Capital City Boys stay in tune with their musical roots

The Capital City Boys sing at Graefenburg Christian Church in July, 2019. From left are Alan Taylor, Kelly Briscoe, Josh Martin and Chris Woodyard. Taylor retired from the group last year and has been replaced by Jason Witten.

‘If they don’t like the old style Southern Gospel quartet style they would be bored with us’

By John Herndon,

The Capital City Boys have sung in many places and seen just about everything in over 20 years of performing gospel music. 

They’ve sung in small country churches and opened for nationally-known gospel artists. But they’ve never forgotten their roots.

They’ve sung in nearly every kind of church found in central Kentucky and have even had a stint working as a barbershop quartet. But they’ve never forgotten why they sing. 

They are enormously talented and could probably sing many more dates if they opened their calendar a bit more. But they’ve never forgotten their commitment to local ministry.

“It’s not about us,” says tenor Chris Woodyard, the only member of the quartet who has been there since it was formed in 2001. 

It’s all about ministry and the focus is on the message. 

“We don’t come to preach,” Woodyard says. “Music softens the soul for the Word of God. Nothing we do will ever replace the Word of God. The music helps relax the soul to listen to the Word of God.”

Capital City Boys tenor and founding member Chris Woodyard. (All photos by John or Stephanie Herndon)

And since January of 2001, that’s been the ministry of The Capital City Boys. The group has had some personnel changes over the years but the scope of its ministry is the same as the day Woodyard, Randy Luttrell and Alan Taylor formed a trio. The irony isn’t lost when Woodyard talks about the group’s sound in 2022.

“We have always told people that if they don’t like the old style Southern Gospel quartet style they would be bored with us,” Woodyard laughs. “The old stuff is what we like, the quartet style.”

That was actually the goal when the Boys first came together. “We wanted to be a quartet when we started but we didn’t have the fourth person,” Woodyard recalls. “We actually tried a female for a short time singing tenor.”

That didn’t produce the sound the group wanted, ending the experiment.

But within two years, the group connected with Martin, who was singing solo but had traveled with a group called 180 Degree Ministries. With the exception of when a family illness pulled him away for a few months in 2014, Martin has been there ever since, singing lead and playing bass guitar.

Keyboardist Kelly Briscoe, who also sings baritone, joined the Boys soon after while bass singer Jason Witten has been with the group about a year, replacing Taylor, who retired last September. 

Over the years, The Capital City Boys have recorded four studio albums and have appeared on a live compilation with The Noblemen and New Vision. All but one of the albums have been self-produced.

The work with The Noblemen comes natural as Martin’s father, David, is the longtime bass singer for the group and Josh has sung with the group on several occasions. 

“I come from a family of singers,” Josh Martin says. “My parents have been singing as long as I can remember..” 

The Bagdad resident was playing music at a very young age and started singing after he graduated from Shelby County High School.

Woodyard also has deep roots in southern gospel.

Capital City Boys lead singer and bass guitarist Josh Martin.

“I Have been singing since I was about 10 years old,” he says. “I sang in church and the church I grew up in was a big music church. It was a little country church, Canby Tabernacle in Owen County. They would have groups in there about once a month, the last Saturday of every month.”

And it was at Canby Tabernacle that Woodyard, an accomplished tenor, learned to harmonize. “My cousin played the piano and said, ‘You need to sing harmony and I am going to teach you how to do it. You can have any note but mine.’

“I said, ‘How will I know if I am on your note?’ She said, ‘You will know.’ So she would play and I would sing. If I hit her note, she would elbow me in the ribs.”

And those early days have shaped The Capital City Boys’ ministry years later. The music reflects the influence of traditional groups such as The Cathedrals, The Kingsmen and Gold City. 

Today, the Capital City Boys’ schedule will take them anywhere but  is heavy on rural churches. “Those little country churches are so open to this style of music.” Martin says. “Those older people remember those concerts from years ago and are wanting to introduce the younger people to this. A lot of those churches where we sing are these little country churches and we have a ball. They do, too. The Lord uses the music in those churches and those little churches are a great spot for us to do what we do.”

And the ministering can go two ways. 

The Capital City Boys never charge for a concert and any money the churches give is put back into the ministry. But the Boys are constantly reminded of God’s provision.

Capital City Boys baritone and keyboardist Kelly Briscoe.

“We had an interesting story from our first concert this year,” Woodyard says. “We were at a little church and while we were setting up, a piece of equipment that we have had for a while was acting up. It just quit. It wasn’t working. At the end of the concert, we knew we were going to need a new one. I told Josh, start looking tomorrow. You know what we need. See if you can find one.

“The next day, he sent me an email or a text and said it was going to be $500. I said, ‘That’s interesting. Our offering last night was exactly $500. 

“If they don’t mention it, we never ask for money. We never know what to expect. One thing that is never on our mind is offerings. The money is always there.

“None of us ever take any money out of this group. Every now and then, but very rarely, we will use it for gas money. Any money we receive goes toward equipment. We are close together and most of our bookings are close. If we can make it work, we make it work.”

However, The Capital City Boys never accept a Sunday morning booking. “When we started in 2001, one thing we did, we have never done a Sunday morning. We only do Sunday nights or a Saturday or another night,” says Woodyard, whose wife serves as pastor of Rockbridge United Methodist Church in Shelby County. “We are all busy in our own churches so we have never done Sunday mornings. We do a lot of weekends and a lot of Sunday nights, but we decided it was more important for us to be in our own churches on Sunday.”

The Capital City Boys typically schedule two appearances a month “because everybody’s busy,” Woodyard smiles.

It was through that involvement in the local church that the Capital City Boys might have secured their most unusual gig. While attending Frankfort’s First United Methodist Church, Woodyard connected with a choir director from Western Hills High School. “She called me and said they were putting on a play called ‘The Music Man.’ She said it has a barbershop quartet in it but she said, ‘We don’t have the male parts in our choir that can pull that off. Would you all come down and do this play with our high school kids?’

“We did it, but barbershop is a little different than what we do. So we were working on it and one night we had been working on it for about two-and-a-half hours and got maybe three lines. It was kicking our butt. 

“Kelly went home and listened to it and literally recorded it. He took each one of our parts and pecked it out (on his piano) and emailed it to us. We did it. That was a week long. We did five or six shows.”

But the focus of The Capital City Boys is very clear: Present the message of hope in Jesus Christ.

Woodyard smiles as he relates a story that took place 10 or 12 years ago in a Georgia nursing home where his wife’s aunt worked. “They were playing our CD at the nurse’s station. There was an old man in the nursing home and he started yelling, so they went to see what was wrong. He told them to be quiet, that they were making too much noise and he couldn’t hear the CD,” Woodyard says with a chuckle.

“A few days later she wasn’t working and they called to ask where the CD was. She said she had it with her and asked why. They said the old man was asking to listen to that music.and was actively dying and wanted to listen to our CD. So she brings it by. He was listening for one song. It was that Dottie Rambo song, ‘Sheltered in the Arms of God.’ When that song played, the old man died. He died listening to our CD.”

Woodyard paused, then took a deep breath.

“That’s why we do it.”

Capital City Boys to open for Old Paths at Sand Spring

The Capital City Boys will be returning to one of Kentucky’s premier gospel music stages on Thursday, September 15 as the open for Old Paths quartet. The concert begins at 7 p.m.

It is not the first national artist The Capital City Boys have shared the stage with. In their last appearance at Sand Spring, the Boys opened for Brian Free and Assurance in 2018. The Boys have also opened for Tribute Quartet and Aaron Wilburn in other venues.

The Capital City Boys are no strangers to Sand Spring, attending concerts both as fans and artists. “When they started having the concerts on New Year’s Eve, we were one of the first groups that did that,” Woodyard recalls. “We did that for three or four years.”

The Capital City Boys will be at Sand Spring Baptist Church Sept. 15, 2022.

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