Southern Gospel Grammy® Awards: Lifetime Achivements?

by | Nov 30, 2017 | Awards Shows, Commentary & Observations

Why do Grammy® voters vote the way they do in Southern Gospel categories?

Certain trends are clear. Some producer or label voter coalitions generate almost-automatic annual nominations. And imprints with major label distribution have that label’s votes behind their nominees. (Examples: Gaither Music Group/Capitol Christian Music Group and Stow Town/Provident/Sony).

Even knowing this, each year’s nominations still include head-scratchers. (Some make sense. Joseph Habedank’s Resurrection is phenomenal and deserved its nomination.)

But The Collingsworth Family’s The Best of the Collingsworth Family Vol. 1? At least it’s not a compilation; it has new vocals on their old tracks. When the nominations came out, I thought: “The artist definitely deserves it. But why this album?”

This might be the answer. These awards often function as a sort of lifetime achievement award. We can debate whether labels or voters deserve the blame or credit. But it is our end result.

The Best of the Collingsworth Family Vol. 1 is a nice project. But this nomination is more about The Answer, Part of the Family, and That Day is Coming.

Look at the last fifteen years. Southern Gospel artists have only taken home three Grammys. (The others went to country or CCM artists doing hymns albums.)

  • 2003: We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music: The James Blackwood Tribute Album, Various Artists. This wasn’t about The Jordanaires, Larry Ford, or the Light Crust Doughboys. It wasn’t about the project’s musical quality either. (It’s good but not a landmark release.) It was honoring James Blackwood’s career.
  • 2009: Lovin’ Life, Gaither Vocal Band. This is a nice project. It has strong songs and strong vocal performances. But it’s simply not as strong as their 1997-2003 (or so) run of landmark releases. Many of those releases were nominated but lost. The 2009 awards had weaker competition (no big, current country stars). Perhaps the voters did know how they should have voted when they voted for Andy Griffith instead. Perhaps this was to make up for that.
  • 2010: Jason Crabb, Jason Crabb. No complaints here. Sometimes a deserving current album wins.

We can also look at nominees that did not win:

  • Triumphant Quartet, Everyday (2009) – their only nomination
  • The Martins, Light of the World (1998) and A Cappella (2013)
  • Kenny Bishop, Kenny Bishop (2007) – his only nomination
  • Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Dream On (2010) – their only nomination

These are five nice albums. But each nomination seems to be as much about the artists’ whole body of work to date.

I don’t mean to suggest that every Southern Gospel Grammy is like this. Karen Peck & New River, Jeff & Sheri Easter, and the Gaither Vocal Band have strong nominations. But all three are multi-time nominees.

This seems to be a trend. It’s not always the case, and it is more likely to apply to one-time nominees. But there does seem to be something here.

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Daniel J. Mount

Daniel J. Mount

Daniel J. Mount is a Christian author and songwriter. He lives in Black Mountain, NC.


  1. David Bruce Murray

    The Collingsworth Family’s _The Best of the Collingsworth Family Vol. 1_ does not meet the spirit of the Grammys’ specification that a minimum of 51% of the album must be new material. It only gets in on a technicality, since there are new vocal parts on all the songs, but they used existing tracks. It’s clear from the way the requirement is worded that it was never the intention of the powers that be at the Grammys that a “best of” recording be nominated in this category.

    Other recordings were on the ballot that did fit the criteria, both in the literal sense and the spirit of the requirement that it be a recording with a majority of newly recorded songs.

    Even if you consider the Stowtown/Provident voting bloc, it should not have been nominated, because there were other CDs under that umbrella that better reflected the clearly stated requirements of the category.

    I’m not sure I even agree with the notion of the Grammys being a lifetime achievement award. Using your example of James Blackwood, he was on a CD with The Light Crust Doughboys who were nominated year after year for similar collaborative CDs. These were recordings that virtually no one had even heard of until the Grammy nominations were announced. I had never heard of their James Blackwood collaboration until the nominations were announced, even though he’s a Southern Gospel legend. You’d think there would have been a press release. I was working in Christian retail at the time closely following all forms of Christian music on a number of levels and it still came out of left field. The Light Crust Doughboys finally won with James Blackwood & Engelbert Humperdink in 2003, but they could have just as easily won for their Ann Margaret collaboration that was nominated two years earlier.

    While the list of nominees has improved in recent years, the appearance remains that Grammy voters are either completely clueless, or blatantly corrupt when it comes to their smaller categories like Christian music. It seems that every other year or so, the deserving nominees are presented alongside some complete head-scratcher like this Collingsworth Family CD.

    And of course, I completely agree that the Collingsworth Family is a top artist that SHOULD be nominated for a Grammy now and then…just never for a greatest hits CD.

    • Daniel J. Mount

      “I’m not sure I even agree with the notion of the Grammys being a lifetime achievement award.”

      Just to clarify, I’m not making the case that this should be the case. I’m making the case that it sometimes is.

      • David Bruce Murray

        Yes, I understood that point.

        My impression of the results just leans more toward the extremes of “clueless” or “corrupt” than some more noble reason.

  2. Tad Kirkland

    I’ve been questioning this for years not only for the Grammys, but also the Doves and “fan voted” Singing News awards (as soon as a previously independent group signs with a major label, they suddenly get nominated).

    • Darrell

      I had the same thought about the SN fan awards but didn’t say anything. Nice someone else did. :-)


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