the process of forming the Masters V.
Whether either group ultimately takes that step remains to be seen. It should be interesting to see how it plays out in either case.
As much as fans love seeing all-star combinations, I’m really surprised we don’t see more groups formed based on this proven concept. Having several famous singers in the same group attracts more fans than just having one or two famous singers.
David Bruce Murray
David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.