Quartet named best at Kentucky State Fair, but only seeks to lift the name of Christ
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
When The Noblemen take the stage at Graefenburg Christian Church on Dec. 29, it will be a sort of a full circle homecoming for long-time bass singer David Martin.
“The first church I ever sang in, outside of our (home) church, was Graefenburg Christian,” Martin smiles. “That was 51 years ago, in 1968. It was in the old building, but that was the first place I sang.”
Martin remembers that he sang the Gaither classic, “Born to Serve the Lord” that night.
In the years since, Martin has sung with many artists in many places, all playing a part in bringing The Noblemen together six years ago. Martin, lead singer Tracy Bertram and baritone Garry Polston, all gospel music veterans have been with the group since that first Noblemen concert on Dec. 31, 2013.
Tenor Chris Daniel joined the group last year but due to a prior commitment, he was unable to meet when I sat down with the other three members of The Noblemen on Dec. 16.
“Our first concert was at Shelby Christian Church,” Martin remembers. Since then The Noblemen have been more than busy with 40-50 concerts each year around Kentucky and surrounding states. They’ve shared the stage with some of the biggest names in gospel music and received the top honor in the quartet division of the Gospel Music Showcase at the Kentucky State Fair last August.
But even with the accolades, The Noblemen have remained true to their original mission. “We have seen people come to know the Lord through our ministry,” Bertram says. “It doesn’t happen as much as we want it to happen but that’s the goal. There are people who will listen to this music that might not be there if we advertise preaching. They won’t come out, but if we say singing, there are some who come out and we share the message. Our intent is to share the message and we can do so in an entertaining way. We want them to hear the gospel.
“We want to see souls saved. That’s the goal.”
The opportunities are there for The Noblemen in what is actually the second rendition of the group. The 2020 calendar is filling up and a new CD is in the works. The Noblemen are set to appear with The Kingsmen in July and will likely have more dates to share the stage with national acts in the next 12 months.
“We want to continue the ministry and go new places,” says Bertram. “We love the places we sing year after year, but we want to be uplifting to folks that haven’t heard us before. We want to continue to do the Lord’s work.”
While the current lineup first performed as The Noblemen six years ago, the group’s roots date back 30 years.
“The Noblemen started singing as a group in 1990. We sang for 10 years and disbanded,” Martin says. “I started singing with Garry (in The Polston Family). I had been a few places where they sang and they got me up to sing with them. Eventually, I just went on with them. I was with them 13 years, I think, then we started The Noblemen back.”
This group of Noblemen, based in the Shelbyville, Ky., area, should not be confused with The Noblemen Quartet, which has its roots in the Maysville area. There are also several other groups around the nation called The Noblemen or a variation of the name.
While the names can be confusing, this group of Noblemen offers a distinctive mellow sound that presents a mixture of old gospel favorites and recent hits.
Polston, a retired Methodist minister and another gospel veteran had put 75 percent of the current Noblemen together with his family group. “When we were singing as The Polston Family, it was my daughter, my wife, my nephew and me. Then my daughter moved to Atlanta and my wife had a knee replacement and it got infected,” Polston says of the events that led to major changes in The Polstons.
Martin was already singing with the group and Bertram, who had sung with The Heartland Quartet and The Joymakers, popular groups in south-central Kentucky, was not with any group at the time. He came aboard and the seeds for the present group were sown.
Bertram says the connections were deep. “I grew up in a singing family. My dad was a pastor in the United Methodist Church for about 53 years. When Garry’s wife, Lula, was a teenage, my dad was her pastor.”
It really is a small world leading to big success.
While The Noblemen can sing almost any time they want — Daniel’s job as a Franklin County firefighter keeps him off the road at least one weekend a month — the personal demands are great.
“It’s a big commitment. You are away from home a lot,” Polston says. “You are away from your family. People don’t have any idea how early we have to leave for a day. We want to get there two or three hours before (a concert) starts to get set up, get dressed and have a little time to relax before we sing. After we are done, we have to take down everything we set up.”
Polston pauses. “It’s a lot of work for those other guys!” he laughs.
At one time, most gospel concerts were on Sunday night but with fewer and fewer churches offering that service, groups are asked to sing much more on Sunday mornings. “A few years ago, we sang every Saturday night and every Sunday from April to September,” Martin says. “When Chris came with us, he has to do some weekends, o we do four or five concerts a month now.”
And The Noblemen can be billed as “Kentucky State Fair Champions.”
“We were real pleased and thankful,” Martin says of the honor. “We hadn’t thought a lot about it or even entering it at the time.”
Bertram adds, “The thing is contests are really not what we do. We want to be ministers to spread the gospel. (Contest organizers from the Kentucky Farm Bureau) were persistent to get us to come. I was a little reluctant at first but I was honored. We just don’t want it to be about us.”
The message will only be about Christ.
“One thing that stands out from last year, was a concert when a young lady accepted Christ,” Polston remembers. “As we were taking our equipment down to load up on the bus, they were filling up the baptistry to have a baptismal service the next morning. That floods your soul.”
It’s all in keeping with the message.
“We do a variety of stuff,” Martin says. “We entertain and we have a funny part, but it works around one goal, to uplift Jesus Christ.”
After all, The Noblemen firmly believe they were Born to Serve the Lord.
The Noblemen in Concert
When: Sunday, Dec. 29, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Graefenburg Christian Church, 5900 Louisville Road, Frankfort, Ky.
Cost: No admission charge, but a love offering will be taken.