Imagining a Post-Gaither Genre

Bill Gaither has done more to promote Southern Gospel music than anyone else in the last thirty or forty years. In fact, he is probably somewhere on an all-time top five list that would also include James Vaughan, V.O. Stamps, James Blackwood, and Hovie Lister. And of those five, he has done the most to promote Southern Gospel internationally and in several regions of the country outside of the South.

Whether or not you like his stylistic preferences or his business model—and fact is, he can’t include everyone on the Homecoming series, so he has to make choices—let’s not forget to appreciate him while we have him. Even aside from his contributions to the genre, the fact that the greatest living hymn-writer would choose to devote his talents and energies to promoting the genre is no small thing.

A post-Gaither genre is harder to imagine than than a post-anyone else genre. James Blackwood and Hovie Lister transitioned off the road slowly enough that by their retirement years, other people from their group’s peak years were carrying the banner. (And, in fact, Blackwood and Lister were both featured artists on the Gaither Homecoming tour). On the other hand, Gaither is still so personally involved in the Homecoming Tours that it’s hard to see them continuing at the same level after he retires.

Perhaps the foundation he’s laid, where it’s not even headline news when the Homecoming Tour, Signature Sound, the Talleys, or the Isaacs announce an overseas tour, and it’s barely headlines when a Southern Gospel DVD out-sells any other music DVD period the week it’s released—perhaps this will last till Christ’s return. But we can’t count on it, so let’s not forget to appreciate him while he’s here.


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24 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I really appreciate Bill and Gloria and have often wondered what will happen with their group when he retires or the Lord calls him home. They have shared so much of their lives with us that we feel they are personal friends although I’ve never met them in person. I am also thankful that the artist blogged and shared their pictures while on their European tour.

    • I missed this thread first time round.

      Just last night my family and I sat down, as we very occasionally do with late teens in the house – to have a Sunday evening fire-side supper and watch a gospel DVD. The concert we settled on was, “Together” by GVB and EHSS.

      watching it again, nearly 3 years on does nothing to lessen our apprecation of the quality of the combined quartets.

      Of all our DVD collection two stand out as ‘wish we had been there’. Cathrdral’s “Farewell” and “Together”.

      Maybe the bridge from one era to the next is in there somewhere?

      • David, I LOVE that project! That DVD is top-notch all the way. I left a comment about it on the thread where Daniel reviewed it saying that it was one of the first projects to get me hooked on SG. It was also the project that really introduced me to EHSS and made me want to go find more of their stuff. (I discovered the GVB first, so they sort of led me to EHSS.) Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about this DVD. The full orchestra is just one thing that renders it exceptionally good.

        Oh yeah, and Guy Penrod’s rendition of “These Are They?” Goosebumps! Or glory-bumps, whichever…

      • The orchestration was also by Lari Goss, who also conducted in the DVD, which links with another short thread recently.

        I think we will come to review that taping as a recording of true genius.

        Some of the guys there are the stellar representatives of their craft, and bench mark performances for those who follow.

        Guy Penrod’s gospel declamation as an intro near the end is a classic of its kind.

        Strangely enough, Gordon Mote was only growing into live gospel taping performances, yet his comedy routine with Rory and Kevin is also classic, even if not so spiritual!

      • Ah, you must be referring to the “John in the Jordan(or Jerdan, whatever)” routine. Brilliant stuff. I loved it.

        Of course not everybody agrees with me… Somebody in my church who watched a clip from that concert on Youtube said that he would become a Hindu if that was the only kind of Christian music there was! :O

      • Actually no bro,

        the video clip where Gordon ‘directs’ the traffic,and Rory asks, “Is he a referee?”

        Priceless, as was Rory later giving Gordy the Gaither book upside down, and Gordon turning it right side up.

        Totally surreal!

      • Well, the book upside-down is during “John in the Jordan.” That’s what I was referring to. Gordon and Rory were doing a lot of hilarious things behind the scenes on that one.

      • I only noticed last night, they ‘ordered’ the pizza by cell phone first!

        I also love Jeff Easter near burstin at Kevin’s interruptions of his harmonica, not to mention Gordy’s harmonica competition too!

        Musically though it is a masterpiece, a definite classic.

  2. Daniel, It’s spooky that I had the same thought earlier this morning when I was watching some of the older Gaither videos on YouTube. Praise the Lord for Bill and Gloria and what they’ve done for the Kingdom.

    The “Turn Your Radio On” and “Old Friends” videos were what started me on the way back to the Lord after many years of running away from Him.

  3. Whenever you’re in the public eye you can expect potshots from non-sympathizers, and I’m sure Bill Gaither gets his share. For those groups and artists who have not appeared on the Gaither concerts or videos and are perhaps a bit bewildered as to why they haven’t been invited, let me remind us that he is spending HIS money and expending HIS efforts. So he is perfectly justified in utilizing whatever artists he chooses. If I were spending my money I would certainly invite my favorites, or whomever I felt would make a better program.

    Bill Gaither has certainly been a boon to the genre by any measure and he has brought most groups up to another level with him in his quest to maximize the Gospel through the medium of music. His constant probing into new musical territory with excellent production, his long list of successful songs, his inspiring musical journeys into the richness of the Gospel message and his deep love for the genre, make him an outstanding partner in the purpose of us all.

  4. Not to pick at your post but I think the only peer to Gaither as far as long-lasting SG impact is JD Sumner. How is it that he didn’t make your top 5?

    • I tend to forget about Elvis connections.

  5. For an artist being on a Bill Gaither program is equivalent of a country artist being on The Grand Ole Opry. I love the dvds, he is certainly appreciated!!

  6. I am glad this was finally brought up. Bill and Gloria Gaither should be on the top 5 list. I would put them (my oppinion) in number one. Tell me what other person has put so much of Himself or Herself, into bringing Gospel Music to the whole World. How many people would have heard of the Queen of Gospel Music, VESTAL GOODMAN? Too many to mention. No one could Sing and Preach, at the same time. What a Lady She was and is still so greatly missed. You can thank Bill for the DVDs, so we can still see Her and listen to Her message, in song. I’m not leaving the 200+ people out who are also singing their Hearts out, so beautifully. So many Big Stars, and no one is enjoying it any more than Bill. All you have to do is watch Bill and you will see Him really enjoying everything. The Beautiful Songs Bill and Gloria have written together. All I can say is Thank The Lord for Bill & Gloria Gaither. Lets give them the praise while They are still Here.

  7. I am sorry, about my comment. I did Trackback, but everything I had went off line, so I had to start all over again, concerning The Gaithers. There would not have been any other wat to get here if I hadn’t. Sorry.

  8. 🙁 Do I have to think about it?? 🙂

  9. There is no doubt about it Bill and Gloria deserve to be in the top
    five-closer to #1…There composing #1…Bravo to them …Joe S..

  10. I thought it was interesting that nothing was reported that supposedly Signature Sound (with Bill and Gloria’s blessing) have decided to go solo – i.e. not part of the Homecoming group.

    I wish SSQ much success as they venture out on their own.

  11. Let me make it clear that I am not your typical southern gospel fan. I find it amazing though I happen to drop by here and find this since this has been on my mind this whole month. It’s unfortunate that we humans mostly appreciate others when they’re gone. I believe people will someday thank God they were alive when people like Bill Gaither was here. I certainly do!
    I confess I only came to appreciate the music through him. I’ve tried to listen to others outside of his circle, although I have to say there’s something about his homecoming that just doesn’t come through often with many other artists. It’s easy for you people who’ve known the guy from the beginning to underappreciate his effects. He can and probably will never be appreciated enough for rending it possible for people like me to have come to know Vestal Goodman, Jake Hess, George Younce, and etc. I don’t think his failings could overwhelm his achievements. I do hope that Guy Penrod, yes I say Guy Penrod, will lead an effort to get this guy the honor he deserves before he’s gone. I pray to God someone will make an effort to get him honored on Earth! Even if there wasn’t a God (you can rebuke me for saying this), I think God for this man, Bill Gaither!

  12. There was a funny moment from one of the Gaither videos (I think it was Memphis Homecoming) where Hovie Lister was talking about how when he met Bill many years ago, he had NO EARTHLY IDEA he would ever do what he’s done. The comment was played up for laughs, of course, but there’s a point there. Many times our greatest leaders come from unexpected places. I’m not sure it would even be possible to project who the next “torch-bearer” would be, but I’m pretty sure no one will again be able to do what Bill has done. But we know the gospel of Christ will not fail, and the Lord will always find people to use. Who knows…it could be you.

    • We had a good discussion about this in the famous “thread that topped 100 comments” recently. We thought Ernie Haase together with Mark Lowry could be a good combination. Ernie is very humble, a great businessman, loves the music, and would also make a great mentor for young people. Mark could also be a good mentor I think.

      • Just say that Bill makes it another ten years… Mark would be 60 and Ernie would be 56… They would be around the right age to lead an industry but would they have the health… Bill has been blessed with good health that doesn’t mean that Mark and Ernie will… I am not sure how things will be on that side of the genre after Bill goes… I do think life will go on without him however much like it did before he was a major player in the SG scene… Which has only been about the last 20 years… When he went mainstream SG…

  13. We heard how GVB would sound without Bill singing. It wouldn’t be the same, but neither is any group that’s had a member leave after 20-30 years and continue on. It’s hard to imagine someone like Rodney Griffin leaving Greater Vision. There’s a big void to fill, but as long as God wants them to continue on, He’ll do it.
    If Gaither ever did pass off the scene, God has provided many blessings to carry on the work he did. God will provide.

  14. i do thank GOD for bill and gloria for what they have given. i know they and their work has blessed mt heart