Gospel Choices #7 – Dan Hays 

Here’s another contribution in this periodical feature, where we ask a bluegrass personality to choose their top five Gospel songs. On this occasion Dan Hays, a former Executive Director at the IBMA, reveals his five favorites.

  1. Beulah Land – Marty Raybon: Rural Rhythm Southern Roots & Branches, RHY 1097, 2012
  2. Wayfaring Stranger – The Isaacs: Horizon Pieces of Our Past, HR 0768-2, 1999 
  3. The Last Suit You Wear – Larry Sparks: McCoury Music The Last Suit You Wear, MCM 0004, 2007
  4. So Happy I’ll Be – The Bluegrass Album Band: Rounder The Bluegrass Album. Vol. 2, CD 0164, 1991 
  5. Little Mountain Church – Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver: Sugar Hill I Heard the Angels Singing, SH 3774, 1989 

Beulah Land – I had the joy of sitting in a living room among a host of friends one special Sunday afternoon and Marty was one of them.  After a few instruments came out for a jam, it naturally got more lively and Marty was eventually coaxed through the noise into doing a song.  He chose this one and needed only his guitar and that unique soul that is his voice.  Quiet was just one quality that came over the entire house while the most prominent was a tear in every eye by the time he blessed us with this one.

Wayfaring Stranger – Their interpretation of this classic is both haunting and hopeful at the same time. There are few vocalists that reach me as deep inside and inspire and touch like this family. They could record the Waffle House menu and I’d buy it!

The Last Suit You Wear – I love irony in a story and it just drips from this one as “banker Moore” meets his demise in a plane crash into a field he once foreclosed on. It’s a sermon on priorities as we all hope we leave impressions thicker than a dime after we’re gone. Larry Shell, Kim Williams and Larry Williams know how to turn a phrase with few words.

So Happy I’ll Be – Gospel quartets were a mainstay to our part of eastern Kentucky, where I grew up, and the interplay between the vocal arrangements always fascinated and seemed to draw a little more attention to the words and the story behind them. I’m also a fan of Scruggs-style fingerpicking on guitar, showcased on this one. J.D., Tony, Bobby, Doyle, and Todd are stellar!

Little Mountain Church – Jim Rushing and Carl Jackson paint a vivid portrait with the words to this one, covered by some of the best (including Doyle, Ricky and the Dirt Band…among many). From the preacher who taught the “straight and narrow way” to a remembrance of when those old oak pews weren’t quite as comfortable as they are today…it’s a look back to remember what my cornerstone actually is. (It was also the very first IBMA Song of the Year in 1990…one of the most special nights of my life.)

There are scores more that should make this list and I’ll think of at least a dozen as soon as I hit the send button on this computer.

Currently Dan Hays is the Executive Director at The Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee. He took up that post in 2011, while serving as the Executive Director of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), the organisation that he managed from August 1990 on until March 2012.  

Hays, from rural Jackson County, Kentucky, about 50 mile south-east of Lexington, says that bluegrass has always been, “a part of my musical background”.

His “first memory of – not only bluegrass – but to music period,” came when he was four years old and was when he accompanied his father to work, around Dayton when he heard, on Middletown, Ohio’s Radio WPFB, Paul “Moon” Mullins, more specifically Bobby and Sonny Osborne singing one of their signature songs, Ruby. 

Hays began playing guitar at the age of seven….briefly taking lessons (which, he says, “didn’t hurt me too much”) He goes on to say,  

“and I played while in college and for several years thereafter in a few regional bluegrass bands at clubs, private events and a few festivals. I can also scratch out enough notes and chords on banjo, bass, mandolin, and fiddle to run any live animals (including humans) out of the house. And while I still have a number of guitars I’ve collected, I don’t get to play much anymore.

While working as president of a health care company in Kentucky, Hays was in a semi-professional band from around 1980 through 1990. 

He is a board member of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.