Gaither Trio Discography Chaos
So this conference I’ll be presenting at shortly has required me to (re)immerse myself in All Things Bill Gaither. Partly, this has involved rereading Gaither’s books, I Almost Missed the Sunset (1992), and It’s More Than Music (2003). Fortunately, they’re even easier to read the second time through.
Aside from the fact that the writing in the first is far superior to the second, the books are interesting, when read side-by-side, for what they suggest about the way Gaither has quite consciously set about reinventing himself since 1992, when the first Homecoming video was shot. In Sunset (which comparatively makes very little mention of his southern gospel roots or interests), he pretty clearly sees himself winding down his career, and he seems to be using the book to make the Gaither brand synonymous with “elder statesmen of Christian music,” sensu lato. In More than Music, Gaither finds himself in the strange position of having had his career rejuvenated by southern gospel - after an adult lifetime of success as more or less a contemporary or inspirational artist - and needing to create a backstory of his life to accommodate the changed circumstances of newfound southern gospel success.
I’m not suggesting either book is a misrepresentation of reality as he experienced it. We all do this - modify and adjust and tweak the running autobiography of ourselves that’s constantly being (re)composed in our minds as our vision of ourselves shifts to meet the reality of lived experience. It’s just that few of us do so as publicly as someone like Gaither.
But I digress. In rereading these books, I found myself having trouble following the discographical history of the Gaither Trio. And so I started trying to plot out the trio’s early years project by project … and found it nearly impossible.
All the discographies I’ve found for the BG Trio are vexingly vague about the group’s recordings before the second Alleluia album (Alleluia: Praise Continues, from 1973, which is often mistaken for the first). The first Alleluia album was actually Alleluia: A Praise Gathering for Believers (circa 1971? Gaither’s books are persistently dodgy when it comes to specific dates, and there is, maddeningly, no complete or even partial discography of Gaither recordings in either book, perhaps because the long list of awards takes up the space that might have been used for a far less sexy but far more practical list of albums released under the Gaither name). But because Alleluia: Praise Gathering was technically a demo tape for the church musical of the same name, discographers appear to feel under no obligation to count it, for whatever reason, even though it sold well in its own right. Or is there a Master Discography In the Sky I’m missing?
Most disocgraphies (see for example, here, here and here) make vague but chronologically hedged references to Happiness (sans label, from “the 1960s,” which may or may not be a custom recording). But most begin to mark time for the group with At Home In Indiana, the 1970-71 project that put the trio on the map (ftr, Gaither refers to the project in both books, without fail, as “Back Home In Indiana”). But Gaither’s books mention at least three Benson projects in the early 1970s prior to Back/At Home that I haven’t seen listed in any of online discography: Sincerely, When God Seems So Near, and I Am Free. These projects were, if I understand the history correctly (and I may not; like I say, it’s all very muddled), after Bob Benson signed the trio and introduced them to producer Bob McKenzie, but before “Mac” and Gaither formed Paragon in the mid-70s.
But wait. It gets more interesting/complicated. Even though most discographies list At/Back Home in Indiana (circa “1970s” is as specific as they get), most don’t begin to specify exact years of release for albums until the 1972 Live recording (2 LPs). The consistency of the vagueness suggests something more substantive than neglect or lack of interest. Maybe the master file is just irrecoverably vague or obtuse. At any rate, I assume there’s a fairly reasonable explanation why several different discographies manifest similar kinds of inexactitudes surrounding the pre-1972 Live album.
But still … surely there are people out there (besides BG himself, who doesn’t seem terribly interested in discographical specificity in his books) who own the complete works of BG Trio before 1972 and who could pretty easily clear up what exactly is the chronological order of their releases and whether or not those releases were custom or label. Right? Surely?Email this Post