Archive for November, 2008

The One Where I Go Postal

There are so many things I love about the gospel music world.

I have met some of the most inspiring, loving, stellar people in my life in this business. (Also some jackasses, but that would happen in any profession, right?) This industry has been very good to Russ, and I feel a lot of gratitude to the people who have been so loyal and supportive– they have insured that he has had a career that has lasted longer than anyone would have a right to expect, and is inexplicably still going. So, you’re not going to hear a lot of gospel music biz bashing from me.

But every once in a while I come across something in that world that just… baffles me. (I was going to say, “totally pisses me off”, but I’m trying to put my best foot forward here.) Now, if Christian/gospel music is like the step-child of the ‘real’ music business, then Southern gospel music is like, the step-child’s red-headed cousin. It’s a subculture in a subculture. But just like in the ‘real’ music world, Southern gospel has its cranks and self-appointed critics who like to take cheap shots– you know, like the old adage says, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, criticize those who do.”

There’s a certain SG website out here in the blogosphere that serves no real purpose as far as I can see except to give a platform for some apparently very disgruntled wanna-be artists so-called fans to post really personal, negative things about some performers. They seem to have a special vendetta against Bill Gaither and the whole Homecoming thing, which is really kind of funny to me– ‘inflammatory’ is not the first word that comes to mind when you think of all things Gaither! At any rate, I usually don’t pay much attention to it at all– and I will NOT be providing any links to it– but for whatever reason, they recently put up a post that was so shrill and needlessly insulting about some people who happen to be friends of mine that I broke my usual rules about not feeding the trolls and posted a LOOOOONG diatribe statement in the comments section. So far it is still “awaiting moderation,” and who knows if they will actually put it up or not– so just in case, I’ll just post it here as well!

For those of you who don’t know much (and could care less) about the world of gospel music, I apologize. This may bore you to tears. If so, please come back again and give me another chance. I promise to write about something that has a much broader appeal, like… puppies. Or Zumba class.

Here goes. Let this serve as a warning to anybody who is tempted to mess with people I love: I CAN BE REALLY SCARY!!! (in a genteel, white Southern suburban housewife kind of way, of course. Rawr.)


OK, I do realize that attempting to address the vitriolic Gaither-hating on this site is an exercise in futility, but you know sometimes the wife of a histrionic, emotionalistic, over-singing, Gaither-light waving, badly dressed, prematurely atrophied career singer just needs to get a couple of things off her (smoking hot) chest!

I am not a delicate little flower with no discernible sense of humor who’s never said a bad word about anybody. I am also not a hard-core SG music lover. I did not grow up listening to the singers and groups that so many of your readers (and my husband) have loved for years. I cannot debate the comparative vocal merits of Big Chief or Hovie or Rosie or, um, other old quartet guys with weird names. And frankly, I still get some of the family groups mixed up. Also who they used to be married to. So the fact that I have been so disturbed and offended by the relentless disrespect and downright pissiness aimed at certain SG performers on this site is surprising even to me.

But here’s the thing: those Gaither Homecoming artists? I actually KNOW THEM. They are not just faces on videos or figures on the stage to me, they are human beings. I have traveled and vacationed with them, my children have grown up with their children, I have been at their weddings and I have been to waaaaay too many of their funerals. Mock if you will (and I know many of you will!) that whole ‘Homecoming Family’ thing– I have lived it. My opinion of these people is not based on hearsay, rumors, wishful thinking or hype. I don’t have them on pedestals, I am not crazy in love with all of them, I am closer to some than others, and a few can get on my last nerve. But dare I say, that though of course each and every person is entitled to their opinion AND is also entitled to vomit that opinion all over the blogosphere, may I humbly submit that my opinion on this particular subject may be just a squidge more informed than some.

I honestly don’t think that just because this is ‘gospel music’ people will never have a negative word to say about performances, new releases or certain artists. It’s a free country, blah blah blah. What I fundamentally don’t get though, is the gleefully mean-spirited tone behind some of the things said here. It is hard to make a case for this site being dedicated to ‘criticism, commentary and observation’ when very personally pejorative adjectives like “schlocky, arrogant, ridiculous, nauseating, midlife crisis on stage” are flying around. And let’s not forget the GVB post below– it’s a veritable cornucopia of insults: “advanced stage of self-induced mania, vocal afterthought, pure schtick, overweight, out of shape middle-aged amateur.” Yep folks, I’m sure that’s pretty much the same kind of insightful, constructive ‘criticism/commentary/observation’ that Jesus used to take those high and mighty disciples down a peg or two!

When this site has come up in conversations I have had with artist friends of mine, the main reaction is not anger or disgust, although those feelings are certainly present. The universal response is always that they are just baffled by the haters. They honestly don’t understand what it is about them that would cause people who do not even know them to attack their character, their appearance, their talent– even their children. And let’s talk about the children a minute.

On that much-maligned video clip, at around the 2:00 mark, you will see my sweet daughter Madi. Shockingly, she wasn’t there to try to weasel her way onto stage, or jockey for camera-time or advance a career. She was there because she loves those people. They have been a steady source of great fun and unconditional love throughout her young life. She isn’t a SG fan, she just likes being around her friends, and appreciates their talent. Her iPod has the Isaacs and Lynda Randle on it (right alongside M.I.A and the Fleet Foxes) which is a little unusual for a 16 year old girl! See, Madi doesn’t know that Ernie Haase is “narcissistic” and “opportunistic”–he’s just the guy that teases her and treats her like a big brother and sends her funny, encouraging text messages. And she’s blissfully unaware that Sheri Easter is a ‘coldhearted dragon lady’ and Jeff is a ‘buffoon’– she only knows them as the family that bought her dad a beat-up, 20 year-old blue pick-up truck and drove it from Georgia all the way to Nashville to give it to him, because Russ was going through a hard time and Jeff thought he needed ‘something to tinker with’ to make him feel better. And Gloria doesn’t strike her as ‘a sappy sentimentalist.’ Gloria rocked her to sleep when she was a baby, taught her how to make seashell collages, and rode paddleboats in their pond with her. She quite looks up to her. And Madi obviously doesn’t realize Bill is a megalomaniacal despot– he’s just the sweet old guy that cracks corny jokes and tries to make her promise him she’ll never grow up or start dating. Now, thanks to your website, maybe Madi can finally wise up.

I guess, Doug, what I’m trying to say to you and your negative commenters is that it is disingenuous and dishonest to pretend that you are unaware of the hurt that is caused by your very personal diatribes against artists. If someone used a public forum to make disparaging comments about your loved one’s weight, or comment on the fact that they didn’t appear to be aging very well and was actually kind of crappy at their chosen profession–would you be OK with that?

Does it somehow please you that your dismissive, insulting remarks about Wes Hampton were upsetting to him? Is there some secret pleasure when artists’ kids show up here and leave comments trying to defend their families? And exactly what, if anything, IS off-limits to the armchair musical quarterbacks and music biz “pundits” on your site? Let’s see: Sheri Easter and Janet Paschal have both had mastectomies– how about some uni-boob jokes? No? Well, Anthony Burger dropped dead on a Homecoming cruise, that’s gotta be good fodder for some anti-Bill material, right?

I know this little epistle of mine isn’t going to really change anything. You guys are not going to clutch your pearls and say, “Oh dear Lord forgive us, she’s so right, I’ll never do that again!” But maybe, just maybe the next time you use your time, energy and education to take a cheap shot at another human being, one that you don’t really even know except through their talent?

Maybe it won’t be quite as much fun.

By Popular Demand: Bell Buckle!

Ok guys, here’s another in what’s starting to feel like an endless series of small-town Tennessee pictorials. Let me know if I am boring the crap out of you and I will stop immediately.

Aw, who am I kidding– but I WILL cut down on them!

(BTW, Madi took most of these shots– she’s pretty good, isn’t she?)  

Without further ado:


**The little town square. And yes, Madi’s skirt is too short, thanks for noticing.


**Eating is always the first thing we do on a trip. Always. 

One time? We were in this very restaurant on a Saturday and Keith Urban came in and recognized Russ and Madi got to meet him and Russ was Super Hero Dad for a day.

**Check out the cool ceiling. They have a chocolate cobbler on the menu that is a religious experience.

Waaay in the back, there were a couple of guys picking and singing– they sang an old gospel song and Charlotte looked up from her mac and cheese and said, “Wow, Gaither IS everywhere…”

**Isn’t this a beautifully composed shot?

**Madi becomes part of the local art scene.

**I know this really should be a big ol’ RC Cola, but Charlotte is a rugged individualist.


**Creepy or charming? You decide.

**Storming the shops! I kinda look like I’m power-walking. And what’s the deal with that Queen Elizabeth/Golden Girls-type death grip I seem to have on my purse?!

**Depression glass– they look like jewels, don’t they?


**Any of you guys in the market for a couple of friars? Stocking stuffers, maybe?

**This is my favorite shop. It’s like the world’s best grandma’s attic, only much more artfully arranged.

**Basket of buttons. This prompted me to wax eloquent about growing up with Nanno’s button tin, and running my fingers through it when I was a little girl, and the shape and feel of all of the vintage buttons and… yeah, that’s about the point the girls wandered off, too.

**Hey, I’ve made it this far and haven’t used the word “quaint” once! Until now.

**Yep, Phyllis– we DID go around the corner for ice cream! And then, full as ticks, we wedged ourselves in the car and drove home.

But it won’t be long until the wanderlust hits us again and the girls and I will head down another Tennessee road to see what’s around the bend!


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