Past the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. Meet the Kingsmen’s new lead singer, Bob Sellers!
Daniel: How did you discover Southern Gospel? What groups first captured your interest?
Bob: I was pretty much born into gospel music. My mother (Helen’s) side of the family was very musical. They were raised in church and she sang duets with her sister, Brenda, on local radio. I have been hearing Mom sing and play at the piano all of my life. She has no musical education and plays by ear. She’s always been able to hear a song one time and sit down and play it by ear. Her sister Delois was in a really good regional quartet for many years. She wrote a lot of their material and had songs published in various hymnals.
My very first memory of quartet singing, however, came from my father Robert’s side of the family, and a group called The Challengers. My great-uncle Tiny Hickman played guitar and sang baritone. I remember going to Saturday night sings of theirs that were packed out. Earl and Linda Mashburn were in that quartet as well and would go on to form a full-time group called The Mashburns (now disbanded).
As for professional quartets, I’d heard several groups, including The Kingsmen as a young person, but didn’t fully appreciate it. It wasn’t until I was probably 16 or 17 years old at a small Methodist church in my hometown of Gordo, AL when I became totally addicted to the quartet sound. An older J.D. Sumner and The Stamps appeared that night and I thought I’d never heard singing that low or that high before.
From that point on I began to buy every Southern Gospel CD I could, and I still love it just as much today.
Daniel: Have you had any voice training, or other preparations for what you’re doing today?
Bob: I’ve never had any type of formal training. When I was a kid singing with my mom and sister, she typically sang the melody and put us where we needed to be. At the time, I didn’t even know it was harmony, but I know that those years, along with the ability God gave me, are what really enhanced my ear for harmony and blending. I’ve always tried to study some of the best, as well…not only how they sing, but how they connect to the audience.
Daniel: I understand you’ve been with Capstone Quartet since 2004, and are its manager and emcee. Did you sing with any other groups before Capstone?
Bob: Capstone is the first group I ever joined. Their lead singer was called to preach, and I knew the owner (Joe Brown) a little. He probably didn’t even know I sang then, but I’d created a rough demo using a CD burner and my church’s sound system, and had given him a copy sometime earlier. Long story short, he gave me an audition and I was there for most of 8 years.
We averaged 80 to 100+ dates a year, which in addition to working a 40-50 hour per week job helped prepare me for full-time ministry. I became the owner/manager mainly through attrition, but I took our group as seriously as anything I’d ever done.
Daniel: Have the remaining members of Capstone announced yet whether they will be carrying on the group?
Bob: Very recently, we all sat down to discuss Capstone’s future. I committed my support in whatever the other guys wanted to do. Our bass singer had already resigned just a few weeks earlier, and as we had learned from past experience and with no serious replacements in mind, it would have been a daunting task just to replace one key member, much less two. What we all agreed that we didn’t want to do was bring in singers just for the sake of keeping the group together who, whether from a talent or ministerial perspective, would cause the quality to drop off.
The more we talked, the more we all felt that it was God’s timing to disband the group after 19 years. It was a difficult decision for us, and our last appearances on December 18th were very emotional.
Daniel: When did you first become familiar with the Kingsmen? What are some of your favorite past Kingsmen albums and singers? What was the first Kingsmen lineup you saw live?
Bob: I don’t remember precisely when I first experienced The Kingsmen. There was a Sunday morning gospel show on radio when I grew up that played all the great quartets, and The Kingsmen were always among my top two favorites (along with The Cathedrals). I loved their style and energy most of all. My first vivid memory of seeing them live was at The University of Alabama at the “Firemans Singing” that was held there annually. The lineup during that time would have included a full band, but the member I remember most is Big Jim Hammil. I was amazed at how Big Jim could take the audience in the palm of his hand, say whatever he wanted and make them laugh, cry or shout seemingly at will. And I also remember how far his suit coat would fly when he threw it and how he’d sometimes “knock” the rest of the group off the front of the stage for their finale. Ha.
Daniel: The press release introducing you mentioned that the first song you recall singing in your church with your mother and sister was “A Place Where the Hungry are Fed.” Now that your voice has changed and matured, do you still have the range to sing it? Is there any chance the Kingsmen might bring it back? (It’s a long-time personal Kingsmen favorite!)
Bob: I still love the song, “A Place Where The Hungry Are Fed”. I can sing it, but I’d hate to try to hold that note out and walk back and forth across the stage for 5 or 10 minutes (seemed like it!) like Arthur Rice did.
As to whether The Kingsmen will pull that one back out, I have no idea, but that was Arthur’s signature song. No one else will ever be able to make it theirs, and shouldn’t attempt to, in my opinion. Good Lord willing, I’ll have a signature song of my own one of these days.
Daniel: Put that way, I’d have to agree with you! What are some of your other all-time favorite Kingsmen songs?
Bob: As to other favorite Kingsmen songs of mine, it’s really a mixed bag. I love ballads, but I love the “3 chords and a cloud of dust” sound, too. Some of my favs from the past are:
- Child, Child
- Inside The Gate
- That Lovely Name I Hear
- Wish You Were Here
- Healing Stream
- Beautiful Home
- Look For Me at Jesus’ Feet
- All of them!
Of the newer ones, I really love “That’s All I Need”, “God Knows”, “That’s When I Knew It Was Him” and “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God”. My favorite recordings would have to be the ones that were cut live such as Big ‘n’ Live, Chattanooga Live, et cetera.
Daniel: Could you tell us about your family?
Bob: God has blessed me with a wonderful family. I married my middle/high school sweetheart, Kansas, in 1998. Two years later our first girl, Corley, came along. We had another girl, Ellie, in 2003 and our son, Will, was born in 2005. My wife is absolutely my soul mate. I could have searched the world over and never found someone more Godly, sincere and supportive of me and my ministry, not to mention beautiful! She’s a 6th-grade teacher in Gordo and is heavily involved in our home church. My wife and kids are the joy of my life and I try to cherish every minute I have with them.
Daniel: I understand that you’re an Ordained Deacon, serving Faith Free Will Baptist Church in Carrolton, Alabama. Could you shed some light on why deacons are ordained in your church, and what ordained deacons do?
Bob: My home church, Faith Free Will Baptist in Carrollton, AL was founded in 1978 by my grandfather, Paul Sellers. He pastored there until succumbing to cancer in 2000.
Shortly thereafter, I was ordained as a deacon. At that time, I was not traveling and felt the need to take on more of a leadership role in the church. Our deacons oversee the day-to-day operations of the church, which at that time consisted mainly of helping to locate a new pastor and constructing a fellowship hall. A couple years ago, I asked to come off the active deacons list, simply because I was no longer able to devote the time necessary to do the role justice.
Daniel: Any non-musical hobbies? Have you had any careers outside of music?
Bob: Outside of music and my family, hobbies of mine include college football and basketball, photography, computing, camping and anything involving the great outdoors. I have a bachelor’s degree in Finance from The University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) and spent 17 years as a Commercial Lender before trading my loan calculator for a microphone. I was the first person in my immediate family to obtain a 4-year degree, so I’m very thankful for it. If I didn’t sing for a living, however, my next profession of choice would involve photography.
Daniel: Thanks, and God Bless you, too!