By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
There was nothing extraordinary about Common Bond’s beginnings but over 12 years, the popular quartet has enjoyed a right that has been quite uncommon.
There were few big dreams 12 years ago when members of a worship team serving a church in Mt. Sterling, Ky., decided they were going to have a little fun with the music they love.
“The praise band decided it would sing some southern gospel. That was 12 years ago,” remembers Rick Melton, who put the quartet together.
There were no dreams about traveling the country or being on stage with some of the biggest names in the gospel music industry. It was just some musicians looking for a chance to sing some quartet music. There have been personnel changes over the years, leaving Melton and his wife, Karen, as the only original members still with the group, but the mission has never deviated from the simple goal of sharing the gospel through song.
We caught up with Rick Melton shortly before Common Bond sang at the annual New Year’s Eve concert at Lawrenceburg’s Sand Spring Baptist Church. He looked back at Common Bond’s growth and is optimistic about where the group is headed in 2022.
“I didn’t start this quartet until I was 52 years old. I didn’t intend for us to travel like we travel,” Melton smiles. “I just thought we would sing around the Lexington market every now and then. Then all of a sudden, we are getting calls to go to Canada, to Florida, to Virginia, to Oklahoma.”
And such has become the way of life for Common Bond, now based in the Ashland, Ky., area after a relocation several years ago. It is a quartet that doesn’t quite fit any of the stereotypical categories often associated with the genre.
Local? Not with the miles Common Bond puts on its bus. Regional? Perhaps. National? Possibly.
Melton chuckles when asked for an accurate picture of Common Bond’s scope.
“I don’t consider myself anything,” he says. “I don’t know what the difference is between national to regional. We get calls to travel all over the United States. I have been on airplanes and people come up and say, ‘Don’t you sing with a group?’ So we have some recognition.
“I just consider myself to be a minister of the gospel. I don’t know if we are national or regional. If we have a No.2 song or a No. 50 song, I really don’t care about all that.”
What is apparent when Common Bond takes the stage is a passion for sharing a message about Christ. And even though the quartet sometimes becomes a quintet when Melton’s wife, Karen joins in the singing, the style is distinctly Southern Gospel.
And the fans have responded, most recently with the single, “I’m Saved,” written by Randy Mobley. It was recently charting at No. 32 on Cash Box and No. 44 on Christian Voice and has been recognized by SGN Scoops and The Singing News.
But getting a song on the charts has never been the driving force behind Common Bond’s ministry. It’s all about ministering in churches whenever the door is opened.
“If I can get those songs on the radio and then a church calls me to sing for them, then that’s great,” Melton says. “Our preference is to go into churches where you can talk and make contact with people.
As with most traveling artists, that aspect of Common Bond’s ministry has suffered since COVID became a household word nearly two years ago. “Last year, we did about 60 dates, which is about half of what we normally do,” Melton says.
Like many artists, Common Bond took the time away from the road to record, working with their producer, Jason Clark of The Nelons. In fact, Common Bond worked on the vocals for the newest project the first week of 2022.
Melton is optimistic that 2022 will be on the uptick. “Things are picking up again,” he says. “We are going to Florida in March and April. We are going to Alabama at the end of (January). We are going to Oklahoma. We don’t have a lot (of dates) in this particular area for whatever reason. We get calls to go all over the United States, but not a lot of calls in the state of Kentucky or West Virginia or Ohio, which is kind of weird because that’s where all of us live. But we will just go wherever the door is opened.”
And when the door opens, the only category to define Common Bond is simply “Glorifying God.”
Just like it has always been.
A BUSY FEW YEARS FOR COMMON BOND
We had last seen Common Bond when the group performed with the late Jeff Stice at Sand Spring in 2017. Since then there have been many changes.
On stage, Rick Melton continues to sing lead and Karen Melton joins the group singing alto or high tenor for selected songs. However, the rest of the current lineup has come on board since then.
Tenor Lee McCarren of Blanchester, Ohio, baritone Bob Melford from Cincinnati, and bass Rick Towe, a retired pastor from Point Pleasant, W. Va., now make up the rest of Common Bond.
In addition, the Meltons have made some personal changes. Rick Melton has retired from his job as a statewide manager for Canon copiers and printers, enabling him to devote more time to the quartet’s ministry. In addition, the Melton family relocated from Winchester to the Ashland area which also moved the group’s headquarters.
“We have three grandsons who are really involved in sports programs,” Melton explains. “So we decided to move to Ashland and move our parents in with us to keep it close.”
In November 2019, Karen Tate Melton’s parents sold their hazelnut farm in Oregon and moved to Kentucky. Sadly, her father suffered a stroke two months later and passed away in February 2020.
Rick’s parents had already moved to Winchester from Middletown, Ohio, but his mother, now widowed, also moved to Ashland with Rick and Karen. Having two elderly mothers in their home has caused Common Bond to use caution in its scheduling during the COVID pandemic.
“Things are picking up but the new (Omicron) variant has slowed us down a bit,” Rick Melton says. “People are getting kind of nervous about it again. We sing right through it as much as we can.”