monument

Monument Quartet

One could say the Cumberland County Fair this year will feature a monumental event — not only will the Monument Quartet debut as an up and coming country group, but a major video to be used as a coming out video will be taped over the course of three days at the fair in Crossville.

For Crossville's Marshall Pugh, it will be a homecoming of sorts and he and the renowned gospel group are sharing their excitement over the major change from strictly gospel to country music. The video will be shot randomly Sunday evening, Monday evening and during the group's concert on Tuesday night.

Pugh is the son of Clifford and Sue Pugh and a graduate of Cumberland County High School.

Pugh said it was exciting to be able to use random shots of fairgoers having fun as part of their inaugural foray into the country music venue.

This is not to say that the Monument Quartet will be turning its back on its roots. They see the jump as opening doors to not only share their talent with new audiences, but to share the Gospel with a whole new audience. "Singing gospel music is kind of like singing to the saints," Pugh told the Chronicle this week. "This will allow us to take gospel music out to more places (new audiences)."

The crossover was not an overnight decision. Monument Quartet has enjoyed a very successful career and has been a hit, working in more than 40 fairs and festivals around the country and in Canada. Some of those events included the New Jersey State Fair, the Indiana State Fair, the West Virginia State Fair, the national Peanut Festival in Dothan, AL, the Winkler Harvest Festival in Manitoba, Canada and Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO.

A concert scheduled for Norway has had to be placed on hold because of a medical issue with one of the members. Later this year the group will perform at the Louisiana State Fair.

Discussions started in earnest last December and during the last six months a major drive was launched to bring this change to reality. During this time period, Pugh said, some members moved on to different opportunities and it was also a rebuilding period for the group.

Gospel music is the heart of the group and, according to Pugh, "We will always do gospel music." The influences of the Happy Goodman Family and the years that Pugh performed with Howard and Vestal helped build the Monument Quartet. He grew so close to the Grammy Award winners that he was a pallbearer at both Howard and Vestal's funerals.

Another influence for the group is Marshall Grant, bassist in Johnny Cash's Tennessee Two backup band who retired from country music in 2004 after years of managing the Statler Bros.

With the void of a strong male quartet in country music with the retirement of the Statler Bros., and the slow down of the Oak Ridge Boys, Pugh and members of the Monument Quartet decided now was the time for the group to cross over. Advisors and confidants like Grant and Pastor Johnny Minick, who for 30 years was associated with the Goodmans, agreed with the decision and offered their advice and encouragement.

"Pastor Johnny was very important to us in making the decision to expand into country music," Pugh noted. "We have just felt led by the Lord to take gospel music into country."

Tuesday evening Pugh will be on stage with Monument Quartet members Brad Smith of Athens, TN; John Tidwell of Bristol, OK; and Matt Feltz of St. Louis, and band members Brandon Lee (piano) of Murfreesboro, Jeremy Warren (drums) of Shreveport, LA and Zack Kubilus (bass) of Cleveland will perform some good ol' down home gospel music for 30 minutes.

Johnny Minick will address the crowd while the quartet leaves the stage to change clothes and when the concert resumes, Cumberland County fairgoers will be treated to the first concert to be performed by the country music group, Monument (quartet will be dropped from the group's name).

And topping off the excitement will be the random filming in high density of Cumberland Countians to be featured along with the carnival as a backdrop for the group's first country video.

"It is going to be a pretty big deal for the fair and for the community," Pugh said. "The video, using five cameras, will be taped in movie format. I don't know that this has ever been done in Cumberland County."

Tuesday night's concert begins at 7 p.m. More information can be obtained on Monument's Web site (which is under construction) at monumentquartet.com.

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