Waymakers of Lexington remain true to roots as they share the gospel
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
LEXINGTON — There’s really no secret to what makes the Waymakers of Lexington popular with gospel music fans in Central Kentucky.
The group just loves to sing.
Whether it’s a rousing cover of The Hoppers’ “Jerusalem” to something a bit slower like “Call on Jesus” to a patriotic classic, The Waymakers’ focus is on the music and the message it presents.
There’s not a lot of slick choreography. The CDs are self-produced and sell for $5 each.
But the music itself? It’s a heavenly blend of voices combining the intricate harmonies of a six-person ensemble presenting the gospel with a unique sound.
“Our founding precept was we wanted to carry the gospel of Christ in song,” says one of the group’s founding members, Tony Hancock. “What we have found out was there are a lot of churches out there that really needed an uplift and some quality music.”
Hancock is an engineer, retired from IBM, and works as the group’s soundman. He also serves as pastor of Lexington’s Hillcrest Baptist Church. His wife, Rhonda, sings soprano and brings her training from Lee University to arranging for the group.
Other members include bass Jon Hurd and his wife, Pam, alto Lynn Hall, Cyndi Vogt and tenor David Falconbury, a gospel veteran but the newest member of the group, joining in 2018. All reside in Lexington but have different church homes.
The ministry, however, covers Kentucky with music that exalts Christ and lifts those who are down for any reason.
“Everywhere we go, there are people that are down in the dumps, struggling with medical issues, family issues, money issues, all of that,” Hancock says. “One song we sing that goes over well just about anywhere we sing is ‘I’ve Got a Feeling Everything’s Going to be All Right.’ When we sing a song like that, you can feel the spirit of the Lord moving.”
Ironically, the title of that gospel classic could sum up the Waymakers’ history and where they are now.
A pair of Tennessee natives, Tony and Rhonda Hancock came to Lexington when IBM gave him a two-year assignment in the Blue Grass. “Here we are, 42 years later,” he laughs.
And for over 40 of those years, the Hancocks and their Waymaker colleagues have presented music in a unique way. While the group delivers old classics and popular newer songs, the sound is distinctly different from the traditional trio- or quartet-style singing. It goes back to not long after the Hancocks accepted the IBM assignment and made Lexington’s Parkway Baptist their church home. “The minister of music wanted to start an ensemble,” Tony Hancock remembers. “Rhonda said, ‘Yes, I would be interested.’”
At first, the group sang exclusively at Parkway, but eventually expanded its ministry. Things have grown and times have changed but the focus is still on quality Christian music.
Originally, the ensemble utilized a pianist, but after she left the group, the group turned to tracks after Rhonda consulted with the music minister of her home church in Tennessee. “Those tracks were on reel-to-reel tapes,” Tony says. “I have still got my old reel-to-reel player. That morphed into cassette and then CDs and, of course, now you have the MP3.”
Regardless of the means to deliver accompaniment, The Waymakers experimented.
“We tried different styles. We tried to find out what works and what doesn’t,” Rhonda Hancock says.
One that works everywhere is “God Bless America.” The Waymakers admit they were not expecting the overwhelming response the first time they sang the only patriotic song in their repertoire. “We sang that song for the first time at an outdoor patriotic concert,” Tony Hancock recalls. “Everybody was on their feet and we thought, ‘Wow, this is good stuff!’”
The reaction was the same in 2018 when the group performed at the Gospel Music Showcase at the Kentucky State Fair. Several hundred people were in attendance and many just walking by the stage stopped. “We started playing the introduction to that song and everybody started standing up,” Tony says. “It brought tears to my eyes. It was an electric feeling, but it’s exciting.”
A few hours later, The Waymakers were named winners of the variety division in the showcase.
Even with the accolade, the group has no intention of going beyond its current ministry. For one thing, the Hancocks have been serving Hillcrest for 21 years. In addition to his pulpit duties, Rhonda serves as children’s director and is a member of the choir.
“Each of our members is happy in their church homes,” she says.
For the most part, concerts are limited to Sunday night services within driving distance from Lexington. While they have sung at gatherings as large as a convocation at the University of the Cumberlands, where Tony Hancock is a trustee, The Waymakers ask for nothing other than an opportunity to present the gospel.
“We want to give it to the churches for free,” Tony says. “If they want to give us an offering, they can give us an offering. That’s OK, but there is no talk about money at all. We have found that niche. The Southern Baptist Convention has thousands of churches but only a few megachurches. There are not a lot of big churches. There are a lot of churches with 100 people or less. That’s where the grass roots are.”
Hancock says he suspects the same numbers are true in most other evangelical denominations.
The Waymakers own their own sound system and produce their own CDs, offering them at $5 so that the music can minister long after the concert.
“Our interest is in bringing quality singing,” Tony Hancock says. “We don’t need the money. We like to do it just for the fun of it.”
And, we believe, for the ministry they provide.
For more information about The Waymakers, see http://www.waymakersoflexington.com.