The Gaither Vocal Band (1980-Present)
The Gaither Vocal Band formed spontaneously before a Bill Gaither Trio concert. Original members included Trio members Bill Gaither (baritone) and Gary McSpadden (lead) along with backup singers Steve Green (tenor) and Lee Young (bass). They sang "Your First Day In Heaven" for an appreciative audience. The song was included on a Bill Gaither Trio double-LP titled Live Across America released in 1980. The group's first full-length album was self-titled The New Gaither Vocal Band and released the following year.
For the next decade, the Gaither Vocal Band had success in the exploding Christian contemporary market. Steve Green left to become a successful soloist. He was succeeded by Larnelle Harris who also became a household name after recording a couple of big duets with Sandi Patty. By 1988, the line-up included former Imperials tenor Jim Murray, Michael English and Mark Lowry. Bill Gaither had shifted from baritone to bass around 1985.
In 1991, Bill Gaither convinced their contemporary label, Star Song, to allow the group to record a Southern Gospel album with some of their heroes. Titled Homecoming, the album led to a concept video being recorded for the song "Where Could I Go?" After the video taping, the guests gathered around a piano in the studio to sing. This was also captured on video and included on the ensuing videotape release. The first video led to another and another. The Gaither Homecoming video series ultimately became the most successful video series of its kind with several titles certified gold and platinum by the RIAA.
The Gaither Vocal Band made one more contemporary vocal album on the Star Song label before leaving to do their own thing. They still recorded songs with a progressive edge, but the overall sound of the group emphasized four-part harmony. The group recorded for Chapel Records (later renamed Spring Hill) which was owned in part by Bill Gaither. Later recordings were made on the Gaither Music Group label and Spring House Records.
Southern Gospel radio was reluctant to play the Gaither Vocal Band's music in their early years, but once the group began emphasizing more of a Southern Gospel sound in the 1990s, they warmed up gradually. The Gaither Vocal Band's first number one on the Singing News monthly airplay chart came in 1997. "Yes, I Know" remained at the top of the chart for a period of four months. The group scored another number one in 2006 with "I Will Go On" and shared a number one with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound in 2008 with "His Love Is Like A River." In 2011, "Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored" occupied the top spot on the chart for the month of October.
From the mid-1990s until 2013, the group had three four-year periods with the same lineup. These were from 1997 to 2001 with Gaither, Lowry, Guy Penrod and David Phelps; from 2005 to 2009 with Gaither, Penrod, Marshall Hall and Wes Hampton; and from 2009-2013 with the "all-star" five-man line-up featuring Gaither and Hampton rejoined by Phelps, English and Lowry. When English and Lowry both ended their second stints with the group at the end of 2013, the Gaither Vocal Band retained the five-man format hiring Adam Crabb and Todd Suttles as their replacements. In 2017, Phelps once again left the group and was replaced by long time Homecoming artist Reggie Smith.
Singing News Fan Awards
Favorite Band (2011, 2013, 2021)