I sat still in my seat in the bleachers, eyes glued to the stage below. In a few minutes, a once in a lifetime opportunity would walk across the platform and I would be transported back in time to a piece of history I missed growing up. At least, that’s what I dreamed it would feel like…
Stage lights cast a green glow on the backdrop where the “Memphis Quartet Show” cut-out hung. When Danny Jones (the emcee) walked out on stage my breath caught in my throat and my heart skipped a beat. This was it! I couldn’t tell you a word Danny said; anticipation had the better of me and I couldn’t focus on anything other than the fact that I was there. It wasn’t like I had never seen any of the people who were about to walk on stage sing before. I had. Just, not like this…
“So make welcome Jay Parrack, Jonathan Wilburn, Mark Trammel and Tim Riley!” Danny exclaimed. The four men walked on stage and the music for a fast song began, I Was Born to Praise Him. “Listen to Jay Parrack as he sings one of my all-time favorite songs,” said Mark Trammell. The soft tones of Then I Met the Master flowed over us and brought the crowd to their feet. Another began and Jay bounced back and forth on his feet with the upbeat tempo. Not long after, Jonathan joined in and Mark slowly swayed from side to side as they sang He Will Tell Me All About It. On the second verse Jay, Mark and Tim huddled together to sing, but Jonathan came up behind Jay and tapped him on the shoulder. Jay put his finger to his lips in the shhh motion. Jonathan jumped in anyway so Jay and Mark had to push him away…by that time they reached the chorus and Jonathan’s part reappeared. I smiled. This kind of Gold City stage humor was all new to me. “One of the greatest songs we’ve ever got to sing was written by a dear friend of ours,” said Mark, “I’m Not Giving Up…do you remember that song written by Squire Parsons? Make welcome Jonathan Wilburn!” Being able to see this line-up sing I’m Not Giving Up live was unbelievable! “You cannot imagine the thrill it is to be able to do this,” Mark began, “The song that you just heard was written by Squire Parsons. Tim and I were talking about this the other day, I’ll never forget when that cassette came in from Squire, he had called me a couple of days prior and said, ‘Hey little buddy I’m going to be sending you some new songs.’ I said, ‘Good Squire, I can’t wait to hear them.’ Well, we got ‘em and that was one of them. I put it in the cassette player on the bus as we were heading out of town one afternoon. I don’t know the exact count, but I do know that Tim said, ‘Play that again,’ seven or eight times. We had ourselves an old fashioned camp meeting in front of the bus, ‘cause it reminded us that when we belong to the Lord Jesus, we truly know that all of us is in all of Him and He is truly sufficient for anything that comes into our lives. When we figure that out and let Him be God, then we can look at the world and say I’m not giving up because this is not my strength I’m living on, it’s His. I’m not giving up, I’m gonna’ keep going on, I’m gonna’ keep telling people about Jesus and here we are this many years later, still telling people about Jesus.”
“On that same project,” Mark went on, “was a song that Terry and Barbi Franklin wrote. Looking back over those years, this is one of the most popular and requested songs I’ve had the privilege of singing. See if you remember what I’m talking about.” It was none other than Show Me the Cross (from Standing in the Gap/1995). That one went right into You’re At the Well. Afterwards, Jonathan said, “You’re at the well, come and drink. Today, it’s kinda like, my mamaw, she use to cook for us boys. After football practice we’d be starving to death and we’d go down to mamaw’s and it didn’t matter if you stopped by McDonald’s and got a bite to eat, when you went in mamaw’s house, you ate. If you didn’t, it would offend her! Today, the Lord has prepared us a table for all His saints. Let’s not offend Him, come and dine, worship and let Him love on us a while.”
“When I went with Gold City,” Jonathan continued, “These guys took me in just like family. None more than the young man who’s coming to the stage to sing one of my all-time favorite songs. No matter what is going on in this nation or this world today. No matter what the skeptics may throw at us, folks I’m here to tell you that Jesus isn’t a good way, He’s the only way and it’s still the Cross of Calvary! You make welcome Daniel Riley.” Danny came up and sang the powerful ballad It’s Still the Cross. Powerful indeed, it received a standing ovation. This went right into a song that featured Jonathan, He’s Still On the Throne. “I’m glad He’s still on the throne or I would have passed out right then,” teased Jonathan. “This is incredible that y’all showed up and blessed us with your presence at this Gold City Reunion. Tim, Mark, Jay and myself; all of Gold City, Mark Trammell Quartet, Wilburn and Wilburn and Jay Parrack and Vocal Event…we all travel, we all go our different ways after today and that speaks volumes of the ministers that we’ve grown into today all because of the leadership of this man on the end, Mr. Tim Riley. They don’t’ come any better. I’ve talked to people all across the country and they say, ‘Who do you think is the best bass singer?’” Jonathan’s answer? “Who do you think!” Jonathan went on to talk about a project they did called What A Great Lifestyle and how it was popular then to do CD covers with “abstract pictures.” He said he never understood why you would take a picture while gazing off into the stars. Mark interjected, “Maybe you, but I understood it.” Jonathan grinned, “Get outta’ here!” As the crowd giggled Jonathan told the crowd, “I stepped right into that one.” LOL “On that album we recorded this,” said Jonathan, “Jay and Tim show out – and folks, I believe that today God is still building a church.” This led into God’s Building A Church, which was a crowd favorite. The barn-burner was not only encored but received a standing ovation as well.
“Tim, you sing with Danny, your son,” Jonathan mentioned, “Mark you sing with your son, Nick and I’ll sing with mine, Jordan. Wouldn’t it be neat if they came up and sang a song with us?” The crowd caught on immediately and began hooting and hollering! Jay said, “My son is here but he’s not going to come up and sing with us.” Mark jumped in, “I know somebody who is here and will sing…his daddy.” Once again, the crowd erupted with applause. “Where’s Johnny Parrack?” asked Mark. Then to the audience he said, “Y’all remember Johnny Parrack?” More applause. As all the “kids” were assembling on stage Jay teased Danny and said, “Hey Danny! You sing bass on this first chorus!” The look on Danny’s face said otherwise. So each son stood next to his father as Glory Road kicked off. Everyone sang together at first and then the “kids” sang on the first verse and the fathers on the second. People were popping out of their seats before the song ever thought about ending! What really made me smile was all the cell phones lifted up high taking pictures! “Y’all want to hear a little bit more of that?” Jonathan exclaimed. During the encore all the persons on stage sang. “Is it okay if we sing one more?” Jonathan asked afterwards, “We’re having too much fun! There’s a song that we’ve never recorded, but it’s meant so much to me in my life. I want Mark Trammell to come sing The Lighthouse.” Someone called a key and the classic began. When the chorus rolled around their sons joined them once again. It was truly a special moment…but they weren’t done yet! “C’mon, I know you’re gonna’ remember this one!” hollered Mark. It was Get Up, Get Ready and by the chorus people were standing. Another encore! “Have you enjoyed Gold City?” asked Jonathan.
The second set didn’t last long enough for me. It kicked off with In Time, On Time, Everytime and then Tim gave his testimony. How when he fought in Vietnam he was lost, and although his mom had sent a Bible with him with verses underlined about salvation, he never read it. “She accomplished what she set out to do, it was just later.” He said. After such a testimony it was fitting that Mark sang a ballad simply titled, Calvary. “I lived a dream for ten years,” said Jay, then went on to talk about his time with GC and how they were privileged to record many great songs from the pen of Diane Wilkinson, the next song being one of them. The crowd clapped for Diane and then Gold City sang He Said. All too soon, the last song arrived as they launched into When He Calls I’ll Fly Away. Of course it was encored and their sons joined them on stage again. “Do you like that kind of singing in Memphis?” Jonathan asked, “I can’t hear ya’!”…and they sang it again.
Do you ever wish you could cross over the pages of history to the time of your choosing? Go do something you never experienced in your lifetime? I do. Unfortunately, no such thing exists. The past is unavailable to us and we can only press on to the future. Unless the thing you want most is to see a past line-up of Gold City, then you just have to go to the Memphis Quartet Show. Though many Gold City Reunions pop up during the year, those feature the line-up of Brian Free, Ivan Parker and Mike LeFevre. To bring back Jay Parrack, Jonathan Wilburn and Mark Trammell to the stage with the golden songs of that era is a first. It was epic. Because the Memphis Quartet Show hosted this concert I was able to re-live an era that I missed growing up. I tried to recreate as much of this concert as I could and left next to nothing out because this concert was so unique. However, this review does not in any way replace being there and experiencing these special moments first hand. If you didn’t get to make it this year, I highly urge you to CLICK HERE to reserve your tickets for 2015!!! They are going to do this again and you definitely don’t want to miss it!