Since its formation in 1990, Greater Vision has upheld the time-honored traditions of Southern gospel harmony singing. Lead singer Gerald Wolfe, baritone Rodney Griffin and tenor Jason Waldroup have become prominent in the Christian music community through their expert vocal blend and repertoire of standard hymns and original material. Committed to spreading their message of faith, Greater Vision has toured steadily in the United States and abroad since its formation, reaching a wide audience through both live shows and television appearances. “We try to offer listeners lots of variety, yet remain true to the traditional styling Greater Vision is known for,” Wolfe commented in a Daywind Music press biography. “We sing to a broad audience, and because of that, there are people with a variety of needs. Some need encouragement and hope, while others need joyous songs…. That’s why our programs are a mixture of both old and new. Sure, there are some great new songs out there, but casting aside the old hymns and convention style songs would be a big mistake.”
Though the trio has gone through membership changes, Greater Vision has remained true to its original intentions. Founding member Wolfe grew up singing in church in his native East Tennessee, then went professional by joining the Dumplin Valley Boys in 1981. From there, he became a member of the famous Cathedral Quartet in 1986. Two years later, he left the group to pursue solo church music ministry before deciding to launch a singing group of his own in December of 1990. Towards that end, he recruited baritone MarkTrammell, who had also sung with the Cathedrals years earlier. The trio was rounded out by tenor Chris Allman, formerly with the Allman Brothers (a gospel group, not the rock band of the same name). The group gained its name when Mark’s wife LaResa noticed a church banner in Ohio that proclaimed “A Greater Vision for 1991.”
Greater Vision quickly established itself on the Southern gospel performing circuit, winning fans through both its appealing sound and fervent Christian message. Signing a recording contract with Benson Music’s Riversong label, the trio released its debut album On A Journey in 1991. The title song of the album reached the number one spot on gospel music charts, with its follow-up single “New Wine” reaching the top five. Greater Vision’s next album, It’s Just Like Heaven, yielded two more popular singles, “He Is Mine” and the title tune.
In December of 1993, Rodney Griffin replaced Mark Trammell, who joined the Gold City Quartet. A native of Somerset, Kentucky, Griffin had spent two years with the Dixie Melody Boys before joining Greater Vision. In addition to his strong baritone vocals, he added considerable songwriting talent as well. The trio continued to record, releasing The King Came Down in 1993 and, two years later, Take Him At His Word. The latter album expanded upon the group’s traditional hymn repertoire by featuring such Griffin compositions as “Follow Me.” “Oh, What A Friend,” Take Him At His Word’s first single, brought Greater Vision yet another gospel top ten hit.
The trio underwent another line-up change when Chris Allman left to embark on a solo career. His replacement was Jason Waldroup of Carrollton, Georgia. Waldroup was only 20 years old when he joined the group and youthful energy helped to make The Shepherd’s Found A Lamb yet another successful album for the group in 1996. It yielded the singles “If There’s No God” and “The Spirit Of Brokenness,” the latter a Griffin original. Signing a new recording deal with Daywind Music, Greater Vision released When I See The Cross in 1997. The scope of this album was particularly broad, encompassing both Griffin originals like “He’s Still Been God” and classic tunes like “The Glory Way,” a gospel number from the 1920s. The single “All The Way” continued the trio’s presence on gospel radio. When I See The Cross went on to receive a Dove Award and Southern Gospel Music Association Award nominations for Southern Gospel Album of the Year in 1998. That same year, Greater Vision also received three nominations at the fan awards sponsored by the gospel magazine Singing
Members include Chris Allman (left group in 1995), tenor; Rodney Griffin (joined group in 1993), baritone; Mark Trammell (left group in 1993), baritone; Jason Waldroup (joined group in 1995), tenor; Gerald Wolfe , lead vocals.
Group formed in 1990; signed with Riversong, 1991; released debut album On A Journey, 1991; recorded further for Riversong, 1992-1996; switched to Daywind, released When I See The Cross album in 1997; released Far Beyond This Place, recorded in Hungary with symphony orchestra, in 1999.
Addresses: Record company —Daywind Records, 128 Shivel Drive, Hendersonville, TN 37075. Management — Greater Vision, P.O. Box 1172, Morristown, TN 37816.
News, including Lead Vocalist of the Year, Baritone of the Year and Trio of the Year.
During this period of change, Greater Vision continued to tour, performing some 200 concerts per year and participating in cruises sponsored by Atlanta, Georgia’s In Touch Ministries. Appearances on The Nashville Network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Family Channel and other Christian and secular media outlets brought their music to millions. At times, they expanded their rich harmonies by working with a guest vocalist, such as lead singer Ivan Parker or bass singer Rex Nelson.
In October of 1998, Greater Vision received attention beyond the gospel music scene by performing and recording in Hungary. After giving a church concert in Budapest, the trio recorded an album’s worth of songs with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra and Hungarian Radio Symphony. With arrangements by Daywind Music producer Wayne Haun, the recordings surrounded Greater Vision’s traditional sound with classical and swing jazz-influenced orchestral backdrops to compelling effect. Working with an orchestra that was almost completely unfamiliar with American gospel music was a risky move, but ultimately a successful one. “The players put their heart into it and played with so much emotion,” Waldroup told Singing News writer Kimberly Ann Barshay. “Watching them try to play ’My Name Is Lazarus’ [a gospel tune written by Griffin] was probably the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life! They were so accustomed to classic music. The string section attempted to play the fiddle parts on this Gospel ’barn burner, ’ and it took them a while to get it right.”
The resulting album, Far Beyond This Place, was released in March of 1999. Most of the songs here benefitted from lush string settings, giving tunes like “Just One More Soul” and “Redemption Draweth Nigh” the feel of a film soundtrack. One number, “I Believe,” had something of a swing feel to it, with jazz-flavored piano by Wolfe and a lively horn section. The closing number, “There’s No Place Like Home,” included a quote from “The Blue Danube Waltz” as an introduction. In assessing the album, Wolfe told Deborah Evans Price in a Billboard interview that “The truth is [,] gospel music fans hate change. They don’t like a change in personnel or instrumentation. They want you to sound the same for 30 years, so we’re careful not to go too far out on the edge, but atthe same time I thinkthis album will gain new listeners because it’s such an unusual idea. It’s not something you hear every day in our field.”
Far Beyond This Place demonstrated that G reater Vision could adapt its sound to a new musical context. But whateverthe style involved, putting the gospel message across has been the trio’s primary goal. “Some people hear the word ‘ministry’ and automatically think someone is going to preach to them for an hour,” Wolfe said in his group’s Daywind press biography. “That’s not what we do. We let the messages in our songs minister, but we also share our testimonials. People may just come to hear us sing, but when they leave they have no double WHO we represent. Ministry has to be the foundation a group is built on. If you do that, I believe God will honor your efforts.”
On A Journey, Riversong, 1991.
It’s Just Like Heaven, Riversong, 1992.
The Shepherd’s Found A Lamb, Riversong, 1996.
When I See The Cross, Daywind, 1997.
Far Beyond This Place, Daywind, 1998.
Billboard, February 20, 1999.
Church Connection, April/May 1999.
Gospel Voice, March 1999.
Singing News, March 1999.
U.S. Gospel News, September 1997.
“Greater Vision,” http://members.aol.com/artistdnet/gv.htm (August 13, 1999).
Additional information was provided by Daywind Music publicity materials, 1999.
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