Living the music

Triumphant Quartet’s Clayton Inman sings “Eye of the Storm” during the group’s concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on June 17, 2021.

Triumphant Quartet’s Clayton Inman reflects on The Goodness of God seen in The Eye of the Storm. He really is Bigger than Sunday.

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — Only a few moments before, Clayton Inman had a near-capacity crowd at Sand Spring Baptist Church howling with laughter. 

He’d danced and gyrated while waving a handkerchief in what every fan of Triumphant Quartet knows as one of his signature concert moments, his performance of “White Flag.”1 It’s one of those moments that prompts Triumphant bass singer and program emcee, Eric Bennett, to make some jokes about people not judging the rest of the group by Inman’s hilarious performance.

Clayton Inman delivers a fan favorite, “White Flag,” near the end of Triumphant Quartet’s concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church. (All photos by John Herndon)

The crowd knows it’s coming and can’t help but laugh in anticipation.

But after Triumphant had completed its annual concert with His Heart Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church, Inman was reflective about the group’s growing commitment to ministry and how it has literally lived its songs over the last 16 months.

Have they really seen that God is in control “In the Eye of the Storm?” Are they eager to truly sing of “The Goodness of God?”  The songs are favorites from Triumphant’s last two CDs.

“We do sing those songs continuously and they are encouragement in your storm and He’s always been good to us,” Inman said. 

The questions — and the groupt’s awareness of the lyrics they were singing — became even more focused after what Triumphant Quartet experienced during the early morning hours of May 8. 

The group was heading for a concert date in Wisconsin, when nearing Rockford, Illinois on Interstate 39, driver Jamie Bramlett noticed the bus was overheating. He pulled off the road, saw the bus was on fire and awakened the four singers and sound engineer Adam Bradford. The bus and some of Triumphant’s merchandise was destroyed, but what could have been a disaster was averted.

“We are grateful that our bus driver was alert in that he saw it wasn’t going to get any better back there in the engine and he rushed on the bus and warned us to get out,” Inman recalled. “What some folks don’t know is that we all got off the bus and were standing on a hill. Minutes after we got off, we watched the bus explode, blowing everything forward so much that it blew the windshield out.

Fans join Clayton Inman in waving their White Flags at Sand Spring Baptist Church.

“It could have been a lot worse but God’s grace was on us.”

He really had been in control in the eye of Triumphant’s storm and as the group posted on Facebook that morning, “‘in spite of it all, we praise the Lord for His hand of safety and provision.  ‘All my life You have been faithful, all my life You have been so so good. With every breath that I am able. I will sing of Goodness of God.’”

And, again, Triumphant had a front-row seat to God’s care and provision. For more than a year, Covid-19 had erased numerous concert dates and severely limited many crowds when the quartet was able to get on stage. Then, just when restrictions were slowly being lifted, the means of transportation and home-away-from-home were gone in a matter of minutes. 

“We find ourselves living (those songs),” Inman smiled. “We find it true in everything we do. Sometimes when something great has been taken away or something traumatic might happen, He always shows up later with something bigger, better or greater. We don’t see it at the time. Then we look back and we think, ‘Wow!’”

It’s more than just a statement that God is good or that God works. It’s life.

“It takes it to another level because we are living it,” Inman said with a bigger smile. “What I love is that no one was ever up in arms the whole time.”

Triumphant Quartet performs “Sing Hallelujah” from the Bigger Than Sunday album. From left are David Sutton, Clayton Inman, Scotty Inman and Eric Bennett.

On the Sand Spring stage, Triumphant delivered a string of hits interspersed with some of the cuts from the quartet’s latest CD, “Bigger than Sunday.” And it was apparent the singers — Inman, his son Scotty, Bennett and tenor David Sutton — are energized with a passion for music and, most of all, ministry. 

Inman beamed and agreed when asked about a stronger gravitation toward more of a ministry mindset. “We have evolved over time. And I say that because we were in a theatre for our first three or four years. Actually, it was five,” Inman recalled of the group’s origin in the Louise Mandrell Theatre. “Being in a theatre, there had to be an element of entertainment because people were buying tickets to see entertainment on stage in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There were other theatres there and you had to see how you stacked up against the competition.

“So we carried a little of that over into our road trips. And when we left the stage and went on the road full time, we carried that with us a little bit that element of entertainment, and that’s OK. If you are going to be entertained, why not Christian entertainment?”

Clayton Inman singing “Eye of the Storm.”

But somewhere along the line, it became apparent that ministry was playing an even bigger role in the quartet’s work. Songs became an even deeper blend of biblical theology and every day living. The change might have been gradual and subtle but Inman says the push to ministry has become even more pronounced recently. 

“We have changed even more in the last two-and-a-half years. I have changed more and I believe it is because we have been part of planting a church,” he says of Connect Church in Sevierville, Tennessee. “I have never been part of that before and the vision and mission of the pastor has changed our whole outlook on ministry. I think it bled over into our group.”

Clayton and Sutton serve as deacons at Connect Church while Bennett serves as an elder there. Scotty Inman was also part of the Connect plant but has moved to Kentucky to help plant another church.

The passion is real. Clayton noted that Triumphant would be performing at the Memphis Quartet Show on Saturday night and would then be driving all night to return home so the Bennett could preach in the pastor’s absence Sunday. (A video of that Father’s Day service and the sermon from Exodus 20 can be seen here.)

“I think being part of something that was way larger than what we are as a group changed our hearts and minds and our scope of what we were doing out there,” Clayton explained.

And it has been reflected in the music. 

“Yes” featured a cover of The Newsboys’ “We Believe,” listing some basic theological points and how they relate to life. The latest CD includes a cut, “Don’t Miss Jesus,” written by Scotty Inman, Michael Ferren and Tony Wood, that warns not to get caught up in little things so much that he misses a life with Jesus. 

Clayton Inman.

The songs provide real meat in the sweet sounds of a group that has been voted The Singing News Fan Favorite quartet every year since 2009. And, Inman says, the desire is to give lasting nourishment.

“We do not want to record anything that is not biblically based,” he said.

And right now, Triumphant is living proof that God really is at work. The Sand Spring concert was but a small reminder that God has brought the quartet and many of its fans through the scare of the Covid pandemic. “This concert was canceled, I think, eight times,” Scotty Inman deadpanned during the show. It was really just four, but the big crowd wasn’t counting. 

But the events of May 8 brought something already great into even sharper focus for Triumphant Quartet.

“We had even attitudes because we knew something great had to be coming because of what happened,” Clayton Inman said of the bus fire. “We don’t know that greater looks like, but He does, so we left there encouraged because we thought, ‘Man, this happened and we don’t know why it happened but He’s always faithful to show us something even better. And I can be an encouragement to somebody who is listening to us. 

“You might be going through a troubled or traumatic time where you don’t feel light at the end of the tunnel, but you know, He is very much aware of what’s going on and what’s coming next is going to be bigger, better and greater than you ever expected.”

After all, as Triumphant Quartet’s latest album says, God is “Bigger than Sunday.” 

1The performance linked to his article is from a Gaither Homecoming video, posted on YouTube, and was not filmed at Sand Spring Baptist Church. Because of copyright considerations, KentuckySings does not knowingly publish non-approved material. 

Triumphant Quartet singing its most recent single, “He Walked Out.”

Bringing joy, receiving joy

Bryan Elliott, a favorite of gospel music fans, performs with The LeFevre Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, Ky., on May 13, 2021.

LeFevre Quartet pianist Bryan Elliott reflects on lessons learned and lived through pandemic. And he’s mighty happy to be back on the road

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — When he sat down at his keyboard Thursday night, Bryan Elliott showed that nearly a year off the road had not affected his very talented hands.

He can still make his keyboard talk.

OK, not quite, but it just seemed that way at times as he accented The LeFevre Quartet or brought the house down with rousing solo work. Elliott played everything from old-fashioned Southern Gospel to classical Christian and a lot in between. And his demeanor ranged from laser-like focus to hamming it up for a camera — mine!

It was more than 90 minutes of joy as The LeFevre Quartet opened the Sand Spring Baptist Church gospel concert series. 

Continue reading “Bringing joy, receiving joy”

A nice problem to have

From left, Greater Vision’s Chris Allman, Jim Brady and the Mark Trammell Quartet’s Nick Trammell and Randy Byrd form a makeshift quartet in the Gerald Wolfe Hymn Sing at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring in October. The concert was a huge blessing during a year marked by chaos. (Photo by John Herndon)

After 14 months of a nearly blank calendar, things are changing. And it’s for the good!

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

I have a little problem.

Actually, it’s a nice problem and one that’s been too long coming, so I’ll certainly not complain! I’m just itching to get to a few gospel concerts.

I don’t know about you, but being able to hear people sing about the Lord, His goodness and being inspired to serve Him better is a big part of my life. And it seems that with all that has happened since March 5, 2020, a major part of my life was taken from me.

The Old Time Preachers Quartet performs in concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on March 5, 2020. A week later, the music industry came screeching to a halt. (Photo by John Herndon)

Now, I don’t really know what to do.

You see, when I look at the KentuckySings concert calendar, I see many more concerts than I can possibly attend. 

And that’s a good thing!

Last March 5, I was blessed to attend a concert by the Old Time Preachers Quartet and Beyond Grace at Sand Spring Baptist Church.  That night, I talked with OTPQ members Les Butler and Mike Holcomb about the concert, their ministry and plans.

Little did any of us know what the next 14 months would bring.

Continue reading “A nice problem to have”

‘Praise Him anyway!’

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Deanna Boone and her son, Matthew Armstrong, came together to form Beyond Grace last year. The duo is turning heads in Kentucky gospel concerts. (Photo furnished)

Beyond Grace turning heads with simple message of victory through Christ

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

Deanna Boone’s formula for a happy life is very simple: Praise God in everything and have fun doing so.

And when Boone and her son, Matthew Armstrong, take the stage as Beyond Grace, it’s obvious that the duo is having a ball while praising God.

“As my mamaw always said, ‘Praise Him anyway!” Boone says with an enthusiasm that girds every song Beyond Grace sings. “Regardless of what you are going through, praise Him!” Continue reading “‘Praise Him anyway!’”

Staying true to their calling

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The Old Time Preachers Quartet sings at Sand Spring Baptist Church on March 5, 2020.

Old Time Preachers Quartet focused on ministry, regardless of  the situation

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

When we sat down to talk that night in early March, it’s doubtful that Les Butler, Mike Holcomb or I had any inkling of the significance of what was intended to be an interview about the ministry of the Old Time Preachers Quartet.

We met at the group’s product table about 30 minutes before the group was to take the stage at Sand Spring Baptist Church near Lawrenceburg, Ky. A big crowd would be on hand as the Old Time Preachers were opening the 2020 season of the church’s popular concert series.

As we brought the discussion to a close, I mentioned to both that due to some personal business and the fact that I anticipated being quite busy working quite a bit of high school basketball tournament action in the coming days and weeks, it might be a couple of weeks before I posted the interview. Life quickly changed and the interview was a piece that was never published.

A few minutes after we ended the chat, the Old Time Preachers Quartet brought the house down with a concert that included a mix of familiar old songs and new tunes. And true to the group’s name, there was a challenge to make Christ the Lord of one’s life.

Life has sure changed since March 5. The COVID-19 crisis has sent just about everyone home, including the Old Time Preachers Quartet and this writer. In a follow-up, I asked Butler when the quartet’s last performance as a group had been.

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Les Butler sings during a concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church in 2019. (All photos by John Herndon)

“Well, actually, it was at Sand Spring, the night we did your initial interview,” Butler wrote in an email.

But the ministry has not stopped as Butler, Holcomb, Tim Owens and Adam Borden have continued to uplift in any way possible, including social media.

It’s just in the DNA of the Old Time Preachers Quartet. “All four of us preach. All four of us sing,” Butler said when we first talked. “We travel together as a quartet then all four of us have our own evangelistic efforts.”

The group does not have a bus, opting to converge on venues like Sand Spring directly from preaching opportunities and then scattering to spread the gospel again. Butler had been in West Virginia the day before at a church he says was “literally five miles up a little one lane road in a holler….It was full every night. A hundred people every night. They came and wanted to worship.”

Owens and Borden had come from Tennessee while Holcomb had been in Georgia, then drove to central Kentucky and was planning to head south to Florida and Georgia the following week. “It’s just us. It’s what we do and our calling in life,” he said.

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Bass singer Mike Holcomb makes a point during a song in the Old Time Preachers Quartet concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on March 5.

Holcomb did quite a bit of preaching during his 41 years with The Inspirations, a tenure that saw him become one of gospel music’s most beloved bass singers.

“I was 24 years old,” he says of the time he answered a call to preach. “We are called to preach first. We are given an opportunity to sing. The gospel with music added to it puts wheels on it and puts us in places where people would never listen to a preacher but will come to a concert or a place where a group is singing. If you get the opportunity for them to listen to you live, then you’ve got their attention. So this is ministry for us, trying to reach hearts and lives for Him.”

The quartet relishes opportunities to combine music and preaching. “What we really like to do is a church will book us to hold a revival and sing,” Butler said. “I might preach one night and the quartet sings. Then Mike Holcomb might preach the next night and the quartet sings. The next night, Tim might preach and the quartet sings. And the next night, Adam preaches and the quartet sings. It just depends on the situation.”

Butler says that of the group, only Owens, who sings tenor, has any seminary training but, “I think I can speak for the other guys that we wish we had more, but when God called us, we just started hitting it right there.”

Holcomb smiled, saying his training was from “the school of hard knocks” and that most of what he knows has come from “listening and letting God speak to my heart.”
Sharing the gospel from the heart is the group’s mission and has endeared the Old Time Preachers Quartet to gospel fans across the nation. An evening or a week with the OTPQ offers a respite from the pressures of the world and brings one to face the reality of Jesus and salvation through him.

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Tim Owens (left) and Adam Borden put their emotions into a song during the Old Time Preachers Quartet concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on March 5.

“We hope that when they come to us, we give them some refreshment, that we give them some water,” Butler said. “That is one of our goals. Our main goal, of course, is to go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in, sinners and saints alike. When they get there, give them Jesus and then Jesus will take care of the rest. If they need saving, he can save them. If they need uplifting, then He can uplift them.”

When the world started shutting down the following week, the Old Time Preachers Quartet’s mission might have become greater.

“I believe I am speaking for every member of the quartet when I say we are excited to see how God is going to take care of his children,” Butler said in the followup on March 31. “And, based on the authority of God’s Word, He IS going to take care of his children. So we feel strongly that we are going to have a testimony unlike any testimony we’ve had in times past. This is a serious and disconcerting time for sure, but it’s time we put into practice what we sing and preach about every week. Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread (KJV).”

Like every other musical artist, regardless of genre, the life the OTPQ knew has come to a halt. There are no concerts. There are no preaching engagements. There is nothing happening and that also means little to no income.

“I don’t say this flippantly, but all we can do is pray,” Butler said in his email. “All of our concerts and services have been shut down for the past three weeks and for the next two months or more. Singing and preaching makes up the overwhelming majority of the income for our four group members. Adam has some side things, as do I. However, speaking for myself, 90 percent of my businesses (Butler Music Group and Family Music Group) are shut down. All of the artists I work with are in the same boat as us: Out of business, for now. So I’ve come full circle. I go back to my first comment: We are praying.”

Like many other artists, Butler is also finding out that venues are often hesitant to reschedule, opting for a “wait-and-see” approach to the coronavirus crisis.
But even with no public appearances, the ministry opportunities abound.

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Les Butler on the keyboard at Sand Spring Baptist on March 5. He says all anyone can do during the COVID-19 crisis is pray. 

“We have never seen businesses and churches shut down on a national and international level like this before,” Butler said. “We’ve never been ordered to not leave our homes. This is uncharted territory for sure. However, I see the hand of God at work here on many levels. Ministry continues. I know my home church, Middle Tennessee Baptist, has been doing Facebook Live services with our pastor and a small group of preachers and singers (less than 10). And, there has been great liberty in every single service. We have preached and sung like there’s a thousand people in attendance. This virus hasn’t stopped the hand of God moving on His people! So until we get back together in service again, let’s continue to push social media, using it for good, getting the message of the gospel to a lost and dying world!”

Butler has begun hosting a Facebook Live show from his home on an almost nightly basis, drawing on his 42 years in the gospel music business to share humor, interesting stories, interviews and more. “I have enough Southern Gospel memorabilia to start my own museum,” Butler said. “Sometime during the day or night, I go live with a piece of memorabilia and talk about it. I also play a song from my vast vinyl collection that ties into that piece.

“This has been a ton of fun. I always end each segment by tying in the Word of God with the song I play or the piece of memorabilia. I am trying hard to turn it into a ministry tool. It’s a different bent, but I believe God is going to use it.”

It’s what the Old Time Preachers Quartet is about.

And that connection to what Butler had said as we wrapped up our interview on March 5 can only be described as God at work. “In today’s world, with what we see in the news and what we experience ourselves, it’s easy to get beaten down badly,” Butler had said. “We have to get ourselves up out of the ashes and follow the Lord.”

Life is good for Steve Ladd

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Steve Ladd is all smiles as he sings with The Old Paths Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church on Dec. 31.

First year with The Old Paths Quartet has been a time of recharging

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

When we last talked with Steve Ladd, he was taking a definitive step in his career path. It was back on Dec. 31, 2018, following what had become somewhat of a traditional solo concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church, near Lawrenceburg, Ky. He’d appeared at Sand Spring several times for the church’s New Year’s Eve celebration of bringing in the new year with gospel music.

In 2018, Ladd had shared the stage with Jim and Melissa Brady, but that night marked a major shift for Ladd. After 10 years as a traveling soloist, Ladd was shifting to full-time travel with The Old Paths quartet.

We caught up with Ladd again on New Year’s Eve for the same event a year later. Continue reading “Life is good for Steve Ladd”

No tears, just worship

 

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The McKameys perform during their concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church, Nov. 14, 2019. From left are Roger Fortner, Peg McKamey Bean, Eli Fortner, Sheryl Farris, Connie Fortner and Ruben Bean.

In final concerts of illustrious career, McKameys remain focused on praising God

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

I expected to shed a few tears when I went to see The McKameys Thursday night.

Unless you have been totally cut off from the gospel music world, you know that The McKameys, one of the most popular groups to ever share the gospel in song, will be retiring after a concert in Knoxville, Tenn., on Nov. 23. (Ticket information for that final concert can be found at https://paulbelcherconcerts.com.) Continue reading “No tears, just worship”

A talk with Greater Vision’s Rodney Griffin

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Rodney Griffin draws a laugh during his remarks at Gerald Wolfe’s induction into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame on Sept. 24. From left are Donna Wolfe, Gerald Wolfe; Joseph Habedank, Griffin, Scott Fowler of Legacy Five (behind Griffin) and Jon Epley.

Somerset native reflects on career, explains one of newest songs

By John Herndon, Kentucky Sings.com

It was fitting that Rodney Griffin was chosen as one of the speakers during the portion of the ceremony when Gerald Wolfe was officially inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame last week.

And it wasn’t surprising that Griffin punctuated his talk with some tears as he talked about his friend, mentor and, yes, boss with Greater Vision for the last 26 years.

“I cry very easily,” Griffin smiled as we talked shortly after the ceremony at the National Quartet Convention. “I always have, especially when I am talking about something so dear to me as a friendship. Gerald and his family were standing right there behind me, so it got to me and I got emotional.” Continue reading “A talk with Greater Vision’s Rodney Griffin”

After 43 years, Jay Stone Singers still about ministry

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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, KentuckySings.com

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”

New Speer Family striving to Let the Songs Go On again

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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, KentuckySings.com

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”