There was a recent discussion in the comments section of one of the many southern gospel blogs, where the commenters were wondering who might fill the shoes of Bill Gaither when he retires or is called on ahead to Glory. To properly analyze who might take the torch from him, I think we need to look deeper at what it is exactly Bill does.
It’s easy to say that all Bill does is emcee, sing bass (or half-bass, I guess), and interviews other artists on the videos. But there’s so much more to what Bill does that often goes unnoticed. I think the best description of Bill’s impact was something I heard on one of the earlier Homecoming videos
What makes Bill Gaither so special? Why, in only 60 years, has he been able to change Christian music? Look at him. He doesn’t sing that great, and he’ll tell you that. He doesn’t play [piano] very well, at all…and Ben [Speer] will tell you that. And on top of that, he really stutters. That’s not an act, he really stutters. He gets hung up on a syllable, and that’s why the concerts last so long. But why is Bill so special? I’ll tell you why I think Bill Gaither is special. [It’s] because he’s spent nearly a lifetime making everyone else look good.
Sure, it was meant to be funny, but I think everyone knows that there is a lot of truth buried within the comedic nature of the quote. As was discussed in the blog post I mentioned above, current promotional material for Homecoming Tour features the Gaither Vocal Band, as well as Mark Lowry, David Phelps, Michael English, Wes Hampton, Gordon Mote (their pianist), and Kevin William (their guitarist). Do you really think it was unintentional to include pictures of each Vocal Band member not named Bill Gaither? I believe this is another great example of Bill making everyone around him look good.
Now that we’ve looked a little deeper at what makes Bill Gaither so successful, is it possible to identify someone who will carry the torch once Bill is finished? Personally, I have a hard time thinking of someone.