Homecoming Magazine recently had the chance to interview Ernie Haase, Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, Scott Fowler and Landon Beene about an exciting event in November — the Cathedrals Family Reunion, scheduled for November 8-9, 2013, in Fort Worth, Texas. If the phone conversation we had gives any indication of what the reunion will be like, it will be a wonderful time of great music, reminiscing and ... laughter! Lots of it.
HC: How are you all doing today?
[L- R: Scott Fowler, Ernie Haase, Mark Trammell, Danny Funderburk and Gerald Wolfe.]
GERALD: I'm fantastic!
ERNIE: Well, we left Nashville last night and got to St. Louis, and our driver dodged a deer and hit a huge sign on the side of the interstate. It just totally demolished the front of our bus; I don’t know how our driver didn’t get hurt … both windshields sitting in his lap, and it tore up the roof. Anyway, we got a minivan — we just pulled into Des Moines, Iowa, with seven guys in a six-passenger minivan.
SCOTT: Ernie, it’s time to sell that piece-of-junk bus, then. I’ll buy it from you for… $100,000. (Laughter ensues, along with other tales of deer-in-the-road encounters. Someone's bus, but we won't tell who, hit three at one time in Georgia a few years back.)
HC: I'm so glad you're all able to be here, and that everyone is in one piece! Ok, here's a question for any or all of you — how did the Cathedrals Reunion Concert come about?
(Dead silence. Crickets chirping.)
MARK: Well, I don’t know, so I’m not gonna answer. (Everyone cracks up.)
ERNIE: Do you want me to tell you what I’ve been telling everybody?
Someone else: Yeah, let’s go with that. (laughs)
ERNIE: Well, it becomes the truth if you say it enough. (laughs) Seriously, I remember being at Anthony Burger's funeral standing with Roger (Bennett), and he said, “Man … I thought this would be me. I never thought I’d be standing here.” And I said, “We need to all get together.” And we never got to, because Roger died the next year.Then, fast forward ... we did that Lari Goss tribute last year, and I began talking with Gerald and Landon, saying that we owed it to ourselves to find a weekend and have a family reunion — to plan to get together when it’s not for a funeral or a benefit concert. For me, that’s what I feel in my heart.
HC: What can the fans expect from the reunion?
MARK: I think people can expect what they are looking for when it comes to the Cathedral life, the Cathedral sound, the things that made the Cathedral quartet what they were. Of course, there’s Glen and George, but far greater than even them is the heart of the music — the connection with the people. They taught all of us — each one here — that you sing to the people, not at the people. When you sing to the people, you connect with the people. That’s what makes a difference in the camp that we came from. We’re different, not because we want to be, but we’re different because of how we were trained.
SCOTT: Hopefully, folks can expect to hear their favorite Cathedral Quartet songs. As Mark said, so much of what the Cathedrals were was defined by the songs they sang. Just like if I go to a concert of my favorite group, I enjoy hearing the new songs, but I really expect to hear my favorite songs, sung by that particular artist. When I go hear…well, I won’t name names. That’s what people can expect to hear musically — their favorite Cathedral Quartet songs. I didn’t want to name names, because I don’t know any Ernie Haase & Signature Sound songs. (laughs) I was going to say “My Name is Lazarus,” by Greater Vision, but I thought, you know, I don’t know any Ernie songs, I don’t know any Mark songs … just kiddin’. (laughs)
MARK: Well, you oughta get the new album, Scott — it’s really good. (laughs) I didn’t buy it; Ernie gave me an iTunes gift card.
ERNIE: Now, I know that’s not true. (laughs)
LANDON: There are some things about this concert that will be different from ones people have gone to before, that will truly make this feel like a family reunion. People can, from now until the reunion, submit their favorite songs that they’d like to hear performed on stage. They can also submit their own memorabilia to be on display at the event, and we plan to have a small “museum,” if you will, set up on location where people will be able to look through the memorabilia and pictures of the Cathedrals down through the years. We are also planning to have the Silhouette, which was the last Cathedrals tour bus, actually parked outside the venue, and people will have the chance to walk through it. So there will be several opportunities for the fans to mingle with the artists and actually be a part of the program itself and have an influence on what we do. We’ve started that process now on Facebook and we’re monitoring what people say. People can visit cathedralsfamilyreunion.com and also the Cathedrals Family Reunion Facebook page.
HC: Any hints toward surprises that people can expect?
GERALD: I think the biggest surprise is that all of us are gonna show up at the same time. (laughs)
HC: Fair enough! And now a very important question that we know Cathedrals fans have probably discussed for years … who is considered the best looking, among all of you?
SCOTT: Well, I hate to brag, but… (laughs)
ERNIE: Well, the best looking Cathedrals member of all time would probably have to be Bud Seeker. He was our bus driver, and he was a ladies’ man.
HC: On a more serious note, what are your favorite Cathedrals songs?
SCOTT: “We Shall See Jesus.”
MARK: I’m going to say “Yesterday,” written by George many years ago.
GERALD: I have two; one is “Seeking for Me” and the other is “God Himself the Lamb.”
ERNIE: I think I have to agree with Mark, because if memory serves me right, that was the first song I heard them sing live. And as great records as they made, their live shows were even greater. And that’s what I think people are gonna—hopefully—feel when they come to this reunion … that feeling that George and Glen were able to create with an audience. The first song I ever heard was with George and Glen, Roger, Kirk and Mark, and I think they opened up with “Yesterday.” I was hooked! Hooked forever. And then, not because I sing it, but I’d have to say “Oh What a Savior,” because that’s the song that brought me to the party. If they hadn’t heard me sing that, I don’t know if I would have gotten a call or audition. So that song has been good to me! But to try to name one, good grief… “Champion of Love,” that Gerald sings…
MARK: “The Laughing Song…”
ERNIE: Oh gosh, yeah — that one breaks my heart.
MARK: We all have songs that we’re featured on, that we could say, but it thrills me that we can all name songs that we may not have been a part of, and it takes us back to the reality that it’s still all about the songs.
HC: What’s one of the funniest Cathedrals moments you can remember?
SCOTT: We can’t print these stories! (laughs) Ok, I have one, but the unfortunate thing about it is … well, I know the guy that it talks about, and he won’t be humiliated by it—I’ve heard him tell it as well. Ernie and myself and Roger were in a Johnny Rockets restaurant one day, and Ernie is an Elvis-a-holic. And he put some money in the jukebox and had picked all Elvis songs. When the waitress came over to take our order, Ernie was singing along with Elvis. The waitress looked at him and said, “Hey buddy, keep your day job.” (laughs) She had no idea it was his day job.
ERNIE: That made our day!
GERALD: My favorite prank that I witnessed was when Kirk Talley hid a bullfrog in George’s bunk in Savannah, Ga., one night. I didn’t know George Younce could move that fast at his age—it was amazing to watch. (laughs) And he wouldn’t get back on the bus!
MARK: I’ll chime in on that one. He made Robbie Willis and myself go to the bus and find the frog. George said, “Y’all are gonna find that dad-blamed frog. I’m not getting back on the bus, and it ain’t movin’, till we get the frog off.” (laughs)
HC: What is something that sticks with you, that you learned from your predecessors in the group?
ERNIE: This may sound uncaring, but I know what he meant by it… Glen would always say to me, “The people don’t care if you’re tired; they don’t really care if you’re down or low … they came here tonight to be lifted up, not to be brought down.” No matter how tired they were, no matter what bus troubles, personnel problems, booking problems, or whatever it was, they were professionals. They taught us that it was a ministry and a high calling, and it was a job to treat with respect. That’s what I feel right now, more than anything.
SCOTT: Kind of along those same lines, how many times, Ernie, did we hear George say this from the stage? When we were singing for a smaller audience, to kind of put the people at ease, he’d say, “Look, I know there are not a lot of people here; the house is not full. But God didn’t call us to sing to full houses; He called us to sing, and you’re going to hear us sing tonight.” On those occasions, if our typical concert was two and a half hours, he would do three that night. He wanted to make sure those folks knew that he was not going to shortchange them and that he wasn’t demoralized because of the weak attendance. And they got 110% that night.
HC: What are the qualities of the Cathedrals that you think have endeared the group to the fans for all those decades?
GERALD: That’s easy; I would say it was their approachability. When you left a concert, and I remember this from being a kid, you felt like you knew every member of the group. George was so good at setting everybody up and telling something about everybody on that platform that endeared them to you. By the time you left the concert, you felt like they were your best friends. And I think that’s what endeared them to people. The singing, of course, was great, but it was the personality that made them loved, I believe.
ERNIE: Because George was close to me, as a father-in-law, people feel like they want to tell me George stories, and it’s never been “he was such a great singer” or “such a sharp dresser.” It’s like, “He hugged me … prayed with me… he looked me in the eye and gave me a $20 bill.” He just took time, and at the end of the day, I’ve got to think that’s what Jesus did. He was approachable, and folks touched him, and even when the disciples said “send them away,” He said “No, that’s what I came to do.”
SCOTT: Ernie’s being modest on George’s behalf, and I appreciate that, but it wasn’t a $20 bill; it was always $100. He was a very generous man.
GERALD: I thought it was a $10. (laughs)
SCOTT: That’s what he gave you. He did have favorites, Gerald, sorry to tell you. (laughs)
LANDON: And all of this time, Gerald thought he was carrying on George’s tradition.
GERALD: Yeah, but my tens don’t have any zeros on them. (laughs)
ERNIE: I think this is what people can expect at the family reunion. I mean, you saw how as soon as we got on this phone, we started laughing. And that’s what happened at our photo shoot the other day. I think there’s going to be a lot of laughter in that room, when we start telling stories and singing. I think the greatest thing that is gonna happen is the stuff that we don’t plan.
HC: Well, it certainly comes across that you guys love each other and have some good relationships there.
MARK: Yeah, well, whatever you think, that’s fine. (laughs)
ERNIE: It’s no different than any other brothers in any other family.
LANDON: This will circle back around to what people can expect from the reunion event. Some of the greatest gospel artists from today have been birthed out of that Cathedrals legacy. You’ve got Greater Vision, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Legacy Five and the Mark Trammell Quartet, so those groups are going to be well represented at the event, showing what was birthed out of the Cathedrals. And then one more thing, I want to include that Glen and George will be well represented at the event. We realize that the Cathedrals were Glen and George; without them, it would not have been the Cathedrals. So, we’re working hard now to make sure the programming will incorporate them.
ERNIE: I think it’s very important that people know that this is not just something that we decided to do. I personally sat down with George’s oldest daughter and Todd Payne. We sat down and had dinner, and I asked if they had any hesitation all about this event, and they both started crying and said “No, it’s time for a family reunion.” I’m just glad that all the guys have moved their calendars; I know all the guys had planned dates, and they could have said, “No, this is not in my best interest.” I told Gerald yesterday, “I think this is bigger than us; I think God’s got something going on here.” I’m excited!