It is hard to imagine staying in the same career for 40 years… (Especially if you’re like me and haven’t even been on the earth for that long! LOL) Yet, Mark Trammell has. Saturday evening at the MTQ Homecoming, we all gathered to celebrate with Mark as he was honored for his 40 years in Gospel Music.
“Mark Trammell beat Jay Parrack at his own golf tournament!” Jay lamented on stage later that night, “Look toward the eastern sky, He’s coming folks!” Off to the side, Mark raised his arm and pointed to his bicep (like a body builder would pose) and made a goofy face. LOL Jay asked us to stand while he opened in prayer.
“Please remain standing,” Jay urged the crowd, “and welcome the Whisnants!” Jeff, Susan and Aaron came on stage and opened with We Are So Blessed while Austin plucked away at his bass. (Even though this is a song they are known for beginning their concerts with, looking back over the evening and all the things that happened, it was the perfect ballad to start the night off with lyrically!) Gloryland Way and We’ll Meet Again followed. Jeff Whisnant introduced the group and they went on to sing their popular song, He Can Move That Stone. “How many ladies were here this morning?” asked Susan referencing the Ladies Luncheon and talked about how the time that morning was precious to her. “Have you ever felt like you wished you could go back and do it over again?” Susan asked the crowd, contemplating the course of life. “The best thing about God is He will put us back on the potter’s wheel…if we’ll just trust Him.” Then she sang I’ll Trust the Potter’s Hands. King Jesus followed and then Susan introduced Austin who came and sang this song – I’ll Make Heaven Home. (Applause broke out after the first chorus – folks liked that new one!) “You have met our favorite oldest now I want you to meet our favorite youngest,” Susan went on, “Now, this is going to cost me tonight; he had 8 teeth pulled out on Tuesday.” (If Ethan wasn’t feeling well on the inside you couldn’t tell it because he was very professional on stage.) Ethan asked if it was too early in the year to sing a Christmas song, then said, “But I don’t believe that’s (Christmas) the only time you can sing it, I like this one because it shows you Joseph’s side of the story.” It was Strange Way to Save the World. Afterwards, Susan led the crowd in a verse of God Is So Good. “If there’s one thing I would change about me it would be this,” she went on, “I’m a fixer. I want to fix everything. I tried to fix Mark Trammel, but that’s hopeless… (LOL) But there will come things to your path that you can’t fix, but no matter what comes tomorrow, God is still God, His truth is still standing strong and we can say, all is well.” All Is Well was their closing song and was met with a standing ovation from the crowd.
As MTQ came on stage Jay pointed their attention to the screens where a special video honoring Mark’s 40 years in Gospel Music began playing. This video contained photo’s, CD covers, song clips and video clips from all of his years in Gospel Music. It began with him being 15 years old and traveled through all the years up to present day. (I have added the video at the end of this paragraph.) The final words on screen were spoken by his granddaughter, Tessa, who said, “Happy 40th Anniversary – I love you Poppa!” There was not a dry eye in the house! When Mark turned around he faced an audience that was on their feet applauding. He wiped tears from his eyes. This was truly a special moment forever etched in time. Nick was passed a box that he opened and took an award from that which he presented to his Dad. It was a lifetime achievement award – written on it were the words, “If only just a few will come I will go in Jesus name, I will bear the message to the lost.” (A line from the ballad If Only Just A Few from the CD Always Have A Song.)
When Mark found the words to speak, he began, “These things happen once in a lifetime. I cherish this. I have a wall that’s full of awards in my house given to me by heroes down through the years. I cherish those things. I cherish the fact that God allowed me to do something that was so effective in the lives of people that my family saw it and were willing to buy into what I was doing with my life. That’s not the case with everyone in the Gospel Music world. I count myself to be very blessed in that area. A lot of great accomplishments. I’ve been privileged to record 80 albums in 40 years; over 1100 songs…that’s a lot of music. But what you didn’t see in the middle of that (referring to the video tribute) all was a picture of me in a golf outfit standing next to a preacher in a golf outfit. That picture was made on July 13, 1988…(he paused here for moment)…I had just got up off my knees giving my heart to Jesus. I have to tell you, all of the things; all of the celebration that takes place, the thing that means the most to me is the day that I realized that what had been in here (he said that pointing to his head) all those years moved to here (then he pointed to his heart). That’s the reason God has honored me in every facet of my life for 40 years. I say God bless you and thank you to my family, to the men who travel with me, and all of you.” After that, Mark added that he wasn’t sure where to go in the program, so they sang God’s Been Faithful. This went right into When the King Comes To Claim His Throne and Wonderful Time Up There. Oddly enough, Wonderful Time had folks standing up on the bridge. (That song never gets a standing ovation!) “I want to do this song before we take a break…” said Mark and then the music for The King is Coming began.
As intermission came to a close, Jess (Nick’s wife) was up in the balcony holding Tessa, who was waving to Mark standing below on stage. (She is so cute!) The Whisnants returned to the stage with their Ready Medley and then Jeff shared, “Popular opinion has never changed the truth,” as they went into Trusting the Blood. That one was encored a cappella and everyone stood to their feet in honor of such lyrics filled with truth. “Keep your hands together please and welcome back The Mark Trammel Quartet.” Jay exclaimed as he scrambled on stage, made that announcement and scrambled off stage again. MTQ kicked off with Your Walk Talks. Mark called to Tessa, “Come see Poppa!” Tessa stood on the side slowly taking a few steps out. She usually isn’t stage shy, but just as I wondered what was keeping her off to the side she reached up and tried to shield the stage lights from her face. Mark didn’t quite get her over to him but he did tell the crowd that he did pretty good a while ago until she said, “I love you Poppa.” He went on to thank his pastor, “He trusts our ministry to be able to stand in this place one weekend out of every year and I want to say thank you for trusting us with this place – we do not take that lightly.” Then he turned to where his wife was sitting off on the side and said, “There is a blonde headed lady over there who has tried to surprise me…she’s had me for 36 years and she’s been trying to surprise me for 36 years. Baby, I will tell you publicly in front of all these people, I love you and you surprised me! I had no idea that was coming and I know you had a lot to do with that.”
The last song that MTQ sang was It’s Almost Over. There was already a good amount of emotion in the room and when they began that ballad, those listening were transported to a whole new level. The crowd was on their feet and I’m sure that everyone was feeling the Spirit move. Afterwards, Mark announced, “Welcome the Whisnants,” and they jumped into New Day Dawning with both groups singing along. Once again, the folks were on their feet and I’m telling you, they went into two encores before they quit and started Standing on the Solid Rock. I’m not sure why the crowd ever sat down, ‘cause they were on their feet again in no time! When it was time to officially close out the night Mark prayed and we were dismissed.
Conclusion: How do you sum up an evening like that? You can’t… But we can join in the celebration and continue to wish Mark well on his 40th Anniversary in Gospel Music. So why don’t we send him a greeting? Remember to use the hashtag #MarkCelebrates40yrs !!!