Born William J. Gaither on March 28, 1936, in Alexandria, IN; married Gloria Sickal, 1962; children: Suzanne, Amy, Benjamin. Education: Anderson College, graduated with major in English, minor in music; master's degree in guidance and counseling. Addresses: Website--Bill Gaither Official Website: http://www.gaithernet.com. Conference Center--Gaither Family Resources, 1617 South Park Ave., Alexandria, IN 46001.
Bill Gaither has produced over 100 Homecoming albums and tapes, and won numerous awards and honors, including three Grammy Awards. The Gaither Music Hour is on eight different cable networks and reaches 75 million viewers a year. In 2000 the American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP) named him and his wife, Gloria, as Gospel Songwriters of the Century. In 2002 they were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Gaither was born and raised in Alexandria, Indiana, where his family ran a small farm with corn, wheat, and a few cows. He took piano lessons, and enjoyed music from the Mills Brothers, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page, and Andy Williams. He first heard gospel music in 1948, and admitted that it was the style of the music more than the message that interested him at first. He loved the Statesmen Quartet and the Dixie Four. As a child, he used to pretend he was a booking agent, scheduling and promoting concerts.
In the summer of 1953 he attended the Stamps School of Music in Dallas, Texas. He attended again in the summer of 1954, after graduating from high school. At the Stamps School he met Charlie Hodge, and they decided to form a gospel-singing group called the Pathfinders, with Bill's brother, Danny, and a friend of Charlie's. The group sang at churches and fairs, often for just a free will offering. After eight months, they realized that they were not succeeding, and returned home. The memory of those hard times helped Gaither understand what it would take to be successful in the music business.
Gaither went to work at a supermarket, and also worked cutting meat at a butcher shop. He decided to enroll at Taylor University, but kept his job at the grocery store to pay for tuition. He transferred to Anderson College during his sophomore year, where he majored in English and minored in music, also directing the college volunteer choir. He started up the Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and his sister Mary Ann, and soon he was able to quit the supermarket and pay his tuition with the money earned performing with the trio. He got the supermarket to sponsor a daily radio broadcast of the trio's music, and soon they were getting many calls to perform.
Upon graduation from college, Gaither got a job teaching English at a junior high school in the Anderson school system, and continued his own education by getting a master's degree in guidance and counseling. The trio disbanded, and he started directing the choir at the local church. He didn't always find what he was looking for in church music, and decided to try writing some of his own. He wrote "I've Been to Calvary," and forwarded it to a friend with the Golden Keys. When the group performed it, he received a call from a publisher. He started writing more songs, and quickly decided to start his own publishing company.
In September of 1961 Gaither taught at Alexandria High School, where he met Gloria Sickal, who was teaching French. They became engaged the following summer and married on December 22, 1962. Gloria immediately started helping with the lyrics on songs. Very early on, Bill and Gloria decided to keep their own copyrights. Gaither decided to record the church choir in an album called The South Meridian Sings. It sold more than a thousand copies, so they used the proceeds for The South Meridian Sings, Volume 2.
Gaither wrote "He Touched Me" in 1963. Several singers, including Kate Sixth, Jimmy Durante, Kathryn Kuhlman, and Ben Speer picked up the song, and it would later be translated into dozens of languages around the world, and also be performed by The Imperials and by Elvis Presley. During this time the Gaither Trio resumed, this time with Bill, Gloria, and Mary Ann.
Whenever gospel groups would pass through nearby towns, the Gaithers would invite them to the house for dinner, and then would show them the songs they had written. In 1964 the Gaither Trio signed with the Benson Company and began recording in Nashville. Their first album was Sincerely. When God Seems So Near and I Am Free soon followed. During this time, the Gaither Trio members made some changes. Gloria dropped out when she had their first child, Suzanne, in 1964, and was replaced by Dann. She later returned to the group. Mary Ann got married. Bill and Gloria bought 15 acres of land in Alexandria and built a home, adding a daughter, Amy, and a son, Benjamin, to the family. Gaither received his first of many Dove Awards in 1969, this one for Songwriter of the Year. In 1974 he received a Dove Award for the Song of the Year, "Because He Lives," and for Songwriter of the Year.
In 1975 Gaither joined forces with Bob MacKenzie to form Paragon Associates, which was soon signing talented songwriters. Bill and Gloria decided to put together a non-denominational church hymnal with hymns, gospel songs, spirituals, and folk tunes, and Hymns for the Family of God became a best-selling hymnal. Soon the Gaither Trio albums were outselling everyone's expectations, and they switched from singing in churches to singing in auditoriums and civic centers.
The music business was finally making money, allowing Gaither to quit teaching. In 1976, after Danny left the Trio, Gary McSpadden joined them, and would remain until 1988. The Gaithers began to organize Praise Gatherings, which included music, speakers, and seminars, at the Indianapolis Convention Center, and they included other artists, both old and new.
In 1981, during a Gaither Trio concert, Bill and Gary and two backup singers for the band performed an impromptu gospel quartet performance. The performance was so successful that they developed the Gaither Vocal Band. Their first album was nominated for a Dove Award. A decade later Gaither struck another vein of gold. "I was 55 years of age," he recalled in the Saturday Evening Post, "and after enjoying a successful career writing and performing music for more than three decades, by 1991 the music world was about to pass me by." He decided to record a Southern gospel classic, gathering all his gospel friends and heroes in to join in on one of the songs. He included Hovie Lister of the Statesman Quartet; Glen Payne and George Younce of the Cathedrals; The Speer Family; Jake Hess, founder of the Imperials; and many others.
Gaither arranged for a photographer and a videographer to commemorate the experience. For three hours the group sang, and when Gaither reviewed the tape, he realized that he had something powerful. He had the tape edited, and submitted it to Star Song Communications. They showed it, and later replayed it, on the Family Channel as Homecoming, and were soon receiving numerous requests for copies.
In the fall of 1991 Gaither produced the video titled Homecoming Reunion. Since that time, more than one hundred videos have been produced. A portion of the proceeds from sales goes to the Gospel Music Trust Fund. In 1996 the Homecoming Concert Tour went on the road to perform in cities across America. In 2000, when the American Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (ASCAP) honored Bill and Gloria as the Gospel Songwriters for the Century, Donna Hilley, president of the Sony-Tree music publishing company, declared that "the Gaithers are to Christian music what the Beatles are to pop music," according to the Saturday Evening Post.
In 2002 Bill and Gloria Gaither were inducted into the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Bill Gaither co-wrote his biography, It's More than the Music, in 2003. The Gaithers have continued to live at their home in Alexandria, Indiana, and now have a conference center, gift shop, and gourmet coffee shop on the property.
by Sarah Parkin
Bill Gaither's Career
Started the Pathfinders, 1954; Started the Gaither Trio, 1955; started writing music, started own publishing company, 1959; signed with the Benson Company, 1964; formed Paragon Associates, 1975; created the Gaither Vocal Band, 1991; created first Homecoming video, 1991.
Bill Gaither's Awards
Dove Award, Songwriter of the Year, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976; Grammy Award, Best Inspirational Performance, 1973; Dove Award, Song of the Year, 1974; Grammy Award, Best Inspirational Performance, 1975; Dove Award, Inspirational Album of the Year, 1976; Dove Award, Inspirational Album of the Year, 1978; Dove Award, Mixed Group of the Year, 1980; Dove Award, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, 1987; Dove Award, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, 1991; Grammy Award, Best Southern Gospel Album, 1991; Dove Award, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, 1993; Dove Award, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, 1999; Grammy Award, Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, 1999; Dove Award, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, 2000; with wife, named American Society of Composers, Artists, and Publishers' Gospel Songwriters of the Century, 2000; Dove Award, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, 2001; Dove Award, Long Form Music Video of the Year, 2001; Grammy Award, Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, 2001; inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, 2002; Dove Award, Southern Gospel Album of the Year, 2002.
- Selected discography
- With The Gaither Trio
- Sincerely Benson, 1964.
- When God Seems So Near Benson.
- I Am Free Benson.
- Let's Just Praise the Lord 1973.
- Jesus, We Just Want to Thank You 1975.
- Pilgrim's Progress 1976.
- With The Gaither Vocal Band
- Homecoming Star Song, 1991.
- A Few Good Men Star Song, 1992.
- Peace of the Rock Star Song, 1993.
- I Bowed on my Knees Benson, 1994.
- Testify Gaither, 1994.
- The Best of the Gaithers Live Benson, 1994.
- Can't Stop Talking About Him Star Song, 1995.
- Lovin' God and Lovin' Each Other Chordant, 1997.
- Back Home in Indiana Chordant, 1997.
- Joy to the World Chordant, 1997.
- Still the Greatest Story Ever Told Chordant, 1998.
- God is Good Spring House, 1999.
- Kennedy Center Homecoming Spring House, 1999.
- I Do Believe Spring House, 2000.
- Gaither Vocal Band, Volume 1 Benson, 2000.
- Gaither Vocal Band, Volume 2 Benson, 2000.
- Gaither Vocal Band and the Bill Gaither Trio Macady, 2001.
- Gaither, Bill, It's More Than the Music, WarnerFaith, 2003.
- Booklist, October 1, 2003.
- Christianity Today, April 2004.
- Saturday Evening Post, July-August 1998; September-October 2003.
- "Bill and Gloria Gaither," International Gospel Music Hall of Fame, http://www.igmhf.org (January 2, 2005).
- "Bill Gaither," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 28, 2004).
- "Bill Gaither," Gospel Music Awards, http://www.doveawards.com (January 1, 2005).
- "Bill Gaither," Grammy Awards, http://www.grammy.com (January 2, 2005).
- Gaithernet, http://www.gaithernet.com (December 20, 2004).
Visitor Comments Add a comment…
over 11 years ago
Also from Alexandria, Indiana, I grew up fearing the God of judgement that was the focus of much of the preaching to which I was exposed. Bill and Gloria have lifted gospel music to a much needed higher lever - singing of God's grace and reconciliation and affirmation.
over 11 years ago
I am thoroughly enjoying all your Homecoming DVDs, which I watch and listen to, and share with others! I am just re-discovering you this year. It means so much to me! Thank you for your contribution into the lives of so many, many of us who hear the words to these songs in the Homecoming DVDs -- and they minister deeply!!! Diane
over 12 years ago
wow they are good realy good my freind and my other friend watch the show all of the time thank you thank you and keep up the work of GOD insinlty k
over 12 years ago
all I can say is Thank You, Thank You, Thank YOu, for still doing all the precious songs and hymns I grew up listening to in Church. every time I hear the songs It takes me back to being in 3 or 4 grade and wanting to sing but couldn t find my voice. I still sing in the shower, not in public. God bless you and all the Homecoming Friends. My love to Gloria. and Mark Lowery Love in Christ, Robin Nicole Benn
almost 13 years ago
Hi Bill, i know you have short many homecoming videos in many prominant parts of the world. I am a missionary serving in the Micronesian Island in the Northern Pacific. Originally i am from Fiji, an island nation in the South Pacific. Your videos have blessed many souls in this part of the world and has become a pillar of strength in times of hardships for me. I thank God for you and the vision you had many years ago to have sprirtual wealth recorded in these videos for the many christians across the globe. I wonder if ever you could have one of your homecomings in Fiji, close to the ocean probably and have christians from this part of the world hear gospel music at first hand experience. God bless you and keep you. Love, Niko.
almost 14 years ago
Bill, am longing for the day when you shall come to malawi a small country that loves gopel/spiritual music. I heard about you in 90s and I've been blessed with your songs. Please pray that we all will be in heaven one day when shall come to take home. God bless you.
about 13 years ago
i love your ministry and watch you daily, but i do have a concern for you and i pray about this daily, you are a christian and yet you turn your back on troubled christians such as kirk tally,what is more important a life or a dollar?? please do better.
about 13 years ago
I love the Precious Memories programme that airs here in NEW ZEALAND ON SHINE TV. Such a joy to listen to the many songs and various singers some who have gone home to be with the Lord. Many Blessing to all the Gaithers/
over 13 years ago
I so love the song "Because He lives", and today I was glad to get the full version which I'm going to execute with my band "New Generation Gospel Singers" in a live concert on 27th December, 2009, and that will also be the dedication day for my firs album "I'm Going Far". May God keep blessing William J. Gaither's memory in Jesus' name! Charlemagne Gbofou +22995133223
over 13 years ago
I absolutely love Gaither's music, reunions, interviews etc. I especially loved the tribute to the Cathedrals and interview w/George Younce before he died. "Then Came the Morninging" was sung by a trio of men from my church @ my 60th birthday party. I had waited 23 years to hear the song after a quartet (2 men/2 women) from our church sang it one Sunday morning. No one makes music like this anymore. Am so tired of the 7-11 music....7 words repeated 11 times! Thank you to God for the talent he gave Bill and Gloria.
over 14 years ago
Bill Gaither has brought so much of a Blessing to Christian Music. The songs that he has written surely touch the heart and one can feel the presence of Jesus through his songs. I love to hear Guy Penrod sing. His voice is so beautiful and he sings them with so much feeling. The song that Guy Penrod sings which touches my heart is "The Old Rugged Cross made the difference" and that song the way he sings it brings tears to my eyes. Guy Penrod is a favorite of mine and I love to hear him sing. The Gaither Vocal Band has beautiful harmony and all the songs that they sing really speak to ones heart and draws them nearer to Jesus. I love the song "Because He Lives" by Bill Gaither and "He Touched Me" by Bill Gaither. My twin sister and I have sung together the song "He Touched Me" many times and have made recordings of Bill Gaither's songs that he has written. My Father played Saxophone and played many of Bill Gaithers Songs. My Father has since passed away but he loved the songs that Bill Gaither has written. God has richly Blessed you and the Gaither Vocal Band. I also loved to hear Anthony Burger play the piano. My heart saddem when I heard that he passed away. What a Beautiful piano player he was. I sat spell bound just watching him play. Thank you again for your music.
over 14 years ago
As a writer and a Christian, Bill and Gloria have inspired me since the 1960's when I first heard "He Touched Me". I loved Danny's tenor and the early recordings of the Gaither Trio...Danny has his voice back now, singing with the angels, and the Gaithers will always be known for the hearts they touched for Jesus through their beautiful collaborative songs...
almost 15 years ago
You lifted our spirits when your homecoming videos reached our souls, Mine and my family's. Y'all in our prayers and hearts as you venture more in your gospel music tours. God Bless you and just "Wing" it on.
over 15 years ago
I would like to say how much I have enjoyed your music over the years. Through many trials in my life as a Christian---your music inspires and helps to "keep my feet firmly planted on solid ground". Thank you for the God-given-gift that you so graciously share with others. You are truly appreciated. Sincerely, Lela C.Watson