Gaither Vocal Band Members Who Have Died
Jonathan Pierce, who spent three years with The Imperials and three years with the Gaither Vocal Band, was remembered with affection by the Southern Gospel community. He passed away on Sunday at the age of 49.
After quitting the group, Pierce found solo success in Contemporary Christian Music; his voice is notably heard on GVB’s “I Believe In A Hill Called Mt. Calvary.” He also appeared on television for a short time in the lead role of the Country Music Television program Ultimate Country Home.
In addition to Vestal Goodman, Gary McSpadden, Jonathan Pierce, and Stephen Hill, Gaither has lost several other members of its vocal band. This article will highlight the lives and music of each. Unfortunately, there is no way to list each member individually, but you can explore the careers of all four men. Listed below are some of the most notable. While you may have missed a particular member, remember that he was an integral part of the Gaither Vocal Band.
It’s hard to believe that the ‘Queen of Gospel Music’ is no longer with us. Vestal Goodman died peacefully in her sleep at age 78, near Orlando, Fla., after falling ill with influenza just before the Christmas holidays. Goodman began singing gospel music in the 1940s with her family and eventually became a staple of the “Gaither Homecoming” concerts. While singing, she was renowned for her distinctive beehive hairstyle, full-length gowns, and white handkerchief.
Born in 1921 in the Sand Mountain region of Alabama, Goodman aspired to be an opera singer but eventually gravitated toward gospel music. She met Howard “Happy” Goodman in the late 1940s, and the two later formed a family quartet. This group performed in tent meetings and on the radio. They were married in Tupelo, Mississippi. This death has prompted mourners to sing along with the Goodman family’s recordings.
Another member of the Gaither Vocal Band who has passed away is Jake Hess. Vestal Goodman was known as the “Queen of Southern Gospel Music” and was renowned for her distinctive handkerchief. She and her husband Howard Goodman became GMA Hall of Fame recipients in 1998, and Goodman has since teamed up with other notable gospel artists to sing songs for the audience.
Jake Hess, a founder of the Imperials and a member of the Statesmen Quartet, also passed away in a hospital. Hess was a member of Bill Gaither’s “Homecoming” concert series, and his death is not considered a shock, as he was part of Gaither’s Homecoming Christmas Tour. Hess is survived by his son Jake Jr. and ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
In addition to being one of the founding members of the Gaither Homecoming, Goodman was also part of the Happy Goodman Family. She won the GMA’s first Dove Award for female vocalist in 1969. Her career was significantly boosted when the group’s Homecoming concerts and videos were introduced in the mid-90s. Goodman was hailed as a national treasure by Bill Gaither.
The Gaither Vocal Band has lost another member in the form of Gary McSpadden. McSpadden was a former member of the Oak Ridge Boys and a vocal legend who performed with many other groups, including the Statesmen, Oak Ridge Boys, and Imperials. He was also a soloist, writer, and television host. In addition to being a member of the group, McSpadden was a pastor at the Faith and Wisdom Church in Branson, Missouri. His wife, Carol, has made a tribute to her husband’s memory, while his sister Cheryl Kartsonakis has shared a touching message.
A pastor by training, McSpadden, had a musical relationship with the Gaithers beginning in 1977 when he joined the Gaither Trio alongside Bill and Gloria Gaither. In 1981, the band changed its name to the Gaither Vocal Band and added Lee Young and Steve Green to their lineup. Despite his busy schedule as a pastor, McSpadden focused on his music career, eventually stepping down from his position as co-pastor of the church.
After the band split in 1967, McSpadden became pastor of a large nondenominational church in Fort Worth, Texas. He worked alongside his father for 13 years, teaching people faith, wisdom, and obedience to the Bible. After retirement from the band, he continued to perform as a solo artist and was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame three times. He also lent his talents to television shows and music concerts in Branson, including “Jubilee” and the PTL Club.
Before joining the Gaither Vocal Band, Gary McSpadden was a member of the Jake Hess Imperials and recorded three albums with the group. In 1962, he left The Imperials to join the Oak Ridge Boys. McSpadden then returned to The Imperials and recorded three albums with them. During this time, he also served as Jake Hess’ backup singer.
The former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was known as the Iron Lady, and she once gripped Jonathan Pierce’s neck as he sang for her. When Jonathan was seven years old, his mother coaxed him into learning songs, and he sang “Cup of the Cold Water” at church. He was so talented that he later toured with the band and performed in front of the Iron Lady.
A Nashville-based Christian musician, Jonathan Pierce was born and raised in Odessa, Texas. He sang with the Christ Church Choir in Nashville, where he attracted the attention of Naomi Judd. He later formed the CCM group The Imperials and briefly sang with the Gaither Vocal Band, but his greatest accomplishment was becoming a solo artist with his label, Curb Records.
The Gaither Vocal Band has lost several members. Jonathan Pierce, formerly of the Gaither Vocal Band, died of pancreatic cancer in 2010. The Gaither Vocal Band also lost Mark Lowry, the original tenor in the Bill Gaither Trio. And David Phelps has recently left the group to pursue a solo career. His last album, “Homecoming,” was a hit and won a Grammy Award for Best Southern Gospel Recording.
Nashville, Tennessee, native Stephen Hill died unexpectedly Sunday morning while performing in his final concert. Hill was 55. A former member of the Gaither Vocal Band, Hill was a solo artist who had sung in numerous television specials and DVDs. He had previously performed with such country and gospel icons as Marie Osmond, Jake Hess, and Dolly Parton. A native of Greenville, North Carolina, Hill moved to Tennessee in the 1980s and sang in many churches and revivals. His widow, Kathy, and children are left behind.
Another member of the Gaither Vocal Band who passed away is Jonathan Pierce. He was a Southern Gospel group The Imperials member and performed with the Gaither Vocal Band. He was also a solo artist and enjoyed a brief stint in contemporary Christian music. He also starred in a country television series called Ultimate Country Home. His death came a few days after he underwent successful heart surgery.
Sadly, many members of the Gaither Vocal Band have passed away over the years. Stephen Hill was born on October 2, 1956, in Kirksville, Mo. He completed his Earthly assignment on August 5 at the age of 55. His unexpected death has left a hole in the Gaither Vocal Band family. The music community mourns the loss of Stephen. However, Stephen’s legacy lives on in many of the singers he performed with.
Danny Gaither and Bill Gaither were the other members of the group. The trio performed at an evangelistic service in Alexandria, Virginia, and toured throughout the surrounding area. Danny was a college student, and Mary Ann was in the sixth grade. Their music was inspired by the Southern gospel music they grew up listening to. Danny and Mary Ann had three children together. Stephen Hill later died of breast cancer.