The Gaither Homecoming Celebration - late, great gospel singers now gone home

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Gaither Homecoming’s latest DVD and CD combination lets you in on never before seen recordings of some of gospel music’s greatest no longer with us names and voices.

Archived since 1998 this live performance from Charlotte, North Virginia brings together Gaither Homecoming’s best-loved acts with some of the pioneering bygones of southern gospel music.

Gaither Gospel Singers Gone Home

Together for one last never to be repeated concert, famous names in gospel music stand together on the Gaither Homecoming stage and witness to the one who called and sustained in many lifetimes of dedicated musicianship.

Solo, ensemble and instrumental musicians of the great revival music era sign off in song alongside with the next generation of gospel singers they mentored and inspired. So here they are: the Gaither Homecoming Celebration stars now singing southern revival with the heavenly gospel choir. 

Joey Feek (9 Sep 1975 – 4 Mar 2016)

One half of the beloved Joey + Rory duet, Joey Marie Martin Feek was loved for her heartwarming faith and beautiful voice. With her husband Rory Lee Feek, she performed country sounds with passion and authenticity. In 2014 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and after a relapse in 2015, went into hospice care until she passed away in 2016 at the age of 40.

Her husband, on the occasion of what would have been their 14th wedding anniversary, announced as an anniversary gift that he would make a film all about her. This became 'To Joey, With Love'. This film gave people an opportunity to remember her as Rory did; the warm-hearted, and immensely talented women who never lost touch with who she was in Christ. 

Jessy Dixon (12 Mar 1938 – 26 Nov 2011)

Regular star of Bill Gaither’s Gospel Hour TV for the last 16 years, Jessy Dixon is most recent transfer to the heavenly choir from the Homecoming Celebration line-up. Passing away in September 2011, Jessy Dixon’s apparently boundless energy was as much a feature of his early success as it is of the Celebration DVD.

Aiming to be a concert pianist, Jessy Dixon’s desire to share the gospel brought him to the attention of gospel music legend, James Cleveland and began his 50-year career as evangelist and entertainer. Writing over 200 songs including gospel classics ‘I Love To Praise His Name’ ‘He’s The Best Thing…To Happen to Me’, and he’s best known for his 1993 gospel hit ‘I Am Redeemed’.

Famous also for his songs writing Jessy Dixon toured with Paul Simon and wrote for Cher, Natalie Cole, Amy Grant, and Diana Ross. With Dove and Grammy nominations and five gold albums to his names, Jessy was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

Loved by US and UK Gaither fans, Jessy Dixon’s combination of honesty, excitement, zest for life and brilliant vocalisation were the outward expression of his greatest joy: to 'bask in the love of the one whom this gospel music is all about.”

Anthony Burger (5 Jun 1961 – 22 Feb 2006)

At the age of 18 months, Gaither Homecoming pianist and singer Anthony Burger fell into a heating duct suffering third-degree burns to his hands, face and legs. Despite doctors’ verdicts that he would never be able to use his hands, Anthony Burger went on to become a musical child prodigy and classical pianist.

Miraculously recovering the use of his hands, the first tune he played at the piano was ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ at the age of 3. Releasing his first album at the age of 14, Anthony Berger joined The Kingsmen gospel quartet, getting nominated as one of gospel music’s top five pianists when only 17. Joining the Gaither Homecoming line-up in 1992, Anthony Burger went on to appear in more than 60 Homecoming music and video recordings

 Also pursuing a solo music career performing and writing his own arrangements, Anthony Burger continued throughout to tell how the piano was his way of praising God for the healing of his hands. At the age of only 44, Burger died of a heart attack at the piano accompanying Bill & Gloria Gaither and Guy Penrod on a Gaither Gospel Cruise.

Bob Cain (1 May 1939 – 30 Aug 2000)

When Gaither Homecoming regular Jake Hess sent a recording of Bob Cain’s album ‘New Song to Bill Gaither, Bill was so impressed with Bob’s expression of faith through music, he immediately invited him to join the Homecoming roll call.

Bob (Robert Lyle) Cain’s trumpet career began in high school with him joining the school and town bands at the age of 9. Following his studies at Alabama University, Bob went on to MC for the Alabama Cavaliers and host events including the Miss Alabama pageant.

Cane Break, the Supper Club he and his band The Cane Breakers’ opened and ran in Birmingham, Alabama played host venue to big names including Al Hirt and Bob Hope.  When Bob and his wife Penny committed their lives to Christ, they felt led to close the Cane Break. Unprepared in avenues other than music, Bob Cain expressed his new found faith in his first album ‘New Song’.

Jake Hess (24 Dec 1927 – 4 Jan 2004)

With The Imperials, Jake Hess backed some of the greatest singers of all time, including Elvis, performing and the funerals of Elvis and Hank Williams. From his recording debut at age 16 on ‘Just Prayer Away’ with The Daniel Quartet, Jake’s life ambition was to be in a gospel quartet.

Singing with a number of increasingly successful gospel vocal quartets, he and his children supported 1970s TV evangelist De Gene Scott with their own group, The Jake Hess Sound. With failing health and believing his singing career was over, Jake Hess retired to play golf in 1993.

Bill Gaither’s Homecoming music and videos brought Jake Hess’s music and message to a new generation of gospel music fans. The Gaither Homecoming success not only allowed Jake to do what he loved most, but enabled him to mentor young singers who respected him for his unyielding spirit and his unique musical gifts.

Howard Goodman (7 Nov 1921 - 30 Nov 2002)

Vestal Goodman  (13 Dec 1929 – 27 Dec 2003)

From the coal mines of North Alabama, Howard Goodman formed his brother and sisters into a singing group, The Goodman Family. Singing in various combinations, the group eventually became the Happy Goodmans with Howard’s marriage to Vestal.

Known for her trademark handkerchief which she waved overhead through virtually every performance, Vestal Goodman gave up her ambitions with the Metropolitan Opera for a lifetime in gospel music. Marrying pastor Howard Goodman, she dedicated her life to motherhood, music and congregations across America.

In the 60s and 70s, The Happy Goodmans became the flagship band for Word Records, winning popular acclaim for the group and the title ‘Queen of Southern Gospel Music’ for Vestal. In her 1999 biography, Vestal revealed her struggle with drug dependence, heart problems and fight against cancer during this time of success.

In the 1990s Howard and Vestal found a wide and devoted audience with Gaither Homecoming fans of gospel and revival music. Howard Goodman died in 2002, after the couple’s farewell recording and singing tour dubbed "The Final Stand." Vestal died of complications following influenza in a Miami city aptly named Celebration.

The Trivia Files: Gaither Homecoming Celebration

In 2000 The Hazelton Piano Company named their “Anthony Burger Signature” piano in honour of Anthony Burger. In 2005 Steinway & Sons made him the first Southern Gospel pianist to ever to be added to their exclusive roster of endorsing artists.

Quick Guide to

‘Gaither Homecoming Celebration’ CD/DVD - what is it?

  • Never before seen live performances of Gaither Homecoming solo, ensemble and instrumental artists no longer with us
  • Recorded live with Gaither artists past and present and full choir in the vibrant atmosphere of the Charlotte Coliseum, North Carolina.
  • Classic interviews, vintage clips and sensitive tributes to the passing of Gaither artists Jake Hess, Howard and Vestal Goodman, Bob Cain, Anthony Burger and Jessy Dixon.

‘Gaither Homecoming Celebration’ DVD – what will give me?

  • The memorable experience of an evening with some of the great performers of revival and gospel music sadly no longer with us.
  • Classic recordings of current Gaither musicians with pioneering artists from the golden age of gospel revival music.
  • A unique collection of solo, ensemble and instrumental performances from men and women with a lifelong joy and passion for lifting your heart and soul to God.

Over to You

At you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.

The Gaither Homecoming Celebration stars no longer with us have left a musical legacy to inspire and mentor the next generation of gospel revival musicians.

  •  How important do you think it is for today’s musicians of any genre to consider the generation that comes after them, what can they do ensure a legacy of inspiration?
  • How about closer to home, what can be done in your church to inspire and mentor the next generation of church musicians at the local level?

Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre and brilliant at

30th May

May 30th, 2018 - Posted & Written by The Editor

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