Singing News – 20 Years Ago (May 1991)
Number One Song
“Somebody Touched The Lord” by Perfect Heart (written by Sandy Knight)
The year was 1977, and many Gospel Music critics were asking Rex Nelon, “Why would you take the oldest name in the business and change it?” To that question Rex would simply reply, “We’ve run out of LeFevres.” Now, 14 years later, no one questions Rex’s decision. – Deana Surles
The May 1991 cover story focused on The Nelons in the aftermath of Karen Peck Gooch’s departure in late 1990. She was replaced not by another soprano, but by baritone Todd Nelon who had logged ten years playing bass guitar for The Nelons at this point in time. This move is described as “difficult.” Todd said it was like starting all over and his sister Kelly said for the first several nights, she “came off stage and cried and cried.”
In May 1991, the Nelons released A New Generation (also the subtitle of their article) which was produced by Lari Goss. Kelly describes the project as having a “richer, fuller sound.” Looking back with the benefit of 20 years hindsight, I would say the most memorable tune from this recording is “I’m Glad I Know Who Jesus Is.”
The article goes on to describe changes in the personal lives of individual members of The Nelons. Jerry Thompson, Kelly and Rex discussed baby Amber who was a one-year-old at the time of the interview. Rex talked about how he was looking forward to spending time with his granddaughter, while Jerry and Kelly said they’d never consider changing professions even though taking care of a child on the road could be difficult. Todd talked about the strain that being away from home can place on a marriage.
Although the cover story puts a positive spin on the situation, this all family, bass/baritone/tenor/alto version of The Nelons would prove to be short-lived. Kelly and Jerry Thompson left for a while to pursue a vocal duo career. At that point, Rex returned the group to its traditional format.
- A letter from RG told Singing News columnist Roy Pauley, “You have said a lot of dumb things, but that just topped the cake, and I finally couldn’t sit back any more. But I realize you are just ignorant.” In the March 1991 issue, Pauley had written, “Perhaps George (Younce) could tidy up his endings a little – no, a lot.”
- Greg Bentley’s “Youth In Gospel Music” column featured Jeff Stice, who had just turned 31 at the time. The participation of youth in Southern Gospel must have been on the decline in 1991.
- The highlighted line in Jerry Kirksey’s editoral read, “The road to the top of Southern Gospel Music’s only national chart, The Singing News Top 80 is usually not free or cheap.” Do tell! He took a few potshots at some “self-appointed geniuses” who attempted to start a national chart of their own, though he didn’t call them by name.
- The ad for Naomi And The Sego’s announced she had just recorded her 65th album.
- Oddly enough, this issue included an separate interview with Kelly Nelon Thompson on page 22 that ran for three pages. It actually longer than the cover story and more interesting. There are trivial questions like “What is your favorite restaurant” (it’s Chi Chi’s), but there are also insightful questions like “What is God’s favorite (style of music)?” Kelly replied, “I don’t think He has a favorite. We are all different and God uses us all.”
- Roy Pauley’s “In My Opinion” column focused on the best newcomers in the industry. He liked Chris Allman, Scott Fowler, Keith Denson, Jack Hanks, Nathan Polizzi, and Karen Apple. Give yourself a gold star if you can name all the groups associated with those singers 20 years ago. Pauley also wrote that he had seen the “hate mail,” but would not back down from his statements about George Younce and JD Sumner in the March 1991 issue even though he loved both of them.
- Bob Terrell bought a two-column wide/half-column high ad to sell a $4 pamphlet titled “Who Are These Iraqis?”
- The article for Gaither’s “Family Fest In The Smokies” event featured a photo of the Cathedrals…and no one else. This issue was printed just a few weeks before the impact of the original Homecoming product had hit home. Sure, there had been the cover story a month earlier, but no one realized the Gaither Vocal Band was on the verge of becoming the hottest group in Southern Gospel. For the moment, the big draw for Singing News readers was still the Cathedral Quartet.
- We’ve all seen “the quartet pose;” four guys smiling or pretending to sing with hands extended toward the photographer. An article for the Six Flags Over America event features a twist on this concept. It’s a photo of Gold City pointing their microphones at the camera.
- In a role reversal, Singing News reporter Jan Cain is interviewed about the first 22 years of Singing News magazine. Topics she discussed included Cleavant Derricks’ return to gospel music, Bob Terrell’s characteristics as a columnist, the monthly chart including why chart reporting stations were kept a secret, and attempts on the part of two groups to stuff the ballot box for Singing News Fan Awards voting.
- Pelenton L. “Teddy” Huffam of Teddy Huffam And The Gems died on April 3, 1991 at the age of 54.
- In a survey, Southern Gospel DJs overwhelmingly rejected the idea of switching to a bi-weekly chart.
- One compilation and five new album releases were reviewed in the “Southern Review” section. Greater Vision received 5 out of a possible 5 stars for On A Journey. This was the first time the Singing News had ever awarded 5 stars to a CD. Walt Mills and Margo Smith & Holly got 3 1/2 each, while The Nelons and Quinton Mills received just three stars. A New Generation by The Nelons got three stars, but it’s described as being “nothing short of perfection” both vocally and lyrically. This is the sort of non-review that used to infuriate me as a reader. The compilation was Spectacular Hits by The Speers, but it wasn’t assigned a rating.
- Glen Campbell signed a recording agreement with New Haven Records. Also pictured in the photo were New Haven’s president Ken Harding and executive producer Bill Gaither.
- Attorney Russ Farrar’s “The Legal Side” column focused on what sort of language should be included in a booking contract.