Major Change for the Gaither Vocal Band

Mark Lowry announced yesterday morning that he was leaving the Gaither Vocal Band because of the demands of the schedule. This confirmed what other fans had noticed about the GVB’s 2014 schedule, which didn’t include Lowry. However, Michael English then suddenly announced his own departure, which seems like it wasn’t similarly planned for since his name was in the schedule. However, a look at his twitter feed implies that perhaps there was some kind of emotional turning point for him about a week ago—details unspecified. His most recent comments are “I know everyone is wondering what’s going on with the GVB. It’s time for me to go. Way time. I’m tired of treading water. I’m moving on.” Then “I’ve been in a place for a while now where I knew it was time to go. I pray everyone will understand and move in with me.”

To have both of these changes come so close together is quite a shock, and it seems like Bill himself was somewhat shocked by Michael’s stepping down. You can read his official press release here.

I personally thought this was a strong incarnation of the Vocal Band even though not all the members’ individual styles were my preferred taste. Together, they had a powerful blend that enabled them to take their harmonies in creative directions. It’s also been noted that at five years, this is actually one of the longer-running lineups of the Band!

Though Lowry and English’s presences will be missed, I think this could be a good thing for the Band. To be honest, I think Lowry was a bit of a crutch for Bill in terms of putting on a show. And sometimes that worked out, but sometimes it felt stale. (Seriously, how many times did he do the motorcycle routine? I’ve lost count.) As for English, his production talent and soulful vocal flair were a valuable contribution, but at the same time, the group’s blend might be tighter if they replaced him with a cleaner vocalist.

So now, let’s open the floor for replacement suggestions. Do you think Bill will hire two replacements or acknowledge that the 5-man super lineup was a one-time thing and settle for one? And if so, who? Should he bring back Marshall Hall as a lead or baritone? Marshall could handle some of the newer English material and already has a good personal and artistic rapport with Hampton. What about Shane McConnell as a lead? He’s currently with Canton Junction and may enjoy the freedom of that schedule, but an offer from Bill if he got it would certainly be tempting, and he would fit right in.

Here’s a suggestion out of left field: What about Reggie Smith? He’s been a regular, dependable vocalist on multiple homecomings and has the stylistic versatility to adapt to the range of styles the Band offers. His performance of “Midnight Cry” on the Lari Goss tribute demonstrates that he’s no slouch when it comes to pulling out all the stops on the kind of big ballad Gaither is known for. But is he distinctive and powerful enough to be a GVB lead? Wesley Pritchard is another “stock” vocalist, but once again, he doesn’t seem distinctive enough to be a lead—a baritone, perhaps, but that would mean having either Phelps or Hampton sing lead. Come to think of it, Phelps on lead and Hampton on tenor might be an interesting sound…

Anyway, your thoughts?


34 thoughts on “Major Change for the Gaither Vocal Band

    1. Paula Braddy

      As long as David Phelps sings at least one solo for every program, I am good. I have been addicted to David from day one. He is the best of the best no matter what he sings. I play his songs over and over every day. I watch the Gaither’s for two hours every Saturday night hoping to hear David. Make him lead and tenor….

    1. True, but then who would sing baritone? I was just thinking about this—if they hire somebody who’s a lead singer, they’d have to put Phelps or Hampton on baritone, which would kind of be a waste of their talents. My guess is that Bill will either hire a baritone and continue singing bass OR (this is a wild thought) he could hire Gene McDonald on bass, take the baritone himself, and put Phelps on lead. Just like the old days!

      1. Saved Girl

        “he could hire Gene McDonald on bass, take the baritone himself, and put Phelps on lead. Just like the old days!”
        I must say, that really does sound great. I’m not sure if Bill could still carry the heavy work of a baritone part though anymore. His voice just isn’t as strong as it used to be.

        Maybe if he doesn’t get a new lead, he’ll just have Wes and David alternate on lead and tenor. I’ll just be happy as long as Wes gets featured more now than he has been lately.

    2. Arwena Harper

      I think Guy was the best all around singer they have ever had. He is and always will be my favorite singer. I miss him very much. I,m still listening to the old stuff. I will be at the 2015 fest in gatlinburg in May and hope to see him there singing some. Please GUY look for me !!!!!!!

  1. Marcia

    Must add my $.02–
    First, ARGGGHHH!
    I’m berating myself for not driving the 7-8 hours up to Omaha, NE to hear the late, great GVB lineup on Oct. 6 as I’d originally planned.

    ARGGHH times a thousand.

    This, for me, was their very best, most musically-interesting combination of voices/vocal styles/musical sensibilities. The only reason I began following them earlier this year was DP, so if he goes, I’ll lose interest, musically speaking. But losing Mark — that’s a big hit. His voice was the kind that filled in the spaces between the different vocal timbres and made them sound more cohesive. And Michael — an even bigger loss. One-of-a-kind voice, and irreplaceable. However, since at least one of them will be replaced . . .

    re: replacements/change-ups

    Wesley Pritchard currently pastors a church, so probably not a candidate.

    DP’s voice has changed a bit in the last couple of years, IMO — I think he’s probably going to have to exchange some of the stratospheric singing for more mid-to-moderately-high stuff. He’s such a good musician, in addition to his phenomenal voice and delivery, that even though I’ll lament the loss of all those high C’s and D’s (and beyond!), he will always give us great music. (e.g., “Come to Jesus” and “Fool’s Gold” for starters)

    So, maybe he’ll move to lead for GVB.

    A few weeks ago, I heard Shane McConnell for the first time and immediately thought his voice was closer to DP-caliber than anyone else’s I’d heard in a very long time. So he’d be great, I think. Plus, I saw a YouTube video of him singing a classical duet, and it sounded like he had all the requisite vocal chops that classical music requires — and that would make for a VERY interesting musical addition to GVB, to have 2 classically-trained vocalists (is McConnell classically trained? Not sure). Not that the GVB would become a classical ensemble (horrors, think of all the SG/gospel fans who’d slit their wrists!), but the addition of McConnell would bring more of the legit musical stuff that DP brought to the GVB.

    I’ll bet that if DP and Wes continue on with GVB (and there’s no reason to doubt that…although I have a little tiny wondering voice in my head about DP…), that the group is planning to take itself in new musical directions, so that might mean adding total unknowns — and THAT would be exciting, too.

    Please, NO new “real” bass–ugh. This group is not a traditional quartet/quintet, and adding a bonafide bass would drag them too far into SG territory for me.

    I like Bill, I like how the group sounds with him — he provides bass when it’s needed. Let him be, let him live πŸ™‚

  2. Marcia

    If they want to totally freak everyone out, they could add a couple of females to the mix. Just wanna be on the record as having mentioned it first–ha.

    1. Ewwww, girls. πŸ˜€ Seriously, I think the male bonding was always one of the things I liked best about the Vocal Band. I would definitely be disappointed if the balance was upset by girls. I’m very big on male bonding.

  3. John Situmbeko

    Shane McConnell will be the man on baritone, I’m %99.99 sure. Soon and very soon (the new year is fast approaching), we’re going to be seeing press releases from both Canton Junction and Gaither, informing us of the loss and the gain respectively.

    Both Phelps and Hampton can sing lead with much ease. I predict as soon as Lowry leaves, Hampton will be the official lead singer and the Vocal Band will be a quartet again.

    PS. Remember to link to this comment in your future story about the Gaither hire when this prophecy is fulfilled. πŸ˜‰

    1. I don’t know if Hampton’s voice has enough body to be the official lead. I think Phelps on lead and Hampton on tenor might actually work better. Probably they will alternate depending on who is featured. McConnell on baritone is a hot favorite it seems. I will try to remember your request if and when the announcement is made. πŸ™‚

  4. Debra

    I love David & Wes so much that as long as they stay in the GVB I don’t care what part they sing!! (although, just to put my 2 cents in, my vote is David on tenor, and Wes on lead) πŸ™‚

    What about Buddy Mullins? Not sure what he’s doing these days, but when he sings with them at the GVB reunion concerts he’s been amazing. Would love to see him back! Ideally, of course, Marsh should come back as baritone, but he seems to be happy where he’s at, so I don’t think that’ll happen… 😦

    I hope there’s no bad blood between Michael & the GVB, especially Bill. I wish Michael well – been a fan of his since I was a teenager 20+ years ago – but I think it was time for him to go. He’s had a rough couple of years, personally and professionally. Hopefully he’ll be much happier out on his own.

    As for Mark, I hate to say it but he was always one of my least favorites, until I actually saw him in concert last month in Omaha (so glad I got to see all 5 of them! My first GVB concert!). Even though I had heard EVERY SINGLE joke he did (all from watching the videos!) he was still hilarious. And that voice! So smooth, pitch perfect, beautiful. I will miss him.

    I can’t wait to see what’s in store for them – already planning to see them again in April when they come back to Nebraska. Now I have to do a YouTube search on Shane so I can be up to speed! I like what I’ve seen so far of him, though!

    1. Marcia


      re: Shane McConnell
      In case you haven’t already seen McConnell, here are two videos.

      First, the duet I previously mentioned:

      And here’s where I first saw and noticed him, about 2 months ago–it’s a short clip ( go to 0:40 ), but I remember thinking, wow, his vocal tone color reminds me of DP’s . . . what a fantastic blend those 2 voices would create. And, YGG, ahem, I’d also like some credit for spotting him back then and, on this very site, mentioning that I thought he’d give DP a “very fast run for his money.” So, perhaps John Situmbeko could share a bit of the credit for predicting McConnell as the new GVB guy, should that actually happen . . .:)

      Also, I am so jealous that YOU were at the Omaha concert last month–how did they all sound?

      1. Debra

        Thanks Marcia! I watched the duet yesterday & was very impressed – he does have a more classical voice than I expected (which is a good thing, in my opinion) – definitely reminds me of David. Makes me wonder why he’s singing baritone right now for Canton Junction? He’d make a fine addition to the GVB, though!!
        The concert was AMAZING!! I was quite nervous to go, honestly, having never seen them live before. I didn’t know if they would live up to the quality that I’ve seen on the videos & on the CDs – they only put their best work on those, obviously. But they did NOT disappoint. David sang “O Mio Babbino Caro” and “He’s Alive” and it was perfection. Wes sang “He Is Here” so beautifully I was in tears. And of course Mark sang “Mary Did You Know?” and I’m so glad I got to see him perform that in person, now that he won’t be with the group anymore. They sang a lot of songs off of “Pure & Simple” (except “Winds of this World,” would’ve liked to have seen Michael do that one!). David singing “Come to Jesus” was especially awesome. That is my favorite album of theirs to date, so I was happy! And, this was the only concert I’ve ever been to that I knew every word to every song – even the oldies! The only downer was that they did not have the time (or the space- it was a very small venue) to stick around and sign autographs after the show. I’m hoping when they come to Kearney in April that they’ll be able to!! I’m already excited to go to that one!!

      2. John Situmbeko

        Marcia, no I won’t share the credit with you, it’s all mine! (kidding, of course πŸ™‚ ). I actually can’t take the credit, Shane was mentioned in the post and I got thinking of how he was a studio singer providing background vocals on some Gaither recordings before Bill invited him for a Homecoming taping. Guy and Marshall were also just studio guys before they landed the big jobs. Perhaps Shane will also land the big job.

  5. Debra

    “Makes me wonder why he’s singing baritone right now for Canton Junction” – what I mean is, why is he singing baritone when he has such a great tenor range? I didn’t want that to be taken the wrong way πŸ˜‰

  6. Mary-Catherine Suits

    Went to GVB concert last night 11-8- in Chatt.Tn. Purchased my box seat tickets over 2 1/2 mo. ago thinking I was going to finally get see Michael English. Found out about 2 wk ago Michael was no longer with Gaither Vocal Band. I almost sold my tickets, I was soooo disappointed.about Michael not being there. However, I did go to the concert because I also wanted to see Mark Lowery. Well let me tell you, it was the best concert I have ever attended!!! It was wonderful. Aaron Crabb was filling in for Michael and he did a fantastic job. I found myself today listening to Aaron’s music. I still love Michael, but the new or temporary lead singer is a great addition. I would have never thought it could be better than the old GVB.

    1. Evan Miller

      Ygg i don’t know who Bill is going to take but I will say The Adam Crabb direction seems to make sense Adam is a good friend of mine and would love him to take the lead job he is not only a great singer but great person with a great heart Gaither also looks at that when picking. the guy’s also Ygg here is a guy that might be a familar name to you. Travis Cottrell i love his voice and he knows Wes you never know

      1. Well, Travis has a thriving solo worship ministry, so I’m not sure he’d be willing to trade that for a position with the VB, but I think he’d make a great baritone!

        Was it Aaron or Adam who was/is with Canton Junction? Can never keep those guys straight. I THINK Aaron is with CJ right now, and he seems like a good quartet singer. I’m less familiar with Adam’s voice.

  7. Evan Miller

    Aaron is the one with Canton Junction There are some videos on YouTube of Adam singing with them plus a little birdie told me Travis was up for the baritone and he was a strong don’t be suprised if he fills in next week i love his voice but i want to hear him on some GVB material and i think Gaither does too

  8. Patrick

    Saw you guys talking about Travis Cottrell joining GVB and thought I’d weigh in. I just got back from the Homecoming concert in Concord, NC and Wesley Pritchard filled in for Michael…and was very good, I might add. But when everyone was on stage after intermission, who had joined the artists on stage? None other than Travis Cottrell!! He sang the lead on “Knowinf You’ll Be There” with the VB and also sang “I Then Shall Live” with all the VB, Ben Isaacs, Gene McDonald, Lee Young, and the guy from Karen Peck & New River. Travis is with them all weekend and is love to see him join full time!!! He sounded GREAT with them!!

  9. I’m going to miss Michael English so much. But I have a nagging fear that before long we could be hearing “The Phelps Band”! (meaning that David will leave). My God what a voice his daughter Maggie Beth has! I would definitely love them, but I would hurt for the GVB.

  10. Charlie Blythe

    Too many changes over the last few years, Loved Guy, hated to see him go, maybe the twonew kids on the block will wow us. David and Wes are now the corner stones. Will miss Michael, Mark was getting on my last nerve….. nothing new with him, but as a drop in he will be welcome. Of late the music has been louder that the vocals, which is sad, since the voice is the most beautiful instrument ever created. Most churches have made this mistake as well. What a shame.

  11. Since guy left it has not been the same and does not have that stability of the music I love to hear. I am hoping I won’t be disappointed with too much contemporary music. I read that Mark has MS and maybe he might need to slow down a little. I will miss him. I am so hoping that guy will return for good or at least for concerts with the Gaithers as I have my 2015 tickets. Now that I am retired I can attend some concerts.

  12. Jack

    To my ear there is no one better with the ‘money’ notes than David Phelps. Penrod isn’t even close. When he tried – he sounded like he was in tinpan alley. He never came close to Phelps. David could sing in any key – Penrod tried but never carried it all the way. I could never understand why Gaither couldn’t hear the difference.

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