By the 1970s there were many traveling groups — some family quartets, some all-male quartets, and even mixed trios were seen traveling to churches and conventions across the country. The Happy Goodman Family received their first Grammy in 1968, and a second one ten years later in 1978; Vestal Goodman, the group’s alto singer, won a Dove Award for female vocalist of the year at the very first Dove awards ceremonies in 1969. Southern Gospel music had hit a mainstream market and was no longer considered “hillbilly” or a lower class of music.
Two of the songwriter/singers who immeasurably helped to pave the way for this to happen are Dottie Rambo and Bill Gaither. Dottie Rambo, the alto and resident songstress for the Singing Rambos, penned many great songs which were recorded by many artists. Who hasn’t heard If That Isn’t Love, or He Looked Beyond My Fault ? Whitney Houston took Dottie’s I Go to the Rock to new heights when she recorded it for the movie The Preacher’s Wife in 1996. Another of her most recognizable songs is We Shall Behold Him. When she died in 2008, it was reported that she had personally penned and published more than 2500 songs and was referred to as “the Fanny Crosby of our time.”
Bill Gaither and his Homecoming Friends have probably done more to support and educate people about southern gospel music than any other single individual. Back in 1990, he decided to invite some of his personal heros to an impromptu videotaping at his studio in Anderson, Indiana. As they say, the rest is history! On Saturday evenings, you can always find him on various television stations with a group of his friends. He penned greats such as He Touched Me, The King Is Coming and There’s Just Something About That Name.
Southern gospel music has become a genre all its own and is now a widely accepted style of music. The groups that are traveling today perform concerts all over the United States and throughout the world, so the style is not restricted to just the South anymore. The Southern Gospel Association developed the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame in 1996. For more information, visit www.sgma.org.
Click here to see music by Bill Gaither.