Before I tackle another group with a large discography, I decided to talk about one more mixed group before the new year. I promise I do love and enjoy male quartets, but my heart has always been with mixed groups, as those are the types of groups that have had the greatest impact on me since I was a kid. In 2024, I plan to tackle one of the greatest male quartets ever to hit the stage…so male quartet lovers, sit tight! I got you!
One group that I came to appreciate during my teenage years in the 80’s was The Paynes. Though their time as a full-time group was relatively short-lived compared to a lot of the legendary groups, the mark they made was enormous and it is still felt today! I realize they may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but they were certainly mine! If they weren’t a group you enjoyed, indulge me for a few weeks and before we’re done, maybe you will be too!
The first time I saw the Paynes was at one of the big concerts at the Civic Center in Raleigh, NC during the summer of 1984. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the group. I did not subscribe to the Singing News, nor did we have a local radio station and all I knew about them was their picture on the newspaper ad and that ad indicated they were from Ohio. On the same program were the Hemphills, Rex Nelon Singers, Hinsons, Dixie Melody Boys and the Cathedrals. Funny story…I was 12 years old at the time, and I had decided that since they were from Ohio and the Cathedrals were from Ohio, they were obviously related to Glen Payne! Right??? Wrong!!! HA! Anyway, back to the concert…I attended with my parents and when the Paynes hit the stage, we all took notice and really liked them. If you read my article about my dad’s records (https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=502507644964382&set=a.502481531633660), you remember that several years prior to this concert, my dad had stopped going to church and pretty much stopped going to “singings” and just didn’t really want anything to do with that anymore…but he obviously was really struck by the music of the Paynes, especially the songs “The Conversation” and “Rise and Walk” (which both songs absolutely brought the house down) he went to their record table and bought their “Ready of Not” and “Jesus Fan” cassettes (at some point later in the 80’s, I bought the records as I preferred vinyl), as those 2 songs were on those recordings, and we all left that night as fans of the Paynes!
In fact, the Paynes are the reason that I am a Singing News subscriber to this day. At that concert, we signed up for their monthly newsletter and by April 1985, the Paynes signed up everyone on their newsletter list to a 6-month subscription to the Singing News. The Paynes deduced that it was cheaper to buy a monthly ad in the Singing News and sign up all their fans to a 6-month subscription to the Singing News. It was through these monthly newsletter/ads in the Singing News that I kept up with the Paynes and found out that in April 1985, they recorded a new live album. I also found out they were coming back to another big concert in Raleigh in July 1985 and that they would have the new record that night. We got to the concert a little early, and the Paynes were still setting up their record table and I bought my copy of the record right out of the record bin as they hadn’t even set up the record rack yet! Yeah, I was a rabid Paynes fan by this point!
Another great memory I have is when I saw them for the last time on a Sunday morning on June 11, 1989, at Living Waters Church here in Durham. I had my little radio show and I had showed up to the church early to interview the group. I went to Greg Ball (who was their sound man) and asked if Mike and Loreen were available to talk. He said they were still at the hotel, and then asked if I wouldn’t mind going to pick them up? He didn’t know me from Adam but trusted this almost 17-year-old kid to go pick up Mike and Loreen from the hotel, which was about 10 minutes down the road. What a thrill for this kid to show up at the hotel and chauffeur 2 gospel music stars back to the church in my brown 1982 Ford Escort Wagon! (I was such the ladies’ man in that car!) They were both very kind to me and when we got back to the church, we went to the bus and conducted the interview with the group. Before I could even get started, Reggie Grimmett took my little mic and started harping on the harmonica and Keith provided some outrageous comic relief and started interviewing me. He literally ran away with my interview and left me completely speechless and in stitches. It’s a priceless memory I will always cherish and so glad I have it all caught on tape!
For those not familiar with the Paynes, the group started from humble beginnings as the Mike Payne Trio in the early 70’s, and then later as the Glorious Gospel Heirs (named after their church, Glorious Church of God). Though there were various vocalists in the group during their early days, the vocal line-up most people remember were Mike Payne and his wife Loreen, Mike’s brother Keith and cousin, Bill Sizemore. Mike’s brother, Mark, also played drums for the group. Mike was growing as a songwriter during this time, being heavily influenced by the writings of Ronny Hinson, and by the early 80’s, Mike’s songs were gaining popularity. Groups such as the Sego Brothers & Naomi, Cathedrals and Singing Cookes were some of the first groups to record his songs, and in fact, the Singing Cookes went on to record quite a few of Mike Payne songs over the years. Spurred by their increasing popularity and Mike’s name recognition as a songwriter, the group changed their name to the Payne Family and ultimately, they shortened it to just “The Paynes”. They eventually caught the eye of gospel music promotor, Norm Livingston, and he began using them extensively in his concerts around the Dayton, Ohio area, as well as on his radio station and his television program, “Norms Old Fashioned Singing Convention”. Norm Livingston is the individual who introduced the group on their 1985 live album, “Fire on Stage” and again on their 2001 live recording, “30th Anniversary Live”. In fact, Norm was instrumental in the success of several artists over the years including the Singing Cookes, Spencers, Quinton Mills and Charles Johnson & the Revivers.
After recording several independent albums during the 70’s and a couple of albums on Trail Records in 1980 and 1981, the group signed with Windchime Records in 1982 and released their first national recording, “Ready or Not”, with the title song being their first chart song, topping out at a very respectable #5, in the Singing News Chart! By the following year, the Paynes were enjoying their very first #1 song with “It’s Out of This World”. The group would go on to enjoy numerous charting hits and concert favorites over the ensuring years including, “I’m a Jesus Fan”, “Rise and Walk”, “The Conversation”, “Angels Step Back”, “Just in Case of Rapture”, “Stir Up the Fire”, “God Wants You” and many others.
The Paynes disbanded in 1990, with Mike continuing as a soloist for a few years as he preached and sang in concerts and churches all over the country. Loreen, and their daughter Sandra would often travel with Mike, and they would make appearances with him from time to time. Eventually the 3 would formally unite to reform the Paynes for a few years during the latter part of the 90’s and early 2000’s, releasing 2 studio recordings for Daywind Records. The whole group came back together in November 2000 for a reunion concert event that was released in 2001 called, “30th Anniversary Reunion”, which is the last recording released by the group.
The impact that the Paynes made on the industry is undeniable. Mike’s songs have been recorded by numerous artists including the Singing Cookes, Cathedrals, Brian Free & Assurance, Inspirations, Nelons, Hoppers, Crabb Family, Florida Boys, Wilburns, Kingsmen, Freemans, Gold City and many others. Probably one of the greatest songs Mike wrote was “When He Was on the Cross (I Was on His Mind)”, as recorded by the Florida Boys and written with Ronny Hinson. The song went on to win Song of the Year honors at the Singing News Fan Awards for 1985 and 1986 and goes down as one of the great classics of our genre. Mike was a very unique writer who could write your straight-ahead Southern Gospel tunes like “Ready or Not”, “God Delivers Again”, “If God Before Us”, “He Broke the Chains”, “It’s Out of this World”, “Oh What a City”, “Long Time Comin’” and “Standing in the Presence”, but could also churn out some very unique and out of the box type songs such as “The Conversation”, “I’m a Jesus Fan”, “Rise and Walk”, “Walkin’ the Streets” and “I’ve Got a Right to Pray”. Mike could also write such heart rendering tunes like “He’ll See Me Home”, “Once and For All”, “I’m Living Proof”, “Welcome Home”, “When He Was on the Cross” and “What More Can I Ask For” and turn right around and pen some of really fun and off the wall stuff like “He Made the Jailhouse Rock”, “They’ve Got a Place for People Like Me”, “Who But God” and “Workin’ Like the Devil for the Lord”. As a big fan of singer/songwriters, Mike Payne is one of my favorites and one I highly respect and regard as one of the best songwriters in our genre.
While their studio albums were all great, the best way to experience the Paynes was live and in concert. Their only live album released during their heyday was, “Fire on Stage”, which remains one of the greatest live albums of all time and was a perfect representation of what the Paynes were like in concert. When the Paynes hit the stage, it was truly an electrifying and euphoric experience. Their concerts were a musical revival that took you to spiritual heights that few groups could transport you to. The group had a vigorous Pentecostal feel to their music and though I wouldn’t call them country gospel in the same vein as the Hinsons, there was a strong Hinson influence on their music and live performances. Much like Ronny Hinson would do, Mike would take off preaching during a song with the band providing him with some “preaching music” in the background. Speaking of the band, the Paynes had an amazing band, and that band played a big role in their exciting sound and stage presentation as well. Seeing the Paynes in concert was a thrilling experience, as they exploded on stage with the band’s full sound and Pentecostal beat, coupled with Mike’s charismatic persona, exciting emcee work and powerful lead vocals. Mike’s wife, Loreen, had such sweet and sultry alto tones that would pierce through the mix loud and clear, and she could render a solo with such heart and emotion, you couldn’t help but be taken in. Bill Sizemore sang baritone and played lead guitar and Mike’s brother Keith, would provide bass vocals. Though neither were featured often, Bill and Keith were both integral to the group’s sound and Keith would provide some outstanding comedic relief, with Mike playing the straight man.
While their time in the mainstream arena was relatively brief, their impact was wide and deep, and they were one of the groups that truly made 80’s gospel music exciting and inspiring! I hope you’ll take this journey with me as we walk through their music starting from 1982 through their retirement in 1990, then Mike’s time as a soloist through the group’s reincarnation during the mid and late 90’s. We’ll have a blast re-living this awesome music and I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts and hearing your thoughts and memories as well!
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