Over the last few days, several fond memories of Roger Bennett have come to mind.
Via a Cathedrals compilation project, Roger Bennett introduced me to Southern Gospel piano playing. “I’m in the Gloryland Way” was my first exposure to what a Southern Gospel piano solo sounds like. Even now, I’m still blown away by his rendition of that song.
I remember listening to the Fan Awards live on my local radio station in 2005, I think. Roger told the audience he’d made a deal with God that if he could just see his kids graduate from high school, God could take him Home. He said that earlier that year, he had been able to see his son walk the aisle, and God had granted his request. At this point, he had the audience in the palm of his hand, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. But just as quick as that, he turned things around. He said he’d told God that he wanted to re-negotiate his agreement (“maybe grandkids?”). Of course, the audience burst laughing. Only a Roger Bennett could pull that off.
But of all my favorite Roger Bennett memories, one stands head and shoulders above the rest. In mid-2004, I first discovered Southern Gospel music and the local SG radio station. One night I turned on the radio and heard applause between the songs. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this must be the National Quartet Convention I’d read about, and that my local radio station must be carrying it live.
Legacy Five came on, and I was impressed. I knew that of the three members of the final Cathedrals lineup, two were members of that group. When Roger Bennett told his testimony and introduced “Whispers in the Night,” it was a powerful moment. Legacy Five was greeted by a “standing ovation and then some” and prepared to leave the stage.
But just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Signature Sound came on stage. Ernie Haase asked Legacy Five to stay on the stage, and the two groups sang “Oh What a Savior” together.
Now I was pretty new to Southern Gospel, but I knew a thing or two. I knew that the Cathedrals were my favorite group, bar none, and that even for a National Quartet Convention, this was something out of the ordinary.
I can still hear Ernie saying, “It’s been a long time, Roger. Let’s do it like we..like we used to.” And that’s just what they did.
That was to my knowledge the final time Roger, Ernie, and Scott ever shared the same stage.
I’ve said before that I was never fortunate enough to hear the Cathedrals live and in person. But as I sat by my radio late that September night, for a few shining moments I knew what it must have been like.
Thanks for the memories, Roger.