Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Dream Quartet - Lead Singer

I had a really tough time with this next position. The lead singer is so vital to any quartet because you have to carry the weight of the quartet on your shoulders musically. You have to be able to blend with the quartet but at the same time be strong enough to step out and take a lead. I think in his heyday Jake Hess was the greatest lead singer to ever walk. It amazed me at how he could fall back into a quartet and be part of the harmony even with how well he over enunciated his words and phrases. But this is not the time or place for me to get off onto him because he has already passed on and we are talking about the living.

In my mind there are about 6 guys that are living that could stand up and take this job: Duane Allen, Shane Dunlap, Josh Garner, Jonathan Sawrie, Dustin Sweatman, and Josh Feemaster. Lets start out with the first mentioned Duane Allen. I think for the younger crowd that are just hearing him in his later days of singing, they have missed out on a lot. I would encourage you to go back and listen to some of the stuff that he was recording in the 70’s because that was when he was in his prime. He was known for such songs as The Baptism of Jesse Taylor (yes before GVB and Guy Penrod) Rhythm Guitar, King Jesus, He, and my personal favorite These Hands. I think the main reason for not picking him is because I know that his best days vocally are behind him.

The next four guys I think I can knock out pretty quickly. Shane Dunlap has always been one of my favorites. I have liked him since his days of N’Harmony. They were one of my favorite quartets for the time that they were together. Shortly after disbanding N’Harmony, he went on to be the first lead singer for Signature Sound. That was also a short lived thing and made his exit the same time Gary Jones left the group. There were rumors that Gary and Shane were going to start a group but for whatever reason that didn’t happen. In my opinion, that group was much better than the group that is together today. Josh Garner is my next. He is most known for his days with the Florida Boys. I was just always impressed with him because he was a throwback to some of the older lead singers. That is one of the reasons I like this next one, Jonathan Sawrie. Most notably he spent some time with the Melody Boys Quartet. In his time there, he served as lead singer, pianist, and arranger. I would love to see him join a group full time but I understand that family is more important to him at this point and he has chosen the greater good. Dustin Sweatman of Mark Trammell Trio would be another good choice. I met Dustin last July out at Steve Hurst School of Music. He and I hit it off pretty quick because we are old school quartet fans. He came though the Ed O’Neal school of singing at the baritone position for the Dixie Melody Boys until he joined up with Mark Trammell Trio. He now sings lead and I believe has a long future ahead of him.

I think the person to take the lead singer position in my dream quartet would have to be Josh Feemaster. I know that he is relatively new to the industry but from what I have heard, I really like him. I think that he is young enough that if he takes care of himself vocally, he will have some longevity if he decides to continue singing in the industry. I know with the unsurity that Mercy Mark has had we don’t know if he will keep singing or not. I believe he has just enough of a contemporary voice to be relevant but he is not constantly trying to pull all of these crazy vocal runs and be a show off. I was recently listening to the Singing American’s LP Live and Alive recorded in 84. At that time, Mike English was the lead singer. If you listen to him then and even his days with the Vocal Band they are two different singers. The singing American days he was a pretty straight forward singer. In his Vocal Band days he constantly pulling these vocal runs and they got old after a while. To much rich cake icing will eventually make you sick.

Join me next time when we will talk about the baritone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Earlier Cathedral Quartet / Danny Koker Pic

I just wanted to post a pic of the Cathedrals with Danny Koker at an early age. This is from the mid 60's. It looks like the same setting as the With Brass and With Strings. Personell from left to right is George Younce, Bobby Clark, Glen Payne, and Danny Koker.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Danny Koker Obituary

DANNY KOKER Danny Koker of Las Vegas and Palm Beach, Fla., went to be with our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008. He was born in Detroit, Dec. 17, 1933, to his beloved parents, Mary and Stanko Koker of Yugoslavia. He was a musician, singer, composer, conductor and arranger in many quartets and bands such as: Foggy River Boys, Weatherford Quartet, The Cathedral Quartet, The Rex Humbard Family Singers and The Koker Family Singers. Known for his incredible talent as a pianist, he played for the likes of: Mahalia Jackson, June and Johnny Cash, Pat Boone and his family, Red Foley, Connie Smith, Jeannie C. Riley, Stuart Hamblen and Tennessee Ernie Ford. He spent over 20 years with the Rex Humbard Worldwide TV Ministries with whom he performed all over the world. In the early 1980's Danny started up Ch. 29 Television Station in Minneapolis, where he and his family had the award winning television show "Rejoice." In 1989, he started up KFBT TV33 in Las Vegas, later becoming the WB affiliate. Danny was a Green Beret with the 10th Special Forces Group stationed in Bad Tulz, Germany, a hockey player for the U.S. Army, a baseball player and an avid automotive enthusiast. He was a loving, devoted husband and father who is deeply loved and will be greatly missed by family, countless friends and fans around the world. He will forever be our Hero. He was preceded by his parents, Mary and Stanko Koker; his brothers, Peter Koker and Milford Koker; and his sisters, Bess Basar and Mary Hayes. He is survived by his sister, Dotty Marks and brother-in-law, Jim Marks and sister, Becky Koker, brother-in-law, Stevie Norris, sister-in-law, Linda Norris and many nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his beloved partner and wife, Mary; adoring daughter, Kim; loyal, loving son, Danny and honored daughter-in-law, Korie. Visitation will be from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, with services and interment immediately following, both at Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern Ave.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Dream Quartet - Tenor Singer

I always have someone asking me who my favorite group is or who my favorite singer is. We have so many good ones to choose from. We have been doing this thing called southern gospel for about a hundred years. It is hard to say who the best is because we have so many different styles of singers. Some have their strong points and some have their weak points. And no matter how much we like someone or how great we think there are rest assured there is someone out there that thinks they are overrated.

So this is purely my opinion but I am going to conquer the subject of my dream quartet. Let me put just a couple stipulations on this. I am going to keep this to guys that are still alive because we all know that the Statesmen are the greatest quartet to ever walk. ;-) I might write a post sometime later and just include my dream quartet (guys living and dead) which I might get to see once we get to heaven. And while picking these talents, I am also keeping in mind how I think they would work together and how I think their voices would blend. Although I think there are some great voices out there, they just weren’t meant to be put in the context of a group. Just like it was rumored one time that Elvis Presley tried out for a quartet and he was told he would never make it because he had too much vibrato in his voice. There are some voices or personalities that just don’t fit.

I am actually splitting this subject into several different posts. I will try to conquer one position each post.

Lets start out with the tenor singer. This one was pretty easy for me since we were talking about southern gospel quartets. You have phenomenal voices like Larry Ford, David Phelps, Bobby Clark, Larnelle Harris and the list goes on. Although I think that Larnelle has the single greatest voices to ever be in any field of music, I don’t think I would pick him for this spot. When he started out with the Gaither Vocal Band he sang lead. When Steve Green left he moved up to tenor He was able to hold both positions very well. Even though he is past 60 now he has not lost one single thing. The man can still sing.

For the tenor position, I would have to pick Michael Booth. I can hear the surprise in your voices and the rolling of some eyes. Let me explain. I know he is with one of the top groups right now and you are thinking I am picking him just because I am a Booth Brothers nut. I do like the Booth Brothers but I cant say that they are my favorite. I think Michael is a really really good singer. I think he has this whole concept of harmony and singing in a group pretty well. The Booth Brothers are a testament to that because how can you beat the harmony of the Booth Brothers? Plus Michael turned down a scholarship to a pretty prestigious music school. If I remember right it was a drumming scholarship.

I think Michael’s greatest strength is his communication skills. He has no problems taking the MC reigns for the Booth Brothers and he can have you laughing rolling in the floor at one moment and then the next have you balling your eyes out. Then when he sings, he knows how to put just the right touch to get the message across effectively. If you have any doubts of this just listen to him sing songs like Look For Me At Jesus Feet, The Night Before Easter, and Trust His Heart.

That’s it for today. Tune in next time when we will talk about lead singers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New Podcast

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted. I have been in bed sleeping. Well not the whole time but it feels like it. Sleeping in and of itself is not a bad thing but when it has sickness attached to it, it is nasty. Before I fell sick, I had the chance to go to a few concerts and sing in one. I went to see the Greenes and they were fantastic. It had been ages since I saw them last. I remember them from the days of Kim Hopper and When I Knelt the Blood Fell. They still have a good group and definitely worth going out to see. They recently wrecked thier bus and insurance is not going to pay the full amount to have it fixed. If you feel led to give to thier bus please do so.

The second group that I heard was The Browders. They are from out on the VA / TN border. I was not familiar with them so went not knowing what to expect. They supposedly had some top songs but apparently they slipped by me where we just got a good southern gospel radio station in the last year. I was really impressed at thier ministry and another group that is definitely worth going to see. They have a good solid country / southern gospel sound.

The highlight of 3 concerts was the Winter Angel Hearts Bennifit with Mark Trammell Trio, Jerry Trammell, The Joys, and Garden of Grace. Before the concert we had a great time just hanging out eating and catching up. Dustin Sweatman and I are both old quartet junkies so we had a good time with that. Eric of course has big shoes to fill, which i think he is doing very well at. He is Ernie Phillips son formally of the Kingsmen. His dad is in need of a lot of prayer right now. The doctors found a growth in his abdomen which they removed. I believe he has a long road to recovery ahead of him but looks like with God he is going to pull through.

Mark and Jerry are characthers in and of themselves. Mark was on his streak of normal dry humor and the banter between he and his brother were priceless. It is amazing to see what God has done in Jerry's life over the last few year. God has saved him from Alcholism and a host of other things. He is also in need of prayer as he battles Parkinsons Disease. Even though he does have Parkinsons the boy can still hit some high notes. Just imagine Mark as a tenor and you got him.

Lastly, go on over to our site and you can hear our latest podcast. We caught up with the guys from Mark Trammell Trio and had the chance to chat with them for a few min. You can also listen to our past podcast with Tribute Quartet.

Until next time,


Sunday, January 6, 2008

The RIAA is at it again

I recently heard that the RIAA (Recording Indsutry Associated of America) is trying something different. This is the organization that makes sure that no one is making illegal copies of music and making a profit from it. If they find out that someone has they are the ones who prosecute. I applaud them for their cause and think that they are doing a good thing but that does not mean that they are justified in everything that they are doing. I am all about paying the artist what they deserve for their creative material but I think the RIAA is out of hand. There are many organazations that started out as a good thing but over time have lost relevance or need because the times has changed.

The latest story is about a lady who downloaded 24 songs off the internet and paid the normal price of 99 cents per song which adds up to $23.76. That is about the cost of about 2 cds if you buy them at a retail store. That part was totally legal but then she supposedly allowed her computer to share them which meant that other people could download them. Now the RIAA is taking her to court for approximately $220,000. I believe that this is just a little steep, don’t you? Yes what she did is wrong but you can only take things so far. I know they are just trying to make an example of her but that is not going to stop the next person from doing the same thing. The same happened a few years back when Napster was very popular. Everyone was using it to download songs and that was the cool thing to do. The record companies choose them as the scape goat and practically brought them down even though there were others out there similar. After being prosecuted, Napster is now a service something similar to iTunes. Users can no longer download for free but have to pay for songs like many other services. But after Napster was prosecuted 2 or 3 other free download programs popped up right in its place.

Some time back the RIAA had said that it was OK to make copies of your CDs if you were making them for backup purposes and not distributing the copies. Now the RIAA has changed their mind and they now saying that you not allowed to make backup copies. If you want a backup copy you need to go buy another one. They want to make it illegal to copy any music to your computer from personal CDs. To get it on your computer you would have to rebuy it from a service like iTunes. In other words, if I go out to Walmart and buy my favorite CD and I want to then load that onto my ipod so I can listen to it there I have to purchase the music online to go on my ipod. I stand the possibility of being prosecuted similar to the lady in the beginning of the story if the RIAA can get this passed. Whether they realize it or not, I believe that they are killing their own selves. If they start trying to make laws like this and continue their witch hunts, people will completely stop buying CDs and a lot of people at the RIAA will be out of a job. If you download an MP3 from iTunes you are allowed to burn it to a CD. I believe that CDs are already becoming a thing of the past with the digital media all around us but these kinds of things are just speeding up the process. CDs will will continue to hang around like tapes did because they are such a popular media.

Years ago Hollywood and the makers of VHS tapes had this same debate. Back in the day you had two main media forms, Beta max and VHS. Beta Max was the better quality tape but you could record on a VHS. VHS quickly became the popular of the two just for that fact. Hollywood started screaming that everyone was going to make copies of movies and no one would ever buy a movie again. In case you haven’t noticed, Hollywood never did go under financially. (I know some of you are thinking I wish it would have.) It’s the same debate now and I believe that it boils down to being money hungry. A few years later another argument popped up. People were taking their CDs to second hand music stores and selling them for money and then the second hand music store would resell them at a cheaper rate than going to a retail store and buying a new one. RIAA were demanding profits off these sales because they said that the artist and other people were getting cheated out of the profits that were rightfully thiers because it was their creative work and they were the ones that created it. In other words, record companies wanted a few extra pennies to line their pockets.

There was a popular secular group by the name of TLC. At one time they were on top of their game cranking out hit songs and selling cds. The contract with their record company was written in such a way that they got virtually nothing out of the CD sales. I believe for every dollar that they made on CD sales they were personally getting somewhere around 3 or 4 cents per CD. Where is the fairness in that? TLC was the creative force in that and they were getting virtually nothing.

So lets bring this back to the southern gospel world. If you are buying a CD you are not paying for just the actual CD and artwork. That is the final finished polished product. You are paying for the creative side of things as well musicians and producers. When an artist or record company mass produces a recording, the more CDs they make the less it costs to produce each one. And the biggest cost of all is the money to fill up the bus. Filling that bus up with diesel fuel is not cheap. Just think, every time you pull up to the pump you paying $30-40 to fill up a tank. They are paying a few hundred dollars. And that bus only gets 5-10 miles to the gallon if they are lucky. It takes a lot of money to stay out on the road. So don’t do a disservice to your favorite atist and steal their music. Don’t be like two ladies that I overheard at a music table (with the artist standing in front of them) They told each other that they would buy different CDs and just make copies for each other when they got home. Now wasn’t that the Christian thing to do? If they are really that good then their music is worthy of $15 for a CD. Pay the artist what they rightfully deserve through CDs or downloading songs legally but don’t let the RIAA take over things any more than than they have.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Southern Gospel for the Next Generation

By Mike Cook – VA Southern Gospel

If you go to a typical Southern Gospel concert you will notice that most of the audience is from a generation that was born in 1945 or earlier. It appears that some of the most recent marketing of Southern Gospel is targeted to the next generation called Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964) with artists like Russ Taff, The Gaither Vocal Band and The Booth Brothers performing songs from the 1970’s.

In order to preserve the heritage of Southern Gospel we must promote it to a new generation in new ways. Gone are the days when an artist can rely only on Radio, Television, and print to promote concerts and album releases. Generation X (born 1965 – 1976) and The Millennial Generation or Generation Y (born 1977 – 1998) will require a different approach when marketing to them. Here are some New Media outlets that artists and promoters can use to connect with X and Y.

A Web Site
Statistics are showing that most of generation Y and some of Generation X are spending more time each week surfing the web than watching television. It’s no wonder that most every ad you see on TV or in print includes a web address. It’s not enough to just put some information out there like a billboard, it must be done well and change often to keep users coming back. Some young artists like Crabb Revival, Valor, and The Lefevre Quartet have their music begin playing as soon as the web site opens up. The online store should also accept some form of credit card. Pay-Pal is a very secure way to accept payment and no credit card information is exchanged, just email addresses. A lot of the Talent Agency web sites provide high quality photos, biographies, and concert posters available for downloading by local promoters that are bringing the artists in to their area.

Social network Web Sites
Social Network sites are very popular among X and Y. and offer users an opportunity to connect with each other through chats and message boards. Young artists like The Imperials and Driven Quartet have My Space pages that link to their web site.

Email Marketing
Email Marketing is a great way for Talent Agencies and artists to stay in touch with fans. I receive an Email once a month from Greater Vision that is created through a service called Constant Contact. It has templates that can be customized with photos and logos. The service also allows users to put a sign up box on their web site where fans can sign up for their monthly newsletter.

MP 3’s
Just when we were getting comfortable with the compact disc instead of cassettes, along comes the new format of MP 3’s. Apple brought us the iPod MP3 player and iTunes software for the computer that allows users to convert their CD’s to MP3 format and load them on the iPod for listening. The iTunes store provides an opportunity to preview the albums before buying. You can also choose to buy one song instead of the whole album. There is a universal database at that has artwork, album and track names for most every kind of music available. This is where we need some work in the Southern Gospel area. Not all Southern Gospel albums are recognized by this database. Artists and record companies should submit this information to the database and make the albums available on iTunes the same day that the CD is released in stores. This will increase album sales and provide more recognition for the artists among younger users.

A Podcast is an online radio show available on web sites and through iTunes. Daniel Britt of XM Radio and Joy FM in Winston Salem, North Carolina hosts a podcast with artist interviews. Mark Lowry and Mark Bishop also have podcasts available.

Ever since the early 90’s when Bill Gaither released the Homecoming series, Video has played an important part in the spread of Southern Gospel. Now You Tube is available to allow users to search and view videos on the web. Artists can take clips of concerts and submit them to You Tube and then link them back to their web sites for viewing. Jason Crabb features several You Tube clips on his web site.

Great legends of Southern Gospel like The Statesmen and The Imperials were known for thinking outside the box for ways to promote their music. We have the torch now and must continue to look for new ways to promote the world’s greatest music to future generations.