Gold City: "The" Lineup?

Gold City: "The" Lineup? November 14, 2011

Well, the results in my Gold City tenors and leads polls  have been very interesting. (And by the way, if you haven’t voted yet, it’s never too late! I’d like to get 100 in each, if possible.)
Anyway, so far there are nearly 80 per, and like I said, the results are fascinating. In the tenors poll, Jay Parrack has carried nearly half of the votes. And Brian Free is a very distant second—interestingly, separated by only a few votes from Steve Ladd.

The leads poll seemed tougher. One way I could tell is that there were a few people who voted in the tenors poll but couldn’t seem to make up their minds among the leads. Still, once again there’s a clear front-runner, and that’s Jonathan Wilburn. Similarly to Parrack, he carries nearly half of the votes. Ivan Parker is a slightly closer second than Free to Parrack, but there are still roughly fifteen votes between them.
As a side note of interest, support for some of Gold City’s more recent lead singers seems strong, with Bruce Taliaferro and Craig West each having snagged five votes as of yesterday evening.
My question today is this: If, as it seems, Jay Parrack is predominantly Gold City’s best loved tenor, and Jonathan Wilburn predominantly their best loved lead singer, then why is it that the lineup with Brian Free and Ivan Parker is widely considered The Classic lineup, the benchmark? It surely can’t be because of the other members—Tim Riley obviously has been a constant from day one, and Mike Lefevre has never had a particularly remarkable voice. He’s certainly not the baritone Mark Trammell is, and Mark came after Lefevre during the Parrack years.
Is it because that happened to be the lineup when they made their best music? Even there I’m still confused, because if I’m not mistaken albums like Pillars of Faith and Acapella Gold both featured Steve Lacey and not Lefevre, yet it’s always Mike and not Steve who is featured in any kind of “classic” reunion. However, I know that a lot of their early hits were first performed by the Free/Parker/Lefevre lineup.
What do you think?

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  • The Wilburn/Parrack lineup may be the most “popular”, because they’re the most recent, superstar lineup. Some fans of that lineup may not even remember the Parker/Free lineup, if they’re younger.
    I think the Parker/Free lineup has always been more critically acclaimed. It may have to do with the song quality or arrangements from that period. I don’t really know; you’d have to ask a music critic. As I said, I personally favor 1994-2001.

  • coomercove

    I also favor the Gold City lineup with Jay Parrack, but the one thing that makes the Free/Parker lineup stand out is too often forgotten – Garry Jones. I’d love for Danny Riley to bring Garry in to produce and arrange Gold City’s current music.
    BTW, the small group of Gold City nerds on the internet discuss regularly how crazy it is for people to express their belief that the Free/Parker/Lefevre lineup was Gold City’s best, while using “Pillars of Faith” as their evidence. LOL
    I also think the “classic” status of the 80s super group is helped by being first. People have a soft spot in their heart for the first lineup they heard. A lot of people fell in love with Gold City in the 80s, so it is natural for them to prefer that lineup.

  • donsands

    Mike Lefevre. Is he related to Mylon?

  • preacher man

    I think that the Gold City of Ivan and Brian Mike and TIm, and you were right we have to mention Garry. That group was ahead of its time they were the first to bring social issues into their concerts, and the reason why we talk about them and not other line-ups is because it set a bench mark that, so far the line up of Parrick Wilburn and Trammel have seen to rise to. That is what we expect Gold City to be, just as we know that there will never be another Cathedrals, we also know no matter how much you try to duplicate the sound of former singers, such as Ladd, and their new lead singer that sounds like Ivan. You will never have another line-up like that again. I love southern gospel music, but I wish “Tim” would take the lead and put together not a stereotypical Gold City sound, but something new and fresh such as we heard with Parrick Wilburn Trammel and Tim. The unique sound of Gold City is always what set it apart, and that is what people remember, the line-ups that brought a new sound, and changed the game. If you don’t believe just look at the singers who try to sound like these men we’ve mentioned, I want more original, fresh southern gospel. Once again I am not criticizing I am stating what made me love southern gospel music

  • Right after I posted, Garry’s name popped into my head, and I regretted not mentioning him as an influence. During the Wilburn/Parrack years, Gold City went through multiple pianists and producers. Jones was a huge constant and creative force.

  • They are related. I believe they are first cousins.

  • Garry is a huge talent. And I really like what he brought to the early EHSS too. Anybody else think Signature Sound had a bit of a Gold City flavor in those first couple years?

  • donsands


  • As much as people identify Gold City with Brian/Ivan/Mike, it was Taco’s arranging and production that really raised the bar, and THAT is why that lineup is considered the “classic” group.
    Mark Trammell handled production after Jones left, and he had a completely different approach, which allowed the Parrack/Wilburn/Trammell lineup to establish themselves as “Gold City 2.0.” They didn’t try to copy what Free/Parker/LeFevre/Jones did; they made their own music.
    When GC signed with New Haven, and later when Bruce Taliaferro joined the Ladd/Riley/McCune lineup, they were set to become “Gold City 3.0,” but lineup changes have turned it into two steps forward, one step back.
    But if you think, between 1993 and 1996, Gold City saw the baritone and tenor change once and the lead singer change 3 times. I’m sure fans at the time (had there been blogs like this) would’ve taken Tim Riley to task BIG TIME (and some fans did anyway in concerts). It happens.
    On a side note, when you list the names of the most influential SG producers over the last 50 years, I guarantee you that Garry Jones will be among them.

  • Tony

    I still love the Free/Parker/LeFevre/Riley lineup best. They were much more dynamic. The harmonies were tight and on a different level. Ivan could soar and bring the harmony together when Brian hit those extremely high endings. Mike was always consistent and blended well which is usually overlooked. And well, Tim; He has always been a standard bearer for quality. Listen to the albums Windows of Home, Answer the Call, and Goin Home., not to mention Double Take Live. Awesome!

  • Charles Huckaby

    I’m just now finding this post. What social issues did Gold City bring to the stage?

  • I think he’s referring to a pro-life song they did in 1987 called “Only God Knows.” It featured Brian Free.