Question of the Week: Neil Enloe

Neil Enloe joined the Couriers fifty-five years ago. Though he has retired from the group twice since then, he is back on the road, still singing with the same tenor (Duane Nicholson) and bass/baritone (Dave Kyllonen) that he started with fifty-five years ago.

Today, Enloe is remembered and loved for his songs as much as his voice. So when I had the chance to ask him a question for this feature, the subject matter naturally turned to his songs:

Whether a classic or a song you only recorded once—If you could choose one song you’ve written for people to still know and sing a hundred years from now, which? And why?

Hmmmmmm.  That’s a tough one.  As with most of us, my needs change often and seem to be related to the mood I’m in at the time.

One of the top contenders for me would be a song I wrote in the the early 1970s, “Give Me Jesus.”

Take away my worldly gain; take my earthly fame.
Rob me of my choice possession, but give me Jesus.

I don’t need applause of man to meet my heart’s demand.
But I have this one confession; I do need Jesus.

There are so few things in life that really matter,
So I’ll pursue things in life that will last for time and eternity

Take away my worldly gain; take my earthly fame.
Rob me of my choice possession, but give me Jesus.

To me, this message goes well alongside the old favorite, “This World Is Not My Home, I’m Just A’Passin’ Through.”  The longer I live, the more I realize just how much I don’t belong here.  My ultimate destiny is to be in the presence of Jesus.  So I’m not putting down my taproot here, but rather in His Kingdom.

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Couriers to Disband

Several years ago, the founding members of the Couriers handed the name on to a new generation of the group. The leaders of today’s Couriers (www.thecouriers.com) have made a decision to disband the Couriers effective Memorial Day 2010.

Dave Kyllonen, Duane Nicholson, and Neil Enloe perform a limited concert schedule as Dave, Duane, and Neil (www.daveduaneandneil.com); this limited schedule included a showstopping mainstage set at the National Quartet Convention last year and includes an upcoming mainstage slot on NQC 2010′s schedule. It is unclear whether they will take on the Couriers name once again; if they are, they are probably holding off on an announcement as a courtesy to today’s lineup.

As with everything else the group does, this transition was handled with the epitome of class. In a statement issued by Duane Nicholson for Dave, Duane, and Neil and posted on SoGospelNews.com, [EDIT, 2/22/13: Broken link removed] they stated:

These fine Christian men, who were asked to take over The Couriers, have carried on the ministry with integrity and grace. We wish them nothing but the best as they pursue other ministries that will be ongoing. Dave Kyllonen, Duane Nicholson and Neil Enloe will continue to sing the gospel as long as the good Lord provides the health and strength and venues to use our talents for the Lord. Our relationship with the disbanding Couriers remains strong and we commend them for a job well done.

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CD Review: For Such a Time As This (Couriers)

Editor’s note: This review was scheduled to appear in several months; however, with today’s announcement of the group’s disbanding, I bumped the review up while their webstore was still up.

Though the Couriers started in 1955 as a quartet, their best known configuration, from the 1960s on, was as a trio. From that point through their last recording in 2007—The Real Deal, reviewed here—they had always had (at least) three members. However, when their lead singer left, tenor Larry More and baritone/bass Tim Beitzel decided to continue for the time being as a duo.

Fortunately, this was relatively short-lived—only for a year or two—as they added lead singer Terry Smith last December. In the interim, however, the Couriers did release one album, For Such a Time as This, as a duo.

Or, I should say, this project was released nominally as a duo recording; at a number of points throughout the recording, a third vocal is in the mix. On some songs, noticeably the acapella track opening the recording, the third part is featured as prominently in the mix as the other two.

The recording is about half new songs and half classics. The new songs were composed by the two members of the duo; Larry More had three songs cut on the project, and Tim Beitzel had two. There were also three hymns (“We Would See Jesus,” “Come Unto Me,” and “Zion’s Hill”), two earlier Couriers songs (“God Smiled” and “What a Way to Go”) and one Jesus music classic, “Jesus is the Answer,” penned by Andraé and Sandra Crouch.

This project shows that the Couriers actually quite decent as a duo, but it’s still better to see them as a trio again.

Rating: 3.5 stars. ♦ Group members: Larry More, Tim Beitzel. ♦ Produced by: None Credited. ♦ Available from: Artist. Review copy provided. ♦ Label: Independent. ♦ Song list:  We Would See Jesus; Come Unto Me; Born to Praise the Lord; God Smiled; Jesus is the Answer; Live For Jesus; My Life to Give; The Day I Kneel; What a Way to Go; Zion’s Hill; Wouldn’t You Rather Be a Christian.

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Book Review: Our Final Quarter (Dave, Duane & Neil)

Available From: Artist.

Our Final Quarter is the joint autobiography of Dave Kyllonen, Duane Nicholson, and Neil Enloe. From the 1957 through 1980, they traveled together as the Couriers. Tenor Duane Nicholson and Neil Enloe traveled together at various points since, eventually handing the Couriers’ name off to a new generation in 2000. During those years, Dave Kyllonen was involved in music ministry with his family. In the last few years, they have reunited and tour together as Dave, Duane & Neil.

The first part is the recollections of bass/baritone singer Dave Kyllonen. His section focuses heavily on the final quarter of his life, as the title suggests; his original stint with the Couriers is dealt with in two paragraphs in chapter one, though referenced later. A fairly large portion of his section is comments and tributes from family members and friends. It provides a fascinating look into his life, but I was slightly concerned that if the other two sections followed the same model, readers could end the book without more than a basic understanding of how the Couriers got to their final quarter.

Duane Nicholson’s section rapidly remedied those concerns. His colleagues said he was the one to remember details and precise events, and he did not disappoint. His section is a gripping and fascinating look at the history of the Couriers.

The personality and integrity of the group shines through in his often understated comments. After describing their only major vehicular accident—a trucker had fallen asleep at the wheel, crashing into their bus and totaling it—he said: “Our lawyers wanted us to sue the trucking company, but we found out that the trucker had only three trucks and only two of those were being used. We could have put him out of business but we decided not to.”

He faced what must have been an even greater temptation to sue later, when a botched operation to remove a vocal nodule disabled his voice and indirectly forced the Couriers’ retirement (as they did not want to continue without him). Friends urged him to sue the doctor for malpractice, but he said:

The idea was that I should be compensated for loss of income because of malpractice, but this was not an option for me. By this time the Couriers were well known; if I sued, it would be in all the major newspapers and on radio and television. What kind of testimony would that be? I probably would have destroyed this doctor’s practice, but in light of eternity what would that accomplish?

This viewpoint of living life through the light of eternity permeated the Couriers’ approach to life and ministry. After God started calling them into missions work, they aimed to devote 10% or more of their time to performing in around the world in missions-type situations. Some of the highlights of the book are the sections where they describe how God opened improbable doors for them to minister in 80 nations.

Neil Enloe’s section closed the book. He adopted an approach like Nicholson’s (though briefer), giving a chronological recounting of his life and the ministry’s history, as well as discussing the stories behind some of his songs.

If I could make one recommendation in this review, it would be to place Duane Nicholson’s account first in future printings. His is the most detailed history of the group and provides an excellent background to more fully appreciate the other two sections.

The three wrote their sections of the book individually, without seeing what the others had written. This approach lets the reader see the same stories through different lenses. Yet their similarities are far more evident than their differences. Though these men are unlikely to be remembered as the musical megastars of their generation, their passion for living in the light of eternity has resulted in a life-work with an impact that will only be fully realized then.

Note: This is unrelated to the book review, but attendees to this year’s NQC will have the chance to hear Dave, Duane, and Neil as they perform on the mainstage for the first time in decades on Friday night (9/18). If you’re there, don’t miss this rare opportunity.

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Classic CD Review: One Nation Over God (Dave, Duane and Neil)

onenationMembers: Duane Nicholson (tenor), Neil Enloe (lead), Dave Kyllonen (baritone/bass).

Song List: One Nation Over God; From a Star to Stripes; Statue of Liberty; Statue on the Rock, Joshua; Whose God is Alive?; The Place of Prayer; Loaves and Fishes; Country Church; I Just Don’t Get It; Father’s House; Immortal, Invincible, Almighty God; He Has Forgiven Me.

Available From: Artist.

* * *

For nearly 50 years, Dave Kyllonen, Duane Nicholson, and Neil Enloe toured as the Couriers. Several years ago, they retired and passed the name along to a new generation of Couriers (now performing as a duo). But several years after their retirement, they felt led to start performing together again, so adopted the group name “Dave, Duane and Neil.”

Several years ago, they released their only CD since their reuniting, One Nation Over God.

The project starts with the “God & Country Trilogy.” The first song is a new composition from Neil Enloe, “One Nation Over God,” discussing how a “small, yet very vocal sector of Americans” seek to remove God from our culture and place our country over Him. The second and third songs on the trilogy, also penned by Enloe, are the familiar classics “From a Star to Stripes” and “Statue of Liberty.” Though the project was produced by Phil Armenia, master producer Lari Goss was brought in to do the orchestral arrangements for the God & Country Trilogy, and the trilogy bears his signature touch.

Other than the title track, the project has two other recent compositions from the pen of Neil Enloe, “Loaves and Fishes” and “I Just Don’t Get It.” Producer Phil Armenia, Marie Armenia, Mike Hammer, Daryl K. Williams and John Darin Rowsey, Tim Enloe, and Toni Jolene Clay also contributed songs.

This project will primarily be of interest to Couriers fans, but it will also serve as a good introduction to their music for anyone unfamiliar with their classic recordings.

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Couriers Announce Autobiography

Dave Kyllonen, Neil Enloe, and Duane Nicholson, the best-remembered Couriers lineup, recently announced that they will be printing a group history / autobiography this fall. The three still perform together as Dave, Duane and Neil (since they transferred the Couriers name to a new group); the book is available for pre-orders on their website.

The book is entitled The Final Quarter: The Unique and Inspiring Story of the Original Couriers. They are hoping to pre-sell 1,000 copies so that they can purchase the book in greater bulk and get a better per-unit price.

Duane Nicholson sent out an email announcement

If you can help us just  send your check or call me for credit card orders to Living Proof Ministries [EDIT, 2/22/13: Broken link removed], 33 Tannery Road, Dillsburg, Pa. 17019 or call me at 717-503-0086 with credit card orders. … If you can only order one for yourself, please take advantage of the price of $15.00 plus $3.00 for postage.   The book will be entitled  Our Final Quarter,  Sub-titled, 5 decades of Ministry.  It will include pages of pictures and comments from some of our friends. … YOU CAN NOW ORDER ON LINE BY CREDIT CARD!! www.daveduaneandneil.com.

I emailed Nicholson to let him know I’d be posting this, so if you end up purchasing a copy, please let them know you heard about it here.

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The Best Lineup that Never Was: Couriers

My friend, blogger John Scheideman, borrowed the idea that I had yesterday and applied it to the Couriers. Here’s his best Couriers lineup that never was:

Tenor-Larry Ford
Lead-Neil Enloe (actually the Couriers lead)
Baritone-Mark Trammell
Bass-Tim Beitzel (with the modern-day Couriers Trio, but never with the Couriers Quartet)

I plan to post the regular installments of this series weekly, but I liked his lineup so much I decided to give it an honorary mention in my own series. (This isn’t an official entry, so I just might be re-using some of the singers here later!) Check out his post here.

***

I’m heading off to NQC shortly. My hotel does have Internet access, but you still might not hear from me until tomorrow morning. We’ll see!

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CD Review: “The Real Deal” (The Couriers)

Rating: **** (Very Good)

Song List: I’ll Be Ready; Where Is God?; Someday; He Paid the Debt For Me; My Heart Is Filled; He’s A Personal Savior; I’ve Found A Friend; Skies Of Blue; How Great Thou Art; I’ll Be Satisfied; I Won’t Have To Cross Jordan Alone; With A Song On My Lips.

For fans of: Greater Vision and the original Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet.

This is the strongest independently released trio project I’ve heard this year.

It starts with a song I’d never heard before, “I’ll Be Ready” by David Reece. Reece toured with the Harvesters and the Rangers, initially as a pianist and eventually as a baritone. Both the Harvesters and the Rangers recorded this song, but it is new to the Couriers repertoire. That a gem of this caliber could go so many years unrecorded is perhaps surprising–but proves the depth of this genre’s heritage. Those who seek will always be able to find forgotten treasures to make new again for today’s audiences.

The Couriers go to the early ’90s for the second song on the project, “Where is God.” This Kyla Rowland tune was originally recorded by Gold City in 1992 on their Pillars of Faith recording, and was also done a couple of years ago by Mercy’s Mark on their Southern Selections Vol. 2 project. It is nonetheless another song that will be new to a vast majority of their audiences.

Bass/baritone Tim Beitzel takes the solo on “Someday,” written by Lynn Swizinsky.

Another song that has been previously recorded (by the Blue Ridge Quartet on Ride That Glory Train) but will be new for most audiences is their fourth track, “He Paid the Debt for Me.”

“My Heart is Filled” features lead singer Brett Scarem and tenor Larry More. This Doris Akers tune was recorded by several groups, including the Blackwood Brothers and the Florida Boys, but has not been done for decades.

The sixth tune on the project, “He’s a Personal Savior,” is more familiar to Southern Gospel audiences, being done in recent years by the Gaither Homecoming Friends, Gold City, Legacy Five, and Palmetto State. Incidentally, it was also done by the original Couriers on their 1960s project Dave Duane and Neil. Tim Beitzel does an able job of handling both the baritone part and the bass solo lines.

Beitzel is also featured on the next song, an acapella rendition of the hymn “I’ve Found a Friend.” The hymn was also recorded by the original Couriers in 1963 (back when they were still a quartet), on their Honoring Jesus project.

Lead singer Brett Scarem wrote and is featured on the eighth song on the project, the uptempo number “Skies of Blue.”

Tim Beitzel is featured on “How Great thou Art,” which is inaccurately listed in the liner notes as being in the public domain. (It was copyrighted in 1953, renewed 1981.)

“I’ll Be Satisfied,” a classic Couriers tune written by Couriers pianist L. David Young, features Brett Scarem.

Pianist Tom Keel–who also produced the project–is featured on an instrumental version of “I Won’t Have to Cross Jordan Alone.” Since Glen Payne’s impromptu acapella vocal rendition of the song on the NQC Live 1999 project will probably never be topped, it’s not a bad idea to do it as a subdued instrumental.

The project closes with “With a Song on My Lips (and a Prayer in My Heart).” The song comes from the Blackwood Brothers’ repertoire; they recorded it in 1967 on a project named after the song. The song starts with a faux-LP introduction before breaking into CD-quality audio and modern instrumentation at the first chorus.

This project is one of the best examples I have ever seen of what a group without a great deal of new material can do by going into the archives and resurrecting forgotten gems that deserve another day in the sunlight.

I believed I promised fellow blogger John Scheideman that I would check out the Couriers someday. He promotes the classic Couriers as his favorite group, and the current Couriers as worthy successors. Now I know that his judgment–which has proven correct in so many other areas–was not misplaced here. The Couriers are currently traveling as a regional group in the northeast, far from the traditional Southern Gospel beaten path. From everything I have heard of other regional groups–some of whom are very good–the Couriers are probably among the five best regional groups in Southern Gospel today.

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