Gaither Vocal Band to perform 2014 tour with Phelps/Hampton/English/Gaither lineup

UPDATE, 10/28/2013, 5 PM: It’s official: Michael English and Mark Lowry are both leaving the Gaither Vocal Band.

The Gaither Vocal Band’s concert schedule, posted here, lists the Gaither Vocal Band members and any guest artists performing at each concert venue. As anticipated, the remainder of the group’s 2013 schedule indicates that they will be performing as the familiar five-man vocal lineup of David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Michael English, Mark Lowry, and Bill Gaither. 

This changes for the 2014 season. They have now posted twenty dates for 2014, and each of these dates specifically lists a four-man Gaither Vocal Band lineup: David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Michael English, and Bill Gaither. Since Mark Lowry is not listed as appearing as a group member or as a soloist at any of these dates, this suggests that he will either be leaving the Gaither Vocal Band or taking an extended leave of absence at the end of the year. (Hat tip, Molly.)


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56 Letters to the Editor

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  1. With all the personal appearances he’s doing with Stan Whitmire he probably don’t have as much free time to spend with Gaither Vocal Band.

    • I just logged on to the blog to send you a message to ask if you had heard anything about Mark Lowry leavin GVB, and bang, this blog came up. Thanks for the update. Will keep watching to see what others say.

  2. This news surprises me. I had commented to a friend the other day how much I had enjoyed the Gaither/Penrod/Hall/Hampton lineup and now we learn that Mark Lowery is apparently leaving. With the four remaining members, we have Bill who can (and did in the beginning) sing baritone, but then the bass part is lost. With English/Phelps/Hampton we have what amounts to three tenors. Any possibility that Marsh Hall might be available for 2014?

    • The 2014 schedule lists “Gaither Vocal Band” and then enumerates those four members. Perhaps another will be added, but if not, Bill could hire a bass and move to baritone, or Michael English could stay in the baritone range a little more often when he’s not on a solo.

      • We can safely say that Bill Gaither won’t be singing baritone in the GVB.

      • Have you ever heard some of Mark Lowry’s notes at the end of the big ballads, Bill hasn’t a hope of singing baritone!

      • He has plenty of young guys in the group who can hit the big note at the end. He could shoulder most of the part, most of the time if he wanted.

      • Then who would sing lead?

      • Michael English already sings lead.

    • English can sing baritone or lead, and Hamton and Phelps can each cover any part from baritone to tenor.

      • David Phelps can sing a really good baritone, when he speaks from stage his voice is actually quite low for a tenor. I think, if I’m hearing it right, he sang a baritone part with Jason Crabby on Daystar a few years back.

        http://youtu.be/n1-Bh2BOFG8

    • They’ve been bringing Gene McDonald out to sing bass in the past couple of years, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that continues to be the case. If so, what we could be seeing in early 2014 is not just a Lowry-less GVB, but also what a post-Bill Gaither GVB could look/sound like.

  3. I think what would be missed more is what Mark brings to them besides his singing. I’ve seen them live once…doesn’t Mark’s comedy and interaction with Bill carry a lot of the program between songs?

    • Yes, though Kevin Williams filled a lot of that role during Lowry’s earlier absence. Actually, maybe this is just my impression, but during Lowry’s earlier absence, it was almost as though all the other members talked a little more on stage and provided a little more humor. But when he came back, they got quieter again, leaving most of the comedy to him.

      • True…despite their extraordinary talents, English, Hampton, and Phelps all come off to me as a little on the introverted side. It’d be good to get more more glimpses of personality from them.

      • Yes; though having seen them live with Wes, pre-Lowry-return, I’ve seen some of Wes’s personality in that situation, and he did well!

      • In reference to Brian … Michael English actually shows much personality and humor in solo concerts. So its possible we can see more of that at GVB concerts.

      • No one should ever accuse David Phelps of being introverted.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy6pgN8smM4

        If anything, I find him funnier than Lowry.

      • That is funny, indeed. Perhaps the reason Phelps isn’t involved in comedy is because a few too many literal-minded fans take a clip like that one the wrong way. Lowry does his comedy with a goofball persona, Tim Lovelace adopts a redneck persona, and so on; Phelps’ comedy here can come across as coming from a prima donna persona. There’s always a risk that if you do that enough, people start thinking it’s really you, when I’ve been told that Phelps is quite a nice man and not as conceited as a few fans who saw this clip thought he was!

      • Daniel, I understand. Phelps’s comedy has all the good-natured ribbing of Lowry’s stuff, but without Mark’s natural goofiness it looks like he really is making fun of Russ and Guy. It’s one of the reasons that while I found Roy Webb funny, I didn’t laugh out loud in quite the same way.

        On the “Best of Mark Lowry” DVD, Bill and Mark have quite a laugh over people who have come up to Mark (Mark, not David!) and asked how he “manages to get away with” all that poking fun at Bill. “Doesn’t he get mad at you?” they ask. I gotta wonder how so many people seem to completely lack the ability to see that it’s all in good fun.

      • Yes. That’s the risk, and there’ll be a few too many people who take it that way. But if you have enough of a sense of humor to actually get it, then it is completely hilarious. :)

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pdMhaHcENI This is my personal favorite Phelps comedy moment! :)

  4. Mark will be missed, but Kevin Williams is great at making people laugh also, so like Daniel said maybe he will fill in.

    • Kevin is already there, playing guitar.

  5. HAPPY WES, DAVID, MICHAEL,IS STILL INCLUDED. MISS MARK BUT MAYBE HE WILL BE ABLE TO ATTEND AS WELL AS PERFORM FROM TIME TO TIME GAITHER VOCAL BAND N FRIENDS ON PRECIOUS MEMORIES N GOSPEL GREATS PROGRAM. I MET N LOVE MARK AND WILL CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR HIM AS WELL AS THE OTHERS N THIS FINE GROUP.

  6. Well I know this for a fact (my fact) to me the current lineup, Hampton, Phelps, English, Lowry, Gaither , is the best it has ever been, is it possible that Mark’s mama is getting worse(God forbid) and maybe he wants to spend a little more time with her , he dose love his mama. Anyway maybe it is just a temporary thing and he will be back. They dont need to bring anyone else in there GREAT as they are.

  7. A dream come true would be for them to hire a young bass like Aaron McCune….

    • Justin Terry doesn’t have a group…

    • I thought Aaron McCune is singing with another southern group; Union Street. I know we’ve not seen much activity from Ryan Seaton’s quartet, but I was under the impression that they were still intact.

      • Yes, he is currently singing with Union Street.

  8. This will be your most read/commented blog post on this site (unless you post a more official update if/when one becomes available)

    • I’m not sure. If I had complete confirmation of all the details and posted a more definitive title, e.g. “Mark Lowry leaves Gaither Vocal Band,” it would have been one of the top 10 of the year. As it is, I’m not even 100% sure it will be top 10.

  9. If Mark’s gone for good..he will be missed…his baritone is very important for the overall blend. I think it’s most sensible if Michael English would fill the open spot….he’s not as high as he used to be, so it would fit him like a glove…plus the man knows how to fill holes others leave like no other.
    I wouldn’t like to see a ‘real bass’ with the VB though. I think that would make ‘em just another quartet..just my opinion.

    • I think a bass like McCune would work great. He lacks presence and resonance(like Gene MacDonald for instance), but makes up for it in depth and plain power(much like a young Tim Riley) I think it would work well.

    • Well, they’d still have everybody else. The reason they’re so huge is NOT Bill’s presence. Let’s face it; most go to GVB concerts for the others in the group. If they all still rock and are joined by a real bass, I don’t see the problem.

  10. Though Bill is by his own admission the least talented singer on the stage, his ability to orchestrate a concert and market a product are unmatched in southern gospel misic. Without Bill the Gaither Vocal band will never be the powerhouse it is now. At least that is my opinion.

    • I understand what you mean about Bill’s vocal ability not being on a level with the others, but I still have always enjoyed it when he takes a solo. There’s a special heart felt flavor there that makes a unique connection. You don’t feel like he’s trying to be a star or blow the roof off, but he’s communicating a thought and an emotion very effectively, which I always felt like was a major component in singing. The ones who are merely showcasing their ability sometimes leave me cold.

  11. I noticed this yesterday. The Gaither concert website has now changed the wording for each 2014 concert. All it says is “Gaither Vocal Band”. No names are given. I’m guessing a formal announcement is coming soon.

    • That change has happened since this story went up. I wonder if they were thinking of making a quiet, under-the-radar change, and if the story here and/or social media discussion changed here?

  12. Agree with Mark’s first comment, and could live with any change except Michael leaving. Waited toooo long for his return to southern gospel.

  13. This clip was posted to Mark’s social cam page a few days back.

    He’s talking about who will tour with him in the Spring 2014.

    https://socialcam.com/v/fCoZkzRf?autostart=true

    • Interesting. All artists in Bill’s stable. Perhaps Mark’s not “leaving” the GVB as much as taking the spring off?

      • Well, it’s not just spring; it’s spring and all major events in fall and summer. But yes, it could always be a year-long hiatus.

    • Oh my, that clip is really HYSTERICAL!!! Plus, I feel so much better now. Hearing this developing news about the departure, I was worried the most about Mark’s health taking a turn for the worse and it’s so good knowing that it’s not so much that he’s ‘retiring’…

  14. When the GVB first brought back David, Michael, and Mark, their first couple of months were sporatic, where one member was not immediately available to fill the dates that had been booked. I saw them in February of that year, and Mark was not present at that show due to scheduling conflicts. If I remember correctly, all three members traded off parts. Michael and Wes traded back and forth on the baritone parts (if Wes had lead, Michael sang baritone, and vice versa), but I think it was Wes who had the biggest workout, covering everything from baritone below Michael to tenor above David throughout the show.

    If anything, these three vocalists are not only versatile, but know EVERY vocal part in any given song. If there’s a part that needs filled, David, Wes, and Michael can fill it with no problem. In reality, the ideal setup for this group, should Mark leave, would indeed be David on tenor, Wes on lead, and Michael on baritone, with select features that allow each member to really belt out some high notes here and there. This way, they don’t have to kill themselves vocally every night.

    That being said, I have to agree that Mark and Bill’s chemistry is part of what made the GVB so enjoyable to watch live. However, with both Bill and Mark getting older, some of the material is starting to feel a bit forced, with Mark’s on-stage comedy revolving around being older (I’m surprised that Bill hasn’t jumped on some of that, making fun of Mark now that he’s older, but I digress….).

    If the question is whether or not the GVB will need to bring on a fifth member to fill the gap, I don’t think they will. If they need a bass vocalist, Gene McDonald will most likely fill that spot as needed for now, but I see no problem with the four remaining vocalists. In the event that Bill retires, I would not be shocked in the least to see Gene jump in.

    **on a side note we got a taste of what that would sound like on Michael’s “Some People Change album, where David, Wes, Mark, and Gene were the backup vocalists on “I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now.”

    • Agreed on the material sounding forced. I only see them once or twice a year, at most – not at all this year, in fact – and still, I rarely hear a joke or routine that I couldn’t practically recite by heart.

      I think it might take a personality and musical force like Bill to keep his fellow members, each of whom could pursue lucrative solo careers if they so wished (and as, it appears, Mark is doing), together.

    • Very good thoughts…I will disagree on one point though. I would rather see Wes tenor and David lead. I’ll probably get a lot of criticism over this, but I much prefer Wes singing the high notes than David. Sure, David is a powerhouse (especially on those strong edge-of-your-seat show-stoppers), but I’ve never felt that he is strong vocally singing “normally”…if that makes any sense. Wes can sound good without having to belt out a ridiculously long powerhouse note.

      • I completely agree with that. David Phelps’ voice has it’s place in the spotlight, but it doesn’t blend well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big David Phelps fan! However, Wes Hampton has the better all-around voice, AND he can shine in the spotlight as well. His voice blends perfectly. IMHO, the best GVB lineup ever was Hampton/Penrod/Hall/Gaither. The harmonies and blends were just perfect!

        That being said, the powerhouse voice of David Phelps is still very entertaining and amazing to hear, in its place.

      • Agreed! The “Give It Away” album with the Hampton/Penrod/Hall/Gaither lineup was one of their strongest ever!

      • I AGREE I LOVE ALL GVB .WES I PERSONALLY NICKNAME HIM “LITTTLE MR DYNAMITE BECAUSE OF HIS SIZE N VOICE. MICHAEL IS GOOD SO IS DAVID . BILL AS WELL. MARK I MET N PERSON YEARS AGO AND ADMIRE HIS TALENT AS A COMEDIENNE, SINGER N SONG WRITER . A GOOD PROMOTER AT THAT. MARSHALL SEEM TO HAVE A VOICE THAT BLEND N WELL WITH GVB .BILL SEEMS TO BE WELL EDUCATED N MUSIC FIELD AND WE NEED MORE ONES LIKE BILL IN THE GOSPEL FIELD.HE HAS CDS N DVDS OUT OF NEARLY EVERY EVENT HAPPENING AROUND THE WORLD. HE HAS INTERVIEW ALOT OF PEOPLE N HAS RECORDED IT AS WELL FOR ALL TO SEE N ENJOY. I COLLECT GOSPEL MUSIC ESPECIALLY DVDS NOW THAT IAM DISABLE N NO TANSPORTATION OF MY OWN. NO LONGER DRIVE.I HAVE NUMEROUS GVB MUSIC. I HAVENT SEEN OR HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT BILL INTERVIEWING WES HAMPTON. LIKE TO ADDD IT TO MY COLLECTION SOMEDAY IF OR WHEN HE DOES. THANKS FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP N LETTING ME KNOW LATEST HAPPENINGS. I DONT GET OUT MUCH BUT RELY ON MY COMPUTER FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.. I STAY OVER AT MY MOMS PLACE ON WEEKENDS MOSTLY. WE SHARE VIDEOS TOGETHER N HAVE OUR OWN CHURCH SERVICES WHEN I AM THERE. SINCERELY N CHRIST PAMELA

      • Lead/tenor really has no meaning in the GVB to begin with. Even back to the Gaither/Hall/Penrod/Hampton run (or the brief Gaither/Hall/Penrod/Phelps group – I still am moved to the core when I hear “Picture of Grace”) it was really Three Tenors and Bill.

        You can use a car analogy when discussing Phelps and Hampton. Phelps would be Ferrari – pure power, meant to be run flat-out. Hampton is more Mercedes – one very sweet ride, but still plenty of power under the hood.

      • Haha! I love that car analogy on Phelp’s and Hampton’s vocals! I’ve been reading this blog for quite awhile, but haven’t yet commented. This comment was enough to call me out of the silence, just to second it!

        Thanks, Daniel, for all the work you do in maintaining this site. I especially appreciate the spirit behind all of it – its so much more than promoting your name and your opinions, but in glorifying the Lord and placing credit where credit is due. Thanks so much!

      • You’re welcome! I loved reading that analogy, too!

  15. A lot of what you see here isn’t really speculation, though – it is people talking about days they’ve seen the GVB when Mark wasn’t there, and how they’ve seen everyone else covering and swapping parts. Saying how we’ve seen these four remaining vocalists work out vocal arrangements in person isn’t exactly speculation.

  16. I think sometimes we as southern gospel music fans are so used to a structured group with everybody having defined roles, but that is part of why the vocal band is the vocal band. The mark of a professional singer is being able to sing multiple parts well. Look at Jon Epley and his range as an example. I personally like the fact they switch up. It keeps it interesting.

  17. This post is now out-of-date, so I’m closing comments here. If you’d like to join the discussion about Lowry’s and English’s departures, join us on the current post, here: http://www.southerngospeljournal.com/archives/21252