Victory Road to host second hymn sing


Victory Road will be hosting its second Gospel Hymn Sing and Concert Friday at Spencer Christian Church in Fisherville, Ky. Members are, front row, from left: Larry Dennison, David Jones, David Stevens and Carroll Ingram. Back row: Tim Edwards, Freddie Sharp and Jerry Franklin.


By John Herndon,

The old hymns will be alive and well Friday night as Victory Road, a popular Southern Gospel music group, will be hosting its second annual Gospel Hymn Sing on Friday, Aug. 16. The hymn sing will be held at Spencer Christian Church, located at 5720 Taylorsville Road, Fisherville, and will get underway with well-known gospel pianist Jaydee Miller leading an instrumental concert at 6:30 p.m.

The Hymn Sing and concert get underway at 7 p.m. Continue reading “Victory Road to host second hymn sing”

After 43 years, Jay Stone Singers still about ministry


The Jay Stone Singers perform at Sand Spring Baptist Church on July 25. From left are Emma Carter, Sharona Stone Carter and Bobby Carter.

By John Herndon,

It’s all about ministry to The Jay Stone Singers.

The family harmony is superb and many of the lyrics are powerful when the veteran group takes the stage. There is very little showmanship and only a few jokes interspersed through their set opening for Greater Vision at Sand Spring Baptist Church on July 25.

But mostly it’s about ministry. Always has been. Always will be. Continue reading “After 43 years, Jay Stone Singers still about ministry”

An amazing testimony


Ann Downing sings at Cornerstone Church of The Nazarene in Frankfort, Ky., on July 28


Gospel legend Ann Downing is still spreading the message of God’s love and triumph

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Ann Downing took a microphone, looked over the small crowd of people who had come to hear one of gospel music’s true legends.

I stand amazed in the presence

Of Jesus the Nazarene

And wonder how he could love me

A sinner condemned, unclean.

How marvelous, How wonderful

And my song shall ever be

How marvelous, how wonderful

Is my Savior’s love for me!

–Charles H. Gabriel Continue reading “An amazing testimony”

‘God is the beginning of everything’


Dennis Parker, right, sings harmony for Ricky Skaggs at Renfro Valley.

‘Kentucky Thunder guitarist Dennis Parker is happy with the victory he’s been given through Jesus

Second of two parts.

By John Herndon,

RENFRO VALLEY, Ky. — Dennis Parker knows he’s seeing faith in action every time he takes the stage as a member of Ricky Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder.

“He only gets better,” Parker says of Skaggs, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018. “Since the time I have been with him, he’s grown and that extends from his relationship with the Lord. God has done a real work in his life and if we allow Him, He will work in ours.”

Parker knows quite a bit about God working. In the previous article of this two-part series, Dennis recounted his battle with alcoholism that ended with him in jail after a fifth DUI conviction. While in jail, a friend shared that God still loved him and Dennis was where he needed to be.

“I thought that was the biggest nonsense I have ever heard in my life,” Dennis said. But after starting to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in jail, Dennis’ life began to change and God changed him spiritually and physically. Now, Dennis shares his story whenever he can.

“He’s got a great testimony,” Skaggs said to me during a post-concert meet-and-greet at Renfro Valley on July 20.


Dennis Parker mans the mandolin and sings background vocals for Ricky Skaggs at Renfro Valley on July 20.

Indeed. And Parker knows he’s fortunate to be around Skaggs. In fact, it might have been a coincidence, but most likely it was God working. ““The truth is, he had no idea about the mess I had gotten into,” Parker said in part one of this series. “I was coming out of an AA meeting and getting on a bicycle when I got a text from him in 2015. I hadn’t talked to him in about 20 years.  I had tried to get in touch with him a few months after I had gotten sober.”

Parker had played in Skaggs’ band before, but when Skaggs committed to playing bluegrass in the late 1990s, Parker ventured to the country realm. Now he’s back with probably the most recognized bluegrass musician on the planet.

“I was raised up playing bluegrass,” Parker says with a smile, “but it’s not necessarily my bigger forte. I was into James Taylor, you know, the singer-songwriter thing. I guess it shows God has a sense of humor.”


Dennis Parker, back, has a big smile as Kentucky Thunder members Mike Barnett, on the fiddle, and Jake Workman perform at Renfro Valley. “This group of guys is incredibly versatile,” Dennis says.

Parker has played in small venues and he’s played with some symphony orchestras as Skaggs has been involved in several projects to combine the styles and take bluegrass to the masses. “To hear a whole symphony behind you, playing this intricate bluegrass, is just something,” he says. “This group of guys (in Kentucky Thunder) is incredibly versatile.”

Parker, who plays guitar, mandolin and fiddle and also sings harmony vocals for Kentucky Thunder, says that is a reflection of his boss. “Ricky is one of those guys who is multifaceted. He’s not only a great instrumentalist, he’s also an unbelievable arranger and he’s a great band leader. … He’s got a cool presence about him because he knows what he wants and he knows what he likes. He listens for everything and he expects it to be there, but he’s not in any way not nice to you.

“He’s the total package and there ain’t many of them around like that.”

Parke says working with Ricky Skaggs is, in a way, like being in a ministry. “He’s a beautiful human being. Every show we play, he goes out front and signs autographs after the show. As long as people will be here, he will stay.”

That was apparent at Renfro Valley when a large group waited to have Skaggs sign CDs, mandolins, tickets or anything else. A young man told Skaggs his name was Silas. “Have you been in prison with Paul,” Skaggs grinned as he was talking with the young man about pursuing dreams and being serious about school work and letting God lead his life.


Ricky Skaggs sings with Dennis Parker on the background vocals.

“It’s become like a ministry to him,” Parker says. “I remember walking out there one time and there was a lady out there in a wheelchair. Ricky had his hands on her and was praying for her.

“I have seen prayer meetings at The Opry. Christ really is first and foremost and that’s the way it should be.”

A typical Ricky Skaggs concert will continue a large number of gospel songs and the star freely talks about his faith. “Ricky has gotten so much glory but it’s because he’s given his life to the Lord,” Parker says. “I think it’s a beautiful thing, man. It’s a real testimony of what God calls us to do. I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of what God did in my life.”

When he’s not on the road, Parker often presents his story and some music at local churches. After all, he can’t hold in what God has done in his life.

“Jesus is real. He’s alive! He has done a work in me. How can you not be fanatical about that?” he asks.

But Dennis has a bit of self-deprecating humor and laughs at his verbosity. “That’s why I get in some trouble when I go into churches,” he says. “I have songs I want to sing, then all this talking in the middle.

“It doesn’t matter about the numbers. The message is the same if there’s 10 people there or 10 thousand. I’d like to see more people come out and see what God is doing but the day we live in is so distracted.”

And Dennis Parker is ecstatic about the victory he has claimed through Jesus.

“I remember in jail one time that I knew I would have to do something (to address his alcoholism), so I thought I would switch over to weed,” he says with a look of amazement. “The devil will use those things to tear your witness away and destroy your life. He doesn’t want to defeat you just a little bit. He wants to kill you.”

Now, Dennis Parker knows God has made him into something new.

He’s asked if he has a favorite verse of scripture.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” he smiles. “It makes you realize God is the beginning of everything. If you don’t believe that, you don’t believe anything.”dsc_0580.jpg

Just give him Jesus!


Dennis Parker, right, takes the lead on “Carolina in My Mind” as country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs sings harmony at Renfro Valley on July 20.

Dennis Parker had big-name gigs and a Grammy to boot, but found real joy when he had nothing but God’s love

By John Herndon,

First of two parts.

RENFRO VALLEY, Ky. — In a few hours, Dennis Parker would be delivering some driving rhythm guitar for group aptly named, “Kentucky Thunder.”

The group would accompany Country Music and Bluegrass Music Hall of Famer Ricky Skaggs and  bring the house down with standards like “Uncle Pen,” “Rawhide,” and “Pig in a Pen,” each of which could elevate the heartbeat enough to qualify as aerobic exercise.

But in a dressing room backstage, Parker reflected on a life that has taken him to the heights of country music with a Grammy Award and performing in sold out arenas across the nation. It’s a life that has also seen him homeless and struggling with alcoholism that eventually put him in jail on five different occasions.

He’s asked if he has a favorite song. Continue reading “Just give him Jesus!”

New Speer Family striving to Let the Songs Go On again


The New Speer Family performed at Sand Spring Baptist Church in May. The group got together in 2018 as Brian Speer wanted to keep the songs of his legendary family going. From left are Brian Speer, Allison Speer, Ben Waites and Mike Allen.

(NOTE: This article, by John Herndon, originally appeared in the June edition of SGN Scoops magazine.)

By John Herndon,

Brian Speer just knew he needed to get back on stage.

It didn’t matter that it had been 36 years since he stopped traveling with his legendary family. It didn’t matter that he really didn’t know what direction he would take or who would sing with him. He just knew he needed to keep The Speer Family legacy alive.

“After all of Brian’s people were gone, he woke up one day and said, ‘I think we need to do a quartet,’” Brian’s wife, Allison Speer, says. “It shocked me! We had never talked about it and had never discussed it.” Continue reading “New Speer Family striving to Let the Songs Go On again”

Back where they started

Noblemen cropped

The Noblemen Quartet sings at David’s Fork Baptist Church on July 11.

Nearly 50 years after first coming together, The Noblemen Quartet is happy singing old style gospel music

By John Herndon,

LEXINGTON, Ky. — After nearly 50 years, The Noblemen Quartet is back where it started.

And the group, or its fans, could not be happier.

“We are having a lot of fun right now,” says bass singer Dan Clark, one of the quartet’s founding members. “These guys love to sing. They are all great Christian men and we really try to uplift Jesus Christ. We are not entertainers. We are just singers and try to sing for God.” Continue reading “Back where they started”