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,