William J. "Bill" Gaither (born March 28, 1936) is an American singer and songwriter of southern gospel and Contemporary Christian music. Besides having written numerous popular Christian songs with his wife, Gloria, he is also known for performing as part of the Bill Gaither Trio, and the Gaither Vocal Band. In the 1990s, his career (as well as the careers of other southern gospel artists) gained a resurgence as the popularity of the Gaither Homecoming series grew.
Bill Gaither was born in Alexandria, Indiana in 1936, to George and Lela Gaither. He formed his first group, the Bill Gaither Trio (consisting of Bill, his sister Mary Ann and brother Danny Gaither), in 1956 while a college student at Anderson College. After graduating from Anderson in 1959, he worked as an English teacher. He married the former Gloria Sickal in 1962. After a few years of trying to manage both a music career and his full-time teaching job, he quit his teaching job in 1967 and worked full-time in the Christian music industry. "He Touched Me", which he recorded in 1964, was his breakthrough song.
Gaither was influenced by southern gospel singers like Jake Hess and Hovie Lister and by groups like the Speers, the Statesmen and the Happy Goodmans.
Gaither and his wife, Gloria, have written many songs including: "The Longer I Serve Him," "Because He Lives," "The King Is Coming," "Sinner Saved By Grace", "Something Beautiful," "He Touched Me", "It Is Finished," "Jesus, There's Something About That Name" "I'm Gonna Sing", and "Let's Just Praise The Lord." His songs have been performed by Christian artists (David Crowder Band, Carman, Sandi Patty, The Cathedral Quartet, The Speers and the Heritage Singers), country singers (The Statler Brothers) and pop artists (Elvis Presley).
Gloria Gaither often writes the lyrics while Bill writes the music, although composing is usually a collaborative project between the two. As of 2005, they had composed 600 songs and by 2012 they composed over 700 songs.
Since Gaither first began singing with the Bill Gaither Trio in the 1950s, he has constantly been performing. The Bill Gaither Trio originally consisted of Bill, his brother Danny Gaither and his sister Mary Ann Gaither. In about 1964 Bill's wife, Gloria, took the place of Mary Ann. The trio sang traditional gospel songs along with original compositions by the Gaithers that gave them a more contemporary feel.
Gaither has a high bass voice (or low baritone), and would often sing while playing piano with the Bill Gaither Trio.
Entrepreneurship and Influence:
Gaither founded the Gaither Music Company, which includes the functions of record company, concert booking (Gaither Management Group), television production, copyright management (Gaither Copyright Management), retail store, recording studio (Gaither Studios, formerly Pinebrook Studios) and telemarketing for the Gaither organization reside. Gaither also runs a retail center called Gaither Family Resources.
Included as part of the company is Live Bait Productions, which is an animation company run by Benjy Gaither, Bill's son.
In the 1980s, Gaither was involved with Paragon Associates, which formed a partnership with Zondervan to buy Benson Records, which is now part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
In 1994, Gaither and entrepreneur Leland Boren founded the Brentwood, Tennessee-based Chapel Hill Music Group, which later changed its name to Spring Hill Music Group. It was created as part of the Gaither Music Company to handle in-house productions, including the Gaither Homecoming series.
Gaither has been a father figure to many younger performers in the Contemporary Christian music industry, while helping to prolong the careers of those who came before him. Mark Lowry, Michael W. Smith, Carman, Sandi Patty, Steve Green, Don Francisco, Amy Grant, Michael English, Jonathan Pierce, Karla Worley, and Cynthia Clawson are all CCM artists who either got their start or became popular while touring with the Gaithers.
He has maintained the Gaither Vocal Band with a variety of singers through the years, including Gary McSpadden, Steve Green, Lee Young, Jon Mohr, Larnelle Harris, Michael English, Lemuel Miller, Jim Murray, Mark Lowry, Terry Franklin, Buddy Mullins, Jonathan Pierce, Guy Penrod, David Phelps, Russ Taff, Marshall Hall and Wes Hampton. Guy Penrod and Mark Lowry were the members of the Gaither Vocal Band with the longest tenure besides Bill Gaither himself. Guy Penrod was with the group from 1995-2008 and Mark Lowry from 1988-2001. It was announced in January 2009 that Mark Lowry, Michael English and David Phelps were rejoining the group; at the same time the announcement was made that Guy Penrod and Marshall Hall were leaving in order to pursue a solo career.
Gaither's Homecoming tours, which started in 1991, brought together major stars of the southern gospel and CCM industry, sparking a revival of the genres. The tours have sold more than 1.1 million tickets across the world, and have included such notable venues as the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Pollstar listed the tour as selling more tickets in 2004 than Elton John, Fleetwood Mac or Rod Stewart. Lynda Randle, The Isaacs, Russ Taff, the Hoppers, Jessy Dixon and many more have performed on the tours.
Bill and Gloria still live in Alexandria, Indiana, and have three grown children, Suzanne, Amy and Benjamin.
Awards and honors:
1973: Best Inspirational Performance for "Let's Just Praise The Lord"; Bill Gaither Trio,
1975: Best Inspirational Performance for "Jesus, We Just Want To Thank You"; Bill Gaither Trio,
1991: Best Southern Gospel Album for Homecoming; Gaither Vocal Band,
1999: Best Southern, Country, Or Bluegrass Gospel Album for Kennedy Center Homecoming,
2001: Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album for A Billy Graham Music Homecoming,
2008: Best Southern, Country, Or Bluegrass Gospel Album for Lovin' Life; Gaither Vocal Band,
GMA Dove Awards:
1969, 1970, 1972-'77: Songwriter of the Year,
1974: Song of the Year for "Because He Lives",
1976: Inspirational Album of the Year for Jesus, We Just Want to Thank You; Bill Gaither Trio,
1978: Inspirational Album of the Year for Pilgrim's Progress; Bill Gaither Trio,
1980: Mixed Group of the Year - Bill Gaither Trio,
1986: Praise and Worship Album of the Year for I've Just Seen Jesus (choral),
1987: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for The Master Builder; The Cathedrals (producer),
1991: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Climbing Higher & Higher; The Cathedrals (producer),
1992: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Homecoming Gaither Vocal Band,
1993: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Reunion: A Gospel Homecoming Celebration,
1994: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Southern Classics; Gaither Vocal Band,
1994: Southern Gospel Song of the Year for "Satisfied"; Gaither Vocal Band,
1995: Southern Gospel Song of the Year for "I Bowed On My Knees",
1999: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Still the Greatest Story Ever Told; Gaither Vocal Band,
1995: Southern Gospel Song of the Year for "I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary"; Gaither Vocal Band,
2000: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for God is Good; Gaither Vocal Band,
2001: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for I Do Believe; Gaither Vocal Band,
2001: Southern Gospel Song of the Year for "God Is Good All The Time"; Gaither Vocal Band,
2001: Long Form Video of the Year for A Farewell Celebration; The Cathedrals (producer),
2002: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Encore; Old Friends Quartet (producer),
2002: Southern Gospel Song of the Year for "He's Watching Me"; Gaither Vocal Band,
2007: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Give It Away; Gaither Vocal Band,
2007: Southern Gospel Song of the Year for "Give It Away"; Gaither Vocal Band,
2009: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Lovin' Life; Gaither Vocal Band,
2010: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Reunited; Gaither Vocal Band,
2010: Long Form Video of the Year for A Gospel Journey; Oak Ridge Boys (producer),
2011: Southern Gospel Song of the Year for "Better Day"; Gaither Vocal Band,
2011: Southern Gospel Album of the Year for Greatly Blessed; Gaither Vocal Band,
Inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1983
1974, 1980: ASCAP Best Gospel Song of the Year,
1997: Named among the top 75 American entrepreneurs: Entrepreneur Magazine,
2000: Christian "Songwriter of the Century" (with Gloria Gaither): American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP),
2006: SPEBSQSA Honorary Life Member,
2010: Indiana Wesleyan University Society of World Changers inductee/Honorary doctorate recipient,
(This list excludes books of music and books that are companions to his "Homecoming" series.)
2003: Gaither, Bill and Ken Abraham. It's More than Music: Life Lessons on Friends, Faith, and What Matters Most. Anderson, Indiana: Warner Books. (ISBN 0-446-53041-7),
1992: Gaither, Bill and Jerry Jerkins. I Almost Missed the Sunset. Thomas Nelson (pub). (ISBN 0-8407-7573-3).,
1997: Gaither, Bill and Jerry Jerkins. Homecoming. Zondervan. (ISBN 0-310-21325-8),
2000: Gaither, Bill and Gloria Gaither. God Gave Song. Zondervan. (ISBN 0-310-23123-X)