ArticlesNewsVinyl Record Review

VINYL RECORD REVIEW: The Kingsmen – Just in Time (1976)

The Kingsmen – Just in Time (1976)

When looking at the Kingsmen’s discography as a complete body of work, their 1976 album, “Just in Time” is a rather unique piece of music history.  In May 1976, Jim Hamill left the Kingsmen, moved to Memphis, Tennessee and joined the Senators, where they recorded one album with Hamill called, “Stand By Me” (which was an outstanding album, by the way!).  With Hamill’s departure from the Kingsmen, Squire took over singing lead and Foxie moved to the frontlines once again, to sing baritone.  Squire was an amazing singer and filled the lead role spectacularly, but Hamill was such a force and was a dynamic emcee, and his exit left a bit of a hole that was hard to fill.  Foxie took over emcee duties during this time, with Squire assisting as needed, but it was very different compared to how Hamill ran things on stage, and the group ended up doing a lot more singing and less talking during this time period.  Eventually, Hamill would return, and by the end of December 1976, Hamill was back with the Kingsmen, and Squire would move back down to the baritone position and Foxie would assume his place back on the electric piano, singing a couple of songs each night.  Eventually, though, Foxie would opt to stay at home more to tend to Kingsmen business and other things such as coaching ball, but he would still take major trips with the Kingsmen and join them often on select dates.  There were other changes going on during this time as well, as Jim McCauley had left for a brief time and the Kingsmen hired Bob Conley to play bass guitar.  Within a few months, McCauley had returned, and Conley moved to play Rhythm Guitar.  At the time, gas shortages and a bad economy was wreaking havoc on everyone, especially those who traveled and toured full-time, and Bob and Chester Arms (who was their drummer) ended up leaving the group by the end of the year.

Right after Hamill left, the group did record a couple of independent/table projects with the new line-up.  One was called, “The Kingsmen Sing Golden Gospel”, which was filled with popular songs of the day (including the Kingsmen’s version of “Scars in the Hands of Jesus”, which Hamill had previously passed over a year or so earlier and ended up being a huge hit for the Florida Boys), and the second one was called, “High and Low”, which was an album featuring Johnny Parrack on one side and Ray Reese on the other.  Since several of the Kingsmen’s songs seemed to feature Johnny and Ray (highlighting the high and the low), it seemed appropriate for them to release this type of album featuring both gentlemen.  These are both excellent albums, but they were never nationally released and were only sold at Kingsmen concerts.

Along with the personnel changes I mentioned earlier, things were happening on the business side of things with the Kingsmen.  After a fruitful 3 years with Canaan Records, they decided not to re-sign with the label, and in October 1976, they signed a deal with Heartwarming Records and sadly, Canaan ceased all promotion for the newly released “Just in Time” album, which had just come out a month or so earlier.  When they signed with Heartwarming, plans were immediately underway for them to record a live album on Thanksgiving night in Knoxville, Tennessee, but after Hamill decided to return, those plans were scrapped for the time being.

As with all their previous albums released on Canaan, Marvin Norcross produced “Just in Time”.  Jim Hamill normally had a big part in picking songs for the Kingsmen, but for this latest album, Nick and Squire picked a majority of the songs, with input from Foxie.  Also, as Hamill would have normally worked with Nick on song arrangements, Nick did all the vocal and music arrangements for the album.  “Just in Time” had a distinct country feel, but vocally it was one of their more polished-sounding albums, while still maintaining that classic Kingsmen feel.

Featuring a wonderful steel guitar and fiddle track, country sounds abound as the album kicks off with the title song, “Just in Time”.  Written by Dottie Rambo, the Kingsmen’s rendition had a little more pep to it compared to the Rambos more soulful version from their 1976 album, “The Son is Shining”, and in fact, despite hardly any promotional effort from Canaan, the song charted for the Kingsmen, peaking at #9 in July 1977.  Interesting tidbit, when Hamill rejoined the Kingsmen, they rarely staged the song, as the song just didn’t seem to fit Hamill’s program.  James Sego was a huge fan of the song and often chided Hamill for not staging it.  In fact, the Sego Brothers & Naomi recorded it on their 1976 album, “It’ll Be Different the Next Time”, and enjoyed success with the song as a concert favorite on their own set list.  Eventually, Teddy Huffam & the Gems recorded a dynamic rendition of the song on their 1977 album, “Souled Out…Live!”.

The invigorating, “Caught Up” picks up the tempo with lots of rollicking guitar and fiddle action, and features Ray Reese on the second verse along with step out lines on the chorus.   This was such an exciting song and is one of my personal favorites from this album.  The song was written by a gentleman named Orville Eugene “Gene” Anderson and published through Canaan Record’s in-house publishing company, Canaanland Music.  Gene was a singer/songwriter/preacher who lived out in the mid-west, who also penned the popular Inspirations’ tune, “Thank God I’ve Made It”, that they originally recorded on their 1981 album, “Is That Footsteps That I Hear”.

Next, we come to the mournful strains of the steel guitar and harmonica, as well as a strong doghouse bass track for the song, “Captain Jesus”, which was written by Squire.  Having the feel of an old-time country and western song, Johnny takes the melody on the chorus with Squire taking the second verse, and it was a great song allowing Squire to use his upper register as the new lead singer, before Eldridge Fox steps up to sing the Bobby All penned, “He Never Gave Up On Me”, which was published through Hopper Brothers & Connie Publishing.  Bobby played for the Hoppers around this time, and they recorded the song on their 1976 album, “Higher”.  The song fit Eldridge like a glove and was a great inclusion for this album.

One of my all-time favorite Kingsmen tunes is the highly enjoyable, “Some Sweet Day”, which was written by Squire.  With a bit of Texas Swing, the song features some delightful piano playing by Nick, which legend has it that Roger Bennett used the exact piano intro when he tried out for the Cathedrals.  The song was a popular concert favorite for the Kingsmen, and I simply adore Johnny’s singing on the song and it’s my absolute favorite song from this album.

The first side closes out with the medium tempo, “When That Old Ship of Zion Sails in Home”, which was written by Jack Clark and published through Kingsmen Publishing.  Featuring Ray on the second verse and Johnny taking the melody on the final chorus, I’ve always been quite fond of this song, and it’s long been one of my personal favorites from this album.  A perfect lead off song, for a short time, this was the opening song for the Kingsmen’s set list.

Once again, we’re met with the sorrowful strains of the steel guitar and harmonica, as the second side kicks off with the Gordon Jensen penned, “Innocent Blood”, which features Johnny as well as some really nice harmony by the Kingsmen.  While Johnny could effortlessly soar on those insanely high notes, songs like this show he could also deliver wonderful interpretations on those slower, meaningful tunes.

Keeping things in slow mode, Foxie steps up to sing the Ruby Moody penned, “Another Child Has Made it Home”, which was published through Kingsmen Publishing, before things get kicked into high gear with fiddles a-blazing, giving the feel of a country hoedown, as we come to the concert favorite, “Don’t Be Knockin’”.  The Kingsmen delighted audiences everywhere as they had fun with each other while singing this song back in the day, and it actually charted briefly for the Kingsmen, stalling out at #20 in May 1977.  Squire brought the group this song, as it was one that he remembered singing as he was growing up.  I remember when I bought this album from the Canaan Record & Tape Club in the early 80’s, I could not get enough of this song and thoroughly enjoyed listening to it over and over again.  In fact, it’s still a delightful piece of ear candy for me!  The Lewis Family eventually recorded the song a few years later, on their 1983 album, “In Concert”.

Slowing the tempo down once again to a nice, easy pace and featuring steel guitar and harmonica highlights along with a strong acoustic bass track, we come to the Conrad Cook penned, “Beyond the Clouds”, which feature both Johnny and Eldridge.  This would be another popular concert favorite for the Kingsmen, and they would eventually resurrect this song 20 years later, on their “Beyond the Clouds” recording.

Picking the pace back up, we come to another excellent Conrad Cook tune entitled, “Joy in the Morning”, which features lots of fancy guitar work and step out lines by Squire, Johnny, and Ray, before the album closes out with the country gospel feel of the spirited, “Prayed Up, Packed Up”, which was written by Morris Stancil and features Johnny.

I always thought “Just in Time” was such a great record, and I always felt that it really showcased some of the Kingsmen’s best singing.  Though it has a resounding country feel to it, the Kingsmen had a nice polish to their sound with this album, and I firmly believe that, had Hamill not returned to the Kingsmen, they would have continued to be a major force within gospel music, albeit a slightly different path.  Also worth mentioning, Johnny Parrack is featured prominently throughout the album, as he does some of his best singing here.  In fact, Johnny took home the “Favorite Tenor” award at the 1976 Singing News Fan Awards!

Despite a unique year of changes for the Kingsmen, more change was on the horizon for the beginning of 1977, as though Hamill returned to the Kingsmen in December 1976, Johnny would depart the group in January 1977, opening the way for Ernie Phillips to join later that month, as their new tenor.  The next album the Kingsmen released ushers in a new era for the group, one from which would take the Kingsmen to a whole new level!

Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music.  Please like and follow my page at

James Hales

James Hales, from Durham, North Carolina, has been a writer for since 2000. James is our featured reviewer and also contributes to monthly features periodically.
Back to top button