Old Time. Clappin’ time. Gospel time!

The Old Time Preachers Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church. From left are substitute bass Mike Keller, baritone Les Butler, tenor Tim Owens and lead Adam Borden.

Old Time Preachers Quartet lives its mission of preaching the timeless message of God’s Word

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – It was about halfway through a concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on April 28 when the Old Time Preachers Quartet truly lived up to its name.

The group’s co-founder, Les Butler, took his place at the church’s grand piano. The rest of the quartet, tenor Tim Owens, lead Adam Borden and fill-in bass Mike Keller joined in on an impromptu trip back in time, belting out some of the great gospel classics of the last 75-80 years.

Some glad morning when this life if o’er, I’ll fly away …

– Albert E. Brumley

Well, I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now

Gotta make it to Heaven somehow …

– Jimmie Davis, Charles Goodman

Old Time, indeed. Big time. Glorious time.

Clapping time. Smiling time. 

Old Time Preachers Quartet co-founder Les Butler sings during the quartet’s concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church. (All photos by John Herndon.)

And the crowd loved every note of the songs they’ve loved for decades but rarely hear in 2022

“Oh yeah,” Butler said after a post-concert stint at the OTPQ’s product table. “It’s unbelievable really. I thought (people missed the vintage songs) when Mike Holcomb and I started the Old Time Preachers Quartet a little over six years ago. When we met and talked about it, we both agreed, to use his word, we are dinosaurs.”

But the music carrying the old messages of the cross, the church and eternity with Christ has never become extinct. Endangered maybe, but never extinct. 

And the Old Time Preachers Quartet is more than happy to oblige with a concert that includes the gospel classics and making sure the Word of God is paramount. 

“We both agreed between our own personal schedules and our own personal preaching and singing, we felt what we were doing was like a dinosaur and we might do 25 dates a year or so,” Butler smiled.

That was in 2016. 

“Before COVID hit in 2020 and 2021, we had 120 dates on the books,” Butler said. “They keep bringing us back and saying, ‘Will you come back?’”

And the OTPQ keeps it coming with a sound that is straight from yesteryear and delivering the message captured in their hit, “What We Need” from their Long Live Old-Time Religion album of 2019. 

Fire in the pulpit, conviction in the pews, tears on the altar, the hand of God to move, love for the Bible, hatred of sin and saints who’ll live for Jesus, til Jesus comes again.

– Rebecca Peck

And Butler saw a need and an opportunity come to fruition when he launched the Real Southern Gospel Radio streaming station on Jan. 3. He said fans gave him the idea.

Adam Borden emphasizes a point by clutching a Bible during a song.

“They were talking about missing traditional Southern Gospel music, the traditional quartets, that they weren’t hearing as much of it on the radio anymore,” Butler explained. “They were missing it. They were saying, ‘We stopped going to singings. It’s not what we want to hear anymore. After about six years of that, God started dealing with me about that. So I started this thing called Real Southern Gospel and it has taken off like a rocket ship. 

“From what I have seen just since we started Real Southern Gospel Radio, the downloaded app numbers that we are seeing every day has not slowed down. And the thousands of listening hours that are just happening monthly from the downloads are just blowing us away.”

During the time spent preparing this article, the artists that were featured on the app included The Happy Goodmans, The Inspirations, The Chuck Wagon Gang, The Hoppers, The Florida Boys, The Statler Brothers, The Cathedrals and more.

And Butler smiles when talking about the number of young people showing up to hear the timeless message presented in the old fashioned way. 

Old Time Preachers Quartet tenor Tim Owens.

“You would be surprised. You would be surprised when we go places when we go sing, the number of young people that come up to me and say, ‘I love Real Southern Gospel Radio. Thank you.’”

Butler sees the crowds at Old Time Preachers’ Quartet events – they sometimes hold revival meetings complete with old time preaching in addition to their concerts – and the numbers Real Southern Gospel Radio delivers as a thirst for the truth of God’s Word. “That’s a very valid thing, especially in the days we are living in now,” he says. “It’s the most needed thing that we need in our lives. It’s the depth of God’s Word and the truth of God’s Word being preached to them or sung to them.”

Fire in the pulpit, conviction in the pews …

“We stand by that song,” Butler said. “We believe that if Americans did what that chorus says, if we did what we need in our world today, in our churches today, in our families today and wouldn’t pay attention to what Washington says and what Hollywood says we need but what God says in His Word, we can turn the world upside down.”

Mike Keller, a close friend of the Old Time Preachers Quartet, filled in at bass during the concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on April 28.

The Old Time Preachers Quartet is living that mission. Holcomb, the long-time bass singer with The Inspirations, co-founded the group with Butler, but has taken an extended leave to focus on his work as an evangelist. While COVID protocols kept many churches closed and limited many groups’ opportunities to sing, Holcomb’s calendar began filling with requests to preach the gospel.

In Holcomb’s absence, the OTPQ usually performs as a trio, but at Sand Spring, bass singer Mike Keller, a close friend of Butler’s, took the stage with the group. Usually, though, the group sings that quartet music as a trio.

And they stay busy. Each member of the Old Time Preachers Quartet has an evangelism ministry in addition to the group. 

(Borden experienced tragedy earlier this year when his wife, Angel, died of brain cancer. He’s returned to evangelism, traveling with his daughters, Abby and Addy, to preach and sing across America. “We strategically slowed down to deal with Angel’s death,” Butler says.)

The group schedule is becoming hectic again.

“We don’t have many dates we CAN do, but those dates that are open are filling up,” Butler says.

And his smile at that thought is as real as the message he sings.

Butler thankful to perform

Les Butler is mighty happy to be singing again after a battle with COVID-19.

Les Butler looks a bit thinner but otherwise there are few visible reminders of the intense battle he had with COVID-19 during one of the early spikes of the virus.

“I am doing much better,” he says. “I still get a little winded. My lungs are scarred but I’m not on oxygen anymore and I have good stamina.”

It all began when Butler contracted the virus in November 2020. His health quickly declined and there was a period of time when his survival was in serious question. He stayed on oxygen through March 2021.

On the stage, Butler says COVID’s effects still linger a bit. “I can’t hold notes quite as long as I used to but that’s coming back and it’s getting better,” he says. “My breathing is a little shallow. When you breathe shallow, it affects the tone a little when you are singing. But all of that is coming back. I am doing much better and will be fine.”

With the Old Time Preachers Quartet, Real Southern Gospel Radio and several other businesses, including the Butler Music Group, Butler stays busy. “I work 12- and 16-hour days,” he says. “God has been good to me. I have to be on a steroid inhaler, it looks like, the rest of my life. That helps me to climb stairs and carry heavy things. Without the inhaler, I can’t do that.

“But I am incredibly blessed and so glad to be here when they said I wouldn’t be. I am doing great! God has been good!”

The Old Time Preachers Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church, April 28, 2022.

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