Most Marketable Southern Gospel Singers?

We all have our favorite southern gospel singers. But some of the qualities that make a great southern gospel singer are unique to southern gospel. There are certain singers who are legendary in that niche, but you listen to them and you think, “That guy could never sing anything but southern gospel.” (I’ll let you fill in the blanks on who some of those singers might be!)

But then you have singers who are still popular within southern gospel, yet comfortable singing multiple styles. This is where classification can be a little tricky. For example, do we classify David Phelps as “southern gospel” just because he sings in the most popular SG group on tour at the moment? Or is he an inspo/popera misfit who just happens to satisfy Bill Gaither’s eclectic, sometimes theatrical tastes? Sometimes a singer’s sound is so far removed from what anyone would call “southern gospel” that it seems like a stretch to keep calling him a “southern gospel singer.”

However, many of our still comfortably southern gospel singers might be marketable beyond southern gospel in the cousin genre of country music. Now I hope all you SG purists don’t rise up in protest, but we have to acknowledge that country is a close cousin of southern gospel, despite their differences. Had Amber Nelon Thompson gone with the flow on her American Idol journey, she would no doubt have been groomed into a country starlet a la Carrie Underwood. Some of our older voices might also fit comfortably into Johnny Cash/Hank Williams-era country music, although that kind of voice has become less marketable over the decades. That’s a sign of how much the face of country music itself has changed. However, there might be room in today’s country market for a smooth, strong upper register bass tone, like Josh Turner’s.

Another genre to consider is CCM. Some of our more progressive SG singers have a pop edge to their vocals that gives them the freedom to try a more contemporary sound. But as with country, whether it’s contemporary enough for today’s CCM is another question. Obviously a singer like Michael English enjoyed a lot of success in CCM during the 90s, but his style is no longer current in that genre.

It is also sad but true that the younger and better-looking you are, the better your chances are for enjoying success in either of these genres.

Among southern gospel voices, who do you think would have the best chance at a career somewhere outside of southern gospel today?

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Most Marketable Southern Gospel Singers?

  1. Saved Girl

    Doug Anderson could definitely do country.

  2. I think Amber Nelon Thompson or TaRanda Greene could go outside Southern Gospel and be successful.

  3. Lydia

    I’m just smiling over your referring to David Phelps as a popera/inspo misfit.

  4. lee65

    I’m thinking Taranda also and The Isaacs, The Martins, and certainly the Booth brothers!!!

    • I could definitely hear Taranda doing pop-diva style stuff a la Mariah, Celine, Whitney.

      Are the Isaacs technically bluegrass already? Maybe not pure bluegrass though.

      Where would the Booth Brothers find success? Individually I can’t quite see it, as a group would you say country perhaps?

      • Saved Girl

        I just can’t quite understand how the Booth Brothers could. They are my favorite group, so to me they have plenty of marketable appeal :), but I can’t see them fitting into another genre.

      • lee65

        Yeah, country for The Isaacs and Booths ,they’ve always reminded me a little of The Gatlins, I think they could pull it off.

      • Aren’t they a little too smooth though? All the harmony groups in country right now have a pop/rock edge (Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town). Then again, almost every artist in country right now is really pop/rock in disguise! (Grumble, grumble.)

      • Saved Girl

        Yeah, that was my thought. The Booths just don’t fit into *modern* country.

  5. CLW

    Wes Hampton has a contemporary (and very cool ) sounding voice. He could sing different things.

  6. Jordan P

    Ivan Parker. Oops, I meant to say Wes Hampton. Jason Crabb has already found quite a bit of success outside of SG, so I think he already fits the bill. Bill Shivers would also be a standout.

    • HA! Very funny. :) Regarding the Crabbs, I actually saw an interview with Adam I think it was where he said they had a chance at striking it big in country music, but they turned it down when they realized they would have to dilute the message of their music.

      • Jordan P

        I think they could have had a comparable sound to someone like Little Big town, but with a little more soul. They could have done quite well, but I’m glad they chose to stay put.

      • Good comparison. I happen to like Little Big Town, though country purists kind of turn their noses up at them. I suppose performing Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” on the Grand Ole Opry didn’t exactly help to appease that crowd!

  7. John Situmbeko

    Sonya Isaacs Yeary could make it big in country. She did a song with Dolly on one of her albums, you ought to hear it.

    • Sonya did go “country” with an album for Lyric Street and a couple of charting songs several years ago, but it didn’t work out for her.

  8. Glenn Roberts

    Mike Bowling has the voice for country music, very distinctive, so unlike many of the acts in that genre today.

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