(Nov. 7, 2019) The Bluegrass Gospel group known as The Gospel Plowboys was founded in 2012 by a mandolin player from North Carolina named David Murph, who prayed for two years before getting the go-ahead from the Lord to start the group.
The original lineup consisted of six men—five on vocals and all six playing some kind of instrument. David sang and played mandolin alongside John Goodson (banjo), Michael Jenkins (guitar), David Brown (guitar and bass), Andrew Brown (bass and dobro), and Kris Miller (guitar).
David saw God’s hand moving as The Gospel Plowboys began getting more requests to play, and he loved hearing how people were brought to the Lord through their music. They received wide acclaim for their debut album, Welcome Home, and in 2016, they were signed by Mountain Fever Music.
Sadly, David Murph went to be with the Lord on May 4, 2017, following a lengthy illness. He was only 58.
Michael Jenkins recalls, “David was what you call a true Christian. He loved the Lord with all his heart. He prayed about everything the band did. He never met a stranger and always loved telling other about Jesus.”
He shares that David’s passing was a huge blow to the group. “It was devastating, to be honest. We didn’t go sing anywhere or do anything for about a year. There was a lot of question of whether we were even going to continue on or not. David was the band’s mandolin player, the booking agent, the band leader … and he did all the talking when we went on stage or sang in church. He did it all. He was family to us and we loved him very much.”
The group finally resumed performing, but in 2019, tragedy struck again with the death of John Goodson. Known lovingly as “the mayor of Woodleaf” in his small North Carolina hometown, John passed away at age 54 on May 21, 2019, from non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.
Michael remembers John fondly. “I didn’t know John very well until The Plowboys were formed. But after I got to know him, I found I had a true friend. He loved everyone he came in contact with. He was always telling funny stories, and keeping us laughing the whole time.”
He continues, “John was always ready to go—we’d have somewhere to sing and John might not feel well, but he’d be there. He’d always mention about how people were blessed by what we did and the fact that we did this for the Lord. He’d always say, ‘You guys are my favorite singers. David would want us to continue on.’ He was an encouragement that no matter how hard things get, just continue on for Jesus.”
Today, the Plowboys’ lineup features founding members Michael Jenkins, David Brown, Andrew Brown, and Kris Miller, along with newer members Charles Honeycutt (banjo) and Alec McCallister (violin).
In April 2019, when Mountain Fever Music established a Bluegrass/Gospel label, Morning Glory Music, The Gospel Plowboys were among the first groups added to the roster. Their first album with Morning Glory, When the Crops Are Laid By, is dedicated to David Murph and John Goodson.
The lyrics of the title song remind the Plowboys of their departed friends: I’m just an old plowboy working hard in the field. My crops are salvation and the wealth that it yields. I work for the master, the king of the sky. Someday I’ll go to meet him when the crops are laid by.
They also included the song “Heavenly Train,” written by David Murph. He originally recorded it in 1990 with a band called The Gospel Strings.
“Our album producer, Amanda Cook, had a really cool idea of adding a short clip of David singing it from the original 1990 recording at the end of the album,” says Michael. “It’s going to mean a lot to his family and to a lot of people that knew David well.”
As The Gospel Plowboys continue on the mission God gave them back in 2012, they’re doing their best to honor the legacy of their friends.
“John and David both wanted The Gospel Plowboys to continue on, even after they left this earth,” says Kris Miller. “This album is dedicated to them, our dear friends. Our message then and now is to sow the seed of Jesus Christ and to encourage the saints to keep the faith.”