Welcome!

I’m the blogger sometimes known as Southern Gospel Yankee, yankeegospelgirl, or by name ’round the interwebs as Esther O’Reilly. I’m a promoter of southern gospel music, but I’m also an old soul with many interests. If you’re a first-time visitor, thanks for reading! Check out my “About” page, follow me on Youtube, and browse around in the filing cabinet for my musings on music, movies, faith & culture, and old stuff. Whether you’re a fan of southern gospel or just another old soul like me, I hope you like what you see! God bless.

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Monday Morning Humor: Before Mark Lowry, Before Tim Hawkins…

Last week I featured a clip of one of my favorite comic actors, Dick Van Dyke. Did you know that he has a kid brother who’s also a pretty darn good comedian? His name is Jerry, and I discovered him in this old episode of the Judy Garland Show. I immediately thought, “So THAT’S where Mark Lowry and Tim Hawkins got their weird!” I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if some of their facial contortions and physical techniques were influenced by Jerry Van Dyke, maybe even specifically influenced by this routine, which is classic. In it, he lip-syncs/performs a 6-and-a-half minute version of the Lone Ranger’s radio debut. I actually have that radio broadcast on cassette tape, which made the routine even funnier for me to watch. He really hits his stride once Tonto shows up about half-way through:

 

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Libby Stuffle Recovering From Mild Heart Attack

In case you missed it, Libby Stuffle began experiencing chest pain this past weekend, and the Perrys’ date was canceled so she could be taken to the hospital. After some tests, doctors have confirmed that she suffered a heart attack. Yesterday afternoon, they inserted a stent and announced that she won’t require open heart surgery. She’s awake and feisty as ever, but she’s very weak from loss of blood. Keep her and her family in your prayers as they consider the next step in her treatment, and follow further updates on the Perrys’ Facebook page.

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Guest Classic Review: This Stage of Grace, by the Booth Brothers

[Editor's note: This is a guest post by Brian Fuson of Fuson's Findings.]This Stage of Grace, by the Booth Brothers

Let’s hit the Rewind button and go all the way back to 2001. Before everyone on earth had an iPhone, when Chrysler was still owned by Germans, and my precious Detroit Tigers hadn’t had a winning season since I was a toddler. The Booth Brothers had no chart topping songs, no legions of fans, and weren’t really known by the average Gospel Music fan. Ronnie and Michael Booth were continuing the group they started with their father, Ron Sr, in the early 90’s. When Sr. departed in 1999, a young man named Joseph Smith joined the group, taking over the baritone position. Smith spent a couple years with Perfect Heart before the group disbanded and had proven to be an impressive vocalist in his short stint.

The group had recorded one impressive project, Walkin’ On The Good Side, that was fantastic. This Stage of Grace, released in 2001, would be the follow up. And it was the album that would make the Southern Gospel industry recognize the guys.

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Guest Concert Review: The Whisnants in Pottsville, AR

Lauren's Whisnants Concert Shot #1

[Editor's note: This is a guest post by Lauren of Lauren's Southern Gospel Views From the Pew.]

Saturday night I made my way north to a small church on top of a hill where the Whisnants were singing that night. They were scheduled to be in Pottsville, Ark. at Pottsville Freewill Baptist Church that night. Pottsville is a small town of about 3,000, so as you can imagine, the nightlife leaves something to be desired. And for a small town and a smaller church, thankfully many of the people of Pottsville chose to attend a gospel concert on Saturday night. Continue reading

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Joseph Habedank Drops New Single

Take a listen to the first single from Joseph Habedank’s upcoming solo album! It’s called “Never, No Never.” I’m very tough on new songs, but I can say confidently that if this is representative of the rest of Joseph’s record, I need to get me a copy!

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Monday Morning Humor: Dick Van Dyke Explains Comedy to Kids

When I was little, my three great loves were Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye and Donald O’Connor. (Pause for a gratuitous collage):

Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye and Donald O'Connor collage

Where was I? Oh yes, one reason why these particular three were my great loves (w/apologies to Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, etc.) was that they all had something specific in common: They were geniuses of physical comedy. And nothing can make little kids laugh like brilliant physical comedy. Of the three, I probably fell hardest (as it were) for Dick Van Dyke, on the strength of his two classic performances in Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. He is also the only one still with us today (with a Twitter account no less—check him out busting a dance move in the department store on Vine too). In today’s clip from his classic sitcom, he is inspired to unpack the science of slapstick and pantomime in front of a classroom of little kids, after failing to impress them merely with words and his cred as a sketch writer for the Alan Brady show. Enjoy:

 

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Guest Concert Review: Brian Free & Assurance in Wynne, AR

[Editor's Note: This concert review is a guest post by Lauren of Lauren's Southern Gospel Views From the Pew. It's shorter than she had planned it to be, but thereby hangs a tale...]

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. We serve a God of all possibilities, but sometimes He chooses not to allow things to go the way you want them to. This was the case Saturday night. Brian Free and Assurance was in Wynne, Ark. I knew there was some construction on the interstate between there and where I live, so I wanted to leave early to ensure I would make it. I didn’t leave quite as early as I planned, but still I didn’t think I would have any problem making the concert.

I was only three miles from my exit off the interstate and about 15 miles from the church. I began to see the warning signs of possible delays, but it was only two more miles of interstate. Why take the detour and add five more miles when I was so close? Traffic showed no signs of stopping until I passed that last detour exit. That’s when I saw brake lights in front of me. Continue reading

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Mark Trammell Quartet Hires Randy Byrd

Mark Trammell has just announced the hire of their new bass singer: Randy Byrd of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Randy brings quite a back-story of God’s grace to share that some folks may not be familiar with. He touches on it in the official press release, but if you want more detail, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to check out this archived interview he did with Daniel J. Mount. It’s an amazing story of youthful pain and rebellion culminating in a beautiful display of God’s grace.

I also admire Byrd’s humble honesty in this press release, saying outright “I am not and cannot be Pat Barker.” This is particularly gracious considering that Barker is a good bit younger than Byrd, and it reflects the legacy Barker left behind him in his comparatively short tenure on the southern gospel stage.

Here is the full announcement:

After three months and 36 candidates for the position, Mark Trammell has announced today that Randy Byrd will be the new bass vocalist for the Mark Trammell Quartet. Mark shares, “We are thrilled with the overwhelming inquiry about this position. And after much prayer and consideration, the group collectively feels that Randy is the man for this season of our ministry.”

Many of you will remember Randy from his recent years with the prestigious Blackwood Brothers Quartet. He also logged some miles with our friends the Mike Lefevre Quartet and the Songfellows. Randy relates the following upon receiving confirmation from Mark.

“At 12 years of age, I heard The Cathedrals sing There is a Fountain and I was hooked!! I told my mother that night after hearing George Younce, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a bass singer.’ God has blessed me and allowed me to sing with some of the best in the business. Three years ago my dream started to fall apart. Between my flesh and Satan’s attacks it seemed my life was over. I am thankful today that in spite of my faults and failures, God never took His hand off of me. Everything that Satan robbed from me, God has restored! I am beyond excited to join The Mark Trammell Quartet! I am living proof that God IS faithful!! Pat Barker is a dear friend. I am not and cannot be Pat Barker. But I can work at being the best version of me that God can use and I gladly accept that challenge.”

Please join us in welcoming this wonderful man to the Mark Trammell Quartet!!!

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Guest CD Review: “Hymns, the A Cappella Sessions” by The Nelons

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[Editor's note: This is a guest post by Brian Fuson of Fuson's Findings.]

Out of all the groups on the road today, it would be hard to find a group with a greater heritage than The Nelons. It all started when Rex Nelon took over the management of The Lefevres. After Eva Mae Lefevre’s retirement,  the group was renamed as The Rex Nelon Singers in 1977. Towards the end of The Lefevres, Rex’s daughter Kelly joined the group. Together, this father and daughter duo led The Nelons to the top of the Gospel Music industry. After her father’s passing, Kelly continued to lead the Nelons through a new millennium. The group consists now of Kelly Nelon Clark, her husband Jason Clark, and daughter Amber Nelon Thompson singing soprano, with youngest daughter Autumn supplying additional vocals.

When you consider the group’s rich history and all their accomplishments, it may come as a surprise that this project marks a first for The Nelons. “Hymns: The A Capella Sessions” is the very first a cappella recording in the group’s long and illustrious history. United together with super-producer/arranger Lari Goss, the family has recorded one of the finest a cappella projects in the history of the genre.

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