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Vestal Goodman - Vestal & Friends

  • 2000 5 May
  • COMMENTS
Vestal Goodman - <i>Vestal & Friends</i>
The Music Channel at crosswalk.com is pleased to present
Vestal & Friends
featuring the incomparable
Vestal Goodman
teaming up with some of the biggest names
in music today



listen to clips from the project
and read the remarkable story about
the life of this living legend


Simply put, she is royalty. Vestal Goodman is the undisputed Queen of Gospel music. As a member of the Happy Goodman Family, Vestal has sung and ministered to countless thousands of fans for half a century. Along with her devoted husband Howard, Vestal has joined with Bill & Gloria Gaither's extended "Homecoming" family, to reach millions more with the Gospel, through albums, videos and personal appearances.

The Lord has blessed Vestal Goodman with a rich and expressive voice that is instantly recognizable. More important than that, from before she was born, the Lord placed a calling on Vestal's life. Even as her father, Gordy Freeman, prayed he and his wife would have a second son, the Lord spoke to him and told him it was a third daughter on the way, and that she would preach the Gospel. "Daddy loved to tell me that story," Vestal recalled in her 1998 autobiography, "Vestal!" "He never let me forget that God had a special plan for my life."

Although blessed with godly parents and a strong sense of faith and family, Vestal Freeman would not pursue a saving relationship with Christ until her teenage years. Vestal says that, because of her stubborn nature, she did not take that final step until she knew she was ready to surrender her will to the Lord. Vestal and her two closest friends started a signing trio that became a popular addition to many local revival services. And Vestal's father began to help her get serious about studying God's word. "Nevertheless," she writes in her biography, "it was a full six months before I told the members of our home congregation that I had been called by God to preach his word."

Click to hear a clip from "Friends" with Janet Paschal

During her sixteenth year, Vestal attended a revival meeting near Albertville, Ala., about eighteen miles from her home of Fyffe. It was there that she first met her husband-to-be, Howard Goodman. After the service, Howard declared to one of his partners in the revival, "I met my wife tonight." This began an unusual four-year courtship, during which time Howard and Vestal communicated mostly by mail. However, his infrequent visits put a strain on the budding relationship, and Vestal found herself on the verge of marrying another man. All that changed one fateful week in the fall of 1949. Acting on the advice of one of Vestal's friends, Howard sought her out in the middle of a Thursday night church service and implored her to attend a gospel singing at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. By the following Monday, November 7, 1949, Howard Goodman and Vestal Freeman were married.

Click to hear a clip from "You're Able" with AndraÉ Crouch & The Katinas

Not long after that, the Goodmans set up housekeeping in Wingo, Ky., and Vestal began a half-century stint as Howard's personal and professional partner. The Happy Goodmans would spend the 1950s becoming favorites among churches in the southeast. Until 1957, Vestal would describe her voice as "a soft, sweet-sounding soprano." But that would change one summer evening at a revival in Monroe, La. The town was pummeled by a hurricane, forcing the Goodmans into a local church with no sound system. As Vestal got up to sing that evening, she recalls "I reared back, closed my eyes, opened my mouth and nearly fell over from the shock! Without a microphone, I was singing stronger, more clearly, and with an entirely new tonal quality." That night in Monroe not only marked the emergence of the voice beloved by millions; it was also the first time Vestal preached a gospel message from the platform, fulfilling her childhood calling.

For the next five years, Howard and Vestal crisscrossed the South, leading revival meetings and establishing a church in Madisonville, Ky. In 1962, Howard's younger brother Rusty, who had been a part of the original Happy Goodman Family singers, joined Howard and Vestal in Madisonville. The trio began a local TV program and traveled to Nashville to record their first album, I'm Too Near Home. The recording, which featured many of the top session musicians in Nashville, established the Happy Goodmans as musical pioneers and bridge builders between country and gospel music. The Goodmans would record three independent albums before forging a 25-year relationship with Word's Canaan Records imprint.

Click to hear a clip from the Dove Award-winning "Angel Band" with George Jones

But the strain of recording, touring, and helping run a church took its toll on Vestal. In 1974, she was sidelined with severe heart troubles. However, the following spring, while preparing to be examined at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, Vestal received a miraculous healing from the Lord, and had no problems with her heart for the next twenty years.

In 1980, the Happy Goodman Family disbanded, and Howard & Vestal's professional life began moving at a somewhat slower pace; that is, until February, 1991, when Bill Gaither called and said "Vestal, I need your help." What happened next is gospel music history. Howard and Vestal Goodman joined with many other legends of gospel music, to help Bill and Gloria Gaither establish what would become known as the "Homecoming" series of audio & video recordings and concert spectaculars. This renewed exposure not only served to attract tens of thousands of new fans, it endeared Vestal to dozens more of the brightest and best musicians in gospel, country and popular music, setting the stage for ==Vestal & Friends==.

Click to hear a clip from "Giver of Life" with Sandi Patty & cameo by Russ Taff

==Vestal & Friends== is definitely contemporary, yet it retains the essential southern gospel flavor which has made Vestal an audience favorite for fifty years. Though one hesitates to use the word "tribute," the great esteem in which Vestal is held is clear in the way even the most distinctive singers mold their performances to suit Vestal's matchless voice. Highlights include the joyous country gospel "Big Homecoming" (featuring the legendary Jake Hess); the heartfelt country ballad "Angel Band" (with a vocal by George Jones); the tender "Giver of Life" (featuring {{Sandi Patty}} & {{Russ Taff}}) and even some soul gospel on "I Don't Have to Understand" (with the great Andra Crouch and {{The Katinas}}). Other "Friends" include Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, contemporary Christian music superstars {{Newsboys}} and {{Carman}}, and "Homecoming" colleagues {{Janet Paschal}} and Bill & Gloria {{Gaither}}. And no Vestal recording would be complete without a duet with her beloved Howard, who is featured on "With You," a touching remembrance of the couple's years of service to the Lord.

From start to finish, ==Vestal & Friends== offers listeners a healthy portion of Vestal's legendary gifts. But ==Vestal & Friends== isn't just another album - it's an event that rivals the best recordings of Vestal's marvelous career. And this is only the beginning! Plans are currently underway to bring Vestal together with more of music's top performers for two more ==Vestal & Friends== sessions, over the next two years!

Track Listing:
Vestal & Friends
1. Jesus Made A Way - Vince Gill
2. Oh, Happy Day - Carman
3. Big Homecoming - Jake Hess
4. Great Is Thy Faithfulness - Newsboys
5. Angel Band - George Jones
6. Giver Of Life - Sandi Patty & cameo by Russ Taff
7. You're Able - AndraÉ Crouch & The Katinas
8. He Touched Me - Bill & Gloria Gaither
9. Satisfied - Dolly Parton
10. With You - Howard & Vestal Goodman
11. Friends - Janet Paschal