Album Review: When the Saints Go Marching In (Cathedral Trio)

This is the second entry in our series of Cathedral Quartet album reviews.

The Cathedral Trio’s debut project, Introducing the Cathedral Trio, was enough of a success that the Cathedrals went back into the studio later in the year to record another.

If the events in original tenor Bobby Clark’s memoir (The Cathedral Quartet: The Early Years) are in chronological order, this album was also recorded while the Cathedrals were on a trial basis. As discussed in more depth in the review of Introducing the Cathedral Trio, after Earl and Lily Weatherford and Armond Morales left the staff of Rex Humbard’s Cathedral of Tomorrow—The Weatherfords to carry on the group with new personnel on the West Coast, and Morales to accept the bass position with the Imperials—Glen Payne, Bobby Clark, and Danny Koker asked Rex if they could stay on staff and perform as a trio. He said that if they could prove their merit with independent touring until that fall, he would add them as staff singers. Clark discusses recording this project at the end of one chapter and joining Humbard’s staff at the start of the next, so this would point toward a release while the group was still on a trial basis.

That said, trial basis or not, this album is bursting with far more energy than the debut project. While the debut project was mostly subdued, with only a few uptempo songs and a few big endings, most of the songs on When the Saints Go Marching In are either uptempo or have big endings. Perhaps the success of the first project with the group’s independent touring on the Southern Gospel circuit gave them the confidence to do a recording more geared toward the all-night sing audience.

This new-found energy, though, is with the same recording personnel. Danny Koker played piano, Rex Humbard’s sister Leona Jones played the upright bass, his brother Rev. Clem Humbard played banjo and (according to the liner notes) guitar, and according to Clark’s memoir, Vic Clay played lead and rhythm guitars. Koker added accordion on some songs.

Both Cathedral Trio projects were recorded at Cleveland Recording Studios in Cleveland, Ohio. The studio is not credited in the liner notes; Clark mentioned them in his memoir.

The album cover is perhaps the Cathedrals’ most dated. Color printing was just coming into vogue, and though color photography had been around for more than twenty years, it was just starting to catch on. While the album title is in color, the group members’ three individual photographs are in black and white, placed at odd intervals.

This recording was released by DoViNe Records, a company founded the year before. (The name is evidently a play both on Dove and Divine.)

An excerpt from the liner notes:

In this album, you will enjoy Glen Payne’s rich lead voice and Bobby Clark’s fine lyric tenor. Put these together, with the smooth baritone voice of Danny Koker, and you will have some enjoyable listening. The Cathedral Trio all make their homes in Akron, Ohio, which is also the home of the beautiful Cathedral of Tomorrow, where the trio is seen and heard weekly by more people than any other group in Gospel Singing.

In this review, the songs are reviewed in the order they appear on the actual LP. The song list on the back cover is not in correct order. Unlike the preceding and following projects, there are only ten tracks, but this due to the length of the medley (8:43) on side 2. There are six songs on side one, and four on side two.

1. When the Saints Go Marching In. The trio sings the first chorus in unison. Clem Humbard’s banjo comes in and is featured on the turnaround, remaining in the mix for the remainder of the song. Glen Payne takes the lead on the first verse, but hands the lead to Danny Koker on the next chorus, joining Clark for an answer-back harmony part. On the turnaround into the second verse, the arrangement modulates up a fourth. Clapping hands keep the tempo and add even more energy to the second verse, where Bobby Clark takes the lead. He carries the lead through the next chorus, this time with Payne and Koker on the answer-back parts. For the tag, the song’s title is repeated twice and the final line of the chorus leads into a high ending.

The authorship of the song is disputed, enough so that most hymnals denote it with the hymnologist’s ubiquitous white flag of surrender, “Traditional.” Some hymnals erroneously credit it to James M. Black and Katherine E. Purvis, who wrote another hymn with a similar title, “When the Saints are Marching In.” According to a number of sources, the song was actually written by our genre’s own Luther G. Presley (lyrics) and Virgil Stamps (music). Presley is also the author of “I’ll Have a New Life,” “Shoutin’ Time,” “Gettin’ Ready to Leave This World,” and “In the Sweet Forever”; Virgil Stamps also wrote “When All God’s Singers Get Home” and “My Dream Home in Glory.”

The Presley/Stamps claim to authorship is bolstered by the fact that Presley’s son Leister Presley was quoted in an April 21, 1998 article by Bob Sallee in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as stating that that his father regularly received royalty checks when the song was performed in public. The organization paying the checks, by the way, would have been BMI, which has the song (credited to Presley and Stamps) listed here, as BMI Work #1649122.

Though the Cathedrals never revisited the song in its entirety, they would later notably include the chorus as a bridge to one of their most instantly recognizable tracks ever, “This Ole House,” on Symphony of Praise (1987).

2. In the Upper Room. Although this track can retrospectively be said to be of monumental significance for the group, it starts off unpretentiously enough with an opening chorus in trio harmonies. Bobby Clark takes the melody, with Payne and Koker singing harmony parts beneath him. Trio harmonies on the initial notes of the first verse might lead one to believe that the entire verse would be rendered by the trio—but Payne and Koker transition into “oohs” and “aahs” as Clark takes a solo.

After the first line of the second chorus is delivered in full-volume harmonies, the intensity steps back for a moment as Payne takes the melody for a line. Clark sings a soft tenor a third above him, and Koker fills out the harmonies with a low baritone part. A four-note swell around the vowel sound “oh” takes the melody back up into the tenor register, where Clark carries it for the remainder of the song. On the final line of the chorus, though, Payne and Koker back off on the intensity as Clark brings the song to a soft ending.

Back to the song’s significance. Though it would be two decades before Bill Gaither the man would take them under his wing and produce several albums that would take them into the rarefied airs of the Southern Gospel mega-groups, this was the Cathedrals’ first contact with Bill Gaither the songwriter. This is also one of the first times the song was recorded—and there is at least an outside chance it is the first. It is, at any rate, the first rendition presently listed on SGHistory. Within a few years following this version, a number of other groups cut it, including the Imperials (with Doug Oldham), the Oak Ridge Boys, and, in 1966, the Bill Gaither Trio themselves.

In 2000, George Younce released a solo project, Day By Day, that had another song by the same title.

3. Reach Out and Touch The Lord. Though this is listed on the cover as “Reach Out and Touch the Lord,” it is in fact a medley of “Standing Somewhere in the Shadows” and “Reach Out and Touch the Lord,” arranged by pianist Danny Koker.

The trio sings the last line of the chorus before Payne takes the lead on “Standing Somewhere in the Shadows.”

“Standing Somewhere in the Shadows” has been recorded by a number of quartets over the years—for whatever reason, typically in a medley, as with the Statesmen (1970), Masters V (1982), and Brian Free and Assurance (1998). While it may have been recorded prior to 1963, this rendition is the earliest I can find.

4. I Know the Lord’s Gonna Lead Me Out. After two slow songs, the tempo picks back up on this convention song. Clem Humbard’s banjo and an uncredited percussionist add an element of excitement to the track. After a slow intro (sung by the trio), the tempo picks up as Payne takes the first verse. After a transposition a fourth up (probably from F to B-flat), Bobby Clark solos on the second verse, and carries the melody throughout the chorus and tag.

The song was written by Albert E. Brumley. Though it seems to have received very little attention prior to 1963, the Couriers Quartet recorded it the same year (on The Lord’s Prayer). Within the next few years, several other groups cut it, including the Happy Goodmans (1966) and the Chuck Wagon Gang (1970). A few years ago, the John Rupalugh / Aaron McCune lineup of the Palmetto State brought it back, on Gospel Quartet Favorites (2006).

5. Wasted Years. Unlike most of the tracks on this project, a piano is nowhere to be heard. Baritone/pianist Danny Koker was equally facile on the accordion, and based the accompaniment around that instrument. After an accordion-led intro, the trio sings the last line of the chorus and then the verse in harmony. Bobby Clark steps out front on the chorus, with Payne and Koker singing softer harmonies beneath him. Halfway through the chorus, Clark hits and holds a high note, and Payne takes the melody down an octave for a line. On the final line of the chorus, Clark takes the melody back for a soft, high ending.

The song was written by promoter and Oak Ridge Quartet member Wally Fowler, and was recorded by the Oak Ridge Quartet in 1960. Through the early 1960s, virtually every Southern Gospel group tried their hand at the song. But it fell off their radar screen not too long afterward, and has been revisited only occasionally since.

Interestingly, the same year the Cathedrals recorded this song, the Blue Ridge Quartet (with George Younce) also recorded the song (on By His Hand, 1963).

6. Trusting in Jesus. The first side of the record concludes with this uptempo song. Clem Humbard’s banjo is featured prominently in the mix, particularly on the turnarounds. Both verses and choruses are delivered as a trio.

This song has apparently been recorded by no other Southern Gospel group, before or since. It has the feel of a hymn, but a search through numerous hymnal indices did not turn it up. The liner lists it as having been written by “Nettie Simms”; the year before, on August 22, 1962, a Nettie Simms filed for a copyright on a 56-page book called Treasure Chest of Poems, but it’s not known whether this lyric was in that book.

Among songs registered with the major performing rights organizations for airplay, the closest match is this one, “Trusting in Jesus” by a writer with a similar-sounding first and last name, Bettie Syme.

Despite several leads, though, in the end, this song’s origins remain a mystery.

UPDATE [Aug. 18, 6:36 AM]: Southern Gospel historian Dean Adkins offers some additional information on the song: His uncles, in The Ambassadors Quartet (which later became the Adkins Brothers Quartet), also recorded the song. Their project, Sweet Jesus, was also recorded on DoViNe, Dovine release number D-25 (while When the Saints Go Marching In was D-15). However, though the Cathedrals’ project was released first, both were recorded at about the same time.

His uncle Asbury Adkins (the quartet’s tenor) had additional information on Nettie Simms. She was the owner of DoViNe, which was located at 1240 Northridge Road in Columbus OH. She was indeed a poet and also a pianist. She got the name DoViNe from the names of her daughters Dorothy and Virginia, and from her own name, and pronounced it do-vi-nay.

7. Without Him. In addition to piano, the track either has an uncredited organ, or an accordion simulating an organ sound. The trio sings the chorus in harmony; Glen Payne solos on the verse; the trio closes with another chorus.

The song was written by Mylon LeFevre, and in addition to the LeFevres, virtually every Southern Gospel group through the 1960s (and many since) have cut the song. The Mariners cut the song on the 1965 project Presenting the Cathedrals Quartet, Mariners Quartet, Gospel Harmony Boys, but the Cathedrals themselves never revisited the song as a quartet.

8. Someday. Danny Koker steps up to the microphone for his only solo of the project (other than on the closing medley) on this on this uptempo quartet song. He leads out on the first chorus, with Clark and Payne doing answer-back harmonies. He leads the first and second choruses, with Payne and Clark doing answer-back harmonies, and solos on the verse. Hand claps keep the time on the verse (and stop as Koker goes into the second chorus). After the second chorus, Bobby Clark takes the lead, and Koker drops down to join Payne on the harmonies.

This song, now a classic, was a brand new song at the time of the recording. Joe Moscheo, then with the Prophets, had just written it, and it had been recorded earlier that year on the Prophets’ Relax, as a bass feature.

9. Lovest Thou Me? Danny Koker does some of his finest piano playing on this song, playing luxurious arpeggiated runs and fills throughout. Glen Payne carries the melody through the first verse and chorus, and the second verse. Clark sings a harmony part above him throughout the first verse, and Koker joins in on baritone at points. On the second verse, Payne and Koker due a lead/baritone duet for the first two lines, before Koker joins back in.

Clark takes the melody at the final chorus. At the words “Oh Precious Lord,” the vocals swell to a crescendo. As Clark carries the melody on the words “more than fame, more than wealth,” Payne and Koker hold and then resolve suspended chords. After an arpeggiated chord, Clark sings the closing words, “more than the world,” with Payne and Koker joining in on the final note.

Bill Gaither had married Gloria Sickal the year before, in 1962, but both of the songs the Cathedral Trio cut on this project were written by Bill himself.

Though it never caught on like some of its more famous counterparts, this Gaither song has had a decent number of cuts through the years. In all likelihood, the earliest was by the Golden Keys Quartet, on their Wonderful, Marvelous Yet True LP; lead singer Danny Gaither, Bill’s brother, and tenor Jim Hill split the solo lines. The Couriers Quartet cut it the same year the Cathedrals did, on You Will Never Have to Walk Alone. The Imperials cut it not too long afterwards, on Doug Oldham with Jake Hess and the Imperials Sing Bill Gaither Songs.

Despite all the Gaither songs the Cathedrals would record or revisit during their later long association with Gaither, they never revisited this one. However, former Cathedrals member Ernie Haase brought it back and featured it prominently on his 2007 Signature Sound recording Get Away Jordan.

10. Testimony Medley (Stranger of Galilee / When He Reached Down His Hand For Me / Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know / He’s Coming Soon). This medley starts with Bobby Clark offering the hymn “The Stranger of Galilee” as a high tenor solo. Glen Payne solos on the verse and chorus of “When He Reached Down His Hand For Me.” After a brief pause, a piano arpeggio kicks off Danny Koker’s solo, on “Jesus is Sweetest Name I Know.” The trio sings “He’s Coming Soon” together.

“The Stranger of Galilee” was written by Leila N. Morris in 1893 and remained popular as a church solo number for decades. Its appearances on Southern Gospel projects seem to be evenly split between full-song renditions (Blackwood Brothers, The Stranger of Galilee, 1959; Greater Vision, Hymns of the Ages, 2007) and medley excerpts (Couriers Quartet, Presents, 1959, and here).

“When He Reached Down His Hand For Me” was written by Marion Easterling, Thomas Wright, and and J.F.B. Wright. Though there was never one year or decade when the song was on fire and everyone was cutting it, it has received a steady stream of renditions through the years. One of the early recorded versions was the Oak Ridge Quartet’s 1958 version on their self-titled LP. The Blackwood Brothers did it shortly thereafter on “My God and I,” and later revisited it in 1977 on their award-winning album “Learning to Lean.” Gold City, the Hoppers, the McKameys, and Gene McDonald are among the more recent artists to record the song.

“Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know” was written by Lela B. Long, in or before the mid-1920s. Interestingly, virtually every rendition of the song by a major Southern Gospel group has been as part of a medley; groups that have included it in medleys include the Statesmen (in 1960, 1965, and 1970), Masters V (1982), Liberty Quartet (2004), Brian Free & Assurance (1998), and Tim Parton / Legacy Five (2009).

The words to “He’s Coming Soon” were written by Thoro Harris in 1918. He adapted the music from the tune to “Aloha Oe,” written by Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani. This closing song joins the opening song as the only other song the Cathedrals would later revisit; they included it in a hymn medley on Right On in 1971.

This project would be their final project as a trio. Several good things were in store for the Cathedrals the next year, and heading that list was a name: George Younce.

Song list: When the Saints Go Marching In; In the Upper Room; Reach Out and Touch the Lord; I Know the Lord’s Gonna Lead Me Out; Wasted Years; Trusting in Jesus; Without Him; Someday; Lovest Thou Me; Testimony Medley (Stranger of Galilee / When He Reached Down His Hand For Me / Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know / He’s Coming Soon). • Group members: Bobby Clark, Glen Payne, Danny Koker. • Out of print.

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