Perrys still going strong but remember Tracy Stuffle in every program
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — When The Perrys sang at Sand Spring Baptist Church Thursday night, two things were certain about the longtime favorite gospel group.
First, The Perrys are going strong. “We are probably more busy than in years past,” baritone Troy Peach said. “People have realized The Perrys are still here. The Perrys aren’t going anywhere. They are still singing the great old songs.”
But secondly, The Perrys will always have the memory of Tracy Stuffle when they are on stage. The long-time bass singer died Feb. 4, 2018 after a battling the effects of a stroke for nearly five years. He was only 51 years old, but his memory lives through a Perrys concert with numerous references to his work and influence during the program and a video tribute during the evening.
“Tracy was one of those guys, if you ever saw The Perrys, Tracy was larger than life,” Peach said. “He loved his music. He loved God. He loved the fellowship of God’s people. People remember that about The Perrys. And that’s one thing Tracy made us promise. I remember standing over his hospital bed and he looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you let my group go down.’ He said, ‘You make ‘em keep singing.’ He said, ‘Make young people still love what we do. You have got to keep going. You have got to keep sharing the Word.’”
The Perrys’ 2019 tour is doing just that, with a mix of songs from more than 48 years on the road. The concert included “It Carried Him,” from the group’s latest CD, “Testament,” as well as old standards like “The Holy Hills of Heaven Call Me” and “I Remember the Day.”
“Libbi is probably singing better now than she has in years,” Peach said with a big smile.
The group has seen God manifest his presence in many ways, said Peach, who is now four years into his second stint with the group. He admits to wondering where things were headed as Tracy Stuffle battled back from his stroke. He says Bryan Walker, both his successor and predecessor, was “very instrumental in keeping The Perrys on the road after Tracy had a stroke.
“Through all that time, Libbi (Perry Stuffle, an original member of the group and Tracy’s wife) was off the road. She was with him every day,” recalled Peach, who returned to the group about a year after Tracy suffered the stroke.
“For three years, Andrew (Goldman, The Perrys’ lead singer) and I carried Tracy on and off that bus,” Peach recalls. “When I say carried, I mean we physically carried him. One of us picked up one end of the wheelchair and the other one got the other end and we physically carried him off that bus every day.
“There were times I wondered, ‘God, is this really what you would have us to do?’ But then I would see someone in the crowd, that no matter what song we sang, Tracy would start telling his testimony about how far God had brought him. Even though he was still in that wheelchair, even though he wasn’t what he used to be, God was using him more then than He ever had before. I would watch people’s hearts be touched.
“It was definitely always worth it. God sees the big picture. He knows where we are and where we are headed. All we can do is trust Him.”
The Perrys learned that is true even through times of trial.
“Sometimes people would ask, ‘Why would God let you go through all this?’” Peach said. “The Bible says to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths. If we knew where everything was going and why everything happens, we wouldn’t trust Him. So we can’t know everything. All we can know is to put our trust in Him.”
Midway through the concert, The Perrys shared several photos of Tracy Stuffle. The segment was simple, yet powerful, much like the long-time bass.
“Tracy is one of the greatest bass singers that ever walked across the stage in gospel music,” Peach said. “Tracy, with him I learned so much. I didn’t realize what I was learning but I learned so much from him. All those images bring back the memories of those great concerts Tracy had. We never want to walk on the stage and not have Tracy a part of the program.”
Tracy and Libbi’s son, Jared, who bears a striking resemblance to his father, now sings bass for the group and carries on the legacy.
Peach believes great things await The Perrys in 2019. “I look for this to be a milestone year for the Perrys. I really, really do,” he said. “Here it is just in March and I am already seeing great things.”