“With the Mark Trammell Quartet and the Whisnants, these next 12 hours are going to be marvelous,” announced Danny Jones. Unimpressed, the crowd at Hill Crest Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama remained silent. Defeated, Danny rolled his eyes and mumbled something about the “thunderous applause” that he obviously thought should have erupted at that point. To some that may signal a tough crowd for the singers to win over, but considering the response that MTQ and the Whisnants received that Friday, I happen to think that the audience was struck silent with anticipation. Hopefully, this review will in some small way re-live what will go down in my books, as the best Homecoming yet. Without further ado, welcome to the 8th Annual Mark Trammell Quartet Homecoming…
Not one to be easily defeated, Danny Jones found a way to get an applause out of the crowd. The announcement that Mark Trammell has appeared on the Singing News Magazine more than ANY OTHER Southern Gospel vocalist did the trick! Celebrating 19 appearances on the publication over his career, Mark Trammell walked up to the microphone and informed the crowd that “back then” the Singing News was printed as a newspaper and didn’t have pictures. LOL As Danny slipped off stage, Mark went on to introduce the master of ceremonies (more commonly known as emcee) for the weekend, Jay Parrack. But first Mark had to tease Jay about not wearing a suit, “First we’re going to take up a love offering to buy this man a suit because he doesn’t own one.” Narrowing his eyes in concentration, he thought a moment and added, “Not that it would help much because he didn’t like to wear them when he did.” Glancing at Jay who stood off to the side in dress pants and a colorful long sleeved shirt, the audience giggled. “I’m just picking on him,” Mark grinned. When Jay came into the spotlight, he exclaimed, “Good evening everybody! Are you ready for some good Gospel music tonight?” After a joke or two Jay gave the audience a little advice for the evening, “I want you push everything else that’s happening in our lives aside for a few hours and focus on one person, Jesus Christ.” Bowing his head to pray, Jay invited the Lord into Hill Crest and to bless the folks there.
The Whisnants were welcomed on stage with a great applause. Smiling, they took their microphones in hand and began singing the soothing tones of We Are So Blessed. A peaceful tide rolled in with the lyrics. The Gloryland Way followed and Jeff invited the audience to sing along if they knew the words. “I’ve never seen the face of God,” said Jeff, introducing his solo with a grin, “But I’m sure looking forward to it!” The song that he sang was called One Day I Will and the lyrics talked about that very subject, seeing the Father face to face. “You know folks,” Jeff explained, “I don’t think it’s gonna be long till King Jesus comes back and that’s what this song talks about!” Their #1 song, King Jesus (is coming) came next. While watching the crowd respond by clapping and keeping the beat, it was obvious that they loved hearing the Whisnants sing that tune. (Usually, an audience will clap during a chorus or at the beginning of a song and then fade out, but not the Homecoming crowd! They kept that beat at a consistent pace all night long!) “I can tell you right now, this is going to be a good time in the house of the Lord,” Jeff exclaimed, “Would you let Mark Trammell know that you appreciate them bringing these events in?” A roaring applause followed Jeff’s request and then he introduced the Whisnants. Next, it was Susan’s turn to introduce a song, she said, “We sent a song out to radio last year and it made such an impact.” She went on to say that they wanted to sing that song for us that night – I’ll Trust The Potter’s Hand. Another popular song the Whisnants had on radio some time ago was the one that Aaron sang afterwards, Be Not Afraid. “That is good news!” exclaimed Susan as the track finished playing. Turning to the side of the stage and waving her son, Ethan, to come up, she introduced him and featured him on a tune called Walk the Talk. He sang this one with his Mom and brother, Austin. Once Ethan finished his solo, Susan introduced a song that their oldest son would sing next, “I want Austin to sing a song that’s helped a lot of people.” It was called Sheltered By His Grace and spoke of all the heartache that Christian children are saved from experiencing because they grew up in homes with parents who taught them about the Lord Jesus. At that moment, we heard Ethan sing with Austin and Susan, and Austin sing with Jeff and Susan…next, we were going to hear Jeff, Ethan and Austin sing together! “Would it be alright if Jeff sings a song with his two boys?” Susan asked. Then the three sang On The Road To Emmaus. When they finished and the microphones were returned, Susan stepped forward and began singing God Is So Good acapella, and then Oh! How I Love Jesus followed. Jeff took a moment and reminded everyone how important the blood of Christ is, and though the world says it’s “old fashion and out of place,” the Scripture is clear that “without the blood there is no remission of sin.” If you guessed I’m Trusting The Blood was next, you’re right. The crowd agreed, voicing a soft but firm “Amen” while the Whisnants sang into the chorus of the song. Not long after, the crowd stood to their feet, a silent request for the music to keep going, which was granted through an encore sung acapella. What a moment that was! That number gets a good response, just like their closing tune, New Day Dawning. (Which, needless to say, also received a standing O!)
“Right now I’d like for you to welcome your host group for this weekend,” asked Jay, waving folks to their feet, “Would you stand and give an Anniston welcome to the Mark Trammell Quartet!” As instructed, the audience stood and applauded as MTQ kicked off their set with Leave Your Sorrows and Ransomed and Redeemed. (And most of ‘em didn’t sit down right away either, they continued to stand and clap along to the lively beat through the first verse!) “What a joy it is to have you all here and what a joy it was to have the Whisnants,” said Mark, “You don’t know what it means to us for you to be here.” Mark shared that the crowd they had that night was the largest one they’ve ever had on a Friday night. As I watched him go into the group introductions, it became clear that this man was very touched by the support that the crowd offered in carving out the time on a Friday night to be there. Blessed. That is the only word that can describe Friday night, and while I watched Mark introduce each group member, that word kept coming up. “I love this man and what he has become,” said Mark of his son, Nick Trammell. “If God has allowed me to do something that my son wanted to do it to…” Mark paused to find the right word to describe what he was feeling, but sometimes it is difficult to confine such a blessing to our meager vocabulary. When only the quiet meditation on what it means to have a son follow in his father’s footsteps, not only in a career, but in Godliness, the only thing left to do, was to introduce the one of whom these things were spoken, “Nick Trammell, ladies and gentlemen.” Turning to acquaint the crowd with the last member of the quartet, with a well of tears still in his eyes, Mark stood at such an angle that allowed Pat to wrap his arms around him in a strong bear hug, lightening the heavy moment. Laughing, Mark requested, “Please pray for me, would ya’?” After introducing his bass singer, the crowd couldn’t help but giggle when Mark added, “As strange as this may be, I’m blessed to have him around too.” Following the introductions were songs such as Wedding Music, Testimony and Too Much To Gain To Lose. (That last one received a standing ovation!) From that ballad came, Wonderful Time Up There which eased into Guide Me Oh, Thou Great Jehovah and a request, Echoes From The Burning Bush. “I like that,” Mark interjected, “That song was written in 1941…” If Mark had something to add to that statement, no one will ever know, because right then Pat teased, “You co-wrote that, didn’t you?” (You can’t experience a MTQ concert without someone bringing up Mark’s age! LOL) Their closing song for the first half was another request, the powerful ballad It’s Almost Over. As the track began after Mark announced the title, he added in a slightly hushed tone, “And we get to go home.” (They couldn’t get through this song without a standing ovation too.)
The second half of the evening began with Susan Whisnant exclaiming, “Alright! Here’s one out of the old red back hymnal!” Then they all began the hymn He Keeps Me Singing. “I want to sing this for Jay,” Susan said, “Can I remind you that God hasn’t forgotten you, that He’s still good?” The request was the Whisnants song Even In The Valley. (Jay had requested this song when MTQ stepped off stage at intermission. He shared a time when he was singing with Gold City and heard the Whisnants sing it live and how it gave him such peace at the time.) “This is a song called the Ready Melody,” Jeff explained as the next tune began, “If you know any of these old songs just jump in.” The Ready Melody is comprised of three classic SGM songs: I’m Getting Ready To Leave This World, Goodbye World Goodbye and Ready To Leave. “Mark is a great friend,” Susan conveyed, “He’s like a brother to me…and he’s mean to me, so I appreciate him being sweet to me tonight.” She went on to tell the audience of a time when that wasn’t the case. Someone sent Mark a picture of Susan with her hair in curlers and he had that photo placed on the big screens for all the audience to see. LOL Switching to a serious topic, Susan used a personal example to relate the message of their next ballad to the audience, “If there was one thing I could change about me,” she began then explained, “I’m a fix it person. If my friends have problems, I want to fix them. If my boys have problems, I want to fix them … and when Jeff has problems I want to fix them. But there are going to be situations that are going to come into your path that we can’t fix. No matter how hard we try, we can’t fix it. If it all falls apart tomorrow, God is still God.” The song that the last phrase referred to, All Is Well, brought the crowd to their feet. Jay strode on stage and exclaimed, “The Whisnants everybody!”
“I like the fact that we always seem to get ushered into the throne room,” Jay said happily, “We’ve already been there and we’re going there again with the Mark Trammell Quartet!” Meet Me Over On The Other Side kicked off MTQ’s second set. Addressing Pat, Mark said, “I promised a man a while ago that I would let you sing a song that…features you.” “Oh! This is a good one!” Pat exclaimed. LOL After some friendly banter between Mark and Pat on whether or not one has to know the name of the said song in order to know if it is “good” or not, Pat began his solo – I Want To Know. Considering the standing ovation that bass solo received from the crowd, I would say that more than one was glad to hear it that evening! Well, Nick pushed the button that would encore the song again and Pat jumped over to shut it off. “That’s enough!” Pat exclaimed. Mark mentioned that he made a promise to sing the following song, and once he stated that the message was, “As current as current can get, even though it was written in the 1960’s,” MTQ sang the King Is Coming. (Standing ovation!)
At this point in the evening most Gospel Sings would come to a close, but not in Anniston! The Whisnants joined MTQ on stage and both groups sang a few songs together. The first was one called The Next Time You See Me and featured Jeff on the first verse and Mark on the second. A favorite, Standing On The Solid Rock, came next. It was Mark who waved Jay up on stage to join in on the fun and when Jay took the lead on the chorus, the audience stood. The number was encored again, but half way through it Jay handed the mic back to Dustin and walked off stage. LOL “Have you enjoyed the Whisnants tonight, let ‘em know it!” Mark hollered. “And the Mark Trammell Quartet!” Jeff countered. After drawing a winner for that evening’s prize, Mark prayed and the crowd was dismissed.
Conclusion: “And we get to go home.” That was the phrase that Mark used to describe his solo, It’s Almost Over. Yet, it is a fitting phrase for the MTQ Homecoming as well. As Gospel Artists, these four men and their bus driver spend the majority of their year on the road traveling to churches, Gospel Sings, convention centers and fairs to bring the gospel message in music to you and me. But on this one weekend in August, they “get to go home,” sing in their own church, sleep in their own beds and be in an atmosphere where the fans travel from all over the country to come to them. What a blessing that must be to witness from the stage at Hill Crest Baptist Church. For me personally, it was my third year to attend this event and I will say without hesitation that it was the best one yet!