Bill of particulars (I of II)

Up to now, I’ve largely avoided the issue of Bill Gaither on this site. Literally, I think it will take a book or two to really untangle all the threads that comprise his empire and his success. But a quick (ok, on second read, not so quick) point tangentially related to the issue of superstars in sg. As I have said in the past, Gaither is undoubtedly a star. Performer’s Myopia causes people like McCray Dove to put an asterisk by Gaither’s name because Gaither uses the Homecoming roadshow to pull in crowds instead of “earning” a star-worthy crowd on the basis of his own talent (if you can’t sing any better than Bill Gaither, though, the Homecoming model is about your only choice, no?). Anyway, my point is this: we SHOULD put an asterisk by Gaither’s name, just not for the reasons McCray Dove does. Why? Though Gaither can’t pack in 15,000 people by himself, nobody else in the business right now could invite the same people Gaither has on stage, call it Some Other Bill’s Homecoming and get the crowd Gaither gets. Which means Gaither has become the locus of this Homecoming phenomenon and his name is a BIG part of why so many people turn out. I think this is true in large part because Gaither has managed to create the image of himself as perpetual star-struck aw-shucks kid who’s just so loveable and endearing that all his favorite stars want to perform on stage with him as emcee (I mean, Gaither’s close to 70 but I still think of him as much younger than George Younce or Glen Payne or the other old greats Gaither canonizes). But that’s another post. What’s undeniable is the centrality of Gaither’s name in the Homecoming enterprise, and there’s no way he is less of a star simply because he had the brilliant idea to become a star by ringleading a showcase of real talents and legends, instead of singing his way to the top. But it’s an odd formula. Take one bunch of averagely well-known performers, put them on stage with a few legends, an occasional star from another genre, add Bill Gaither himself, shake, stir, sing, modulate, and record in front of a live audience and … viola! Suddenly everyone comes out more famous in the bargain. Nothing wrong with that. What DOES put an asterisk by Gaither’s name is this: his success may be having unintended and unimagined destructive effects on sg.

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