BioWithout a doubt, one of the most distinctive and beloved voices in all of Gospel music is that of Danny Funderburk. Over the past 39 years, audiences all across America have fallen in love with this incredible talent, as he performed with The Singing Americans, Perfect Heart, Mercy's Way, and most notably, the prestigious Cathedral Quartet. It was an honor for me to sit down with one of my heroes as he recounted his story.
Born April 13, 1954, Danny Funderburk was raised in the rural town of Hemby Bridge, North Carolina. He was the second of four children born to William (Bill) and Betty Jo Funderburk. There was always music around the Funderburk household, as Bill and Betty Jo and all four of their children were talented singers. "I always thought my mom was the best singer I'd ever heard," Danny remembers.
Danny's father, Bill, helped to found Faith Baptist Church of Hemby Bridge (the church continues on today). Bill served there as pastor, so naturally, Danny and his siblings grew up in church. "I remember our first church was a tin building with a sawdust floor," recalls Danny. Danny is proud of his father, who has served his entire life as an evangelist, pastor, singer, and songwriter.
As a child and teen, Danny thought that being a "preacher's kid" and going to church every Sunday gave him a free pass to heaven. One late night in June of 1976, realizing his need for a savior, Danny knelt down in his back yard and accepted Jesus Christ as the one and only true Savior of his life. From that day forward, Danny desired nothing more than to seek the will of God for his life, but he never dreamed that God would allow him to sing for a living. Danny and I both laugh as he shares that he'd been kicked out of glee club in high school for "clowning around." "You just have no interest in singing!" his teacher scolded him.
As a teenager in 1972, Danny had a burning desire to be involved in his father's ministry. Danny's father, Bill, sang with a quartet called The Revelaires. The quartet sang locally on the weekends for various events. Nobody knew that young Danny could sing, so his father allowed him play drums with the quartet.
"I was so bad at drums that the guys would hide my sticks before a concert so I couldn't play!" laughs Danny. "I even remember them making me set up the drums in a Sunday school room adjacent to the sanctuary so I wouldn't be heard!"
For almost two years, Danny sat behind the drum kit and sang the tenor part to himself. In 1974, The Revelaires' tenor, Bob Sims, decided to leave the group. Bob suggested to Bill that he give his young son, Danny, a chance singing tenor. Bill shrugged off the suggestion and began searching for a new tenor.
After two weeks of searching, no candidate could be found, so Bill reluctantly decided to give his son an audition. The men were blown away by his powerful tenor voice, and offered him the position immediately.
Although The Revelaires stayed rather busy, they couldn't afford to pay Danny a salary. On weekdays, when the quartet wasn't singing, Danny drove a candy truck and worked for a telephone company to provide for his family.
When Danny asked his boss at the telephone company if he could have a Friday off to go sing, the man gave him an ultimatum—he could keep his job at the telephone company or continue singing. For Danny, the answer was simple.
"I choose singing," says Danny. In 1976, The Revelaires disbanded, leaving Danny with no place to sing again until 1980, when he received a call from Charles Burke, the owner of The Singing Americans, asking if he'd be interested in driving to Maiden, North Carolina, to audition for the fledgling quartet. Bill Funderburk's friend and former Revelaires baritone, Charles Surratt, was singing with The Singing Americans by this time, and when the tenor position came open, Surratt suggested to Burke that he call "that Funderburk kid from Hemby Bridge" about auditioning.
"Would you be interested in being paid to sing?" Burke asked. "What do you mean? You don't have to pay me!" was Danny's response.
In the spring of 1980, Danny drove to Maiden for the audition. After singing two lines of the Gospel classic, "Farther Along," Burke said, "Funderburk, go see if that suit fits." Shortly after that meeting, Danny climbed on the old GM 4104 tour bus belonging to The Singing Americans, and thus, began his professional career.
During his tenure with The Singing Americans, Danny recorded the first of his many signature songs, "Whiter Than Snow." Written by Danny's father, Bill, the powerful ballad caught the attention of Gospel music fans all across the country.
After traveling with The Singing Americans for nearly three years, Danny came home to find a life-changing message on his answering machine.
"It would be in your best interest to call Glen Payne," an unknown voice said.
Perplexed by the anomalous message, Danny placed a call to Stow, Ohio, residence of Glen Payne. Glen inquired if Danny would be interested in joining The Cathedral Quartet. Excited, but maintaining a stoic composure, he replied, "Let me pray about it."
Always a man of integrity, Danny immediately informed his employer that he had spoken with Glen Payne regarding the open position with The Cathedrals. Much to Danny's relief, Charles Burke gave him his blessing. Danny waited patiently for an answer from God regarding the decision he must make.
After nearly two weeks of steadfast prayer, Danny felt as though he had received his answer. He placed another call to Stow. Glen answered, "Hello?" "Mr. Payne, this is Danny Funderburk."
Attempting to cover the receiver, Glen shouted to his wife, "Van, he called!" "When do I try out?" Danny inquired."
"Try out? I've heard you sing," said Glen. "The job is yours!" was the reply.
And the rest …is history.
After spending over six years with The Cathedral Quartet, Danny would go on to be a part of Perfect Heart and Mercy's Way.
Despite going through four strokes and a heart attack, Danny says he is feeling better than he ever has.
"I know God has touched my body. He's not finished with me yet," says Danny. Danny still travels extensively as a soloist.
During our interview, he had a tendency to "veer off course" and start talking about his family instead of telling me about himself! He continued to stress how thankful he was for a wonderful family. He recently relocated to his elderly father's home to help care for him as his health has deteriorated. Danny is a proud father of three children, Dana, Jason, and Derek. Danny credits their mother, Joy, with their godly upbringing. "I was gone so much.
People just don't realize what a sacrifice our families make when we are on the road full-time."
The Singing News