SOUTHERN GOSPEL ROOTS
God's 'Interruption' of the Gaithers
By Stephen Hubbard and Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Scott Ross (reporting): Bill and Gloria Gaither are the songwriters of the century. They've sold nearly 10 million Homecoming videos, and more than a million people go to their concerts every year. Add to that five Grammys and countless Doves, and you might be surprised to find out it was all an "interruption."
Bill Gaither: The writing together happened only after the fact. We were too interested in other things. I had given up music. I thought it probably wasn't going anywhere.
Gloria Gaither: I'm coming to the conclusion more and more the longer I live that God's will for our lives is the interruptions.
Scott Ross (reporting): When Bill Gaither bumped into Gloria Sickal, both were focused on their careers as teachers.
Scott: Was it love at first sight?
Gloria: I don't know… was it?
Bill: I don't know. It was interest at first sight. She was interesting.
Gloria: And the kids helped.
Bill: She was feisty, and the kids said, "You've got to get to know this lady."
Gloria: We started going to lunch. Then one day he offered to pay for lunch.
Scott: That's a breakthrough.
Gloria: It was a real breakthrough.
Scott (reporting): But Bill and Gloria's biggest breakthrough came after they married, and they started writing songs together.
Scott: Is there a specific song that was a breakthrough song for you two that people said, "Whoa, these people can write. They've got something to say?"
Bill: Number 53 or 54 was a little song called "He Touched Me." Little did we know that all of a sudden that song would jump out but that was in '63 or '64. Gloria and I were both still teaching at the time, and I would be out on the tractor mowing. She would call me and say, "Jim Myers is on the phone from New York. He said that Kate Smith just recorded 'He Touched Me.' Jimmy Durante just recorded 'He Touched Me.'" I'd get off the mower, he'd say, "Elvis Presley just recorded 'He Touched Me.'"
Scott: Who recorded that song first to take it public?
Bill: Doug Oldham. Dr. Oldham, Doug’s father, said to me, "You should write a song that simply says, 'He Touched Me.'"
I wrote down the little phrase. That was on Thursday night. Sunday morning before we went to church we sat down at the piano, and that came out pretty quickly.
Gloria: Actually you wrote that one by yourself. In fact, here was my contribution to that one. He played it for me, he said, "What do you think?" I said, "I like that. That's gonna work. I'm not sure I like the phrase: And now I'm no longer the same. I think you can come up with a better line than that." But he couldn't, so we left it, and that's been the line probably that everybody loved the most. That's where everybody fills in their own story. So my advice has not always been the good one.
Scott (reporting): Gloria became an integral part of the Gaither Trio but even with their songwriting success, she and Bill dreamed of coming off the road and focusing on their new family.
Scott: What did that do to you? All of a sudden this had to bring attention and notoriety to you. This had to be a real watershed for you in your lives.
Gloria: We had just had our first daughter, Suzanne, and he traveled to Florida. He called me, and we were talking about "He Touched Me" getting recorded. I have a letter upstairs which I saved to show him several times that says, "Honey, I’ve just found out that the Imperials recorded 'He Touched Me.' If this keeps up we shouldn't have to be doing this singing and traveling more than another year…"
Scott Ross (reporting): Bill and Gloria have been doing this "singing and traveling" for close to 40 years. They attribute much of their success to life in their beloved hometown of Alexandria, Indiana.
Scott: How much of what you do and who you are is relationally based?
Bill: An old warrior… the old lead singer for the Statesmen who just passed away used to say, "When the lights are burning brighter on the stage than they are at home, you’re in bad trouble."
Scott Ross (reporting): Bill and Gloria have never outgrown their small town roots. If you ask them the secret to their success, they say that’s pretty simple too.
Gloria: Show up for work [laughs]! I think that's all we do. Get up in the morning and show up for work. Work is whatever’s on our plate. We've had our grandson who's two, and that was my calling. That wasn't something I'm doing on the way to my calling. That's my calling. I'll probably change his life a whole lot more than I might change one of the 1500 people who might come to a concert any one night. Because I'm going to touch him on an ongoing basis. Everything is a part of what God's up to in your life so I think our job is to embrace it. Everything. Embrace it all and consider it God’s will for this moment.
Scott (reporting): Often Gloria believes God’s will for the moment is the "interruption."
Gloria: If you read the New Testament and the life of Christ, I think you will find that everything that made the book was an interruption. Somebody disassembled a roof and let a man down and interrupted Jesus’ best speech, I'm sure. He was talking to 5000 people, and somebody taps him on the shoulder and said these people are hungry. This kid's got two loaves and a few fishes here.
In our lives as long as we feel exasperated by the interruptions, God can't do what He wants to do in our lives. Most of the time when we show up for a concert, it's not: "Oh my goodness, wasn't that the most greatest concert we ever did." It was: I just met this woman backstage who told me a story of how the music has interrupted her life at some point.
Scott (reporting): Bill says you never know where you might be when one of those interruptions comes along.
Bill: Ben Speer and I were doing music tracks for an upcoming video for the entire day. We were making beautiful music. We were so proud of it. We worked until 10 or 11 and nothing was open to eat except Waffle House. So we had eaten our eggs. A homeless person came in went up, talked to the lady who had waited on us and they went back to the bathroom. I asked what did he want? He wanted eggs but he didn't have any money. I said give him whatever he wants we'd love to pay for it, just don’t tell him who.
As we left Ben and looked at him and the look on his face… It was one of those moments where God invades your life, where I heard the Scripture when "You've done it to the least of these my brother, you’ve done it unto Me." I said Ben, "We just fed Jesus."
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