"Remembering George Younce"
by Paul Heil
In the entire field of Southern Gospel music, I know of no one who was as
respected and as loved by so many people as George Younce. His personal warmth,
his sense of humor and his genuine affection for people made an indelible
impression on anyone with whom he came in contact.
The entire second hour of our broadcast the weekend of May 14th & 15th,
2005, was a special tribute remembering the late George Younce. George was
definitely a one-of-a-kind individual. He was unexcelled as a singer. As
an onstage emcee, he was extremely effective able to go from
heart-touching, inspiring songs and comments to humor, and back again. As
you heard the late Glen Payne say on the program, George was a big part of
what made the Cathedrals... the Cathedrals.
Preparing material for this special tribute was really a labor
of love for me because George had become a very special friend to Shelia
and me over the years. Perhaps you'll recall that George was the only co-host
we ever had on The Gospel Greats program. The occasion was our 20th anniversary
broadcast back in 2000, shortly after the Cathedrals had retired from the
road. (Of course, Glen Payne had died a few months earlier.) We actually
recorded the voice parts of the program in George's sunroom at his home in
Ohio. As you can imagine, I had much, much more interview material and songs
that I would have loved to include in this special, but time limitations
simply did not allow it. I think material that I actually processed in
preparation would have allowed the program to go another half hour, at least.
Even in recent years, George would occasionally call us at the office, just
to say "hi." Just chatting with him about well, not necessarily anything
in particular was always an uplifting experience. George's legacy
will be the high standards he set for anyone in Southern Gospel music
standards of integrity, standards of singing, standards of concert presentation,
standards of how to interact with, and care for people, and standards of
how to allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide in a concert presentation.
George lives on in all of those singers, fans and friends who have learned
from this exceptional man.
When, though our e-mail newsletter, we flashed the word of his passing in
an "extra" newsletter, I asked readers to submit personal remembrances of
George. Many did far too many, in fact, to include them all here.
But here are representative excerpts from just a few:
"Paul, I am only eight years old but George was my bestest buddy. I have
loved him since before I was two. For a long time to me he was 'Bullfrog'
because of Gaither's Pond. I will miss him so much, but he will live in my
heart forever..." Brayden Brown
"I love the songs George sang, and do some of them myself, even though I
could never reach the low notes George reached. I remember how he communicated
with young and old alike. He could make us all laugh, and cause deep thoughts
as well...." Pastor Jim
"I will never forget the first time I saw or heard
him. It was at Fallston High School in 1985. I said to myself, 'I sure would
like to do that, sing for Jesus.' I asked Brother George if there was one
thing he could tell me, what would it be. He simply said, 'Just stay faithful
to God.' And now for the last several years I have been singing fulltime
for Jesus. Thank you, George Younce." Neil Olenick
"My daughter, Katie, age seven, ...loved to listen to the Cathedrals as we
drive. Whenever someone else would come in the car with us she would always
say, 'Daddy, put in the tape with the guys that sing, one high, two medium
and the really cool guy that sings low.'" Gregg Anderson
"As part of the Singing Moores, years ago at an all-night singing near Magnolia,
Arkansas, George, in his special cowboy boots, helped push my sister's car
out of a mud hole. He didn't care that he would get mud on his boots, he
just saw the need to help get her car unstuck." Sandra Parker
"In June, 1980, I heard Southern Gospel for the first time at Watermelon
Park when the Hoppers used to do their singings there. I was only 13 but
remember this like it was yesterday. The Cathedrals...were on stage singing...
I remember George saying, 'Lord, I'm ready to go.' That struck me because
I knew I was saved, but I wasn't living my best for Jesus and I didn't want
to meet the Lord like I was. That was a life-changing weekend for me! ...George
will always be my hero!" Dawn Brooks
"I never got to meet, see or hear George in person, but his passing is like
losing one of my own family members. I have listened to George and Glen with
the Cathedrals since I was very young, probably around five years old. (I
am 36 now.) They have been my inspiration to sing in a quartet here in my
own hometown of Monroe, Louisiana." Mike Israel
"I...believe that George was one of, if not the most spiritual singer that
I ever saw or heard. I also think the quality of his voice was unmatched
and no one had the gift of good humor on stage that he had." Gene
"While I never had the opportunity to sing with [George] on stage, he certainly
did influence the way I am able to present the Gospel message in song as
I sing the bass part with the March Forth Quartet... His stage presence and
his gentle good humor, especially with Glen, have inspired me in the way
I try to present my part of our ministry... I can honestly say that probably
no one person has influenced my life and career more than George Younce..."
"One of my fond memories is several years ago at Six
Flags Over Georgia there was a Southern Gospel music day... Gold City had
just finished singing and then, as the last group to sing, the Cathedrals
came on and what a time! I remember as they had finished singing a
song, the crowd was on their feet, shouting, clapping and praising God. George
Younce responded by saying, 'Where are the people of Six Flags who put this
day together? Look around. This is what it is all about! People shouting
and praising God, with uplifted hands, being ministered to by Southern Gospel
singing. You can book your other music, but this is what is going to get
people saved and blessed.... George turned to the crowd and asked, 'Am I
right?' And the crowd went wild." Gerald Cooper
"I was born in Lenoir, NC, too many years ago to admit. Gospel music was
always part of my life, as my father was then our church's music director.
Our front porch...was the scene of many impromptu, often acapella, concerts,
as people from our church and friends were always stopping by... In addition
to our church family, a neighbor gentleman would often walk over and join
in the singing. My sisters would play with the visiting kids, but I was always
drawn to the adults, and to the music. I would stay with them as long as
I could, usually, until I was about to fall over asleep. Then the kind neighbor
man would say deeply, 'Come on over here, little man.' He would pick me up,
hold me on his lap, and I would drift off to sleep, listening to his deep
bass voice, and feeling the vibrations from his kind heart and rich vocal
chords. Many years have passed since there. When my mother passed away a
few years ago, we were sitting around sharing our childhood memories. I told
the story I just shared with you and then I asked my father who that
neighbor was. He seemed surprised that I did not know that the neighbor gentleman
who had graced us with his presence so many times was none other than George
Younce! George, thanks for the precious memories!" Walter F. Johnson
"George was very special to us. One incident I remember is when I miscarried
with our third child. My husband and I were both in a 'fog.' It was difficult
to concentrate on anything. I needed to call George Younce for an update
on his health. Still sick in bed after my surgery, I called George and got
the updated information. When he asked how I was I told him about our loss
and how saddened and grieved we were feeling. He said that as soon as Clara
got back from the store they would pray together for us. It was very shortly
after that when the fog lifted for my husband and he could then do what he
needed to do. I believe George and Clara's prayers gave us the strength we
needed to go on... It is a blessing of their friendship that I won't forget."
"I never got to meet George personally but I enjoyed hearing him sing and
his emcee work was outstanding... He was a classy man who fronted an equally
classy group. When he sang you believed every word he sang was personal.
He had a great voice and a wonderful personality... His passing leaves a
hole that will be hard to fill if possible to fill." Elaine
"I am a Christian today because George closed a program at the old Guernsey
Barn in Lancaster, PA, with an invitation. I had the opportunity to relay
the story to George and he remembered the night because he didn't always
close the program with an invitation." Lloyd Hall
"I want to tell you of an incident in Sioux City, Iowa, when the Cathedrals
were there. A young father came up to George and told him his wife had collected
pop cans enough to send this father to the concert. George was so touched
by this, when George shook his hand he left a $100 bill in it. That young
man was from our church and gave this testimony..." Leona Strong
"I never knew George Younce personally, but seeing him in concert and on
TV I think you could see Jesus in him..." Joan C.
"In December, 1980, I was at work in Detroit as an ironworker apprentice
[when] I fell 75 feet to the ground, badly hurt. But the injuries were not
life threatening. The Cathedrals were coming to our church and I was upset
that the doctors would not allow me to go. I was 'doomed' for the couch the
night of the concert. But then the phone rang. Some guy with a low voice...began
berating me severely regarding my fall. Didn't I know we were supposed to
walk on the ground, not up in the air? I finally asked, 'Who is this?' 'Why,
Tom, this is George Younce with the Cathedral Quartet. Your lovely wife told
me of your accident and told me how much you were going to miss this concert...'
I was flabbergasted, overwhelmed, speechless." Tom Marble, Sr.
"I went to see the Cathedrals whenever I could. One night I had my three-year-old
daughter with me (she will soon by 19)... After the concert we visited the
table... When we stopped to talk with George, he made [a fuss] over my little
girl, and I shared that we ride in my pickup all the time listening to the
Cathedrals. I told him her favorite song is, 'Who Can Do Anything' and that
I have to stop, rewind and play it over and over again for her. Well, to
my surprise, he started singing it to her. She was bashful and I was standing
there with my mouth open. Needless to say, I was thrilled... The Cathedrals
have left a lasting impression on us." Roger Smith
"Seven years ago, I was very touched by George's ministry, example and integrity.
I longed to go into ministry and knew that I would do well to follow George's
example... When George sang or spoke, every word was from his heart. His
godly life really challenged me. So I wrote him a letter to tell
him so. I was more than a little surprised and touched when I not only received
a response from him, but also an autographed photo of him. It was like I
mattered to him, which I know today is true... George gave me a real example
of Jesus that day, and it still hits me today. I was so important to George,
who didn't know me. How much more the Father loves me, who knows me through
and through..." Donna Rempel, Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada
"About 15 years ago, when our daughter was five years old, we heard that
the Cathedrals were going to be at a neighboring church... We went and sat
on the front row. The house was packed so our daughter sat on the floor.
I will never forget a time during the concert when George stopped the music
and asked the congregation to sing 'God Is So Good.' Our Kimberly has always
been able to carry a tune. Following one chorus, George stopped the congregation,
got down on one knee by Kimberly and announced that the two of them would
be singing the chorus together just the two of them! What a duet!!!
Kimberly has never forgotten that night and now, as a college student majoring
in vocal performance, she is pursuing her own dreams following God's direction
for her life and she serves Him. George impacted lives of the young and the
old. He will be missed." Sheila Kurz
"On one occasion, probably in 1985, we attended a Hoppers singing...and the
Cathedrals were singing that night. Our family was walking across the parking
lot when George appeared. So we stopped and talked for a few minutes and
then continued walking. A few minutes later we noticed our son, Jeremy (about
five at the time), unfolding something in his hand. George had made a point
of shaking Jeremy's hand, as he did all of us, but he had placed a $5 bill
in Jeremy's hand. When we saw George later that evening and mentioned it,
he brushed it off as something he loved to do because he loved kids.... The
incident with the $5 bill will always be remembered with fondness by our
family..." Randy & Beverly Wallace, Oxford, NC
(From former group tenor Kirk Talley.) "I remember one night in Lancaster,
PA, we were singing and George decided to have the audience sing 'Alleluia.'
He started signing and asked them to sing along. But the odd thing was, he
wasn't singing the tune to 'Alleluia.' He was singing the words, but the
tune was something we had never heard before. I was standing beside the piano.
Roger Bennett looked up at me and whispered, 'Do you know this version?'
I shook my head from side to side as if to say no, but the weird thing was
that the audience was singing the melody that George was singing! Talk about
a master! George Younce was teaching them a new melody and they were singing
it the first time! There was nobody like him."
(From former group pianist Lorne Matthews.) "I was at a very low time
in my life. For two years I had made rotten, sinful choices, almost lost
my marriage and family, experiencing depression and much pain in my life.
But now I had reached the point of wanted to make changes and I was trying
to dig out of the pit. I had submitted myself to the leaders of the church
for discipline and help. One of their rules was that I was not to play the
piano in any church-type settings. However, they did permit me to play dinner
music at a local classy restaurant.
"It was Christmas time and very cold and snowy in northeast Ohio. The grand
piano was in one room, but in another room sat the Younce family having dinner.
When the music started reverberating throughout the beautifully decorated
restaurant, George told his family, 'that has to be Lorne playing the piano.'
As he was leaving the restaurant, George came by the piano and spoke with
me and told me how much he had enjoyed the music.
"George started driving home with his family. He later told me he got almost
home and could not get me off his mind. He turned the car around and drove
back to the restaurant and came to me at the piano. He stuck his hand in
my pocket and left a couple of $100 bills and said, 'Go buy your wife a nice
"It was not so much the money (even though that certainly was timely!), but
the riches of friendship was worth more to me at that point in my life than
any tangible gift that anyone could have given me..."
What an uncommon man George Younce was.
Much of the above was condensed from two editions of The Gospel Greats
[e-mail] Newsletter distributed during late April and May, 2005.