Now Featuring…Glen Payne

Today’s post will kick off a new series here at Southern Gospel Critique, where we will discuss some of our favorite gospel singers of all time, and the songs that featured them.  It only made sense for the first post to be about a lead singer, and what better lead singer than, in my opinion, the greatest lead singer in the history of southern gospel?

Glen Payne started out professionally with the Stamps Baxter Quartet, then later was a part of one of the smoothest blends in gospel music history with the Weatherfords.  But it was with the Cathedrals, of course, that he made his greatest mark on gospel music history.  He was the only lead singer the group ever had, from 1963 until their retirement in 1999.  Along the way, he became one of the most celebrated gospel singers of all time, with his impeccable vocal technique and ability, his jubilant stage personality, and the sweet spirit of the utmost Christian gentleman.  Payne passed away shortly after the Cathedrals’ retirement, but his memory lives on in the hearts of gospel music fans everywhere, and his legacy lives on in the numerous performers he mentored and influenced.

As this series will primarily be about songs, let’s talk about Payne’s features. Most of my favorites come from the last two decades of the Cathedral Quartet’s existence, as that is what composes a majority of my Cathedrals music collection.  I would love to hear from some of you Cathedrals historians on what stands out from Payne in his first 15-20 years with the Cathedrals, and even before that.  He was equally adept at delivering an emotional ballad as he was a classic quartet toe-tapper, and both types of songs are represented in my list.

Keep in mind that my list is composed of my favorite Glen Payne features, not necessarily his “best” from a musical critique perspective.  I’ll leave that to the pros.


  1. “God Himself the Lamb,” Symphony of Praise (1987) – This has always been my favorite song on my favorite album, and one of my favorite gospel performances by anyone, ever.  With a little help from Lari Goss, Glen delivers an absolute masterpiece.
  2. “We Shall See Jesus,” Live…in Atlanta (1983), A Farewell Celebration (1999) – This is undoubtedly his signature song, and justifiably so.  Though others have made attempts, and good ones, at Dianne Wilkinson’s dramatic and powerful ballad, this will always be Glen Payne’s song.  Maybe it’s because it was my first experience with it, but I’ve always preferred the Farewell Celebration version to the original.  It just seems to pack more emotional punch.
  3. “High and Lifted Up,” High and Lifted Up (1993) – Maybe Payne and Wilkinson should have combined forces more often!  This is another tremendous power ballad of rejoicing, with Payne staying in the lower portions of his range for most of the verses.
  4. “I Won’t Have to Cross Jordan Alone”, NQC Live 99 (1999) – Payne’s last recorded performance, live from a hospital bed into the 1999 National Quartet Convention, not long before his passing.  All the way to the end, he sang with gusto and skill.  I wasn’t there, but I’m sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
  5. “Your Blesser Ain’t Never Been Blessed,” Raise the Roof (1994) – OK, so maybe this isn’t the most artful work of songwriting to be penned.  But it is pure fun, and I actually believe one of Payne’s best vocal performances.  This old-time style of quartet singing is right in his wheelhouse.
  6. “I Stand Amazed,” Live with the Cathedral Quartet (1979) – Speaking of a classic style, this delivery, accompanied by Lorne Matthews’s piano, is just fine old-school singing.  And what a wonderful melody crafted by Squire Parsons!
  7. “In the Depths of the Sea,” I’ve Just Started Living! (1989) – I don’t hear much about this song, but I’ve always loved it.  It has a more soulful 3/4 feel, but Payne proves adept at that, too.
  8. “The Prodigal Son,” Live with the Cathedral Quartet (1979) – Was this Payne’s most celebrated feature before “We Shall See Jesus”?  Maybe one of you readers will have insight on that.  From this live recording, it is clear that he really enjoyed singing it, and that the message of the song spoke to him.
  9. “Hallelujah Square,” Our Statue of Liberty (1974) – Lately Chris Allman has been wowing audiences with his rendition, but he probably never would have thought to sing it if it Glen Payne hadn’t done it.
  10. “I’m in the Shadow,” Travelin’ Live (1986) – I always have to turn my volume up to hear it like I want to, but this tender ballad has been lost among the other hits to come out of this celebrated live recording.  Go back and take another listen!


What are some of your favorite Glen Payne features?  Do they line up with some of mine, or do you have some fresh perspective?  Do you have any general thoughts of the legacy of Glen Payne?  Feel free to share!


Skip to comment form

    • John Situmbeko on April 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm
    • Reply

    Brian, this new series couldn’t have been kicked off in any better manner.

    Glen was indeed a great singer. One of my personal all time favourite is The Haven of Rest, how powerfully that song was delivered on both Farewell Celebration and Joy in The Camp! Another one of my favourites is He Didn’t Throw The Clay Away. Now it takes a lot to reduce me to tears, but I must confess a tear almost escaped my eye as I heard that song, mostly because of it’s lyrics which touched the very core of my heart, but also the way it was sung.

    1. Good ones, John! I love both of those, and “Haven of Rest” in particular was one of my last cuts.

  1. I also love his version of “Because He Lives” on Cathedrals Alive! Short, but so good.

    • AJ on May 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm
    • Reply

    Really cool way to start this new series.

    I have to agree with you on We Shall See Jesus. Another good choice would be the one they did for the Gaither Homecoming.

    #4 was one of the those moments that will be remember for quite some time in general so it had to make the list.

    #5 is really good. I like the version they did on the Live in Chicago release.

    Every time I hear “The Prodigal Son” it moves up the list of my favorite songs. Love it!

    I flip-flop on Hallelujah Square. Not sure if I like Glen or Chris’ more.

    I have to check out “In the Depths of the Sea” you’re like the millionth person who has suggested the song.

    • Quaid on November 15, 2013 at 10:08 am
    • Reply

    The Prodigal Son,” from “Live with the Cathedral Quartet” was great. Glen in his prime.

    I like “Take a moment and Live”, and “How Great Thou Art” from the 1974 “Live In Concert”, and the testimony you hear from Glen, before the impromptu cut of “How Great…”

    There’s a finesse, a smoothness with the ’74-’79 lineup of Haskell, Roy, George Amon, Glen, and George that no other lineup had. During the Danny and Mark years, the quartet was at it’s best in regards to “power” singing. But, like I said, there’s something about the vocal lineup with Roy and George Amon.
    If you don’t have one, look for a copy of their “The Cathedral Quartet Sings Albert E. Brumley Classics” LP. True quartet singing. Glen takes the lead on “I Want To Walk As Close As I Possibly Can” (also done when the Reunion concert was recorded).

    I took the time to watch “Travellin’ Live”, and record the audio as a stereo track into a labtop. It’s interesting what you don’t notice with your ears when you have a visual to watch. Listening to the recorded audio track later on (with headphones) revealed, for example, who messed up “Boundless Love”, and who had it right at first. Who was carrying the lead on that verse (I wasn’t sure who was). At the beginning of the tag chours of “Waiting For The Call”, you hear another vocal blooper on this project. At the end of the song, I heard George drop an octave, which I didn’t notice before.
    Having said that, I listened more intently to “I’m In The Shadow” than I had in the past. It is a good song that I was thinking needs to be sung again. I didn’t care for Glenn’s singing on this cut in the past, but listening to it a couple nights ago put it in a different light that improved my opinion of this rendition.

    • Sid on July 14, 2014 at 10:26 am
    • Reply

    In live performance, once in a while Glenn
    would sing a song and cover all four parts at one
    time or another in the course of the tune. Wish I could
    remember which song and see it again on You Tube
    as a real example of his vocal range. Comments anyone?

    1. Sid, Glen does this on “Heavenly Parade” on the “Live in Chicago” CD that was released a year or two ago.

    • Tshepang Mapulanga on September 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm
    • Reply

    Climbing higher and higher is the song for me by Glen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.