Sincerest form of flattery

Responding to a post where I linked to some video series that are pretty clearly attempts to export the Homecoming framework to other areas of pop culture, reader dan writes:

you mention the other versions of homecomings as knock offs, as if the Gaither Homecoming is an entirely original idea; isn’t the Gaither HC just a knock off of the Nitty Gritty Dirt bands “Will the Circle be Unbroken” album from the ’70’s ( and the two followups) this recording brought young and old artists together in a informal recording session, great stories told, great music produced.. I really think it is a stretch to think the Gaither Homecoming is an original idea that others are “knocking off”

Dan is right: Homecoming isn’t original (we’ve been round and round on this issue before so I won’t rehash it here), which is why I didn’t claim it was. Only that it had been imitated. A knock-off isn’t a sign that the thing being imitated is original, but rather that it is/was a success.

Solomon was right: there’s nothing new under the sun, and he probably ripped that line off from his father. What matters is that everyone attributes the phrase to him.

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  1. judi wrote:

    Or, as Woody Guthrie is supposed to have said (according to Pete Seeger in a live concert at Red Rocks in Colorado in the 1970s), “Plagiarism is basic to all culture.”

  2. Ben Harris wrote:

    Actually Gaither got his idea from being at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in the late ’80’s. The idea may very well have preceeded even GOGR, but the idea to Gaither came from this event.

  3. Ron F wrote:

    But still guys , I dont think no one could make it be as successful as Bill Gaither. He just puts a touch of class in it. Charlie Waller likes to think he gave Bill Gaither the idea. Go look at Charlie’s videos and concerts and then look at Bill Gaither’s and see which one has the most class.

  4. cdguy wrote:

    Ron — Good point, but look at the difference between Gaither’s early videos (not the very first, but the next few after that) and the newer ones. The early years were not nearly as professionally programmed. Bill asks the singers to call out songs, and they sing them on the fly.

    They weren’t bad, just not the polished production you see now. Kinda like GOGR?
    You see Bill calling names for a “pull-together” quartet, “Hey, let’s get Jake and Vestal and Rex and Glenn to come down and sing this next one,” kind of thing. Very off the cuff.

    Now it’s very rehearsed. They send the track (with the majority of the studio voices you’ll hear in the choir, minus solos) to the “friends” ahead of time, so they can rehearse the songs, then they come in a day ahead to rehearse together. That’s why they’re able to tape 2 or 3 (or more) projects in one day.

    Those early HC projects weren’t that far removed from GOGC.

  5. Ben Harris wrote:

    cdguy you are right on. I personally like the early Gaither videos far more than the later versions. Do you remember the video where Jake has tears flowing down his cheeks? You can feel the spirit and love that was in that room. That has been rehearsed away now. Jake called me a few years back and had me meet him for lunch at Classic Recording in Franklin, TN where Gaither was recording pre-records. Many people think the choir they hear on the finished product is the choir you see on tape. Not even close.

  6. gc wrote:

    So now we are going to belittle Gaither for using stack choir vocals? Gaither is so far ahead of EVERYONE in marketing his product. The organization has perfected mass mailings and E-mail list that have returned multi million dollar sales from product and concerts. The man took a thrown together video shoot and consistently makes the Billboard charts in product and concert attendance. Bill Gaither did for SG what Joe Namath did for the NFL, Michael Jordan did for the NBA and The Rambo’s did for funerals.

  7. Leebob wrote:

    #6 gc Rambo’s for funerals? Too funny, true, and sad in one fell swoop!

  8. Ben Harris wrote:

    gc, I don’t disagree with a thing you said about Gaither. He single handedly rescued SG from death’s door. I think you missed the point…..many believe (including me) that the original videos were better because of their not being so staged. There was an honesty about them that was enduring.

  9. cdguy wrote:

    gc — Don’t get me wrong — I love the videos and what the organization has done. They’ve used wonderful techniques to make the genre available to and likable by many thousands of people who otherwise might not have been exposed to this music.

    I’m just telling a few truths many either didn’t realize or had forgotten. I don’t mind the stacked choir at all, but I do (as Ben stated) miss the spontenaity of the early years. You just don’t get much of that any more.

  10. Leebob wrote:

    Over time and repetition, things are going to lack a little of the “thrown togetherness” aspect. Just the largeness of what has happened to it since the beginning will lend itself to a sense of professionalism. Besides isn’t the lack of professionalism one of the problems with SG?

  11. Harry Peters wrote:

    Old Harry Peters thinks that a lot of what has happened is that Bill Gaither has revolutionized Southern Gospel Music and created a new fan base to a large extent. I agree that he is putting butts in seats and selling products and getting mighty rich in the process but he has changed SGM so much that purists like me find less to like about it. If you stop and think about it, though, Bill Gaither has always done that. I sung in a concert with The Gaither Vocal Band when they couldn’t draw more than 200-250 people. He might not have even called it GVB at that point. My only point is that it took it a while to take off. They were looked at as a little “out there…” pretty much the same thing that we crucified the Oak Ridge Boys for in the 70’s. But…that was the 70’s for you, even Ben Speer tried to look cool and grow his hair out long for a while.

  12. BUICK wrote:

    If you want to talk about the sincerest form of flattery, have you seen the VOP Family Reunion videos? (See the link below):

    It is kind of like Bill Gaither meets Lawrence Welk.

  13. quartet-man wrote:

    #11, Harry, when would that have been?

  14. Leebob wrote:

    I don’t believe I have ever seen GVB draw 200-250. Perhaps Harry is talking about the trio pre GVB. Either that or he is smoking his socks again.

  15. quartet-man wrote:

    Well, I don’t know how much they drew when they started as the New Gaither Vocal Band, but went out on their own. However, I thought that they were only a supplemental act for the trio for a long time.

  16. Leebob wrote:

    For some time the difficult thing was getting all of the personalities together, whether it was Steve Green, Larnell Harris, or whoever. Because of this, when they did get everybody together it was fairly special and every time I saw it, it was very well attended. Later they threw in Sandy Patty and attendance went through the roof in anticipation of “I’ve Just Seen Jesus”. While others who had “passed their time” were experiencing difficulty, BG kept tweaking and figured out a way to keep things moving forward through the middle age years. Surround himself with great talent, keep writing good songs, arrange them in a way to keep the listeners listening and there you have it.

    BTW, my brother broke out the original recording (on tape no less) of Rumormill, He Came DOwn To My Level, and Passin the Faith Along the other day. I forgot how good that project was for the time frame.

  17. gc wrote:

    I saw Gaither trio around 1983 at the Omni in Atlanta. There were 250 people on my row! Sandi Patty was a special soloist and Carman was a comedian. Mcspadden, Gloria and Bill were the draw. It was a great night and I assume the omni held around 18,000 or so and it was packed. I can’t remember if the Vocal band was there or not.

  18. Ron F wrote:

    Hey Buick these Heritage Singers are great, How did you find them????

  19. BUICK wrote:

    Ron F, I stumbled on to the Heritage Singers in a VERY roundabout way. I’d read that Jeff Pearles had joined a group called The Heralds. I’d never heard of them so I Googled them and watched a few YouTube vids of them…including pre-Pearles. I enjoyed them and dug deeper to find the Heralds on some Family Reunion videos. The Heritage Singers are on those, too.

    IMHO some of the talent on these Family Reunion videos are not A-list acts. But I was exposed to folk I didn’t know about and enjoyed a few of them a lot.

    Probably more information than you really wanted but that’s how I found them.

  20. cdguy wrote:

    The Heritage Singers have been around a LONG, LONG time. I first became aware of them in the early 80’s, and my understanding at that time was that they’d been around at least a decade before that. They were kinda like Truth, Bridge, or the Spurrlows. They traveled with a live band for a while, but then swithed to tracks. I think they are from a Seventh Day Adventist background.

    My only encounter with them personally was actually with the owner/leader of the group and his wife. They were talking with a publisher (whom I worked for at the time) about the fact that they had not been paying royalties. The wife got a little huffy, and stated that if they had to pay royalties for the songs they recorded, they couldn’t afford to record.

    I wanted to respond, “So?”

    Last I heard, most landlords won’t let you live in their apartments for free.

  21. BUICK wrote:

    You are correct about the Seventh Day Adventist connection - as with all of the Family Reunion video personnel. It would be as if Gaither started making Nazarene Homecomings, Baptist Homecomings, Methodist Homecomings and the like. That certainly would limit the pool of talent from which he could draw. And such seems the case on the videos in this series.

    Having said that, there are a few very pleasant artists. I enjoyed The Heritage Singers and the King’s Heralds (now, just the Heralds - kinda’ like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays now bing just The Rays) and a few others.

    To me, it still looks like imitation: the sincerest form of flattery. Something of a Faux Gaither or Pseudo Bill.

  22. Wayne Woodhams wrote:

    Comparing the “Homecoming” series by Gaither and the Family Reunion Series by the VOP Broadcast is a meaningless journey. Gaither, and virtually everything hs has done, has been done both professionally (quality) and on a professional basis (it’s their life/career).

    Only a very small portion of the talent on the Family Reunion series is truly professional, by quality or profession. The vast majority of performers there have day jobs, and yes, many were very talented performers of yesteryear. By music quality standards, they are past their prime. The reason they were on the FR series was that these videos were used mostly as fundraising for the VOP broadcast costs, and are “playing” mostly to an SDA audience and support group.

    If you look at the first FR videos, they are very amateurish. The most recent are quite well produced, but never will match the Gaither production quality, and obviously not even 1% of the production costs. I believe that the view from the vast majority of SDA’s towards all things Gaither is one of respect, great admiration, and appreciation for what he and Gloria have given to the Christian world. Nor, do I believe that any competition, copycatting, or anything similar was ever considered in the production of this series. Plain and simple, they were designed to help fund a broadcast ministry.

    Back to actual talent. Several of the individuals and/or groups on the FR series are indeed professional, both by quality and work, and the King’s Heralds, Heritage Singers, Heritage Singers Quartet, Faith First, Del Delker, etc., easily meet high quality standards. If you listen to the King’s Herald’s projects from about 1980 to present, and especially from an acapella perspective, there are few groups worldwide who have the individual voice quality and depth of blend that those gentlemen have. The current group is fantastic, but still refining their sound, plus the first tenor really oversings his part to the point of not helping the blend (great sound on CD, but oversung in concert). If you compare his voice now with what he sounded like in the early 1980’s, you can only stand in awe of what he sounded like then, and what voice aging and pushing way too hard can do to a voice. Still, what a fantastic instrument he has.

    I obviously have been a male voice singing participant and music lover all my life, and have been close friends with almost every KH member in the past 30++ years, and even auditioned with them once. They can make some incredible sounds. I have a HUGE KH library, representing every group back to 1948, and even recordings of the original group of 1927! Fabulous listening and a great study of male voice singing.

    Each of the groups I mentioned are worth further pursual if you like quality gospel music. Google will find them easily.

    And, since it is the Christmas season, those who really enjoy fantastic male voice music, go to Google, and enter “the king’s heralds carol of the drum”. Then remind yourself that 4 men made what you are hearing. Awesome.

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