The Happy Goodman Family – “99 44/100%” (1976)

The Happy Goodman Family – “99 44/100%” (1976)

The time between when “Covered in Warmth” was released and the release of this album, the group once again, experienced a good bit of change. By late 1975, Eddie Crook had left the group to focus on studio work, enter Johnny Minick and his long association with the family. Also, sometime during the first half of 1976, Johnny Cook left the group and started focusing on solo work, and eventually joined forces with Voices Triumphant. At this point, Rusty’s oldest daughter Tanya, began traveling some with the group, adding a more youthful dimension to the group.

99 44/100% was a remarkable album. Some people have referred to this album as gospel music’s “white album” (a reference to the Beatles 1968 self-titled album), and it ranks as one of my favorite Goodman albums. I remember waking up Christmas morning in 1980 with this album, along with their “Better Hurry Up” album, sitting on top of my brand-new stereo system that Santa had brought me. Santa was very good to me that year and it is one of my favorite Christmas memories. I absolutely love the cover shot on this album and remember commenting on that Christmas morning at what a great close-up shot it was of the group. I listened to both records the entire day!

This album has a great vibe all the way through it. The album is paced well, the music tracks are superbly done, and despite the changes in their vocal line-up, the group sounds amazing! There is a certain depth to the overall quality of this record, compared to all their other albums, and there is definitely a strong lean toward a more country feel, while still keeping that rich Goodman sound thoroughly intact.

The recording starts out with the unassuming, “Wait’ll You See My Brand New Home”, which was written by Rusty. Starting out with Howard taking the melody, Vestal steps in on the second verse and blows it out of the water. This was a huge hit for the group, spending 14 months in the Singing News Top 20, peaking at #2 in June 1977. The Blackwood Brothers held strong to the #1 spot with their song, “Learning to Lean” at that time, which kept this song (and several others) from taking the #1 spot. (“Learning to Lean” holds the record for the longest running #1 song, as it spent 15 months at #1 from August 1976 through October 1977) Teddy Huffam & the Gems, as well as Hovie Lister & the Statesmen, enjoyed some success with the song as well with their soulful arrangement, but the Goodmans rendition of the song is still my favorite. I must also mention that the Hoppers had a powerhouse rendition as well back in the early 90s. You can check out their live version of the song on You Tube. My hope is to one day find a live recorded version of the Goodmans singing this song during its heyday with Vestal belting it out. If anyone reading this has a recorded concert of the Goodmans during this time frame where they are singing this song, I would love to hear it!

Vestal keeps the momentum going as she sings her testimony of deliverance from heart trouble with the classic, “Rise and Be Healed” before the tempo kicks up for the highly enjoyable, “He’s Coming Back”. Written by Linda Stalls, the song features Rusty on some low notes and is a highlight of the recording.

The Lee Roy Abernathy penned, “I Thank My Savior for it All” is a delightful quartet classic and is another highlight of the recording. Though it was never a “hit” for the group, they did get a lot of mileage out of the song and no doubt, it was a fun song to sing in concert. Howard takes the lead and it features some really nice guitar work as well.

Rusty slows the tempo down as he brings back a song he did while with the Plainsmen in the late 50s and early 60s called, “Love Like the Love of God”. Featuring Rusty’s wide vocal range on the song, he also added some extra vocal overdubs on the song, which adds a unique dynamic to the song, before Sam steps up next to sing the up-tempo, “Start Listening for the Sound”, written by Johnny Minick. As a kid, I always loved this song and loved the interesting musical sounds you hear at the beginning of the song.

Side 2 starts off with fiddles blazing, as the Goodmans bring back their iconic song, “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now”. The music and vocals on the song are about as near perfect as any song can be and it exudes that pure Goodman excitement. One who is familiar with the song and listening to this album for the first time would have expected Vestal to step in and belt out the last chorus, but it is Tanya who steps up to the microphone. Tanya does a great job, but I would have loved to have heard Vestal belting it out on this album. Many may remember the Goodmans performed this song on Tennessee Ernie Ford’s PBS special, “That Great American Gospel Sound” in 1978, and that single performance is one of the Goodmans greatest performances ever. I remember being a wide-eyed kid watching it when it came on TV. The clip is on You Tube, and I still get giddy every time I watch it.

The tempo slows back down as Vestal steps back up as she sings the time-honored favorite, “I Hold a Clear Title”. With the wailing dobro as the musical introduction, it’s a true highlight of the recording. The Goodmans would bring this song back during the Homecoming concerts in the 1990s, and it would never fail to bring the crowd to their feet.

Rusty steps up to sing the country feel of “You’ve Never Really Lived” before the group sings the convention flavored, “Caught Up Together”, which features Howard. I have always enjoyed this song and it’s a highlight of the recording, as is another convention favorite, “I Will Sail Up High Someday”. As a kid, I never could get enough of this song and it’s my favorite rendition of the song. There’s also some nice piano work on the song too!

Tanya closes out the recording as she delivers a wonderful solo on “A Love of My Own”, which was a collaboration between Rusty and Aaron Wilburn. Like many of Rusty’s songs, this song truly shows what a deep thinker he was, and being as young as Tanya was at the time, the lyrics were so appropriate for her and it was a perfect match between song and singer.

Although there are some convention classics on this recording, this is one of the few albums with no songs from the Redback Hymnal. One thing I noticed more on this album than any other, is that Rusty does a lot of vocal overdubs on here. I hear him in the mix doubling/stacking parts, etc. During the 70s, Rusty started adding a lot of extra stuff from time to time on their records, even adding some unique vocal adlibs on stage from time to time, where Rusty would step out of what is the norm for a bass/baritone. But on this album, Rusty’s vocal fingerprints are all over this record, and it sounds great. From a technical standpoint, this is one of the best sounding albums the Goodmans ever recorded. Rusty is listed as sole producer with Marvin listed as Executive Producer. Rick Goodman is credited as producer/arranger for the song, “You’ve Never Really Lived” and Johnny Minick is credited with all other arrangements on the recording. It’s obviously a tremendous collaborative effort, resulting in one of the best albums they ever recorded. In my opinion, this is the last studio album that the Goodmans did that had that true Goodman feel to it, as later in the 70’s, they began to branch out musically and try new and different things. Much of what they tried sounded great, but it wouldn’t completely encompass that true Goodman sound and feel like this album did.


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Category LP Review, Reviews

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2 Comments

  1. Reply April 28, 12:29 #1 NBer

    Based on these reviews I am guessing The Happy Goodmans never did any table top albums?

    • Reply April 28, 14:32 James Hales Author

      Techincally, no they never recorded any table projects, but they did re-release/repackage their first 3 albums (I’m too Near Home, The Best Of & It’s a Wonderful Feeling) a couple of times via a 3 record boxed set. They also did a couple of re-releases from those first 3 albums where their band recut the music tracks with the original vocals.


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