Southern Gospel and Christian Business Great

Five Decades Pressing On


He's a curious hybrid
of poet and industrialist,
of bumpkin and guru,
of living legend
and modest disciple.

--Mark Allan Powell

Background: Don't Mess With Bill

The story of Bill Gaither's birth, time and place is sketchy; as this famous resident of Alexandria, Indiana perhaps wants more privacy for himself and his family, and more primacy for his Lord and His Kingdom. He was raised on the farm in Indiana and hoped to become a schoolteacher while he was an erstwhile jock at times. He was named officially: William James Gaither. But, is this Bill named after another Bill Gaither who played guitar and sang with Leroy Carr in 1935 for about five years? The gospel music that Bill was involved in eventually became full time, with his not only playing, but also composing.

Precocious: Precious Moments

This desire to contribute to the pool of songs played by rural folks coming together with piano, guitar, and voice was welling up in Bill, and it spilled over onto paper, giving us such favorites as that first hit, "He Touched Me;" and followed by Because He Lives," "The Family of God," "Get All Excited," "I Am Loved," "I Am a Promise," "I've Just Seen Jesus," "Jesus, We Just Want to Thank You," and the fabulous "The King is Coming". They were not done yet, because they also contributed equally dynamite songs: "Let's Just Praise the Lord," "Sinner Saved by Grace," "Something Beautiful," and "There's Just Something About that Name." Many Southern Gospel groups, such as the Speer Family have performed live and in the studio covering his early songs.

The Trio: It's A Family Affair

With his brother Danny and sister Mary Ann, he formed the Gaither Trio. Eventually his wife, now of 42 years, Gloria, who holds a Master's in English Lit, replaced her who was to help co-write many more songs with him through the years. This period saw them write what are now classics, They would even make some studio work as a duet. The highlight of these successful years in the sixties and seventies was the album Alleluia going Gold. This recording was a musical derived from the compilation of Bill's songs.

The Personal Side

Fruitful and Multiply

How sweet to hold our newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still, the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days
Because He lives.

They raised three children, two of which have followed in the musical footsteps, son Benjamin Gaither, and daughter Suzanne Jennings. But, daughter Amy Gaither-Hayes followed her mother's academic leanings and teaches at DePauw University.

Now, they get to play the doting grandparent's at their home.

Gospel Blues

Despite the constant yearning to remain humble (note their living around his birthplace of Alexandria, Indiana), while fame and fortune mounted, he would not only worry about the quality of his work, but the quantity of his wealth. It did not help when he was criticized in 1969 for being in it only for the money. Though deep introspection and prayer brought him through the crippling effects of depression, he is careful to keep things in perspective. He knows to add rest and sleep to his necessary regimen of prayer.

Vocal Band: I Want to Be In That Number

In 1980, adding Guy Penrod, Mark Lowrey, and Jonathan Pierce to his voice, and leaving Gloria to pursue other endeavors, he formed the all male quartet, The Gaither Vocal Band. They sounded according to journalist Powell, "Huey Lewis and the News (or, in retrospect, the Backstreet Boys.)" They would go on to earn Grammy nominations, Dove awards and release an important two volume set of recordings containing a collection of songs, Southern Classics and Twenty Inspirational Favorites. A couple of their memorable releases is Back Home in Indiana, and the 1999 work, God is Good. They became a quintet in 2000 with the addition of David Phelps and they put out the album I Do Believe. In 2002 Mark Lowrey branched out on his own, and the star artist in his own right, Russ Taff joined the project. They have seen mighty talents coming and going (to solo success), Gary McSpadden, Michael English, Steve Green, and Larnelle Harris in the line-up as well. Finally their sound, which had experimented freely earlier, by the 21st Century would return more to the traditional Southern Gospel style. Bill Gaither would eventually appear on more than fifty albums. There are more than half a grand songs published in hymnals, and he made the Gospel Music Association's Songwriter of the Year eight years in a row, but maybe topping that is the 2000 award for him and his wife as Songwriters of the Century by the American Society of Composers and Performers.

Comin' Home: Old Friends

In the nineties Bill Gaither launched the highly visible and lucrative Homecoming video series. In these productions, the latter ones reflecting his conservative musical swing, he brought together almost all of the known Southern Gospel talent singing individually and corporately, in vignettes. Especially the cover song, his song "Old Friends," that featured also his own Vocal Band. The rousing group of booming sopranos, altos, tenors and basses numbering almost in the hundreds provides an energy that only the most extremely inspired church could rival. He revived a local and rural phenomenon into a national one. One of his latest of these tapes, that have sold almost eight million units, was a patriotic ensemble recorded at Carnegie Hall after September 11, 2001. As a matter of fact, he often times makes Billboard's Top Ten Music Video charts in the general category, something some very popular Christian bands have tried to do.

The number one denomination that buys his tapes is almost predictable, the Southern Baptists, but one probably would not guess the second largest contingent of fans -- they are Roman Catholics. There have been (as of Christmastime, 2012) about 6 dozen video tapes, including several "Best of"; and audio CDs for each one:

2009 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither: Nashville Homecoming
2008 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither: Homecoming Picnic
2008 -- The Best of Gordon Mote
2008 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - A Campfire Homecoming
2008 -- George Beverly Shea: Then Sings My Soul
2008 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends - Rock of Ages
2007 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither: Rock of Ages
2007 -- Sweet, Sweet Spirit with Bill & Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends
2007 -- The Best of Janet Paschal
2007 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - Amazing Grace
2007 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - How Great Thou Art
2007 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither: Revival
2006 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming Friends - South African Homecoming
2006 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither Presents - A Christmas Gift
2006 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming Friends - Love Can Turn the World
2006 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither Presents - Christmas in South Africa
2006 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither: Bill Gaither Remembers Old Friends
2006 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither - Bill Remembers Heroes
2006 -- Gaither Vocal Band - Give it Away
2006 -- Gloria & Bill Gaither: Homecoming - Africa Christmas
2006 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends - Canadian Homecoming
2005 -- Mark Lowry: Goes to Hollywood
2005 -- Bill And Gloria Gaither - Peace In The Valley
2005 -- Bill Gaither and Friends - It Is No Secret
2005 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends - A Tribute to George Younce
2005 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends: Gaither Homecoming Tour Live From Toronto
2004 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - A Tribute To Jake Hess
2004 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - A Tribute To The Goodmans
2004 -- We Will Stand - With Bill & Gloria Gaither
2004 -- Journey to the Sky
2004 -- Build A Bridge - Hosted By Bill Gaither & T.D. Jakes
2004 -- A Tribute to Howard and Vestal Goodman
2004 -- America The Beautiful
2004 -- Passin' the Faith Along
2003 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither - Special Homecoming Moments
2003 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - Rocky Mountain Homecoming
2003 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - Red Rocks Homecoming
2003 -- Legend at Gaither's Pond
2003 -- Australian Homecoming - Gaither Vocal Band
2003 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - Memphis Homecoming
2003 -- Old Friends Quartet - Encore
2002 -- Gaither Vocal Band - I Do Believe
2002 -- Gaither and Friends: God Bless America
2002 -- Gaither and Friends - Heaven
2002 -- Gaither and Friends - Going Home
2002 -- Gaither and Friends: Let Freedom Ring
2002 -- The Best of the Cathedrals
2002 -- Gaither and Friends - Christmas A Time For Joy
2002 -- Best of The Cathedrals - Hosted By Bill Gaither and George Younce
2001 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither - London Homecoming
2000 -- Gaither and Friends - Whispering Hope
2000 -- Gaither and Friends - Christmas in the Country
2000 -- Gaither and Friends - Irish Homecoming
1999 -- Gaither and Friends - Mountain Homecoming
1999 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither: Singin' in My Soul
1997 -- Jerusalem
1997 -- Gaither Vocal Band - Back Home In Indiana
1997 -- Gatlin Brothers - Come Home
1996 -- Bill and Gloria Gaither - Sunday Meetin' Time
1996 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither: Joy in the Camp
1996 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither Present Moments To Remember
1996 -- Sing Your Blues Away
1996 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither Present Homecoming Texas Style
1995 -- Ryman Gospel Reunion
1995 -- All Day Singin'
1995 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither Present Holy Ground
1994 -- Bill & Gloria Gaither Present Precious Memories
1994 -- Landmark: Remembering Where God Has Met Us
1993 -- Turn Your Radio On
1993 -- Gaither Vocal Band - Live at Praise Gathering

The Really Big Sing

75 million watch his cable show on 7 networks every year, The Gaither Music Hour, and this bypasses the censoring "gatekeepers" of many churches who would not feature his kind of music. More people like this kind of music than some experts imagined as a similarly well-selling phenomenon happened with the folksy and gospel soundtrack of 2000's O Brother Where Art Thou?.


He had a Gaithers' 2003 Praise Gathering that was an arts festival as well. It featured diversity in art from style to format, featuring ballet to Latin rockers El Trio de Hoy. It varied from bluegrass to Natalie Grant to Voices of Lee glee club to hip-hop Out of Eden. Big name (CCM) contemporary Christian musicians (Amy Grant {actually now turned secular}, Michael W. Smith) would make impromptu guest appearances. Something for everyone and an epiphany inspiration came not only from recently widowed Vestal Goodman's "Eastern Gate," and everything in between but also by Christian megastars Mercy Me when they played their smash, "Only Imagine." But, that is not too amazing, because he had produced the hard rock Christian band, White Heart, using his own musicians, and he's backing Toby Mckeehan of dcTalk to make hip-hop. No wonder Gaither's autobiography is called It's More than the Music.

Many Crowns to Lay Down

He was inducted in the Southern Music Association Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Bill Gaither Trio was honored thus in 1999. He makes the strong and imperative statement that "'s got to be more than the music..." His desire will always be that "...people sense the genuine love for Christ that is in our hearts." Therefore, his real honor will come when he's rewarded by his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for his lifetime of casting a beacon with music beaming the message of Hope and Love for us all.

Master, Saviour, Jesus:
It's like sunshine after the rain,
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
There's just something about that Name;
Kings and Kingdoms will soon pass away,
But there's something about that Name.


Sources: (Greg Prato, John Bush)
Powell, Mark Allen, "There's Just Something About this Man," Christianity Today, April 2004.

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