About Southern Gospel

Southern Gospel is a genre featuring overtly Christian lyrics, and power harmonies rooted in the four-part male quartet tradition, where the second-highest voice often sings the melody.

While many individuals were instrumental in shaping Southern Gospel as we know it today, James D. Vaughan is generally credited as the genre’s founder. In 1910, he sent the first Southern Gospel quartet on the road, selling songbooks he published. In 1921, he launched Vaughan Phonograph Records and released the first Gospel quartet recording. He was also a pioneer in Gospel radio, launching WOAN in November 1922.

Through the Great Depression era, Southern Gospel was a songbook-oriented genre; songbook publishers, including Vaughan, Stamps, and Stamps-Baxter, sponsored quartets to tour and sing songs from the company’s latest songbooks to promote the songbooks.

After World War II, recorded music played a greater role in the genre, with groups like The Statesmen, The Blackwood Brothers, and The Chuck Wagon Gang signed to the largest secular labels and finding national distribution for their releases.

Through the 1950s, Southern Gospel artists usually featured three or four voices and a piano player. Live bands began to rise in the mid-to-late 1960s, often including a bass guitarist and a drummer, and sometimes a utility musician who would play acoustic guitar, steel guitar, and other instruments. In the 1970s, a few groups began using pre-recorded soundtracks; these would sometimes feature orchestral arrangements which the groups could not easily replicate live. Live bands and soundtracks continue to play key roles in the live Southern Gospel experience.

In 1991, Bill Gaither launched the Gaither Homecoming Series, a video and CD series instrumental in revitalizing the careers of many of the genre’s legends, and in launch or expand careers for a new generation of artists.

Southern Gospel’s rich history spans over a century, and new chapters are waiting to be written.