Gaither and the “A List”

I’ve been meaning to comment on this for a while but since it happened during my blog-free week at the end of last year, it has slipped my mind till now.

Perhaps you’ll remember that Chuck Peters and others carried news that an “upcoming Gaither Homecoming taping in Nashville will include an ‘A’ list of Southern Gospel artists,” as Peters wrote in December 28, 2006 ShowPrep. “A Gaither insider told our reporter: ‘I don’t know all the artists, but I understand that practically everyone in the biz will be there, plus a few new faces.’”

Well, ok. So far, so good. Gaither has reached an elderstatesmenlike status in his life and career sufficient to invite just about anyone he wants to sing with him and not be upstaged by them. But what really made me cock my head to one side and squint was this:

A few names believed to be on the list are: Buddy Greene, Henry Slaughter, the Martins, Joel and LaBreeska Hemphill, Woody Wright, the Crabb Family, the Collingsworth Family, the Easters, the Freemans, Lisa Daggs, the Mike Bowling Group, Three Bridges and the Talley Trio.

THIS is the A list? Granted, this might just be an assorted list of guests, but if I were trying to be illustrative of an A-list lineup, this wouldn’t be the first, or the second, or the third or eighth grouping I’d put together. Some names fit, sure. Martins, Easters, Crabbs, Talleys. And some are long-time Gaither “Friends” (Greene, Slaughter, Hemphills, Wright). But whatever these people represent in aggregate, it is NOT the A-list.

Daniel Mount got all twitterpated when he saw this and declared that “Bill Gaither rethinks Homecoming.” Slow down, Opie.

Coming to Nashville and recording a video with a bunch of music-industry people, most of whom Gaither has some kind of existing relationship with, hardly seems to represent “rethinking” anything. Looks more to me like a continuation – and natural extension – of what’s come before. Were a certain faction of groups and talent in gospel and Christian music - people NOT on this list - to actually show up and sing, we may at best be looking at a little gospel détente between Gaither and a few artists who have waged a long lukewarm war with the Homecoming phenomenon.

But the “few names believed to be on the list” so far represent nothing more than Gaither and Co. come to Nashville with their cameras rolling. So what? Gaither has been to Jerusalem, Carnegie Hall, and not least of all the Ryman (in, uhm, Nashville), where he recorded a genuine landmark of a video with the “A-List” of gospel and inspirational music either on the stage or in the seats. Hard to see the regular Homecoming Friends and a few also-rans topping that.

Update: The comments seem to suggest the recording will include a pretty representative swath of top-tier artists (depending on how you define that term). Here’s an interesting exercise for you: tally up which of the groups formally associated with NQC board members have recorded with Gaither (or will at this upcoming event). It’s an informative exercise that leaves one to wonder: if Gaither records with pretty much everyone who’s anyone in gospel music, what - or who, exactly - is the chief obstacle to Gaither’s (re)appearing at NQC? I don’t think the answer is, quite yet, nothing and no one. But more disturbing is that NQC has become too irrelevant in a Gaitherized Christian music world for Gaither to have to care. As I’ve said before, the man makes his own weather in Christian entertainment and, as this Nashville event suggests, everyone else is left to scramble for a Gaither umbrella or stand out in the rain.

Later Update: Don’t forget, too, that Gaither has an especial knack for dramatizing moments of reunion, reconciliation and community redemption - in short, ceremonializing togetherness. I’m thinking particularly of the different tapings in which Mylon Lefevre, Calvin Newton and Michael English underwent what Michael Graves has called “ceremonial reinstatement” into the gospel music community, presided over by Gaither in a kind of high priest of gospel music role. Perhaps in a less overt way, this Nashville thing will be patterned loosely after the ceremony of reinstatement that Gaither has - whether consciously or not - made one of his signatures. Certainly a Gaither taping with groups that have not historically had a regular association with him seems like so much low hanging fruit from the tree of nostalgia and sentimentality that gospel musicians produce so well and often engage in authentically.

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Comments

  1. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    It wasn’t the B-list artists that caused me to say that Gaither is rethinking Homecomings.

  2. md wrote:

    I would rather go to a Three Bridges concert than a Gaither Homecoming anyday. I guess we all have our opinions.

  3. Chuck Peters wrote:

    Douglas,.. Again,.. and as always. I really appreciate any mention on your website.. even when you feel the need to nitpick. Let me take responsibility for the “A List” statement in the story (http://www.southerngospelreporter.com/001news20061227homecoming.html). I tossed that in. “A List” was my opinion.. not Gaither’s.. not the “insider’s”. Slaughter, Greene and the others are “A List” to me.

    Thanks man.. appreciate all you do.

    Chuck

  4. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    The video projects and the Homecoming concert are two different animals.
    Bill Gaither has been doing nothing different over his forty years or so in gospel music. Just envolving with the times in style without changing the focus of the message.
    The video projects and television specials are geared to reach a much larger audience where as the concerts are produced for the local concertgoer.

  5. Jim2 wrote:

    So — in a picture perfect world and keeping insider politics out of it - what would be an “A-list” lineup?
    How many artists can you showcase in one evening (or even over two evenings) where everyone gets to do more than just a couple songs but it doesn’t drag on forever?

  6. Ron F wrote:

    We’ve already heard from the Perrys, Gold City and others saying that they are invited. Whether or not they show up is to be determined.

    I get really frustrated at the lack of news that trickles down from Gaither. Many of us who really enjoyed the old HC videos have longed for another in-studio taping where the real stars of sgm could participate. And I know the Gaither people have gotten an earfull from many of us. They just don’t seem to be forthcoming with any news on what the status is. I think the last real “homecoming” was the Indiana Roof sessions in 2000. It’s been a long time…

  7. A B wrote:

    I think The Perrys, Aaron Wilburn, Florida Boys, Gold City, and Dove Brothers are among some of the other folks that are definitely going. Not totally sure on all of those so don’t quote me for sure, but that’s coming from a few websites and from some of the groups themselves. Guess we’ll see what happens!

  8. Dean Conklin wrote:

    A FEW names believed to be ON the list… That doesn’t suggest it is all-inclusive. No sign of regular Mike Allen, and I’d add the Isaacs as a likely group — they’ve done Jerusalem, South Africa. How about EH/SSQ and Booths? Seems like some huffin’ and puffin’ about what’s already described as incomplete … a few…

  9. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    To me, “A-list” would mean good quality performers who can draw significant sized, ticket buying crowds on their own…without Gaither’s help.

    I counted two…plus a couple of others that may be on the borderline.

  10. Kyle wrote:

    I believe that The Oak Ridge Boys confirmed their appearance at this taping, as well, marking their second Gaither taping (not counting the Cathedrals farewell video).

  11. woody wright wrote:

    dbm
    who is the other one besides me?

  12. smells wrote:

    In response to what Ron F wrote, he got me thinking. What was the intent of the first homecoming idea? As far as I know, it was to gather all the old legends who were still alive in one place to worship God. Beautiful thing. Most of the people on the videos right now are in the process of becoming legends, so it’s not as special.

  13. Tom K. wrote:

    Why don’t all you naysayers wait until the taping occurs before you start second guessing Mr. Gaither. Seems like he has always had quite a mix of the older and younger singers and groups for all of these type tapings and he will in February. He didn’t ask me to pick them either and my feelings are not hurt.

    Praise The Lord!!!!

  14. Aaron Swain wrote:

    I was at a Legacy Five concert yesterday, and the host pastor came out during intermission and announced: “I’ve forgotten to make a very important announcement. Bill Gaither has finally woken up. He has invited Legacy Five to his next video taping, which will begin next Tuesday.” Sounds like Gaither’s A-List has improved…

  15. Dale Steenhoven wrote:

    According to emails that I’ve received from Gold City, and Greater Vision, both of these groups were at the Gaither Nashville Taping.

    Gerald Wolfe of GV writes: “After our Texas trip last weekend, we headed to Nashville for two days of taping with Bill & Gloria Gaither and The Homecoming Friends. It was a tiring, but awesome two days! It reminded me of the tapings we used to do in Alexandria, Indiana, complete with special moment after special moment, and the presence of the Lord was so real in the place it was real time of worship.

    I don’t know the release dates for these new videos, but I can tell you, you’ll want to own them. The first day of taping was a combination of old and new songs, featuring all the Homecoming Friends, as well as individual groups, including Greater Vision. The second day was dedicated to the great hymns of the faith, complete with Lari Goss conducting a live orchestra. We had church! There were lots of special guests and highlights, but I guess the special moment for us was when Andre’ Crouch lead us in singing some of his great classics like “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” (which he wrote when he was only 14 years old!), “Bless The Lord O My Soul”, and “Through It All”. I can’t tell you all about it in this space, but I can tell you it’s going to be the best video Bill has produced in several years… in my opinion.”

  16. Ken wrote:

    Wasn’t the Blackwood Brothers on the list for the hymns part - I heard they were going to be there?

  17. AD wrote:

    Hey Woodrow, weren’t those two “almost about to make it” you and me????

    AD

  18. S. Earl Weatherford wrote:

    As a veteran of at least 50 videos, I had to find out what it meant to be considered “A-list”. I challenge the reader to find out the real meaning of the term A-list according to the journalist, James Ulmer and what it applies to and then to re-think if there is a place for such a list in the kingdom of God. I think that if we go by his description of “A-List “ then Bill Gaither and every artist to have ever appeared do not even come close to this status. I did find references to a list at Rev.21: 27 and Luke 10:20. I also found out that if we try to use a term for what we do such as a list to make ourselves a little more important in this world, we will run right into John at 17:16.The only superstar in the Kingdom is the King himself. The rest of us, all of us that serve him in some way, be it through music or even have a web site of our own should be happy if we only smell like smoke, Ask 1 Peter at 1:7

  19. Susan E. Weatherford wrote:

    Come on, brother. A veteran of 50 videos? Isn’t that exaggerating just a bit? The “a-list” is only an expression. It refers to people who are a part of something and have established standards for others. I think as Christians, we are all on THE A-LIST. I was at the Gaither taping, it was incredible. It gave me a whole new respect for Bill Gaither. I’ve read a few notes on here where people ask why doesn’t Bill do this or why does he do that? Tell you what, when you have been as successful as he has been and have helped restart as many ministries as he has, then you have the right to second guess him and question what he does and why he does it. Any person who can get that many people, personalities, and EGOS on one stage is a genius. To quote Bill Gaither, he said this the night of the first taping, “There’s nothing wrong with having an ego, you just have to get it sanctified.” Truer words have never been said. I’m not sure many people actually processed what he said, but it made a lot of sense to me.

  20. Megan L. Cunningham wrote:

    There is no such thing as the “A-List.”
    There are people who wish they had a better career and who have suffered because they don’t want to take the opportunity or lose control of their little empire, and then there’s people who are truthful and geniunely exicted about the word of God and do all the right things for the right reasons.
    Remember that saying, “Good things happen to good people?”
    Simple as that.

  21. smilekross wrote:

    I have been a big fan of the Homecoming Videos since they very first one came out. I think I’ve watched just about all of them. I remember Earl Weatherford and Lily Fern Weatherford on a few of the videos but for the life of me I can’t figure out who this S. Earl Weatherford is who’s supposed to have been on “at least 50 videos”. Who is this person??? I am pretty familiar with everyone in those tapings but this person has escaped my notice. Can anyone help me understand?

  22. Steven E Weatherford wrote:

    Lets see. I was at the first taping in Nashville, they called that one Reunion, and I missed the Ryman one because I had to drive the bus to Pittsburg so we could finish the tour. I think the last one I sat in on ended up being called Indiana Roof something. Someone said I was the first one who ever said any thing at a taping that was not scripted. I’m not real sure about that but I like the platinum video I got for being on that one. I have not made any of the live concert ones, except the first Texas one. I have yet to have been heard singing a song, but I was there and I was singing. I’m glad to have been setting here watching the history of Gospel music change right before my eyes.

    I would not have missed this last one but I went home to see my baby boy instead. I’m sure I made the right call on that one. Yes, I am fairly sure that I was at every one they ever did in the studio, except the very first one. I had a blast at all of them, Seems like 50 or so to me. Why don’t you count them and let me know? I may be wrong. It would not be the first time.

    I’m sure not second guessing Bill. He is on the top of my list and the old respect I have for him still works fine. I’m sure his reward in Heaven will be great. I have never known him to show malice toward any one, even when he very well could have. It’s a shame more of us can’t have that attribute these days. He has helped a lot of us more than we may realize. He really does love this thing we call Gospel Music and the people who sing it. Words can hurt him as they can hurt any of us.

    But to refer to the Ulmer scale to rank the ones who are on videos. Well John 17:16 still fits here, try reading it. Since I will not be writing any more on this subject let me make it clear. To use a worldly or Hollywood type standard, and the term A- List was not coined for, or is it about, or has it ever been about Gospel singers, and to judge others serving in the Kingdom is just wrong . . . Some that may have been called unimportant to a video shoot or the NQC or any thing else for that matter have made many a sacrifice to take the good news of the Gospel on the road long before any one even cared about such things. Who is to say that they are not important enough to be considered “A-List “? I know this is being used as a term to show who is considered to be hot right now. But let us consider what we do and say. We will always be different. We should be. We are in this together even if we like it or not. We will be stronger if we stay together as best we can and LIFT each other up and I know Bill Gaither knows this. I think he has proven this over and over again. I’m trying to learn this. I WILL try harder now. We can’t all be on the top of the heap and sell millions but we can all do something. The success of the videos proves that to me.

    Some of the notes these folks sing may not be as strong as they once were or the crowds may not cheer for these “b-list” folks but they are important and precious in the Lord’s eyes, we are indeed set apart. The best of us are nothing without him in our lives. We do not need an A list standard to be important to God. All we need is his forgiveness.

    Forgive me if I’m wrong again. It would not be the first time

  23. Megan L. Cunningham wrote:

    Sometimes people exaggerate because they don’t have anything to show for. So they have to make something up.

    Megan

  24. smilekross wrote:

    OH, YES, STEVE WEATHERFORD. SORRY, I HAD NEVER HEARD YOU USE YOUR MIDDLE NAME IN THAT WAY. I HAVE HEARD THE WEATHERFORDS SEVERAL TIMES, BUT HADN’T HEARD YOU QUOTING BIBLE LIKE THAT. I THOUGHT MORE OF YOU BEING A WANNA-BE COMEDIAN.
    AND SINCE YOU MENTION BIBLE QUOTES, AND YOU SEEM TO BE SO SENSITIVE TO BEING CALLED ON EXAGGERATING; I TRIED TO THINK OF WHERE I COULD FIND THE WORD EXAGGERATION IN THE BIBLE. DON’T THINK IT’S THERE, INSTEAD, GOD SEEMS TO PREFER THE NASTY LITTLE WORD LIE, OR LIARS, OR LYING. AND SINCE IT MENTIONS WHAT HAPPENS TO LIARS IN REVELATION 21:8—-I’M MORE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT THAN I AM THE “A-LIST” OF GOSPEL SINGERS.
    WHEN EACH OF US STAND BEFORE GOD TO GIVE ACCOUNT OF OURSELVES AND THE DEEDS WE HAVE DONE, I CAN’T IMAGINE GOD SAYING, “NOW, SING ME A GOOD OLD GOSPEL SONG, AND LET ME SEE IF YOU GET ON THE A OR B LIST”
    INCIDENTALLY, MR WEATHERFORD, YOU REALLY DO SING WELL, IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, AND IF YOU COULD LET YOUR EGO, AND TONGUE BE SANCTIFIED, YOU COULD REALLY BE A BLESSING TO MANY.
    DON’T YOU THINK SO?

  25. Susan E. Weatherford wrote:

    I was going to refrain from commenting again, but after looking up the scriptures that S. Earl Weatherford provided, I could not stop myself. Bear in mind, I am not doing this in an antagonistic spirit, but rather just to clarify.

    Here are the scriptures he listed, NIV translation:

    John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

    Revelation 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

    Luke 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

    1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

    Sometimes, when we take verses out of context, we can interpret them to mean anything that we want. So, I looked up ministry in my Concordance (yes, I know how to use one) and found this:

    2 Corinthians 4:1-

    Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

    So, the bottom line is, we ALL have a ministry. Even though we are on the A-list or the Z-list, we are all part of the body of Christ. It is really pretty silly to sit around and debate who is the best or the worst. We should all give our very best because Christ gave his very best for us. And He is still doing it today.

  26. Jesse wrote:

    The A list here is The Crabb Family, Mike Bowling Group (the closest thing to Kenny Hinson since Kenny Hinson) The Easters and the Freemans, those groups are on anybody’s A-list, unless you’re nuts. All the others can stay home, they’re just good for advancing the cause of fast forward buttons.

  27. James Verner wrote:

    I don’t think the “A”list nit-picking has any merit. Gaither and his ministry has blessed a lot of people. You try doing this too and we will place you in the “A” list! Jim Verner

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