My friends are shocked when they discover I love The Happy Goodman Family, the Southern Gospel group that peaked in the 1970s. I have to explain that as a child I’d get up early on Sunday mornings and not only watch the bizarre Jot and Davey and Goliath religious cartoons on television, but also faithfully (pun intended) watch Gospel Singing Jubilee. The show featured a variety of Southern Gospel groups, and by far my favorite was The Happy Goodmans. I especially loved their old-style convention songs.
Here’s a video clip of a favorite convention style song, I’m Living in Canaan Now.
Did you like that? Then try watching I’m Too Near Home which features the classic contrast of homophonic and contrapuntal singing found in many convention songs.
The three Goodman brothers and Howard’s wife Vestal formed the group. The lineup in the above video is:
- Sam Goodman -singer, guitarist, humorous emcee
- Vestal Goodman – singer
- Howard “Happy” Goodman – founder, piano player, singer
- Rusty Goodman – singer, guitarist, composer of many great gospel songs
My parents took me to see the Happy Goodmans perform live in Oklahoma City when I was quite young, and I still have a long-playing record signed afterward by Rusty, who sang children’s songs with special poignancy. But Vestal also really caught my attention, since her singing seemed almost as amazing as her beehive hairdo.
Watch Vestal sing what I believe was her greatest song, God Walks the Dark Hills. Her voice breaks with the sincerity that permeated her performances at this time.
Sam’s humor was a delightful part of a Goodmans performance, with him taunting Vestal and Howard about their weight, and telling stories in his inimitable fashion. Here’s a bit of his schtick.
Here’s another fun bit with Vestal competing with the amazing tenor Johnny Cook to see who can sing Looking For a City the highest.
All of the original Goodmans have now passed on, but happily their wonderful singing and stories live on.