I guess it’s always easier to look back and find ways that could have been better if different choices had been made. Hindsight is 20 20 right? A perfect example of that can be found each day in the lottery, Millions and millions of people make the wrong choices one day only to learn the next day exactly what decisions they should have made. Time travel could be a very profitable thing if it ever came about.
Of course some decisions are not as quickly noticeable and take a longer time period to find out the correct decisions that should have / could have been made.
For a recording artist there can be no more important decision to be made on a regular and consistent basis that choosing the musical style that you will develop and promote to your fan base. There is a long held and very mistaken belief that musical styles will die along with the fan base. That is especially true in Southern Gospel. I chuckle to myself when I hear that because for everyone that I hear say that I receive an email or overhear a 40-50 something that used to be a fan of rock or pop vocalize that their tastes must be changing because they are now enjoying music they would have never listened to before.
All the sudden they are discovering what some of us have known for years. That was junk they were listening to before! ( BIG SMILE… )
I’m really looking forward to the resurgence of the traditional hymns that many churches tossed out along with the baby and bath water several years ago. What is really cool is all these young people bringing these “new” and powerful songs into the church only to realize the lyrics are from a 200 year old hymn. ( ANOTHER BIG SMILE…)
It is easy in a day of rapid change to toss out what is a great style to replace it with something that seems fresh and new at the moment but quickly losses its new feel much like the new smell in a new car quickly goes away.
Recording artist face the same challenges in their careers and while some catch the missteps in time to reverse course and make the needed changes some never do. They just fade away and dissolve into other groups or just come off the road all together.
The Happy Goodmans stayed true to their convention sounding styles and had a career that lasted a lifetime. I guess it surprised even them that multiple generations would love great tunes like “ I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” and many other standards that fans thrilled to every time they got up to sing them.
James Taylor fans would have revolted if James would have made drastic changes to the style that has endeared him to multiple generations of fans who are even still just now discovering the tremendous style of the master singer/songwriter of all time. All it takes is about the first 10 seconds and I know I’m about to hear a great song.
I’m sure that there have been many others besides the two groups I’m about to mention that for whatever reason after building huge loyal fan bases decided to change their musical styles much to the dismay of large numbers of their fans. Anyone want to guess which 2 artists I’m referring to? So here’s your chance before you see the names…… OK! Times up!
The two artists that stand out the most to me as artists who gave up on their great musical style to seek after another are…
1 -The Crabb Family.
2 – The Dove Brothers.
The Crabb Family had one of the most successful runs of any group in recent memory and most of that success can be pinpointed to a time frame when Crabb Family patriarch Gerald Crabb was penning hit after hit song and the family stayed pretty close to that musical style that captured the hearts of fans from 9 to 90. After the family broke apart there was a distinct move away from the traditional Crabb sound to a more rock or pop type sound that attracted a more youthful fan base but gave most of us old whiteheads a headache. I still remember my younger brother comment when hearing them for the first time at the LJVM Colisiem in Winston Salem NC that he thought he was at a rock concert.
While Jason has found great success (even picking up a Grammy win) with a return to a sound that more closely resembles the former sound of the Crabb Family’s heyday and Kelly and Tara have found a place to return to those more traditional sounds through the Mike Bowling Group the sound that made the Crabb Family a household name for more than a solid decade has been pretty much lost to history.
2 – The Dove Brothers. I can still hear the crowds and remember watching them rise to their feet as The Dove Brothers brought the house down with songs like “Get Away Jordan” and “Didn’t It Rain” and a host of older traditional quartet numbers that set them apart as the group that was destined to keep the historical past of southern gospel musical heritage alive and well for many generations to come. All they needed was a piano and 2 old microphones and those guys could put on a show that had few rivals in the industry. It was a great time for quartet singing! Then one day the Dove Brothers went country… or something. They had a couple powerful tunes and had a couple paper hits but then it was like they vanished…. And that wonderful style we used to enjoy was turned over to someone else and while no one would dare say it I will…. I watched the videos. It just wasn’t nearly as good as what McCray and boys turned out.
I have often wondered what would have happened if these two groups would have just stuck to what was working for their fan base before they made the decision to make major changes to their musical styles. What could have been if they hadn’t musically lost their way? I wonder….