The Happy Goodman Family – Good ‘N Happy (1967)

by James Hales | February 16, 2022 10:26 AM

Still riding off the hugely successful “What a Happy Time” album (which had only been released a year earlier), the Happy Goodmans released their 3rd Canaan album sometime in the latter half of 1967. On this release, Canaan Records and the Goodmans did a play on the group name, and aptly titled this recording “Good ‘N Happy”. The individual pictures of each member on the cover shows genuinely happy expressions. Before you even put the record on the turntable, you know there’s a happy vibe going on with this group and this album. By this point, the demand for the Happy Goodmans was skyrocketing! They were seen everywhere across the nation in churches and concert stages, on national television every week and their records could be heard in thousands of homes across America.

The group was still honing their trademark style and the audiences were loving it. Along with their trademark sound, they were creating an image as well. As anyone who is familiar with the group knows, one of the Goodman’s trademarks was Vestal’s hair. In the early days, it seemed that with each album, Vestal’s hair kept getting bigger and higher. As she was piling on the hair, the group was piling on the hits, and this record had one major hit on it, “When Morning Sweeps the Eastern Sky”. This is the song where the Goodmans really started to capitalize on those convention songs, as well as those signature “grab a note and hold on for dear life” endings that they were known for. For the remainder of the 60s (and probably the very early part of the 70s), the group was bringing the house down with this song every single night. The Goodmans were serving, and the fans were eating it up!

“When Morning Sweeps the Eastern Sky”, with Little David Young’s trademark piano intro, was the perfect opener for this album and it contrasts very well with Rusty’s excellent rendition of “Life Evermore”. Written by Joel Hemphill’s wife, LaBreeska (the Goodman brother’s niece), the song is a solo performance by Rusty and showcases his innate ability to pull at your heartstrings, as well as his tremendous vocal strength and range. This song is one of my personal favorite Rusty features.

Vestal steps up next to sing Joel Hemphill’s classic tune, “The Eyes of Jesus” and does a fabulous job with it. This song was one of those tunes that Vestal could sink her teeth into and deliver with full faith and conviction, and she doesn’t disappoint.

The pace picks back up as Sam sings the up-tempo, “Move Up a Little Closer” before Rusty comes back to sing the classic Dottie Rambo tune, “Remind Me, Dear Lord”, and once again, gives us a lesson in how to interpret a good lyric. The Singing Rambos and the Goodmans were a close-knit pair. They shared a friendship and were similar in their music and methods; and they were both Pentecostal, so they had a unique connection and kinship, especially Vestal and Dottie. During the 1960s, the Goodmans recorded several of Dottie’s songs, and the Rambos recorded some of Rusty’s songs as well. In an interview I did with Dottie Rambo several years ago, she said that her and Rusty talked about doing an album together where she’d sing his songs and he would sing her songs, but they never got around to doing it. That would have been a great album for sure! But I digress…

Vestal closes out this side by rendering an outstanding performance on the old hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross”. This is the only song from the Red Back Hymnal included on this album, and it’s flawlessly done. Like Rusty had done a couple songs earlier, it’s a solo performance and a highlight of the album. I’m glad they chose to allow Vestal to sing this song as a solo, as I feel it gave her the freedom to involve herself with the lyric of this powerful hymn of the church, thus allowing the listener to be completely taken in as well. It’s a highly impactful performance.

Vestal sings the Joel Hemphill penned “He Filled a Longing”, which ramps things up for the start of Side 2, before Howard finally gets a feature on the soulful, “Heartbeat from Heaven”. While it’s not one of the most memorable tunes for the group, it’s one of my favorites. I love how Howard sings this, as it follows a similar mold as some of his previously recorded efforts such as “The Master Locksmith” and “Something Got a Hold of Me”. It has Howard Goodman’s name written all over it!

Next, Howard sings the verses while Vestal ably tackles the chorus on the thrilling, “I Know My Lord’s Gonna Lead Me Out”. This is an exciting song that seems to fit the group like a glove and the steel guitar intro sets it off just right! I would have loved to have heard them do this in concert back in the day, as I’m sure it was exciting to see and hear.

With its snappy piano intro, Rusty steps up next to sing the bouncy, “Lord, I Need a Blessing”, before the tempo slows down as Vestal belts out the classic, “Do You Know My Jesus”. I remember the first time I heard this song on this album…when Vestal got to the part of “Have you heard…” on the last chorus, I just about got raptured! I still get that feeling just about every time I hear it.

The final song, “It Happened”, has the same effect on me that I noted above. I obtained this album while I was still in high school back in the late 1980s, and I had never heard the song before listening to this album, and it’s one of my favorites. I don’t know why this song never seemed to take off for the group. It has all the right elements, but it’s rarely ever mentioned when calling out Goodman classics! The climax of the song is when they slow down the last verse (which they have done with numerous songs in the past) and allow Vestal to take her time to effectively deliver each line. Right before the tempo kicks back up on the chorus, the music stops as she declares, “it’ll happen…just like He said!” The group joins back in as the chorus gets ramped up full throttle, and you can’t help but smile and clap along. It’s pure Goodman excitement and a climactic finale to an excellent album!

Oddly, Bobby doesn’t get a feature on this album, but there’s no denying he is an integral part of the group, keeping that rhythm going on the bass guitar. Also, sometime after this album was released, guitarist, Dwayne Friend left the group, and his picture was subsequently removed from the cover in a later pressing. So, there are 2 versions of the cover, one with Dwayne’s picture on it, and one without. I don’t know which cover is more rare, as I’ve frequently seen both covers out there on eBay and other vintage record sites. Ernie Maxwell came on board to play guitar after Dwayne left, and he remained with the group until sometime in 1970 or so. In fact, Ernie’s son, Joey, would eventually play for the Goodmans as well, in the late 1970s. You can see Joey and his son Ayron (Ernie’s grandson), playing in the band at Jimmy Swaggart’s church, Family Worship Center, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Good ‘N Happy” is one of my personal favorite Goodman records. It captures the essence of who they were and is a very exciting and upbeat album. Although, much like “Bigger ‘N’ Better”, it didn’t yield many “hit” songs for the group, it was an extremely popular album and it’s yet, another notch in their belt as they continued gaining momentum as a major force within the music industry.

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