Gloria Gaither

Apropos our discussion of what a post-Gaither landscape might look like, longtime reader Ben Harris writes:

Maybe a better question would be who is going to take Gloria’s place? From all I have heard from people who were often on the Homecoming series, she was the one with the plan.

An excellent point. For all my carping on and on about how overlooked and undervalued women’s contributions are in southern gospel culture, my own tendency to focus on mainly on BG at the expense of GG unfortunately illustrates how reflexively masculinist sg is. Color me chagrined.

Following up on Harris’s point, reader cdguy had this to say:

Ben, I don’t know about her having the plan, but I do know she has a heavy hand in selecting the songs. She has for many years, not just on the homecoming projects, or GVB, but even dating back to the trio days. Not saying it’s a bad thing, just saying that’s the way it is. In fact, I happen to think she’s done a good job. Except that they have been rehashing a lot of the same songs, in recent years. They could at least do new tracks and new arrangement, now and then.

In that regard, I think Suzanne and Amy could step in to help Bill. Suzanne seems to be similar to Gloria in writing style. Maybe she also inherited the gene that would help in the programming.

Don’t know if you’d noticed, but the earliest homecoming videos were not as structured, just sitting around the piano calling out song titles. Once they started programming them, I think the content got better. Probably Gloria’s influence, rather than Bill just playing with his friends.

I have no idea how much of the Gaither formula is Bill’s doing or Gloria’s. As with most of these sorts of things, it’s probably a healthy mix of both Bill and Gloria in the shows. And while it’s a mistake to think that Bill’s aw-shucks “just me and my friends up here sangin’” schtick on stage means he’s not shrewdly invested in constructing a wholistic concert experience, cdguy is probably onto something in suggesting that Gloria’s influence plays a big part in the way song selection creates the emotional trajectories of the Homecoming shows.

I’ve heard enough of Suzanne, the Gaither’s daughter, on some of the videos to say confidently she got plenty of her mother’s propensity for sentimental recitations and overlong reflections on the wondrousness of God’s glorious grace. I’m no more a fan  of this from the daughter than I have been from the mother, but Suzanne could (and maybe already does), as cdguy notes, probably fulfill some of the same content roles as her mother quite well.

What sort of surprises me is that no one has been consistently groomed to take over the impresario role from Gaither. Rory and Lowry and Gordon … we know these names and faces well from their part in the Homecoming comic relief. But as the premise of our earlier thread made clear, there’s no obvious successor to BG’s on-stage role. I do recall seeing Benji Gaither get some face time on the Give it Away video for his songwriting on that African-flavored song, but he (and Suzanne, for that matter) will need a lot more carefully crafted exposure if any of this is supposed stay in the family beyond the reign of pater and mater familias.

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  1. May I Comment... wrote:

    While I’m sure Gloria has had a major influence in the path Gaither music has gone over time, if you’ll look closely you’ll see that a vast majority of the time the music arranging/selection/organization is often credited to Ben Speer. Watch the credits closely his name most always appears. The Speer/Gaither partnership goes WWWAAAYYYYY back to Gaithers musical infancy. In fact it was the Speers that brought many of Gaither’s biggest songs to the forefront of the music industry. Bill has an enormous respect and friendship with Ben Speer. I’d say that Ben has had as much, maybe more influence than Gloria in many of these videos.

    As far as who’s going to carry on, the obvious Lowry has already been mentioned but no one has said anything about Guy Penrod. If anyone could continue to maintain a musical group under Gaither’s name then Penrod is the man to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Penrod is associated with Gaither Music in a big way long after Bill is gone.

  2. Ben Harris wrote:

    I think your confusing musical arrangements, which basically means writing the Nashville Number Charts, with business approach and song selection. For instance, when our group does a new CD Trevor Haley and I do the arrangements and have a large hand in the song selections. However, when it comes to the Nashville Charts for the players to use, we usually let Jason Webb do those for us. He’s faster and writes them more to the liking of the players.

  3. steve wrote:

    When Gloria launches into the recitations I hit the next track button or change the channel. She is a talented woman and probably very sincere but I can’t take it.
    I think the Homecoming thing is tired. It’s time to give it a rest. It has turned into a
    GVB/EHSSQ night and I think both of those groups are just ok.

  4. BUICK wrote:

    RE: Gaither, I gather I’m a minority of one but I could get a lump in my throat if I heard GG read from the phone book. I find her persona warm, endearing and engaging. I do not know her so I cannot say if that is the REAL GG but that’s the way she comes across to me. So I enjoy her recitations and wish I had her gift with words.

    As to the passing of the BG mantle (or the GG mantle, for that matter), we can only guess. I suspect they are more intentional about this than most of us will ever know. When a new singer joins the GVB, I’m always surprised. I’d never heard of Penrod before he started with GVB. Now he seems a perfect fit (though not my cup of tea). Same with every other person at every other position. (The only one I can recall having been familiar with as a singer before his GVB exposure was Russ Taff and I didn’t care for his style before, during or after his GVB days.) My point is, I don’t know where BG comes up with his singers and could never have anticipated any of his choices but he picks well. Because of that, I assume that I will not be able to anticipate who will do what in a post-BG world but I am confident that Bill has a plan, it will surprise me but it will probably be OK (unless it is Russ Taff again).

  5. Scott Holmann wrote:

    Obviously Steve (#3), you are in the vast minority, with your Gaither opinion. Any chance you might have sold 30 million pieces of recorded product yourself and continue to sell every new release at a very brisk pace? (More briskly than anyone else in the Christian music field) If so, you are then THE qualified person to call for a rest of what you call the Homecoming “thing”.

    You also might want to try a “scientific” survey of Evangelical America. If you had the opportunity to select 1,000 people at a Billy Graham Crusade and ask them these questions, here’s what the answers would be:

    #1) Have you ever heard the name Bill & Gloria Gaither? - 90% positive response
    #2) Have you ever heard the name Les Beasley? - 97% negative response
    #3) Have you ever heard the name Claude Hopper - 97 % negative response
    #4) Do you know what The National Quartet Convention is? - 85% negative response

    Therefore…..I’d re-think your position of being qualified to call for a “rest” until you have been able to accomplish what men of Gaither’s level have accomplished and you then carry the proper level of respect to make this kind of call. You would notice that noone would bother to listen to the owner of GRIT Newspapers (long out of business) as he might expound his business plan, but you’d also notice that everyone within hearing distance would hang on to every word Sam Walton (WAL-MART Founder) said regarding success in business.

    In every walk and aspect of life there are those that “DO IT” and those that talk about those that “DO IT”. It is on evident display here that there is always an over abundant supply of “talkers” and an small elite club of “DO-ers”.

    Gaither understands that music is an intricately powerful God-given expression of the human soul and appeals to the human emotion very broadly. He also understands that to limit himself to a sub-culture populated by NQC and Singing News types would be to severely limit the most powerful force in the human arsenal to influence a world for Christ: namely powerfully presented music, aided by the presence of The Supernatural. He is one of the very few in Christian Music that “gets it” (Carol Cymbala being another one that “gets it”), yet it is glaringly obvious to those interested in seeing God’s agenda for this world pushed forward.

    When you look at the petty issues discussed here, you quickly realize that the “leadership” of the SGM Industry (NQC/Singing News) haven’t the foggiest clue as to their purpose in God’s bigger plan and their efforts will just continue to simply redundantly paddle along, being relatively unknown to most Americans, because they are obviously man-made efforts. You do not accomplish what Billy Graham or Bill & Gloria Gaither have accomplished in a lifetime by simplying paddling your boat under your own strength.

    The numbers make the statement for themselves (as to the influence Gaither is having vs. those “stuck” within the SG/NQC/Singing News sub-culture)……. no further comment is hardly necessary.

  6. Dean Adkins wrote:

    “steve wrote:

    When Gloria launches into the recitations I hit the next track button or change the channel. She is a talented woman and probably very sincere but I can’t take it…”

    Me either.

  7. Joe wrote:

    I would agree that I to find her recitations a chance to go get a soda but my wife loves them. I think with the lack of “legends” to carry the show, Bill & Gloria had to change things up. She is very talented at what she does. Some people just love her. To me it seems like its just her way to be an important part of each video. More power to her. There are also several artists I fast forward as well (Hoppers, Lynda Randall, etc.) so I understand that my tastes differ from others. Im sure that after they are both gone someone will pick up the torch but it will be different than we think. Wally Fowler did it his way. Bill did it is way. The next big thing will be someone doing it “their” way.

  8. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Let’s be fair to all in this “scientific survey” approach as suggested by poster # 5.
    It almost just as bad asking 1000 people at the GOP National Covention about Ronald Reagan,Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Edward Kennedy and the Democratic National Convention.
    It is easy to select a segment of people to suit your rationale.
    The only other thing that I was disappointed from the “scientific survey” was the fact that Bill & Gloria didn’t get 99%.
    Seeriously speaking, Bill & Gloria got a early start in the Billy Graham’s marketplace because they started early, worked their way up and did their homework along the way.
    It is called cross branding in the wider sense of the word.
    Reaching out into other evangelical worship styles such as inspirational/church music is truly their hallmark in their legacy.

  9. Dave wrote:

    Well, regarding what you said about hitting the FF, or next button on the VCR when Gloria does her recitations, i probably do also, but they were nice to hear the first time i got the video , or a few times after. But once you heard it a few times, of course we forward them.

    Just like i love the SG quartets and their videos , but when i watch them now, when Hamill or Younce starts with one of those corny jokes, or the group introductions, i hit fast forward. Just heard them a million times.

  10. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Isn’t FF at home no different from your bathroom break at a concert just happens to comes when your least favorite artist or artists appears on the stage? Same goes with your least favorite song.
    The worst case is when people leave before a message of salvation is given at a concert. This last case could last eternally unless they see the light of hope before them.

  11. Videoguy wrote:


  12. OSUCowboy wrote:

    Russ Taff? or has he left the building…

  13. Alan wrote:

    Well, #4 and #5, you aren’t in a minority of one. The highlight of any Gaither DVD for me is when Gloria does a recitation. In fact, I’ve been known to put a DVD in just to get a blessing from hearing one again. To me, she’s a wonderful gift to the church, and has a way with words unlike anyone I’ve ever heard. Janet Paschal comes very close, and is probably Gloria’s heir to the gift of being a wordsmith. The spoken word can be as powerful as those sung, and imho, no one can write huge thoughts of God like Gloria Gaither. So you all can keep on hitting your “next” buttons, but many of us think otherwise. I realize that it’s all personal opinion, but I had to add mine!

  14. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Old friends stick together.
    Find Bill Gaither and Russ Taff won’t be far behind.

  15. BUICK wrote:

    GospelMusicFan (#14) - good point. Love him or not, BG is extraordinarily loyal to his friends…one of whom is RT. I suspect it was hard on Bill to have to let Russ go and find a new baritone for the GVB. But Russ just didn’t work worth a hoot.

    BTW - since BG has tried to create a career for Wesley Pritchard (as he did for EH), I wonder why he never made the cut for GVB. Any thoughts out there?

  16. dkd wrote:

    My thoughts are maybe he owed George Younce a favor (regarding EH)

  17. wackythinker wrote:

    Maybe Prichard didn’t want that gig fulltime? It seems to me everyone doing studio work want go get out on the road, and everyone on the road wants to get into the studio fulltime, and get off the road.

    Obviously “everyone” is an exaggeration, but a large percentage, anyway.

    Singing in the GVB may not be EVERY singer’s dream.

  18. natesings wrote:

    Or maybe Marshall is just the better singer

  19. wackythinker wrote:

    natesings — great point. I sure wish I could sing like Marshall.

  20. BUICK wrote:

    natesings is correct. Marshall has an awesome voice that gives a great fresh treatment to old standard songs. BUT, BG is so darned loyal to his friends that he seems to put loyalty above talent sometimes. To wit: EH (as I think the entire blogosphere seems to agree. Doe anyone think he is better than acceptable as a tenor - and perhaps not even that?)

  21. steve wrote:

    Scott, (#5) there is one thing in your over the top emotional tirade that I agree with;
    “Carol Cymbala gets it.”

    Buick (#4) and Alan, (#13) we disagree about GG but I appreciate the tone of your posts.

  22. dkd wrote:

    #20 Buick, EH is highly overrated. He has gotten some good breaks mostly by his association with the Younce family. As this was recently discussed on another Avery topic I won’t be redundant, Nepotism and favors can’t be discounted in this case.

  23. TLW wrote:

    Well I was at a Gaither Event in Myrtle Beach where BG was unable to be there do to a Medical issue. Mark Lowry was the host for the entire event. He did an outstanding job. As far as the suggestion of Guy Penrod taking over, well the man has a Great voice but there was a moment when he spoke and I have to tell you it is not his thing. So I would say he is NOT the man for the job. But if and when there comes a time to pass the torch I’m sure BG and GG have someone in mind. And I have to say that some of Gloria’s little speech’s are very moving, they can get a little long winded. But I will say she is a wonderful interviewer. I love the interview work she did on the Isaacs DVD.
    Happy New Year to everyone!

  24. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Once again, old friends stick together.

    Question: Who do see in the background of the latest Gaither Homecoming video directing the Homecoming Choir?
    Answer: Bill Gaither has Wesley Prichard directing the choir.

    Question: Why has not Wesley made the reach cut set out by some observers of gospel music?
    Answer: Because of his first love which is the family that surrounds Fayetteville Community Church.

    Question: What does Wesley do at Fayetteville Community Church.
    Answer: He directs and leads the music ministry at he church plus he helps young talent to reach a higher level in the music ministry
    See the photo at the top of this page:

    Question; Guess who coming to Wesley’s church Concert Series
    Answer: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound Quartet

    Question: Who does Ernie call when he needs a fill-in for SSQ?
    Answer: Wesley Prichard

    Question: What is Wesley Prichard?
    Answer: Wesley is God’s utility infielder to serve the God’s team.

    Comment: A few years back on the way south , we stop in the FCC for a Sunday morning service. We were running late and had a hard time finding the church for the first time. We stop at a car garage where we asked two grease covered men where the church was located. They said “Oh, you mean Ken and Wesley’s church. Those people are hard working people will do anything to help someone out.
    What a testimony for a church!

  25. BUICK wrote:

    GospelMusicFan, you answered a TON of questions I had. And you gave support for all of it. Thank you very much. And I do appreciate the warmth of your posting…a very welcome attitude.

    BTW, I think you have the wrong date on:
    “12.28.07 Ann Downing at Kinmundy Christian Church’s Holiday Gospel Showcase ” because the info that announcement links to says the concert is on the 30th. (Just wanting to be a blessing :-)

  26. AD wrote:

    You’re right, Buick…it’s the 30th…tomorrow!!!!! ad

  27. BUICK wrote:

    GospelMusicFan, my apologies. After I browsed your site more and clicked on more links, I realized that the dates on the links are the dates you posted them, not the dates of the concerts/events/etc. Sorry - - My bad.

  28. AD wrote:

    Where was that original post concerning the Kinmundy Ann Downing concert?

  29. BUICK wrote:

    AD (#28): it was at

  30. Sissey wrote:

    I like Wesley. I think he has a great voice.

  31. Poppi (pop-eee) wrote:

    I posted something the other day and have never seen it on here or any response of it.


  32. dkd wrote:

    Poppi (pop-eee) # 31..maybe you are referring to the comment that you posted on the POST Gaither commented #46.

  33. Dylan wrote:

    I have stopped buying the new Gaither
    videos coming out because of the songs. Where has our past gone? The quartets to me do not have the old convention style once treasured and loved. We need to see more groups like the Speer Family.

  34. Jose Arcadian wrote:

    I don’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings by asking this, but why in the world are these two people, their musicians, and their “music” SO popular? The whole shtick seems so very insincere. Sort of like musical alligator tears at times, in a manner of speaking. With a couple exceptions, most of the time the music itself is hokey, and the words feel contrived and trivial. The diction of most all of the singers is rather unprofessional. It mostly sounds like a group of wanna be Country-Western musicians who are singing “sacred” words framed by the music. And, don’t get me started on the spoken moments by Gloria Gaiter. How overly-sentimental can you get?? it’s pushing the envelope beyond normal in terms of sentimentality. It’s a bit like a Jerry Lewis telethon in Country-Western format style. That is my two cents.

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