Gaither Homecoming to visit Coliseum

Published 9:27 pm Friday, November 5, 2010

Bill Gaither, above, and his Homecoming Tour will make an appearance Thursday at the Hampton Coliseum. The artists at right — Buddy Greene, Mark Lowry, Gene McDonald and Lynda Randle — also will perform.

The legendary gospel artist Bill Gaither will bring his Homecoming Tour to Hampton Roads next week.

Gaither and friends Buddy Greene, Mark Lowry, Gene McDonald, Lynda Randle and more will perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Hampton Coliseum. Gaither said he’s looking forward to the visit.

“We’ve been in Tidewater I don’t know how many times,” he said. “It’s one of our favorite places. We enjoy the old Coliseum there at Hampton.”

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As a songwriter, Gaither has penned more than 600 inspirational songs that have been published in hymnals, performed by him and co-performers, and even recorded by Elvis Presley. He grew up dreaming of becoming a gospel singer, but an attempt to break into the industry while in college didn’t work out.

He began teaching English, but his students would rush through assignments so Gaither would have time to play guitar and sing songs at the end of class. He soon met his wife, and the two began singing together, along with his siblings.

The Gaither Vocal Band was born in 1963, playing first in churches, then moving to high school auditoriums, then to big arenas with thousands of seats.

Gaither became a household name when he wrote “He Touched Me,” which earned him a Grammy nomination and a Dove Award for Songwriter of the Year and was recorded by Elvis Presley.

Gaither and his wife began the three-day musical and educational event “Praise Gathering for Believers,” which still draws thousands annually.

However, perhaps Gaither’s most memorable influence on the gospel music scene is his penchant for identifying promising young musicians and helping them achieve success by giving him spots on his tour.

“I’ve always enjoyed putting somebody else out front,” he said.

This tendency led him to videotape “reunions” of gospel music pioneers at his studio in Alexandria. The first tape, “Homecoming,” was so successful that The 700 Club episode where it debuted was repeated during sweeps week as a ratings booster.

Nearly 20 years later, Gaither still gathers the country’s best gospel musicians for tapings and tours. The show appearing in Hampton next week features such artists as Buddy Greene, Mark Lowry, Gene McDonald and Lynda Randle, among plenty of others.

“Tell the folks they need to be there,” Gaither said. “It will be great music, great harmony, a lot of fun and great messages in song.”

While Gaither says Christian music is fluid, the message it delivers is not.

“It’s always been about two things — the message and the music,” he said. “The message is still the same, but the wrapper it comes in is constantly changing. It finds itself coming out in a lot of different kinds of ways.”

Gaither added he is looking forward to his visit.

“It’s always a joy to come to the Tidewater area, and we look forward to meeting our friends there,” he said.

Doors open at 6 p.m. for Thursday’s show. To purchase tickets, visit