Was there a better year for Gospel Music than 1985?

by | Sep 8, 2022 | Commentary & Observations

Was there a better year for Gospel Music than 1985?

The Cathedrals were in the middle of the Danny & Mark years. Gold City was in the Brian & Ivan years. The Kingsmen had Anthony and Big Jim. For those with nostalgia for the 1950s and 1960s, Jake, James, JD, and Hovie were still traveling as the Masters V. Pretty much all the music was still live.

Groups like the Nelons, Gaither Vocal Band, Dixie Melody Boys, and the Imperials were trying out all sorts of new styles, but still keeping a bass singer in the mix.

Speaking of the GVB, that was the year Michael English joined them, but 1985 started with him and the Singing Americans at number one on the airplay charts with “I Bowed On My Knees.” Also near the top of the charts were songs like “I’m A Jesus Fan” by the Paynes, “An Old Convention Song” by the Cathedrals, and “It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built The Ark” by the Hemphills.

By mid-year, some of the hits were “John Saw” by Gold City, “Somebody Touched Me” by the Cathedrals, “Thinking About Home” by the Talleys, and “When He Was On The Cross” by the Florida Boys.

The Florida Boys were at the very top of the chart in December with the same song and “Somebody Touched Me” was also still hanging around. Also near the top were “A Different Way” by HeavenBound and “Gone At Last” by Jimmy Swaggart.

There was still a professional level of respect for the growing CCM market in 1985, evidenced by Steve Green on the cover of the December 1985 issue of Singing News and an announcement for the birth of the daughter of David Meece appearing beside a wedding announcement for the daughter of Jim Hamill.

Other groups you could see in 1985…Segos & Naomi, McKameys, Freemans, Hoppers, Speers, Primitives, Spencers, Perry Sisters, Hinsons, Dixie Echoes, Inspirations, Wendy Bagwell & The Sunliters, and Heavenbound.

I was alive in 1985, but did not get to see very many of these groups. I did not attend NQC, partly because I was a poor college student at the time, but more so because I wasn’t really aware of it!

I did see a few like the Singing Americans (but after Michael had left), Brian & Ivan with Gold City, the Segos, Primitives, Masters V, Speers, Wendy Bagwell & The Sunliters, the Talleys, the Nelons, and a few more. I didn’t see them all specifically in 1985, but give or take a year or two, I saw them in that general era. Great times!

I wish I could have seen more of them.

So…was 1985 the best year ever?

If not, make your case for a different year.

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David Bruce Murray

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.


  1. Tad Kirkland

    You may be right although I prefer the Kirk Talley era of the Cathedrals. What I notice is many of those songs are still huge in the SG catalog. We don’t seem to have songs with staying power now. What song in the past 10-20 years will still be revered as highly as When He Was On the Cross, Somebody Touched Me or I Bowed On My Knees in the coming decades? Or is it because there’s an over saturation of SG songs to radio and a lack of discernment from DJs so songs like Sometimes It Takes A Mountain or If God Pulled Back the Curtain don’t have as much of a chance?

    • David Bruce Murray

      I blame the current chart model. DJs and song promoters decide when a song has peaked rather than listeners.

      YouTube streams, where the listeners do get to vote, don’t mirror the charts, but they should. Remove the interests of song promoters who get paid for promoting the latest single, but not one that has “peaked” in their eyes, and a song like “It’s About The Cross” (now a 5.8 million views on YouTube) by the Ball Brothers would have been number one for at least 3-4 months.

      Regarding the Talley version of the Cathedrals, that is also my favorite lineup. However, the premise of this article was about how good the industry was as a whole…not just one particular group.

  2. Daniel h

    I don’t know that it would be the *best* year but it would be one of a few peaks. I think southern gospel, a probably other genres too, have moved in waves like the Covid infections. One variant of the genre to the next. 1985 would definitely be a big peak.

    Loved reading this!


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