Southern Gospel Music

Southern Gospel is a country music gospel art form with emphasis on steel and rhythm guitars as its foundation. It draws on bluegrass, blues, and hillbilly elements. Southern gospel groups tend to use four-part harmony with a high tenor and baritone. The Happy Goodmans, the Speers, and Gold City are examples.

Southern gospel music is a popular form of Christian music, originating in the 1920’s. Southern gospel is often called “quartet music” by gospel fans, due to most Southern gospel being performed by a tenor-lead-baritone-bass quartet make-up. Traditional quartets are usually accompanied only by piano. Some of its roots are found in the publishing work and “normal schools” of Aldine S. Kieffer and Ephraim Ruebush. It was promoted by traveling singing school teachers, southern gospel quartets, and shape note music publishing companies such as the A. J. Showalter Company (1879), the James D. Vaughan Publishing Company and the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company. Southern gospel is an eclectic musical form, with groups singing black gospel-influenced songs, traditional hymns, a capella songs, country gospel styles, and the difficult ‘convention songs’.

Convention songs begin with the quartet beginning in harmony, and then all four members of the quartet break into singing a different part. The quartet then falls back into harmony on the last line of the verse and sings the chorus. They are known as ‘convention songs’ because they were invented by quartet training centers like the Stamps-Baxter School Of Music as a way to teach quartet members how to concentrate on singing their own part. Examples of convention songs are “Heavenly Parade”, “I’m Living In Canaan Now”, and “Delivered Out From The Hands Of Pharoah”.

Southern gospel also drew much of its creative energy from the Holiness movement churches that arose throughout the south in the first decades of the twentieth century and that created new music, in addition to the traditional hymns of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to accompany their new forms of worship.

Some early country gospel artists, such as The Carter Family and The Cook Family Singers, achieved wide popularity through their recordings and radio performances in the 1920s and 1930s. Others, such as Homer Rodeheaver, Cathedral Quartet, George Beverly Shea or Cliff Barrows, became well-known through their association with evangelists such as Billy Sunday, Rex Humbard or Billy Graham.

Among the best known southern gospel male quartets are The Blackwood Brothers, the Cathedral Quartet, J. D. Sumner & The Stamps Quartet, the Statesmen quartet the Jordanaires, the Imperials, Gold City, the Kingsmen, the Gaither Vocal Band, the Florida Boys, the Masters V, the Inspirations and the Oak Ridge Boys. Groups like the LeFevres opened the way for mixed quartets and groups where families began traveling the road. Famous mixed groups include the The Happy Goodman Family, the Hinsons, the Talleys, the Martins and the Bill Gaither Trio. In the last couple decades, many trios began touring like Greater Vision, the Bishops and the Perry Sisters along with many other performers that set out on their own as soloists (and talented song writers) like Squire Parsons, Kirk Talley, David L Cook, Ivan Parker, and Walt Mills.

The style of music now known as southern gospel music has been around since the 1950’s and is generally known as classic gospel music. Southern Gospel Music has made a tremendous revival in popularlity thanks to the efforts of Bill and Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming Friends which began as a Homecoming Reunion of many of the best known and loved SGM groups back in the 1980s. This style is still sung by some groups and has fans in all age ranges mostly in the United States but also in many foreign countries like Ireland, Australia, etc. The Contempory Christian Music field was begun in part by a famous Southern Gospel Group called The Imperials which was formed by Jake Hess.

The Gospel Music Association is a major group of gospel artists who maintain a hall of fame covering all aspects of gospel music. There are still a few terrestrial radio stations whose format is Southern Gospel music but most SGM stations are internet only stations.

Over the last decade, a newer version of Southern Gospel has come to light. This style is called Progressive Southern Gospel and is characterized by its use of more contemporary lyrics and musical arrangements.*

*some excerpts From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia