Pros: Powerful selection of songs, vocals from the chorus, its the Happy Goodman Family!
Cons: Twenty songs just aren't enough!
One of my favorite CDs in my gospel collection is one done in 2004 by Gaither Music Group that pays tribute to the long and successful careers of Howard and Vestal Goodman. Part of the CD is taken from a special video tribute that was done just prior to Howards passing. Considered gospel music royalty, Howard and Vestal Goodman spent some fifty years in their music ministry. Their joyous, spirited style of southern gospel paved the way for many other groups. They took four part harmony and organized it around a family band. Beginning in the 1940s, Howard and his family began the Goodman Family. It has taken many names through the years with the joining of Vestal Goodman as Howards wife. The years as the Happy Goodman Family stuck, and, in fact, Howard Goodman is often referred to as Happy Goodman.
In this cd, there are presented 20 of the all-time favorite Goodman Family songs. From the introduction in which the theme song I Wouldnt Take Nothing For My Journey starts to the final triumphant Oh Come, Angel Band, every song is appropriately placed and over a long range of time gives you a good feel for the body of work done by Howard and Vestal. With their deaths early in this decade, part of the vitality of southern gospel music was gone forever. That lofty booming voice that made Vestal an international star is now silenced. But through the work of Bill Gaither, the music of Howard and Vestal Goodman will continue. The memories of Howard high stepping on those ivories as he sung and played the piano will remain in my memory for the remainder of my life.
What set the Goodman Family apart from the myriad groups that developed in the fifties and sixties was their high octane, fast tempo songs and the high vocal delivered of Vestal. Their showmanship was warm and inviting. They smiled. And the listeners and viewers knew that these singers were delivering a message from their hearts.
The Songs, Where They Are From, and The Writers
**I Wouldnt Take Nothing For My Journey This song is taken from the video 50 Years: The Happy Goodmans. This song was written many years ago by Charles Goodman and Governor Jimmie Davis. It is not the full version of the song, but is used for the introduction of the CD.
**I Believe Hes Coming Back. This song is taken from the video All Day Singing At The Dome. The song was written by Rusty Goodman. The song features Howard and Vestal Goodman. This song is representative of that good harmony of southern gospel.
**The Little Wooden Church On The Hill. This song is taken from the video Ill Meet You On The Mountain. The song was written by Thomas Dorsey and this cover features Vestal Goodman and Lillie Knauls. Add a bit of the blues to southern gospel, and this song takes off.
**When Gods Chariot Comes. Written by John Taylor and published by Stamps Quartet Music, this song was from the Marching to Zion video and features the Happy Goodmans and J. D. Sumner. Again, this song is very representative of the snappy, handclapping sounds of southern gospel.
**What A Lovely Name. Written by Charles Wycuff, this song was taken from the Ryman Gospel Reunion and features Vestal Goodman. The choral performance gives way to the solo vocals of Vestal.
**When They Ring The Bells of Heaven. The legendary lyricist Albert Brumley and Marion Easterling wrote this tremendous song that comes from the Holy Ground video and features the Happy Goodmans, Brock Speer and Doug Oldham. This song takes us back to that four part harmony with those echoing parts. I dare you to listen to this song and not tap your foot.
**There Is A Fountain. From the New Orleans Homecoming video, this William Cowper penned song features the golden voice of Vestal Goodman with the Homecoming Chorus. There are some fine guitar licks as this song begins building to the chorus. The second verse brings Vestal forward with her superb alto lead.
**The Unclouded Day. This song, which has been covered by numerous singers, was written by J. K. Alwood. It is from Ryman Gospel Reunion and features Howard Goodman. With the help of the Homecoming Chorus, no one has ever done this song better.
**This Is Just What Heaven Means To Me. From the Going Home video, this strong song I believe was written by David Sapp and features Vestal Goodman.
**I Hold A Clear Title To A Mansion. This Sylvia Trace song is one of my favorites and is from Homecoming Texas Style. It features the Happy Goodmans and the celebrated voice of Vestal Goodman. This is just a great sermon waiting to be preached. One of my favorite songs to sing with them.
**Theres Something About A Mountain. Written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, it is from the Mountain Homecoming video and features Vestal Goodman. This has a very simple, calming feel.
**He Said Peace. Written by Aaron Wilburn, this was recorded at the Atlanta Homecoming event. The song features the Happy Goodman Family with Howard and Vestal trading out verses.
**I Dont Regret A Mile. Recorded during the 50 Years: The Happy Goodmans this Howard Goodman song is one of the most moving songs on the CD. The pathos in his voice lets you know of the seriousness of his teaching.
**Id Do It All Over Again. I look at this song as being Vestals version of the last song done by Howard. Written by Janet Paschal and Joel Lindsey, the song was recorded at Irish Homecoming. What a triumphant expression of ones faith.
** God Walks The Dark Hills. Made famous by Vestal Goodman, this is from Precious Memories. The song was written by Audra Czarnikow and reminds us of the ever present nature of God. The sound is very different on this song, and I believe it is an older recording.
**Well Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials. Recorded at Memphis Homecoming, this Cleavant Derricks penned song is another of their songs that are very different than standard gospel songs. With a very driving beat sounding very native American, this song celebrates the rest that is waiting in heaven where we can sit down with our Master.
**The Holy Hills of Heaven Call Me is from the tribute to Dottie Rambo Dottie Rambo With the Homecoming Friends and features Vestal with Dottie. The song was written of course by Dottie Rambo. This sound is just magnificent with the chorus singing with Vestal.
**Born To Serve The Lord. From the Indiana Roof Taping, this Bud Chambers song features Vestal Goodman. It is a slower, powerful song ignited by Goodmans strong, vibrant high vocals.
**Rock of Ages. This traditional hymn was written by Augustus Toplady and Thomas Hastings and was recorded at the Down By The Tabernacle event. It starts with the entire chorus singing, and then the Isaacs sing the second verse, followed by the cheering, rousing addition of Vestals beautiful verse on the last stanza.
**O Come, Angel Band. Ray Palmer and Lowell Mason wrote this old standard. It begins with the verses being sang by various ones in the Homecoming Chorus including Larry Gaither and the Gaither Brothers and then all the Chorus come in on the chorus after three verses. On the final verse, as is appropriate to close out this tribute, Vestal chimes in with her celestial voice.
I have been listening to the Happy Goodman Family, especially Howard and Vestal Goodman for more than four decades. Their deaths leave a void in gospel music that no one will ever be able to replace. The uniqueness of their sound, the smiles that greeted the audience, the emotion with which they sang, the feeling of genuineness all came together to create one of those rare talents that will sorely be missed. These timeless recordings will continue the impact of their music for many generations to come.