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VINYL RECORD REVIEW: The Kingsmen – Your Ride’s on the Way (1982)

Just as some of their previous studio albums had lived in the shadow of their “live” predecessors, I think the same can be said for “Your Ride’s on the Way”.  This album contained some wonderful songs, and I listened to it incessantly as a kid, as I was obsessed with anything the Kingsmen did back then.  The Kingsmen always had a way of exuding the same excitement in the studio as they did on their live albums, and I feel that “Your Ride’s on the Way” exemplified that fact.

Over the previous year, there were a few changes within the Kingsmen, though some of the timelines are a bit murky…Jim McCauley departed the Kingsmen sometime after “Live…Naturally” was recorded, and Ed Crawford (who was initially hired to drive the bus and run sound) moved to play bass guitar for a short time.  Ed previously sang with the Calvarymen (the same group Squire Parsons came from) as well as the Singing Americans prior to joining the Kingsmen.  Right after “Live…Naturally” was released, Wayne Maynard left the Kingsmen, and at that point, Ed moved up to sing baritone and the Kingsmen hired Otis Dillon to play bass guitar.  Eventually Otis left and Wayne returned to play bass guitar and sing on specialty numbers, as well as become Hamill’s “designated singer”, which was something Mark Trammell had done during his tenure with the Kingsmen.

“You’re Ride’s on the Way” was produced by Eldridge Fox and Jim Hamill, and this would be the first of several albums where Foxie and Hamill would share producing duties.  Also, a young executive named Bill Traylor would act as Executive Producer for the album.  Traylor would eventually depart Heartwarming and start his own label, RiverSong Records a year later.  Nick Bruno is once again providing string arrangements for this album, and this would be the last album that Nick would be a part of for several years.  Nick is also one of three piano players for this album, which includes famed studio musician, Bobby Ogdin (who also played for Elvis), as well as Anthony Burger, as this would be his first major studio album to play on for the Kingsmen.  Playing off the album’s title, the cover features a unique shot of the Kingsmen, who were standing outside, waiting for their ride.  The shot was taken at a location in the Nashville areas where they were building a mall.

The album kicks off with the fun and delightful tune, “You and Me Jesus”, which I always thought would have made an excellent single release for the Kingsmen.  Written by Dallas Holm, the song was tailor made for Jim Hamill and was the perfect lead off song for the album.  Eldridge Fox was in the Benson office one day and overheard Dallas Holm’s recording of the song, and he thought it would be a perfect song for Hamill.  Featuring the classic intro from the Statler Brothers’ hit song, “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott” from 1973, the Kingsmen had actually used this same intro 8 years earlier on the song “Glad Homecoming” from their 1974 album, “1686 Pounds of Gospel”.  The Masters V had recorded the song a year earlier on their very first album and it eventually became a signature tune for Jake Hess.

With a nice musical intro with the mandolin and featuring the fiddle and steel guitar throughout, Ray and Ernie are featured on the upbeat ¾ time song, “Prodigal Son”, which was written by George Shuffler’s younger brother, Billy Ray “Dude” Shuffler, of the famed Shuffler Family, before the tempo slows down for the beautiful, stirring ballad, “Gloryland”, which features Foxie, Ed, and Ernie.  Featuring a haunting steel guitar track along with strings and nice harmonica and acoustic guitar work, this quickly became my personal favorite song from this album.  In 1981, the Primitive Quartet recorded a stirring acapella rendition of the song on their “Live at Hominy Valley” album, which charted briefly in 1982 and went on to become one of their best loved songs.  Squire Parsons recorded the song on a solo album in 1981 as well, and though the song is technically Public Domain, it did not have a chorus, so Squire re-arranged the song and wrote a chorus to it.  Around this time, a close relative of the Fox family had passed away and at the request of the family, the Kingsmen sang this song at the funeral, and Foxie so loved the song and its meaning, that he pushed the record company for the Kingsmen to record the song.  The Kingsmen’s rendition was the first version of the song that I heard and fell in love with as a kid, and as much as I love the Primitive Quartet’s emotional performance, it’s the Kingsmen’s version from this album that still remains my personal favorite performance of the song.

Taking a turn from the serious to the fun, Ernie takes the lead on the song, “I Don’t Want to Live No More Without Jesus”, which features some wonderful harmony by the Kingsmen.  Written by Carvel Horton and published by the Cathedrals through their Onward Bound publishing company, to hear Jim Hamill tell the story from the stage…Kirk Talley pitched it to the Kingsmen stating that the Cathedrals weren’t going to record the song, but the Cathedrals did end up recording it on their 1982 album, “Something Special”.  The Kingsmen and Cathedrals performed together a lot during this time, and they would battle it out on stage with this song, singing their respective versions of the song.  It made for some great concert folly between the two groups and the audience would eat it up.  The Cathedrals version was quite a bit faster and featured horns and was such a fun arrangement, while the Kingsmen slowed it down showing off some great modern harmony.  In fact, the 3 Heath Brothers recorded a unique version of the song on their 2018 recording, “Everywhere I Go”.

Newest member, Ed Crawford steps up to sing the Albert E. Brumley classic, “I’m Bound for the Land of Canaan”, which closes out the first side.  The song was a concert favorite for the Kingsmen during this time and was later revived by Tony Gore & Majesty back in the 90’s and was also a concert favorite for them as well.

With its warm feel featuring strings and background vocals, Hamill steps up to sing “He’ll Be to You”, which kicks off the second side.  Written by Steve Warren and published through the Kingsmen’s publishing company, this is one of my all-time favorite Hamill ballads as he does such an outstanding job rendering the thoughtful lyric reminding us that “He’ll be to you what you want Him to be”…and Hamill’s last notes of the song…just pure gold!  The Masters V eventually recorded the song when Steve Warren joined them in 1984 on their “Thru the Years” album.

Taking a turn toward a more country feel, Eldridge Fox steps up to sing the medium tempo, “Talk to the Man”, which was written by Steve Campbell and published by Land of the Sky Publishing, which was a joint publishing venture between Foxie and Rex Nelon.  Featuring fiddles, harmonica and steel guitar, the song was right up Foxie’s alley before the tempo is kicked back into high gear for the song, “I’m Going There”.  Featuring the electric and steel guitar along with the fiddle and banjo, the song was written by Morris Stancil and published through Land of the Sky Publishing.  Having that classic Kingsmen feel, this was actually a chart song for the group, only peaking at #36 during its quick run in the charts.  Featuring Ray, I love the feel of the song, as well as the key change where Ernie takes the lead on the final chorus before Hamill jumps on the melody for a line before switching back to Ernie…good stuff and no doubt was a great stage song too!

Featuring nice steel guitar and string accents, the title song, “Your Ride’s on the Way”, which was written by Joan Ewing, was specifically pitched to the Kingsmen when they sang at Murrell Ewing’s (Joan’s husband) church in Louisiana.  Featuring an outstanding performance by Ed, the song was a popular one for the Kingsmen, peaking at #14 in January 1983.  Along with Ed’s excellent performance, I especially love Ernie’s big note towards the end and Ray’s classic bass slide, as well as Nick’s classy string arrangements all came together making this a great song.  What also makes this such a stand-out song for me is the story behind it…a young lady was in the hospital dying of cancer and was near death.  A few hours before she passed, with close family and friends, as well as their pastor at her bedside, a call came through for her from an unidentified individual.  The family’s pastor took the call and the caller only stated to tell the young dying lady that her ride is on the way.  A few minutes after midnight, she took her final ride and peacefully passed away.  From that experience, Joan Ewing penned this song.

Rounding out the album is a novelty song Joel Hemphill wrote specifically for the Kingsmen simply titled, “Gospel Music”.  Featuring Jim Hamill playing with the radio dial trying to find some good gospel music, the music finally kicks in and the Kingsmen are off and running.  Featuring Hamill, it’s a great quartet tune that features the obligatory tenor and bass parts, ably captured by Ernie and Ray, and was a great, lighthearted way to finish out the album.

Based off the catalog numbers, immediately after “Your Ride’s on the Way” came out, the record company released a live album that featured the Kingsmen with Grady Nutt titled, “Give the World a Smile”.  Grady Nutt was a licensed minister who had gained popularity during the 70’s as a humorist and had been dubbed the Prime Minister of Humor.  Nutt was also a cast member of the highly popular Hee Haw television show (which is where I was most familiar with him, as I grew up watching Hee Haw), and he was also an outstanding singer as evidenced in this recording.  Recorded live in front of a small studio audience, the album featured mostly songs from the Stamps-Baxter catalog, and paid homage to Nutt’s upbringing, as these were the songs that he grew up singing as a child in Amarillo, Texas.  Since these were mostly quartet songs, who better to join him than the Kingsmen?  It’s a great album that features mostly Grady Nutt sharing homespun stories of growing up with the Kingsmen backing him up on the songs…though they do show out on such songs as “No Tears in Heaven”, “Looking for a City Medley” and “Practice What You Preach”, and some of the interactions between Nutt and Hamill is priceless.  Sadly, Grady Nutt was killed in an airplane crash after a speaking engagement in Cullman, Alabama on November 23, 1982.

The Kingsmen were still riding a wave of success as Jim Hamill took home “Favorite Lead Singer” at the 1982 Singing News Fan Awards.  Additionally, the Kingsmen band won Favorite Band and Anthony Burger walked away with Favorite Musician.  While “Your Ride’s on the Way” didn’t yield any Top 10 hits for the Kingsmen, I always felt it was a great album with some fantastic songs.  The album is paced well, and it seems to have a slicker feel to it than say, “Ring the Bells of Freedom” did.  As a kid, I listened to this album constantly as I fell in love with many of the songs, and I feel it’s a forgotten gem in the Kingsmen’s discography that truly showcased their ability to shine in the studio.

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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.
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