The topic that just won’t go away; or, stars by association

One dynamic shaping the future of sg stars that I failed to mention in my earlier posts on this sprawling subject: mid-career revivals among regular “friends” on the Gaither Homecoming series. Think about it: among the group of middle-aged sg performers who are currently aging into the next generation of old legends (replacing the Goodmans and George and Glen and Hovie and Jake etc), no small number of them will have come to widespread fame and notoriety almost entirely through Gaither’s Homecoming video series: Sue Dodge, Allison Speer, John Starnes, Larry Ford, and so on. Before Gaither plucked them from mid-career obscurity (relatively), the Larry Fords and Sue Dodges and John Starnes of the sg world were mostly known (and not always well) for their former work with quartets or groups or popular Christian ministries (in Allison Speer’s case, she was decently well-known as a CCM artist before the niche she occupied virtually disappeared in the 90s, at which point Speer literally married into sg and started doing Gaither dates … and thanks to wise reader SR for this history lesson). Now they are (or were) regularly featured front and center on one of the most popular video series of all time, with centerpiece solo performances on Gaither’s biggest video projects. For example: on his site, Anthony Burger has posted pictures of Gaither’s next sure-to-be-in-demand Homecoming video, this one taped in Jerusalem, which - at least in Burger’s rehearsal photos - prominently features Sue Dodge for a big solo. Not too bad for someone who hasn’t had a regular gig with a group in years (and big solos happen for her on almost every video). Others, such as John Starnes, have had their solo careers jump-started by regular Gaither appearances and have stopped doing regular Gaither dates after years of touring with him (Starnes now does a lot of work for and with Benny Hinn, and no matter one’s opinion of Hinn and his - uhm - style, he draws huge crowds). These mid-career sg revivalists, I’ll call them, comprise a significant core of Gaither’s reliable Homecoming friends - friends who were at first available for almost every Gaither date because, let’s be honest, they probably didn’t have gigs with full-time groups or solo careers of their own that were lucrative enough to make Gaither’s invitation worth turning down. And remember, when he first started doing these Homecoming things, it wasn’t a sure-fire hot ticket the way it is now, so giving up dates of your own to go be taped in a Gaither studio - and those first video recordings were shot in some pretty cut-rate looking places compared to what they’ve become aesthetically - well, it wouldn’t necessarily have been a sign that your career was headed for a revival. Once they were established as regular “friends,” the “friendship” (or jobs arising from it) became virtually self-sustaining for some of the regulars. And (here’s the point) these people will be among the sg legends of their old age. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. As PM’s story shows, Gaither has done wonders for a lot of performers and musicians, to a large extent out of pure altruism. But fan bases and music markets tend to have finite capacities for the number of Old Greats they can tend to and support at one time. Gaither’s videos, in this sense, have made the Stars and Legends business more competitive in sg.

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