I can remember many years ago, when southern gospel music quartets appeared in Louisiana more often, than they do today. I can remember driving home from work at the newspaper, for my supper break and seeing the Masters Five Quartet bus in front of our church. The group featured five members consisting of Hovie Lister, Jake Hess and Rosie Rozell of the Statesmen Quartet and James Blackwood and J.D. Sumner of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. It was sad to know I missed seeing some of the giants of southern gospel music, but have seen quite a few concerts since then.
Masters V singing the classic O What A Savior
Today we see fewer southern gospel quartets, soloists and family groups traveling to Louisiana. Many of the southern gospel ministries are centered in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, which means it is a 600 or 700 mile trip to Louisiana. It is even further to southern Louisiana and the gasoline costs to power the busses has stopped some ministries from driving that far.
It is not unusual today to see prices of $15 or more to see a soloist or group sing in concert. There are still some southern gospel artists, that will sing in concert, for only a love offering, but some demand up-front money, before even walking in the door of the concert venue.
I have heard of smaller churches asking the artists to come to their church, but nix the deals when the artists say they need thousands of dollars, before they even show up.
Pennsylvania Hotbed For Southern Gospel
Apparently the churches and other sponsors, of southern gospel music in Pennsylvania can afford the asking prices, since the Harper booking agency lists 26 concerts scheduled in Pennsylvania in the upcoming months. However, Louisiana only has two concerts scheduled, which shows that Louisiana is not attracting southern gospel artists to the state in large numbers.
My favorite group the Dove Brothers Quartet has no concerts in Louisiana in their current schedule, which shows upcoming concerts from today till December 7 of this year.
Southern Gospel Concerts of the Past
There have been many southern gospel quartets here in the past. We have been able to see the Dove Brothers Quartet, in the Louisiana cities of Oak Grove, Monroe, Jena and Pineville, where we used to live for many years.
The Blackwood Brothers Quartet appeared in the Pineville area many times over the years and will never forget seeing and hearing the great James Blackwood. The Dixie Echoes used to sing in this area often. It was exciting to see Billy Todd singing for the Dixie Echoes, after seeing him sing on the Gospel Singing Jubilee.
A local radio station in Pineville, Louisiana used to sponsor a huge southern gospel concert every year, but that too has vanished from the scene. The Happy Goodman Family appeared there along with many other southern gospel soloists and groups.
The Kingsmen Quartet once sang in Cheneyville, Louisiana and sang in a school. The windows actually rattled during the concert when the quartet reached a crescendo during the concert.
Ann Downing a southern gospel soloist passing through this area, worked in an unplanned concert at Faith Baptist Church in Pineville and I can still remember her not being too happy, because one of the girls there that night was knitting while she sang.
Louisiana is fortunate to have singers like Mark Lanier, who used to sing with the Bibletones, Perfect Heart and Poet Voices living in Ball, Louisiana and who sings frequently in Louisiana concerts. Mark now sings as a solo artist.
Reasons For Decline
It is sad to know that southern gospel ministries don’t travel this far south very often. There could be many reasons, why so few ministries travel through Louisiana. The gasoline prices may be a major cause of the decline. It may be that when they do make their way into Louisiana, that the attendance is not that great. Fewer people attending concerts usually is going to mean less sales of CD’s of the artists and anything else they may be selling at the concerts.
The artists are going to naturally gravitate to the venues, which produce the most sales of their products. Southern gospel music is not only a ministry, but it is a business which has to make a profit, to provide a living for the members of any group. They have house notes, utilities and other costs, like the rest of us, so they are not going to continue to appear in less profitable venues.
It would be interesting to hear from anyone that reads this article, to find out if there are valid reasons for leaving Louisiana out of the schedules for most artists.
I think the over-riding reason we don’t see southern gospel artists often in Louisiana is money. Maybe someday the fading star of southern gospel will once again shine brightly.