We started off the Now Featuring… series with the great Glen Payne, and it only seemed appropriate to follow that up with the other half of gospel music’s greatest pair. I called Payne the greatest lead singer in gospel music history. Believe it or not, I think an argument could be made that for 35 years, the Cathedrals had the two greatest lead singers in the genre’s history in the quartet at the same time. Of course, George Younce was the bass singer. But if you define “lead singer” as the singer who sings the melody, how many sang a melody better than Younce? Not many, if any. He had it all: a smooth upper register, an emotive delivery, charisma, and genuineness. That’s why you can come up with a far greater list of feature songs for Younce than for any other gospel music bass.
George Younce sang with the Weatherfords (not at the same time as Payne) and the Blue Ridge Quartet before getting the call to make the Cathedral Trio a quartet in 1964. He would hold this position until the group’s retirement in 1999, after which he continued touring with the Gaither Homecoming crew, and recorded two projects with the Old Friends Quartet before his death in 2005. I’m not sure there is a more beloved figure in all of gospel music history; I’ve never heard or read even a hint of a negative thought about him. His Christian character and love for people was on par with Glen Payne’s. The only difference is that Younce had the more outgoing and vocal personality, which he used on stage to endear himself to gospel music fans like few others.
All of my top 10 Younce features come from Cathedrals recordings, as you might expect.
- “Suppertime”, A Farewell Celebration (1999) – One of several to which you could ascribe “signature song” status for Younce, I chose the poignant performance from the Cathedrals’ farewell concert as the best version. He was not only one of the greatest singers, but one of the greatest talkers in the genre’s history. He applied this skill as a stellar emcee, and in recitations such as that contained within “Suppertime”. George is “packed and ready to go,” and boy, do you believe him.
- “I Thirst”, High and Lifted Up (1993) – No talking here, just ultra-smooth singing of a gorgeous song.
- “Thanks to Calvary”, A Farewell Celebration (1999) – Once again, I had to choose the emotional “final” live version of this signature song.
- “Wedding Music”, The Best of Times (1991) – Younce only sings 75% of one verse by himself, but that doesn’t keep it from being one of his most notable performances. Bass singers at every level of gospel music in the last 20 years have done their best to replicate that second verse, but there is only one George.
- “Sinner Saved by Grace”, Master Builder (1986) – It’s difficult for me to choose between the Cathedrals version and the Gaither Vocal Band version of this, one of my favorite songs ever written. How about I take the Cathedrals’ version in the verses, featuring George and Glen, and the Vocal Band for the power chorus and ending?
- “Beyond the Sunset”, 25th Anniversary (1989) – Who said features had to be sung? As I said earlier, George’s recitations were just as good. His reading of “Should You Go First and I Remain” with the “Beyond the Sunset” backdrop is exquisite and eternally tear-jerking.
- “This Old House”, Symphony of Praise (1987) – For some reason, this is the only song in my Top 10 that really moves. I would be remiss not to include a song that George has fun with, because no one appeared to enjoy singing more than him.
- “Hold Me”, Goin’ In Style (1988) – This pure, childlike outpouring of the heart could not have gone to a more appropriate singer.
- “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”, I’ve Just Started Living! (1989) – This classic song was transformed into a sweeping power anthem at the hands of Lari Goss, and George handles the verses with aplomb.
- “Yesterday”, Welcome to Our World (1972) – Though he’s not celebrated as much for it, Younce was also an excellent songwriter. This is my favorite of his songs, and he sings it beautifully as well.
Now, it’s your turn. What are you favorite George Younce performances? I love to hear comments from folks honoring the memory of these great Christians, so please share with us!