In a thread on the Singing News forums discussing the perennial topic, revisited every decade for generations, of whether Southern Gospel is in decline, one poster posits that Southern Gospel is in decline because the major groups’ lineups are not as consistent. [EDIT, 11/7/10: Regrettably, the link is broken, so it has been removed.] Though that’s somewhat of a chicken-or-egg situation, is group turnover faster than it used to be?
So I analyzed the question poster andygood posited: How many of this year’s artists have had a lineup change in the last two years, compared to in the 1990s?
Of the 55 artists on the mainstage at this year’s NQC:
- No change in past two years (27): Blackwood Brothers, Booth Brothers, Chuck Wagon Gang, Collingsworth Family, Down East, Original Couriers, Crist Family(?), Dove Brothers, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, HisSong(?), Hoppers (change at piano, not in members on CD cover), Isaacs, Ivan Parker, Janet Paschal, Karen Peck & New River, Kingdom Heirs, Legacy Five, Lesters(?), Mark Bishop, Paid In Full, Pfeifers(?), Primitives(?), Priority(?), Reggie Saddler Family(?), Talley Trio, Triumphant Quartet, Whisnants
- No change in past year (9): Dixie Echoes, Greater Vision, Greenes, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Naomi & The Segos, Ricky Atkinson & Compassion, Soul’d Out, Specks, Tribute Quartet
- One change in past year (7): Brian Free & Assurance, Diplomats(?), Kingsmen, Mark Trammell Trio, McKameys, Mike & Kelly Bowling(?), Perrys
- Multiple changes in past year (5): Dixie Melody Boys (probably), Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Gaither Vocal Band, Gold City, Inspirations
- Unsure (4): Browders, Hunters, Roarks, Skyline Boys
I asked a friend who knows practically everything about Southern Gospel for a mid-1990s lineup. He had a 1998 list handy, so of the 67 artists that appeared that year, here are the 1998 stats:
- No change in past two years (18): Bishops, Booth Bros, Cathedrals, Crabb Family(?), Eva Mae LeFevre, Greater Vision, Howard & Vestal Goodman, Isaacs(?), Jeff & Sheri Easter(?), JD Sumner & Stamps, Kingdom Heirs, Martins, McKameys, Perrys, Pfeifers, Primitives, Reggie Sadler Family(?), Whisnants
- No change in past year (1): Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver,
- One change in past year (10): Anchormen(at least), Brian Free & Assurance(?), Dixie Echoes (if we count Stewart Varnado’s joining NQC weekend), Dixie Melody Boys (at least 1), Freemans, Gaither Vocal Band, Greenes (unless TaRanda joined after NQC), Hoppers (unless Childress/Denice Hopper switch was post-NQC), Inspirations (unless the Hutchins/Campbell switch was post-NQC), Melody Boys (unless Kramer/Raines switch was post-NQC)
- Multiple changes in past year (8): Florida Boys (if Gene McDonald had joined by convention—if not, 1), Gold City (pianists), Karen Peck & New River (depending on when band left), Kingsmen, Nelons, Palmetto State Qt (unless the lineup restructure was pre-NQC ’97), Poet Voices, Specks
- Unsure (31): James Blackwood Qt, Calvarymen, Crossmen, Cumberland Boys, Gospel Harmony Boys, Hayes Family, Hunts, Heavenbound, Heartland Boys, Homeland Quartet, Jericho, Kevin Spencer Family, Lesters, McGruders, McKeithens, Melody Boys, Men of Music, Naomi & Segos, Perfect Heart, Perry Sisters, Ruppes, Singing Ambassadors, Singing Cookes, Songfellows, Speer Family, Squire Parsons Trio, Steeles, Tony Gore & Majesty, Torchmen, Weatherfords, Wilburns
I’d appreciate clarification on the groups that I’m uncertain about, but even from this limited data, it is safe to say that the rumors of Southern Gospel’s demise are greatly exaggerated.