Many people like to lump various styles of music together in one large category and simply call it “gospel,” but this does a huge disservice to those who are searching specifically for a particular type of gospel music. The term “gospel” can be divided equally among three specific genres: Southern Gospel, Black Gospel, and Mountain Music.
Recently, we have seen a surge of appreciation for Mountain Music, due in part to things like the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou, and the many CD releases utilizing acoustic mountain instrumentation such as the dulcimer, autoharp, flat top guitar, and dobro. This mountain music is closely related to “bluegrass,” which originated in Ireland, Scotland, and other areas of Europe. As people began to settle in the Appalachian Mountains, they brought with them this beautiful acoustic and heartfelt style of music, which has become one of the purest forms of American music.
By the 1940s, southern gospel groups like the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, which incidentally included three brothers and one of their sons, had formed and were traveling in cars to sing in various churches, revivals and tent meetings across the United States. By this time, the Speer Family was doing this as well, with Mom and Dad Speer and their children, Ben, Brock, Mary Tom, and Rosa Nell. It wasn’t long until groups like the Happy Goodman Family, The Rambos, and The LeFevres came onto the scene, and by the 1960s families watched the Gospel Jubilee on television on Sunday morning as they were getting ready for church.
While these groups relied heavily on the old songs learned at “singing conventions,” it wasn’t long until they began to write music themselves. Rusty Goodman, the songwriter of the Happy Goodman Family, is best remembered for I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now and Who Am I.
This type of music, because it was unpretentious and appealed to the down-home mentality of most southern families, was on the verge of really breaking out!