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Way Up With the Waymasters

        Hello America! Those of you who have been keeping up with our articles know that we are in the middle of a story where we are taking you with us on a weekend trip so you can experience just what it's like to be on the road with the Waymasters -- an adventure that always seems to go as unexpected as humanly possible.

        To remind you where we are, and to bring those of you who may have missed the first several articles up to speed, we'll do a quick recap. The band left Nashville, TN at 6 AM on Friday in order to play a show at the ICGMA Awards Show in Missouri with intentions of leaving that night to travel to Asheville, NC for another performance the following evening. After our second performance at the ICGMA, we were stunned when we were called back on stage to receive the award for the ICGMA Bluegrass Artist of the Year.  The band left Missouri at 11 PM with Chewie taking first shift at the wheel for our all-night drive. He stopped at a Huddle House at 1 AM where we learned our waitress was an ex-con with a distaste for grits. We left off last time with the group eating our "Big House Breakfast," thinking the worst was behind us. 

        We were still giggling when we left the restaurant, thinking how do we get into these situations.  Reliving the event with levity, everyone climbed aboard Sugar Bear and prepared to depart with Chewie resuming his shift at the helm. We pulled away from the parking lot, feeling confident that with the distance that grew between it and our taillights, we were also leaving behind the last of the unusual and unexpected events of this trip.

        No more had we made this prediction when Chewie turned onto the ramp that led us back to the highway that was to take us to NC. He turned right onto the ramp, and up we went when suddenly the lane split with no signage or indication of where to go. Chewie confidently bared right, stating that this was indeed the correct way because of the alignment of the stars as relating to the lines on the road or some such babble. As he proudly swooped increasingly right along the giant bend, we suddenly found ourselves screeching to a halt because of the bold stop sign and unexpected road that crossed our path.

        "Isn't this the road we just turned off of?" questioned Tommy.  

        Looking back and forth and up and down the street, Chewie broke the confused silence with, "Well, what in the world?!"  The ramp had for whatever reason, looped around and dumped us right back on the road we were on like some sort of elaborate DMV joke.

        Chewie suspiciously pulled out onto the moonlit motorway and retraced his path back onto the ramp that had just dealt him the cruel charade. This time he kept left and quickly found himself back on the main highway.  "See boys, told you we should have gone left," he added as we raced through the wee hour darkness.

        Tim, as we stated before, was riding shotgun all night to help whomever was driving, to stay awake by any means necessary -- a job he took very seriously and one he, above all others, could achieve with absolutely no effort at all on his part. Tim is quick with a crack or observation to lighten the mood, in virtually any and every situation. His Groucho Marx-style rebuttals and commentaries, can tickle the funny bone in an instant.  He's always the first  to join in or start a sing along while riding for miles, and is capable of carrying on conversations for hours about anything anyone wants to talk about, even if he knows little about the subject. The ultimate wingman and true comedic idiot at the same time, Tim was the perfect man for the job.

        It was somewhere around 2 AM when he started making Chewie sing with him. This was after Tim observed and felt several teeth rattling trips across the rumble strips that etched the white sideline of the roadway. He made him sing everything, from their favorite Beach Boy songs to 80's hits that neither knew all the words to but could remember snippets of from their youth. They tried Gospel favorites, country classics, original songs the band had either written or was writing -- virtually anything Tim could come up with to keep Chewie's eyes open. Suddenly the solid road gave way to the hollow sound of an overpass -- or was it more?! It was a bridge, and as they drove further, the tree-lined sides of the road opened to reveal water (lots of water!!!). In the darkness they could see what appeared to be an ocean or at the very least inlet or harbor they were crossing. It was actually the convergence of the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers and it's an event you might still hear the group talk about to this day.

        This gave Chewie an added burst of energy but not for long. As we cruised through the back roads, miles would pass with no sign of another car or even an awake person for that matter. It was along this desolate route that it happened. Chewie came to a stop sign, put Sugar Bear in park and exclaimed, "That's it!"

        He opened the door, got out and walked across in front of the headlights without a word.

        The stop had awakened Tommy who saw Chewie's head crossing in front of the windshield. "What's he doing?  I guess he's done driving," he observed.

        Tim agreed as they watched Chewie walk around and open the side door of the van where Tommy was reclined in his captain's chair.

        "That's it. It's all yours, Tommy! I'm done," he explained. "And you better hurry. There's a car coming!"

        No cars for miles and miles, and when Chewie decides to change drivers at a stop sign in the middle of the road of course, here comes a car.  Tommy got us rolling, as he had done countless times before, and before the approaching car caught up to us. In the cool night air, and as the second shift of driving began, so, too, did the hopes of an eventless remainder of our trip to North Carolina. But hoping such things for us is like hoping it won't hurt when you slam a car door on your finger.

        To be continued . . . . .



Nashville, TN - Earlier this year the No. 1 recording Christian Country Gospel band, WAYMSTERS became the first Christian band and only the 5th recording artist ever to record an album to spawn five #1 songs. Previously only Michael Jackson, Rodney Crowell, Brad Paisley and Katy Perry had achieved this milestone. Jackson for 1987's "Bad," Crowell for 1988's "Diamonds and Dirt," Paisley for 2007's "5th Gear" and Perry for 2010's "Teenage Dream." Overall, the Waymaster's album, "Smoky Mountain Gospel Vol. 2, their ninth and most current album, has so far produced eight singles, all of which have been national and international hits, with the ninth release and possibly record setting track, "Take Me Home" released just this April.

To fully appreciate exactly how powerful "Smoky Mountain Gospel Vol 2 is, it helps to break it down this way: Out of the eight singles released from its catalogue, all were National Top 10s and Int'l Top 20s. Only one other album in history can make this claim, Shania Twain's country offering, "Come on Over." Previously only Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." and Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation."

Out of those eight Top 10s, seven were National Top 2s and six were Int'l Top 5s. With the track, "Wreck on the Highway" topping out at No. 9 and "What Would I Do Without Your Son" and "There's a Light Guiding Me" each reaching No. 2 nationally.

Out of those seven Top[ 2s, five were National No. 1 hits, "Let Me Feel Your Spirit Once Again," "There's a Man in Here," "Little Mountain Church House," "Life Up Your Hands," and "Hills of Glory."

Out of those five No.1 songs, four were multi-month No. 1 tracks: meaning they held the top spot for two straight months or more. Only "Hills of Glory" failed to repeat the honor.

Out of those four multi-month No. 1s, one became the longest charting No. 1 Christian Country Gospel song of all time. "Let Me Feel Your Spirit Once Again" charted in the top spot for an amazing three straight months. It later became the 2012 Christian Country Gospel Song of the Year, followed by "Little Mountain Church House" in 2013.

Produced by band members Darrell Frizsell and Chewie McMahan, "Smokey Mountain Gospel Vol. 2" is not an official "Greatest Hits" album, although that's exactly what it has become. Rather, it's a collection of regionally recognized but rarely radio heard songs the band recorded in their own celebrated style and arrangements. One critic put it this way, "The music that exists on that album has an energy all its own but it's not mountain music like we might imagine. It's not bluegrass or even old fashion; that's not to say the influence isn't there but the sound is so much more. The deliberate and skillfully crafted guitar work of Chewie McMahan extends beyond anything normally associated with those genres. It's full of catchy riffs and melodic phrasing that stands effortlessly with any song you can think of where you can sing the guitar part as easily as the lyrics themselves. In addition, the vocal arrangements of Darrell Frizsell and Tim Reynolds are more like the classic vocal groups of the 60's and early 70's but with a definite southern and mountain flair, completed by Tommy Frizsell on the bottom end. The use of harmonica counter melodies and do-wha style backing vocals mixed with southern harmony structure produces an instantly addictive sound. This makes it difficult to describe and nearly impossible to take out of your music player.

To Tommy Frizsell, the group's founder, manager and bass singer, that something extra is no secret or accident. "These songs, in fact this album is full of the Spirit," he describes.  "We record deliberately including the Lord and the Spirit of God in what we do. When we block out the structure of the songs and arrange the vocals, it's done with the Spirit guiding us. I truly believe that. We like to say there are five touring Waymasters. The four you see and the one you can't see, the Holy Spirit.

And surprisingly, that sentiment prevails throughout the group. When asked what they contribute, the overwhelming charting success of this album to, each responded similarly.

"It's all God," Tim answered. "It's just that simple."

Chewie echoed the idea, "It's nothing we've done. Only the Lord could anoint this album like this. And I'm grateful he has."

Darrell completed the notion with, "It's the Spirit. Believe me, it's not  us. The Spirit lives on this album."

And that unseen presence is readily apparent. Almost every song on the album seems to instantly touch a nerve. And though they refuse to take the credit for it, the Waymasters are clearly onto something. With Grammy nominations being whispered about by people in the know, the album seems far from done yet. Whether it's infectious songs, creative arrangements and talented performances or what the band claims, the presence of an unseen Spirit of God, no one can argue with the results. Eight singles and counting, five No. 1s, two No 2s, one Top 10, two "Song of the Year" titles, "Waymasters Smokey Mountain Gospel Vol 2" has positioned itself as the most successful charting Christian Country Gospel album of all time. Someone said, "If you're a southern or Country Gospel music fan and "Smoky Mountain Gospel Vol 2 is not in your player, it should be." With the mind-blowing stats this album holds, that statement may very well be more fact than opinion.

You can find out more about the group or contact them to perform at your next gospel event or showcase through their website.


Way Up With the Waymasters


Hello America! Those of you who have been keeping up with our articles know that we are in the middle of a story where we are taking you with us on a weekend trip so you can experience just what it’s like to be out on the road with the Waymasters; an adventure that always seems to go as unexpected as humanly possible.


          To remind those of you where we are and to bring those of you who may have missed the first two articles up to speed, we’ll do a quick recap:


The band left Nashville, TN at 6 a.m. on Friday in order to play a show at the ICGMA Awards in Missouri with intentions of leaving that night to travel to Asheville, NC for another performance the following evening.  After our second performance at the ICGMA, we were stunned when we were called back on stage to receive the award for the 2015 ICGMA Bluegrass Artist of the Year.  We left off last time with the group standing on the stage, holding the award, staring out at the cheering crowd, shocked in every since of the word…


Tommy spoke the only words he could, “We are speechless. We were in no way expecting this!”


He went on to thank the appropriate parties and gave all the glory to God who has so richly blessed us in the last few years with amazing success on the Christian Country Gospel charts.


We walked off the stage to the sound of applause and in complete disbelief.  Once backstage we were greeted by a line of artists, shaking our hands and congratulating us on the prestigious honor.  


          We were scheduled to play another set during intermission at an area set aside in the booth section.  That’s the area where many of the artists had booths with CDs and information for the fans; the idea being that during intermission the fans would visit that area to meet and greet their favorite gospel artists, while some of them actually would be playing at the “mini stage” they had set up.


          Once intermission began the fans who wanted to stretch their legs ventured through the booths as we began to play.  It was set up to where the fans could literally walk just feet away from us as we were playing, with a few rows of seats set up to allow those who wanted a place to sit and enjoy whomever was playing.  It was exciting for the fans and fun for us, and once we finished our set, we quickly returned to our table where we were able to visit with all the wonderful people who truly love their Country Gospel music.  We signed pictures and CDs and stood with fans to have their pictures taken with us all the while laughing and enjoying the company of wonderful people of God.


          Once intermission was over, the crowd moved back inside the auditorium and we began to make preparations to pack up and get on the road for North Carolina.  This meant going back to the infamous locker room of shock and awe to change back into travel clothes, then packing up the CDs, guitars and gear, saying our goodbyes, and hitting the road.  By the time we did all this, it was pushing the 11 p.m. mark as we stood outside Sugar Bear discussing our strategy for departure.


          We had discussed setting up driving shifts on our way to Missouri for our all night drive.  Chewie had claimed first shift as he declared, “Once I get sleepy, I’m done! So I’ll go first.”  Having not eaten since lunch, we were already tired and hungry and ready to get started on our long trip.  We climbed aboard Sugar Bear and with Chewie at the helm we sped off into the night.


“How do I get out of here?” Chewie asked.


“You go up and turn right where we ate lunch and stay on that road.” Tommy responed.


With those instructions, Chewie turned at the red light and continued through town. The rest of the band watched out the windows as one by one every restaurant in town zipped past.


Darrell asked, “So I guess you didn’t want to eat at any of those places?”


Chewie seemed shocked, “Oh! Did ya’ll want to get something to eat?”


          After the band simultaneously reminded Chewie that we had just talked about food and made comments of disbelief and disappointment that we had just passed any hope of satisfying that basic need, he reassured his crew that, “I’m sure there’ll be something else up the road here.” …Famous last words.


          Everyone settled in for what could be a while before we found food. Tim was riding shotgun and had taken it upon himself to be the wingman of whoever was driving to help keep them awake.  This because Tim wanted no part of taking a driving shift of his own.  Tommy leaned back in one of the captain’s chairs while Darrell, having drawn the third shift of driving, laid down on the couch to try and get as much sleep as possible.  With everyone in their place, the ride was dark and quiet as the band cruised off into the balmy Missouri night.


           1 a.m. Chewie stopped in a small town somewhere in the middle of someplace, Illinois. He still can’t tell you to this day how he got there.


“Here we go boys! Told you there’d be something to eat on up the road!”


          The guys staggered out of the van to find ourselves at a Huddle House just off the main road.  There were no complaints as we walked into the 24 hour dinner, with either little or no sleep to show between us.  As you can see, life on the road is often unpredictable and never, and in this case, the need for food far outweighed the need for sleep, as we would soon learn, wise decision making.


          We discovered quickly that not every state has no smoking in restaurant laws like TN and NC; so we were surprised by the 1 a.m. smoke attack that we encountered as soon as we walked through the doors.  We found a table and was greeted by our waitress; a thin, mid-height woman in her mid to late twenty’s with several tattoos, straw like hair and evidence of a lifestyle that made her appear older than she actually was.  She had a big personality like many waitresses do who need work early morning hours in all night diners.  A string of “honey’s” and “darlin’s” was seamlessly interwoven into her speech as she asked for drink orders and moved us to a larger table to accommodate our anticipated sizable food order.


          As she moved around the table to take drink, she would lean over each member of the band as if to hear us better. Once the drink orders were completed, she hustled off while we were making our final food order decisions.  It was Darrell who finally pointed out a character trait of our server that he thought only applied to him.


“Chew,” he said. “I think I just got a chest bump from our waitress…”


“Me too!” Chewie replied, relieved that someone else had experienced the awkward moment.


“Me too!” echoed Tommy, thinking he was imagining the occurrence himself.


          “She did the same thing to me!” Tim opined, making the experience all inclusive for the band.  “I can say this for Huddle House, they sure are friendly!”


          Tim is an idiot.


          She returned with the drinks and then began to take food orders.  The guys had already decided they were getting the “Big House Breakfast Platter.” This consisted of all the usual breakfast goodies with a choice of biscuits and gravy or grits among them.


          As she moved around the table she would ask the guys one by one, “Would you like biscuits and gravy or GRITS?”


          Every time she would say the word “grits,” she said it with repulsion on her face and disgust in her voice.  This occurrence was not lost on Darrell who was the last of the guys to order, so when she repeated the line to him he asked, “Why do you say ‘grits’ like that?  Every time you say it you make this face.  Are they not any good or something?”


          “No, they’re fine.” She exclaimed. “But I ate grits every single morning for six years straight while I was in prison so I don’t care if I ever see grits again the rest of my life!”


          The table was deathly quiet.


          “I guess that explains it.” Darrell replied.


          She walked away and the guys lost it. You can’t make this stuff up.  


          Remember, you are the ones who wanted to know what it was like on the road with the band.  This is it; nonstop organized chaos with no hope of anticipating what’s going to happen next.  Here’s the thing…this trip was only half over!  And as we ate our “Big House Breakfast” (no pun intended) we thought we had hit our shocker moment for the trip…we couldn’t have been more wrong.

To be continued…

See you next time for "the rest of the story."

The Waymasters

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