Have any Southern Gospel projects been certified Gold Records or Platinum Records?

Over the weekend, a reader asked for a column examining whether any Southern Gospel projects had ever been certified Gold or Platinum.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) instituted the Gold Record award in 1958. At the time, it was awarded to an album with $1,000,000 in retail sales. That came out to about 250,000 units. In 1976, they changed the criteria, instituting the Platinum Record award for 1,000,000 units, and awarding the Gold Record for 500,000 units.

Through the years, no Southern Gospel CDs or LPs have been certified gold or platinum. “Wait a minute,” you might ask. “The Chuck Wagon Gang’s website says that they have sold forty million units, and the Blackwood Brothers’ Wikipedia page says they have sold fifty million units. Surely, with a total like that, at least one record sold 250,000 or 500,000 units?”

In all likelihood, the Blackwood Brothers and the Chuck Wagon Gang each did have one or more records that sold 250,000 or 500,ooo units. And I have no particular reason to believe that the claim of the Sego Brothers & Naomi to have sold more than 1,000,000 units of “Sorry, I Never Knew You” is exaggerated, either.

But here’s the catch: The RIAA only tracks retail sales. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, a strong percentage of Southern Gospel records were sold at concerts. No matter how many total units were actually sold, groups like the Blackwood Brothers, Chuck Wagon Gang, Statesmen, Bill Gaither Trio, Cathedrals, and Gold City never sold enough units in stores to achieve Gold or Platinum certification.

However, there is an interesting side note. The RIAA’s certification for a Gold Video or Platinum Video only requires 10% of the number for a CD. A gold video only needs to sell 50,000 units, and a platinum video 100,000. Twenty-four Gaither videos have been certified gold, while six—Special Homecoming Moments, Church in the Wildwood, Going Home, Israel Homecoming, Jerusalem Homecoming, and Hymns—have been certified platinum. The Cathedrals had three certified video releases: The Best of The Cathedrals (gold), 50 Faithful Years (platinum), and A Farewell Celebration (double platinum). This double platinum certification is, to the best I can determine, the highest certification the RIAA has ever given to a Southern Gospel release.

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21 Letters to the Editor

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  1. It has always been curious to me why southern Gospel doesn’t make more of a retail push, especially concerning stores like Lifeway. I may be way off base, but at the Lifeway where i live, any group that isn’t Gaither or stowtown is a bout 3 records behind! Not the best way to business. But that’s just my observations, correct me if I am wrong.

  2. I’m going to be bold here and say that the Cathedrals having a double platinum video ends the discussion for me who the most popular group of all-time is.

    Not trying to sound condescending, but to me that looks like physical proof of being “Most Popular Group of All-Time”

    Fascinating though that no albums have ever gone gold or platinum. I thought for sure there’d be at least one.

    Daniel, are those the only videos to reach gold or platinum level?

    • They are certainly the most popular group in our genre since the advent of home video in the ’80s. A gold video is 50,000, one-tenth of a gold record’s 500,000 (and, earlier, $1 million in sales). There is at least a possibility that a Blackwood Brothers, Statesmen, or Chuck Wagon Gang album may have sold 450,000 retail units—over twice as many units as a double platinum video’s 200,000 units—without reaching the gold certification level.

  3. Ernie Haase did a “Drive to retail” campaign for Doug Anderson’s CD “Drive.” I think EHSS has always been a step a head of most Southern Gospel Groups, because they look into the future of business.

  4. Interesting. I had always been under the misguided assumption that Wendy Bagwell got a gold record for Here Come the Rattlesnakes.

    • According to the RIAA’s website, they did not award a gold record for that album. Perhaps it sold 500,000 units, counting table sales, but apparently not 500,000 RIAA-certified retail sales.

  5. I was under the impression that Wendy Bagwell & the Sunlighters “Here Comes The Rattlesnakes” album was certified gold. And somewhere I read “Gospel Boogie (Everybody’s Gonna Have a Wonderful Time Up There) by Pat Boone was certified gold also. I’m not sure if Pat Boone counts but he did sing Gospel music as a major part of his show.

    • I am very open to hearing evidence that the RIAA did certify the Bagwell album at some point but perhaps didn’t make the transition to list it on their website.

      The RIAA does list one gold record for Pat Boone, Pat’s Great Hits, but that album does not include “Wonderful Time Up There.” Also, though he did indeed sing Southern Gospel songs from time to time, I don’t count him as an artist who is part of the Southern Gospel genre (any more than Elvis, who also sang some Southern Gospel, but is not predominantly identified as a Southern Gospel vocalist.)

  6. Interesting information.

    I was surprised to see such a small number for certified Gaither videos, so I took to google, and gathered interesting info. Capitol Christian Distribution says, “64 Homecoming videos are certified Gold, Platinum or Multi Platinum.”

    I also visited the RIAA site and there it says, “….the RIAA certification levels are based on unit shipments (minus returns) from the manufacturers to a wide range of accounts, including non-retail record clubs, mail order houses, specialty stores, units shipped for internet fulfillment or direct marketing sales, such as TV-advertised albums.” Also, Wikipedia says that members and non-members of the RIAA must pay a certain fee to have an audit done before certification can be awarded their albums.

    Based on these few findings I’ve concluded that most southern gospel artists don’t just bother to have their albums certified, because honestly, too many albums are sold in southern gospel for them not to be certified.

    Oh and another discovery I made was that the Gaither Vocal Band were the first to have a Gold Certified album in all of Gospel Music.

    • But who’s doing the certifying? Outside of our genre, in the larger music world, RIAA Gold Certification is the only gold certification that is counted as legitimate and official.

      • I’m guessing it’s just RIAA.

        Oh, and correction on that last part. It’s not the Gaither Vocal Band with the first certified gold album, its the Bill Gaither Trio, says SGHistory.com

  7. Just curious as to which Gaither Homecoming video has had the most sales? Would you happen to know, Daniel?

    • Sorry, I don’t know—especially since it’s somewhat a different question than which have been certified gold or platinum, with all the non-retail sales of Gaither releases.

  8. Absolutely Gospel posted a post similar to this some time back, but theirs was just focused on Gaither Homecoming videos. It has very extensive info and mentions a larger number of certified Gaither videos than the Capitol site, which is so confusing since the Capitol info was put there more recently. Where is the info obtained? Is it from Gaither or from the RIAA?

  9. Sorry for posting too many comments, I’m just super interested in this.

    I tried searching the RIAA gold and platinum database using the term “Gaither” and it gave me very few results. Then I tried “Gaither Homecoming” and the results were quite a lot. I’m guessing when you searched the site you only used the term “Gaither,” thus the few results.

    • It’s an issue with the RIAA syntax in their search queries. Suppose you search for Ivan Parker; every gold album by Ray Parker Jr. comes up. But it’s not only that; every gold album by Gilbert O’Sullivan also comes up. Why? Well, because the four characters “ivan” appear at the end of “O’Sullivan”!

      A “Gaither” search will come up with everything that has Gaither in the title; however, doing the Gaither Homecoming search, I do see a number of Homecoming titles that did not list Gaither as an artist.

  10. Fascinating. Good post, Daniel.

  11. Being a church choir nut, I can tell you that the highest selling Gaither project would be alleluia, which was a demo for church choirs. It was an amazing album that was released more than 30 years ago. It went to 1,000,000 copies and then was re-released with different soloists and speakers. The re-release was my favorite, and was also highly successful. It was, for me, what introduced “inspirational” music to the world. Terry Franklin could speak much better to that album than I. All I can say is WOW!!

    • Now that would not surprise me at all; I see copies all over the place. I see so many copies that I can see one that’s near mint and still might not pick it up!

  12. I was gonna say one of David Phelps’s albums, but that’s not southern gospel…I don’t remember exactly, it may have been one of his CCM projects, or it may have been one of his Christmas ones, but it went gold sometime around 2006-2007 I think.

    • He did have a video that went gold (50,000, as opposed to an album’s 500,000).