Mike Holcomb leaves The Inspirations

Yesterday afternoon, The Inspirations announced that long-time bass singer Mike Holcomb has left the group.

Folks, we have an announcement to make. Today, October 1st, Mike Holcomb has announced that he is resigning from The Inspirations. Mike has been singing bass for 42 years with us, and is one of the greatest bass singers to ever step on the stage. However, not only is Mike an incredible singer, but he is an amazing preachers as well! He feels that it is time for him to begin a “new season” in his life, and will be hitting the road full time in preaching and singing evangelism. We know God will use he, and his sweet wife Bavaria, in a tremendous way, but we are devastated to lose him. We love Mike and Bavaria dearly.

If you would like to book Mike Holcomb at your church, conference, or camp meeting (and we HIGHLY recommend that you do) here is his contact info: Mike and Bavaria Holcomb / “Heart’s Desire Ministries” / PO Box 1007 / Bryson City, NC 28713 / (828) 488-2025 / heartsdesiremin@frontier.com

God bless you all, and keep us all in your prayers.

For decades, Holcomb and long-time tenor Archie Watkins were the vocal anchors of the group’s sound. Add in any lead singer and baritone, but keep Watkins and Holcomb in the mix, and it was still The Inspirations. Since Watkins’ departure, Holcomb has anchored the group’s sound.

It is a bittersweet moment for many of us who have observed The Inspirations for years. Holcomb’s heart for preaching—and skill at preaching—has been unmistakable for years. While we hoped Holcomb would stay on stage until the group sang its final notes and retired, I think we all knew, deep down, that there was a chance this day would come.

The preaching circuit has gained a great preacher, but the Southern Gospel quartet circuit has lost one of its finest bass singers.

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Chip Pullen replaces Jerry Pelfrey with Gold City

Gold City has announced that lead singer Jerry Pelfrey will be leaving the group in two weeks. His final day with Gold City will be Wednesday, October 16th. He will be reorganizing his family group, The Pelfreys. The new Pelfreys lineup will feature Jerry; his wife, Mikki Pelfrey; and his sister, Kim Pelfrey Van Hoozier.

Gold City manager Danny Riley commented: “Anyone who has heard Jerry sing knows he has been a great addition to Gold City vocally and behind the scenes as well. We could make this a sad occasion over losing a valued team member, but in reality, no one knows more the importance of traveling with family than my father (Tim Riley) and I. We respect Jerry for taking this opportunity to be with his family at this time in their lives. Gold City asks that you join us in praying for the Pelfreys that God would bless their ministry and allow them to do His work for many years to come.”

Jerry Pelfrey added: “I will be honest. I am scared to death, but ever since the song Lord of Life, I have had a burden to personally be more specific in asking people who Jesus is to them. Once I made the decision with my family to re-establish The Pelfreys, I have had a peace about it. We covet your prayers as we step out in faith to launch this new ministry.”

Gold City has hired Chip Pullen as their new lead singer; most recently, he sang with the Anchormen.

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George Amon Webster passes away

George Amon Webster, baritone for The Cathedrals for a decade (1969-1979), passed away last night. He had been battling cancer, strokes, and other health issues for several years. Due to declining health, he was in hospice for the last few months.

News of his passing was confirmed on social media by several fellow alumni from his years with the Cathedrals and with his own group, the Heartland Boys, in the 1990s. Tributes included:

  • Mark Trammell: “The first time I saw The Cathedral Quartet in person, George Amon Webster was the baritone/bass player. I was 13 years old. Just a few years later I was standing in his place. Amon was a dear friend and always treated me like I was somebody. I will always cherish his friendship and kindness. Rest in peace my friend.”
  • Bryan Hutson: “Just got word that my old singing buddy from “The Heartland Boys”; George Amon Webster passed away about 8:30pm tonight. George, Roy Tremble and Brent Fredricks gave me my first professional singing job. Amon has been battling cancer for several years.. Tonight he’s not suffering and is in the arms of Jesus.. Love ya George.”
  • Stuart Cary: “Just received the news of George Amon Webster’s passing. George was a member of the famed Cathedrals during the 1970′s, then managed the Heartland Boys for a number of years. I will forever appreciate George for taking a chance on a twenty year old bass singer. I had the privilege to sing with him for a year, he was a great mentor and friend. Please remember his family in prayer.”

Webster was one of the longest-running Cathedral Quartet members. George Younce and Glen Payne, of course, were founding members and remained there for the group’s entire run. Roger Bennett was with the group eighteen years, Mark Trammell ten and a half, and George Amon Webster ten. Since the Cathedrals became the biggest group in Southern Gospel in around 1981, this means that Webster was, until yesterday, the longest-serving member still living from the lean years.

Here’s a video of George Amon Webster singing and sharing the story behind his signature song, “He Loves Me.”

UPDATE, 9/30/13: Tim Webster, George’s son, posted:

We will be having a memorial service for my dad, George Amon Webster, at 11am on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at Colonial Hills Baptist Church 5375 W Mount Morris Rd. in Mount Morris, MI. My Uncle Dannie is also planning on having a service in Daytona Beach, FL. When I get all of that information I will post it.

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and condolences. Our family appreciates it more than we could ever say.

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Saturday News Roundup #190

Worth Knowing

  • Former Gold City tenor singer Jay Parrack had an unspecified health scare about a week ago. His former Gold City colleague Jonathan Wilburn posted on Tuesday that Parrack received an all-clear from his doctor.
  • Here’s an extensive update from Libbi Perry Stuffle on an odd doctor’s visit on the road to her husband Tracy’s ongoing stroke recovery.
  • Here’s an update from Soul’d Out bass singer Ian Owens on his wife Megan’s recovery.
  • After three months of rehab from a fall that broke her tailbone, Carolyn Reese has returned home. Reese is married to Kingsmen bass singer Ray Dean Reese.
  • The annual IBMA awards, honoring the best in Bluegrass, were handed out on Friday. Here’s a list. Perhaps the award of most interest to Southern Gospel fans will fall into the “better late than never” department: Beulah Land, as recorded by Marty Raybon, won Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year. Yes, it’s the same Squire Parsons song that our genre figured out was Song of the Year material thirty-two years ago. :)

Worth Watching

Here’s a recent video of former Cathedrals tenor Roy Tremble, singing solo:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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NQC announces live stream viewership

Yesterday, the National Quartet Convention issued a press release announcing the live-stream viewership for their Free Friday broadcast. They have had a paid live video streaming broadcast for several years; this year was the first year they made a day available for free. The broadcast was a runaway success:

The NQC has offered the Webcast for several years now; however, in celebration of the final year in Louisville, the NQC made the Friday webcast available to the public for free. NQC Free Friday far exceeded expectations and produced viewership from all over the world, including more than 10,000 people in 26 different countries. “NQC Free Friday featured a true event broadcast experience,” Beasley stated, “ with dedicated hosts hosting the broadcast throughout the day.”  In addition to viewing the festivities of NQC, 2013 over the NQC Webcast on a computer, subscribers to the Webcast for the first time ever were also  able to view the Webcast on their televisions through their Roku device. This proved to be so popular that the NQC Board has announced that it intends to ultimately make its Roku channel available to the public as a free channel. “This a great opportunity and yet another way for the NQC to grow and expose the great music of the NQC to the world,” Beasley shares. 

Now Freedom Hall seats 20,000, and—though it’s been a few years—it has sold out before. There were about 15,000 there on Friday night at NQC. (I don’t have any official numbers, but watching the webcast, the room safely looked to be 3/4 full). Now add in over 10,000 more, and do the math; it is far and away the most people who have ever watched an evening NQC program live. (That’s not even taking into account all the families and friends who watched together on the same screen!)

Kudos to ViewFinders and the rest of the technical team, who were able to keep the stream running smoothly despite the incredible amount of traffic.

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Mark Ellerbee passes away

Former Oak Ridge Boys drummer Mark Ellerbee passed away last Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida. Here’s his obituary (hat tip, Kyle). Ellerbee played drums for the Oak Ridge Boys for twelve years, from 1969-1981.

A Rusty Golden interview we published back in 2008 includes Golden’s recollections of Ellerbee, including a memorable story of Ellerbee’s role in a drama about the life of Christ.

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More Prayer Requested for Megan Owens

About a week ago, Megan Owens, wife of Soul’d Out bass singer Ian Owens, faced emergency brain surgery. Things were starting to look better, but there has been a setback this afteroon. Ian Owens posts

We’ve just had a scare. They are taking Megan down for an emergency CT now. She’s very suddenly having extreme head pain; her neck is immobilized; she has severe chest pain; and she’s having trouble breathing. I’ll update after the CT. We are still standing on faith and fully relying on God as our healer and provider and believing Him for additional miracles, but this roller coaster feeling is exhausting… Please pray and pass along. Thank you.

UPDATE, 8 PM: Megan posts:

I’m alive!! I know I gave everybody quite the scare. I’m not trying to be dramatic, I promise! I started having extreme chest pain and the inability to breath. I also had horrible head pain and neck immobility. They put a Picc line in right before all of this happened.

It’s a more permanent and direct IV solution that enters my arm and goes straight into my heart. This all happened as soon as the Picc line was hooked up and the meds began to enter my heart. The critical care physicians believe that my body dumped a huge amount of adrenaline in response to the shock and it almost shut my body down. The neuroscience physicians are examining the results of the CT now so We still don’t know if there was a new hemorrhage or a clot, but the critical care docs feel very strongly it was way too much adrenaline. I feel a million times better now, but i believe Ian, papaw, and uncle Vernie were all pretty traumatized. The devil will have to try a whole lot harder to win this one!

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Tracy Stuffle arrives home

Editor’s note: This is such a significant update to the biggest story of the year that I moved the dates on the post to make it Tuesday’s lead post, so that it can stay the lead story for longer and more people can see it.

After nine months of slow tedious recovery from a stroke and five cerebral hemorrhages, Tracy Stuffle is finally recovered enough to continue his rehabilitation at his home. His church friends and Southern Gospel colleagues gathered this afternoon to welcome him home. 

Former Perrys member Troy Peach posted a video of the van pulling into the driveway:

Meanwhile, fellow Perrys alumnus Mike Bowling posted a video of the current lineup singing “Did I Mention”:

Praise God!

A long road still lies ahead. Continue to keep the Perrys in your prayers!

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Saturday News Roundup #189

Worth Knowing

  • Fantastic news on Tracy Stuffle’s continuing stroke recovery: Lord willing, if all goes well, he’ll be heading home on Monday to continue recovery there.
  • Arthur Rice has been named President of the SGMA.
  • Kim White’s mother, Carol Baker, has passed away. Kim leads ViewFinders TV, which produces live concert DVDs and concept videos for many of Southern Gospel’s leading artists; her husband Chris is with Crossroads/Sonlite.
  • Dallas Rogers and Restored signed a recording and marketing deal with Chapel Valley. Rogers previously sang with The Inspirations, The Dixie Echoes, Cross 4 Crowns, and other groups.
  • In August, a contest was announced offering the winner a chance to sing at the Cathedrals Family Reunion concert in November. The winner is Colet Selwyn of India; Selwyn has made similar guest appearances in the past with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, but has never (to my knowledge) sung with any of the other Cathedrals alumni.

Worth Watching

This has been a great song ever since Joe Kitson sang it in his Statement of Faith days; it’s nice to see that the song didn’t disappear with the group:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Lynda Randle’s mother passes away

Yesterday afternoon, Gaither Music posted that Lynda Randle’s mother has passed away: “The Gaither Homecoming family extends our love and prayers to Lynda Randle whose mom, Maxine Tait, has passed away. Please join us in lifting up Lynda and her family in our prayers during this difficult time.” They also posted a picture of Randle with her mother.

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