Sunday, April 07, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: The Earls and Whitehead Gospel Singers: They'll Never Change the Way (1967)

Old-Time Religion, which doesn't appear on this LP, dates back to the 19th century.  I bring this up because nearly all of the numbers on today's LP talk about "old-fashioned" (or "old fashion") things, about days gone by.  Now, if folks were singing about old-time ways as far back as the 1800s, just how "old-time" are we talking?  How far back, exactly?  Thanks to the blog Praguefrank's Country Music Discographies, I know that this came out in 1967.  (I'd link to the page, but Avast keeps telling me a threat has been detected.  Dunno what's up with that.)

So, 1967.  Okay, in 1967 commercial vinyl LPs were less than 20 years old.  This is a commercial vinyl LP.  In short, it was not old-fashioned.  And the group members, as you can see in the photo, were dressing in the style of the time for their field (bluegrass gospel), class, and areas of origin.  Again, not old-fashioned.  And most of the songs they sang were of recent origin, looks like.  Again, not old-fashioned.

They were recording a record album, they had probably driven to the studio in a fairly recent vehicle, and they were using instruments of modern manufacture, I'm guessing.  I reckon my point is that bluegrass, in its gospel and non-gospel varieties, makes a point of being current, not old-fashioned, just like every other musical genre you can name.  Yet bluegrass gospel is all about the old days, the old ways, and the true religion (old).  In popular culture, old is a symbol for true, for authentic, for eternal, and not just in songs of a sacred nature.  Problem is, the definition of "old" changes over time, of course.  We're to cling to the old-fashioned ways, but which old ways?  There's a gospel hymn called The Good Old-Fashioned Way.  It's from 1903.  Like Old-Time Religion, it does not appear on this LP.

You might wonder if I threw this post together in a hurry and if I am, as I type this, half-asleep.  Why, that's right! How did you guess?  Anyway, very entertaining and typical bluegrass gospel, with the conservative tone we'd expect (those new-style believers are going to be sorry! and so on).  Solid musicianship all the way, and I'm guessing the group sold these at their concerts.  I just looked up the label, Jalyn, and quickly found this brief but terrific label history: Jalyn Records.

LINK: Earls and Whitehead Gospel Singers

They'll Never Change the Way (Garnett Ball)
The Old Fashion (sic) Church (Wade Mainer)
Then I Got Happy (Earl Wheeler)
Lord Give Me a Vision (P.D.)
One Day Nearer Home (Hatfield-Rambo)
He Brought Me In (P.D.) 
Don't Talk Them Up from the Altar (Earl Wheeler)
Old Brush Arbors (Ardis-Edwards)
Wolves in Sheep's Clothing (P.D.)
The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn (R. Stanley)
I'd Rather Be on the Inside Looking Out (Wade Mainer)
Are You Afraid to Die (Earl Wheeler)

They'll Never Change the Way--The Earls and Whitehead Gospel Singers (Jayln JLP-110'; 1967)



Buster said...

Wasn't "old fashioned" just a signifier that they were not worldly? Also, speaking of this place and time, that they did not subscribe to the then-emerging "counter-culture"? The times they are a-changing and all that?

Lee Hartsfeld said...

I don't think so, because "old-time" cliches--back in my boyhood days, my silver-haired mother's dusty Bible, when we were pals singing the good ol' tunes, how I wish I was back in (name of state)--are hoary pop music staples that either found their way into gospel, or were there from the start. Ironically, these gospel songs would be less worldly if they dispensed with the "my darling mother" stuff. And I don't think they were talking about the emerging counterculture--they're complaining about serious Bible scholarship and the folks doing it, who, from their point of view, were hyper-liberal heathens questioning God's word. And these folks were current to their time and genre. Bluegrass pretends to honor its own traditions--a claim swallowed whole by NPR and PBS, two entities which sponsor the modern, junky, soft-rock stuff that calls itself bluegrass. Of course, bluegrass, like gospel music in general, tosses its conventions out the window on a regular basis. And every "old-time" tradition referenced in these songs is one or two generations removed, meaning not very old by historical standards.

Johnny Cash, maybe for the sake of humor, did a gospel CD, allegedly of all the old, old hymns his mother taught him. The CD artwork showed a wrinkled old hand clutching a 1956 Stamps-Baxter songbook. 1956--one whole year before I was born. Softbound, no less. Cash would have been about, what, 20? And the songbook would have been current. I knew a local music critic who interviewed Cash, and his impression is that Cash told whoppers in interviews just to see if they would get in print. For instance, he told the critic he'd been living in a cave for two years or so. With his mother's ancient 1956 songbook, no doubt.

Zoomer Roberts said...

"It was a simpler, more innocent time..." and blah, blah, blah.

Lee Hartsfeld said...



A man for whom Christ died said...

Thanks for posting this album in it's entirety! I first heard of thisun a while back on gbugrb (and got the two cuts he posted from it), so glad to have the full one now! I have to agree with Buster to a degree though. I believe Old Fashioned in this instance, means not worldly and also, standing against the prevailing ungodliness creeping into today's churches, doctrinal error included. There is some sentamentality there, to which I don't subscribe, since I wasn't brought up that-a-way, in the words of Curly Parker ( I believe it was), old-time heart songs.

Romans 11:33-36 KJB

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