News Column

Laugh Out Loud

May 23, 2014

By Catherine Godbey, The Decatur Daily, Ala.

May 23--Mark Lowry has lost count of the number of times he has stepped on stage in front of sold-out arenas. The standing ovations from New York to California run together in a blur.

Don't blame Lowry for the hazy memories. For the past 35 years, the 55-year-old Christian comedian and singer-songwriter has traveled across the country delivering the message passed down to him from his grandparents and parents to anyone who would listen.

On May 30, Lowry, best known for singing baritone with the Gaither Vocal Band and co-writing "Mary Did You Know," will perform at Decatur Baptist Church. The Music and Madness concert featuring Lowry and The Martins, a Grammy Award-nominated sibling trio, will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $20.

"This is the most fun thing I've been a part of in a long time," Lowry said. "Man, I get to be the Bill Gaither of this group. And the Martins are amazing. They have some of the best voices in the industry. You can't beat that family harmony."

For Lowry, the son of a church deacon and a Southern gospel music lover, training for his calling as a Christian entertainer began early.

"I've never known anyone who loved Southern gospel as much as my mother and Bill Gaither. My mother was addicted to it," Lowry said. "She crafted me for this job and I'm glad she did because I love it. But really, she's the one who should have had my career."

From Bev Lowry, who filled her Houston, Texas, home with the sounds of The Singing Rambos and The Happy Goodman Family, Lowry developed a love for tight-knit soulful harmonies.

From Charles Lowry, a church deacon, Lowry learned that nothing stood in the way of worship.

"I used to say, 'Daddy, I'm too sick to go to church.' He'd say, 'Throw up and prove it,' " Lowry said. "If you couldn't throw up, you went to church. And, if you did throw up he'd say, 'Now, don't you feel better? Let's go to church.' Really, though, you didn't have to make me go to church. I loved it."

That faith and his humor helped Lowry cope with a life filled with adversity -- from living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and multiple sclerosis to surviving serious wrecks and losing part of his hearing in one ear.

"Laughter is very powerful. Humor is a great way to get the message across," Lowry said. "I grew up an independent Baptist. They wouldn't clap because that is giving glory to man. They wouldn't shout because they were afraid someone might think they were doing it in another language. But they would laugh."

The audience at Decatur Baptist should "expect the unexpected," Lowry said. The entertainer does not even know where the performance will lead.

"I know what the first song is going to be and I know what the last song is going to be, but it's an ADHD rabbit trail getting to it," Lowry said.

The Music and Madness concert marks the first time Lowry and The Martins have teamed up -- a pairing 22 years in the making. Credit, Lowry said, goes to The Martins' mother, who, armed with a cassette tape, approached him at a quartet convention in Nashville in 1992.

"We listened to it and were blown away and gave it to Gloria Gaither. There was an impromptu tryout in the women's bathroom. The rest is history," Lowry said.

Consisting of sisters Joyce Martin Sanders and Judy Martin Hess and brother Jonathan Martin, The Martins have won eight Dove Awards and released five No. 1 hits, including "We Trust in God," "The Promise" and "Out of His Great Love" in the past two decades.

"It really is a blessing to be able to perform," Lowry said. "I leave the lights up at my shows, so I get to watch people discover what I'm telling them. I love watching their faces when they get it. It is very fulfilling to be able to do what I have been called by God to do."

Q-and-A with Mark Lowry

When did you realize you could make people laugh?

When I was 4. My older brother was a model and real good looking and I was not, so I had to be funny. I would go on his little gigs. I remember one time having all these good-looking models around me and laughing. I thought, I like this. I like having the attention and making people laugh.

What makes you laugh?

Surprise. When I didn't see it coming. Usually when people start telling me a joke, I can pretty much figure out where it is going. When they surprise me, I will laugh with the best of them.

When did you know music would be more than a hobby?

Nineteen-seventy-seven was when the Lord called me. I was going to Liberty Baptist College. I thought the calling was just to sing in church and be a music evangelist. But I'd go to these churches and the little old man in the back of the church would take forever to change the soundtrack, so I'd start talking and I noticed people started listening more. I love that I can form noises and put hope in your heart. It's pretty cool. The introductions became longer and longer and funnier and funnier.

Does the Bible have any funny moments?

Well, there was a donkey that talked to a prophet. That was funny. Just when you think God can't use you, he uses an ass. Peter was funny because he was always sticking his foot in his mouth. He's like me. If he would just shut up. I love the passion of Peter because I know he meant it every time. I'm that way. My friends say when they place me in the ground, they are going to put on my tombstone, "This is the best grave I've ever been in." Everything is the best with me and I mean it every time.

Do you have a favorite song or lyric you have written?

Of course, "Mary Did You Know." I have one hit, please. I tell them every night, "I'm going to do a medley of my hit." I lucked into one, but if you're going to luck into one, that's a good one to luck into. I was blessed. I'm not poetic, but every now and then I can be profound.

What is your favorite hymn?

It depends on when you ask me. Right now it is "I Shall Know Him." I love Fanny Crosby. I think she was brilliant. The story is Fanny, who was blind, was being led down the street by a lady one day. A guy on the street corner was screaming, "I am Jesus, come to me. I am Jesus, I will save you." She said, "Take me to him." The lady took Fanny across the street. Fanny said, "May I feel your hands?" She felt his hands and said, "Oh, you're not my Jesus, you'd have nail prints in your hands." She went home and wrote, "I shall know him, I shall know him. And redeemed by his side, I shall stand. I shall know him, I shall know him, by the print of the nails in his hand."

Catherine Godbey can be reached at 256-340-2441 or cgodbey@decaturdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @DecaturLiving.

If you go

What: Mark Lowry and The Martins

When: May 30, 7 p.m.

Where: Decatur Baptist Church, 2527 Danville Road S.W.

Tickets: $20, available at LifeWay Christian Store, 1241 Point Mallard Parkway, by calling 855-223-1008 or online at www.marklowry.com and www.museconcerts.com.

___

(c)2014 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)

Visit The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) at www.decaturdaily.com

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Source: Decatur Daily (AL)


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