The One Where I Go Postal

There are so many things I love about the gospel music world.

I have met some of the most inspiring, loving, stellar people in my life in this business. (Also some jackasses, but that would happen in any profession, right?) This industry has been very good to Russ, and I feel a lot of gratitude to the people who have been so loyal and supportive– they have insured that he has had a career that has lasted longer than anyone would have a right to expect, and is inexplicably still going. So, you’re not going to hear a lot of gospel music biz bashing from me.

But every once in a while I come across something in that world that just… baffles me. (I was going to say, “totally pisses me off”, but I’m trying to put my best foot forward here.) Now, if Christian/gospel music is like the step-child of the ‘real’ music business, then Southern gospel music is like, the step-child’s red-headed cousin. It’s a subculture in a subculture. But just like in the ‘real’ music world, Southern gospel has its cranks and self-appointed critics who like to take cheap shots– you know, like the old adage says, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, criticize those who do.”

There’s a certain SG website out here in the blogosphere that serves no real purpose as far as I can see except to give a platform for some apparently very disgruntled wanna-be artists so-called fans to post really personal, negative things about some performers. They seem to have a special vendetta against Bill Gaither and the whole Homecoming thing, which is really kind of funny to me– ‘inflammatory’ is not the first word that comes to mind when you think of all things Gaither! At any rate, I usually don’t pay much attention to it at all– and I will NOT be providing any links to it– but for whatever reason, they recently put up a post that was so shrill and needlessly insulting about some people who happen to be friends of mine that I broke my usual rules about not feeding the trolls and posted a LOOOOONG diatribe statement in the comments section. So far it is still “awaiting moderation,” and who knows if they will actually put it up or not– so just in case, I’ll just post it here as well!

For those of you who don’t know much (and could care less) about the world of gospel music, I apologize. This may bore you to tears. If so, please come back again and give me another chance. I promise to write about something that has a much broader appeal, like… puppies. Or Zumba class.

Here goes. Let this serve as a warning to anybody who is tempted to mess with people I love: I CAN BE REALLY SCARY!!! (in a genteel, white Southern suburban housewife kind of way, of course. Rawr.)


OK, I do realize that attempting to address the vitriolic Gaither-hating on this site is an exercise in futility, but you know sometimes the wife of a histrionic, emotionalistic, over-singing, Gaither-light waving, badly dressed, prematurely atrophied career singer just needs to get a couple of things off her (smoking hot) chest!

I am not a delicate little flower with no discernible sense of humor who’s never said a bad word about anybody. I am also not a hard-core SG music lover. I did not grow up listening to the singers and groups that so many of your readers (and my husband) have loved for years. I cannot debate the comparative vocal merits of Big Chief or Hovie or Rosie or, um, other old quartet guys with weird names. And frankly, I still get some of the family groups mixed up. Also who they used to be married to. So the fact that I have been so disturbed and offended by the relentless disrespect and downright pissiness aimed at certain SG performers on this site is surprising even to me.

But here’s the thing: those Gaither Homecoming artists? I actually KNOW THEM. They are not just faces on videos or figures on the stage to me, they are human beings. I have traveled and vacationed with them, my children have grown up with their children, I have been at their weddings and I have been to waaaaay too many of their funerals. Mock if you will (and I know many of you will!) that whole ‘Homecoming Family’ thing– I have lived it. My opinion of these people is not based on hearsay, rumors, wishful thinking or hype. I don’t have them on pedestals, I am not crazy in love with all of them, I am closer to some than others, and a few can get on my last nerve. But dare I say, that though of course each and every person is entitled to their opinion AND is also entitled to vomit that opinion all over the blogosphere, may I humbly submit that my opinion on this particular subject may be just a squidge more informed than some.

I honestly don’t think that just because this is ‘gospel music’ people will never have a negative word to say about performances, new releases or certain artists. It’s a free country, blah blah blah. What I fundamentally don’t get though, is the gleefully mean-spirited tone behind some of the things said here. It is hard to make a case for this site being dedicated to ‘criticism, commentary and observation’ when very personally pejorative adjectives like “schlocky, arrogant, ridiculous, nauseating, midlife crisis on stage” are flying around. And let’s not forget the GVB post below– it’s a veritable cornucopia of insults: “advanced stage of self-induced mania, vocal afterthought, pure schtick, overweight, out of shape middle-aged amateur.” Yep folks, I’m sure that’s pretty much the same kind of insightful, constructive ‘criticism/commentary/observation’ that Jesus used to take those high and mighty disciples down a peg or two!

When this site has come up in conversations I have had with artist friends of mine, the main reaction is not anger or disgust, although those feelings are certainly present. The universal response is always that they are just baffled by the haters. They honestly don’t understand what it is about them that would cause people who do not even know them to attack their character, their appearance, their talent– even their children. And let’s talk about the children a minute.

On that much-maligned video clip, at around the 2:00 mark, you will see my sweet daughter Madi. Shockingly, she wasn’t there to try to weasel her way onto stage, or jockey for camera-time or advance a career. She was there because she loves those people. They have been a steady source of great fun and unconditional love throughout her young life. She isn’t a SG fan, she just likes being around her friends, and appreciates their talent. Her iPod has the Isaacs and Lynda Randle on it (right alongside M.I.A and the Fleet Foxes) which is a little unusual for a 16 year old girl! See, Madi doesn’t know that Ernie Haase is “narcissistic” and “opportunistic”–he’s just the guy that teases her and treats her like a big brother and sends her funny, encouraging text messages. And she’s blissfully unaware that Sheri Easter is a ‘coldhearted dragon lady’ and Jeff is a ‘buffoon’– she only knows them as the family that bought her dad a beat-up, 20 year-old blue pick-up truck and drove it from Georgia all the way to Nashville to give it to him, because Russ was going through a hard time and Jeff thought he needed ‘something to tinker with’ to make him feel better. And Gloria doesn’t strike her as ‘a sappy sentimentalist.’ Gloria rocked her to sleep when she was a baby, taught her how to make seashell collages, and rode paddleboats in their pond with her. She quite looks up to her. And Madi obviously doesn’t realize Bill is a megalomaniacal despot– he’s just the sweet old guy that cracks corny jokes and tries to make her promise him she’ll never grow up or start dating. Now, thanks to your website, maybe Madi can finally wise up.

I guess, Doug, what I’m trying to say to you and your negative commenters is that it is disingenuous and dishonest to pretend that you are unaware of the hurt that is caused by your very personal diatribes against artists. If someone used a public forum to make disparaging comments about your loved one’s weight, or comment on the fact that they didn’t appear to be aging very well and was actually kind of crappy at their chosen profession–would you be OK with that?

Does it somehow please you that your dismissive, insulting remarks about Wes Hampton were upsetting to him? Is there some secret pleasure when artists’ kids show up here and leave comments trying to defend their families? And exactly what, if anything, IS off-limits to the armchair musical quarterbacks and music biz “pundits” on your site? Let’s see: Sheri Easter and Janet Paschal have both had mastectomies– how about some uni-boob jokes? No? Well, Anthony Burger dropped dead on a Homecoming cruise, that’s gotta be good fodder for some anti-Bill material, right?

I know this little epistle of mine isn’t going to really change anything. You guys are not going to clutch your pearls and say, “Oh dear Lord forgive us, she’s so right, I’ll never do that again!” But maybe, just maybe the next time you use your time, energy and education to take a cheap shot at another human being, one that you don’t really even know except through their talent?

Maybe it won’t be quite as much fun.

27 Responses

  1. CarolynR

    Well Tori what can I say? This reserved, restrained and generally rather reticent Brit, who doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve has genuine tears in her eyes!

    I don’t know any of the Gaither Homecoming gang but I want to say here that the music and ministry from the DVDs and cds has been a life saver to us as a family, particularly after my father died very suddenly 4 years ago. In fact it was he that discovered Homecoming for us. He was a hard headed businessman and found it difficult to show love and affection. Listening to Homecoming he became softer and I think one of the reasons was because he was reintroduced to the old hymns and songs of his youth. We could also see that behind the performances of many of the artists were the struggles that we all go through and could identify with.

    For every one person who tries to destroy there are a thousand who would build up. Unfortunately, the destroyers manage to do more damage more than the builders manage to build. We musn’t let them.

    My words are inadequate, but hope you get the drift.

    BTW I’ve just read your open letter to my mother, who I now live with, and she burst into tears. She has been so uplifted by GH and the precious words and music. Those “trolls” are just jealous, sad, talentless wannabees and the little red fellow with horns and a trident is using them to try and upset this wonderful work of the Lord. In a way Homecomers should be glad about that. They must be doing something right. xxx

  2. CarolynR

    It seems I forgot to say what I came in to say – that it was a brilliant letter Tori. Oh yes!

  3. louloulisa

    You go girl! Amen!
    I hope your comment gets posted. I really do. He’s on leave right now so perhaps when he comes back he will post it. All I can say is that you said so many things that I’ve wanted to say so many times.

  4. Phyllis S

    Most times I say that when words against someone is said, it is best to ignore, not give them the time of day, as I am sure it is will be lost in their vengeance. But OH MY Tori, WAY TO GO GIRL!!!!!! Your unbelievable way with the English vocabulary makes my heart sing and my eyes run tears. This is a letter that can only come from the heart and a BIG Thanks for sharing with us, you say what so many of us wish we could say.

    You know the Homecoming family personally, we know them from afar and love each and everyone of them and keep them in prayer daily. Again Thanks for Sharing.

    Love, Prayers and Smiles

  5. belinda

    Tori, Way To Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope it gets posted because it should be. You have said what so many want to say and say it so much better!

    We know some of those Homecoming Artists and they are real people who give a lot of time away from their families to give us the music a lot of us love! They make a lot of sacrifices to do what they love and are called to do. I will never understand how some can criticize them like they do. It just does not make any sense to me. If they don’t like this kind of music or the artists then go find the music and artist they like but leave these alone. I will never understand why people have to be so hurtful. We love all of the homecoming artists and pray for them on a daily basis. Some are very dear friends who we thank God for bringing them into our lives. I get very defensive when they are hurt because they do not deserve it. I loved what you said there at the last Tori and hope and pray that somebody will read it and every time they start to make a nasty comment they think about that and back off. Way to go Tori!

  6. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Wow! You go girl….and next time let me know and I’ll ride shotgun. This is probably your best blog yet. It fits perfectly with an old quote, “The only way for evil to succeed, is for good men everywhere to do nothing.” While the anger still stirs in the pit of my stomach, let me tell you Sweet Pea, I love you!

  7. meb

    Tori, all I can say is I second everything that everyone else has had to say. You put into words what so many of us were thinking but couldn’t express nearly as well.

    In regards to the music business/industry, I have some questions I’d like to ask you off the blog. If you would be willing to answer, could you e-mail me at Thank you very much.

  8. Alex71075

    Tori….YOU GO GIRL!!! As one htat hasnt alwasy loved SG either,but always respected it,and now craves it everyday {Russ/GVB helps me make it thru a miserable car sales career right now}I commend you.even if music wasnt involved,thats certainly no way to be. If you need more stepper-uppers to post defense as comsumer/listener/whatever,let me know.And thank you for your southern-born-God-fearing-i believe it cuz he said it GUTS!

  9. louloulisa

    It got posted! It got posted!

  10. gracelynn

    Tori – Thank you! You said exactly what I have been telling people for a long time that I speak with and get the negative feedback from as well. I live with two of them. Granted, I don’t know these men and women the way you do but I have been more than blessed to meet many of the artists and, although it may sound bad, I am closer to many of these artists (Russ and you included) than I am my own parents and brother. And I get very, very defensive when someone attacks them. I don’t care if it is my own parents or the person in front of me at the checkout. As far as I’m concerned, you are talking about my family because they are my brothers and sisters in the Lord. And when you talk about my family, I get vicious!

    Alex, I know how you feel. I listen to my DVDs and CDs daily to keep me going and to give me the strength to carry on in this stressful world. God uses these men and women in powerful ways and I appreciate all they do for His glory. My best friend used to play the piano for one of the top southern gospel groups so I have a little better understanding of what these men and women face when they are off the stage. I’ve seen him get up there and play the piano when he was physically sick and needed rest but he did it – why? Because he knew that someone in that audience would be blessed or needed hope. Then he was attacked by someone similar to this person and it almost broke his heart and destroyed his family – all because of a pack of lies. We need to pray for the artists because, every time they go onstage to sing and witness, Satan is going to attack them and do whatever he can to ruin their ministry for God.

  11. Alex71075

    whats the site,I gotta see!!

  12. tori

    Honestly, I am not comfortable promoting this site in any way.
    Yes, he did post my comment– and here is how it was titled:

    “From Tori Taff, the Gaitherite wife of Gaitherite Russ Taff”


  13. Alex71075

    When I saw Russ a few months back in Shreveport,you could tell the absolute JOY he had while doing his ministry,God knows the heart,of supporters,performers and detractors….

  14. gracelynn

    It’s a sad world we live in. I love you Tori and am praying hard for you and Russ.

  15. auburn60

    I have seen that site and sort of idly wondered what the hidden agenda was. I’ve wondered about the title of the blog,too.’Doug’ doesn’t claim to be a music reviewer but he has a lot of opinions on music,both new and old. He takes pot shots at a lot of people under the cover of his blog.
    I have a tendency to think he is someone with minimal talent who never ‘made it’ or never could get along with anyone long enough to be successful. He’s probably rather a pathetic little man. Sadly, he is missing out on just knowing some great people,separate and apart from their musical abilities, in the Gaither family. If he’d ever spent any time with certain people,rather than trying to make judgements from video clips, he would never be able to make those snide comments.
    I love Tori in ‘mama bear’ mode!

  16. tammy961

    WAY TO GO TORI!! They printed it!! I found that idiotic website late one night(2 nights ago to be exact) doing a web search on when/if one of my very fave singers would make a return to singing. ANYHOO, that website came up and it totally disgusted me. I don’t even know most of the people he refers to in the blog–but my goodness! they all have families and close friends-of this I am sure! I pray Wes’ mom doesn’t see those mean words..I think it is jealousy that makes them spew these evil words.
    I do not know the owners of this site–but it hit a core with me and I showed it to me son(now all grown up at 23) who was the biggest little fan that Vestal ever had. He was just appalled. Gospel music is not his FIRST love, but true love never dies(hahahaha..and that little one has LOVED him some Vestal since he was 10 or so) I couldn’t bring myself to show him the evil words written about her…..But it made my heart cry for her grandchildren. I could never imagine seeing such evil written about MY precious Mammaw.
    I am a total nobody when it comes to the world of SGM–not a mega fan, not a diesel sniffer(I think that is the term used in the haters blog to refer to those who go from concert to concert)–just a quickly aging old lady who realizes that they are simply everyday people with family who love them very much.
    I totally agree with you. What IF someone made a website and started trashing his family? Does he have children? What if we posted pictures of them and said lots of ugly stuff? Would it change his way of thinking? We all have our opinions, but do we have to put it all in print? Didn’t his mother teach him that sometimes we just keep our mouths shut? Some things are always better left unsaid…but I guess the very bottom line is, and this was my purpose for showing the site to my son–as Christians, aren’t we commanded to LOVE one another? I don’t know if they profess to actually be a Christian–but being a total unknown to me, someone who just happened upon the site, I would say NO they are not–I would say this based on the fruit they are producing–ROTTEN fruit, at that. I realize I do not post much here and now I have written a novel. Am sorry for being so long winded. I am much more of a reader/lurker (the GOOD kind).
    By the way–your blog post at the hater’s site-hit the nail right on the head. It said what so many others want to say. I’m with Momma Lloyd, next time you head that way-I wanna ride shotgun also. Don’t know if he can handle a crew of upset women. I still think it is all fueled by jealousy and jealousy eats a person up if they aren’t careful.
    I also have a question(not pertaining to music at all) from long ago that I would like to ask you off blog—I know you are way to busy but if you ever have an extra minute, drop me an email and I promise it will be short and not take up much of your time.

  17. Alex71075

    According to the responses,I think Mrs.” gaitherite “Tori Taff got her point across.Well done young lady

  18. Pearl

    It used to make me crazy trying to understand why people did such mean things to each other. And why they seem to take such pleasure in inflicting pain on people they don’t even know. I finally realized that it was very simple. It was Sin. Sin that blinds us and binds us then enslaves us and hardens us. The enemy of our souls is then free to use those who are so enslaved to attack all who speak out (or sing out) about how we can be free from that very sin. Jesus promised that if the world hated Him, they would also hate His children. Guess He was right.

    I’m a fan of Russ and the whole Gaither family and even though I’ve never met them I would welcome any of them into my home in a heartbeat. The message that they bring forth has been a blessing to me and to my family.

    But you, Tori, have been an inspiration. I am constantly amazed and inspired by your courage, honesty and openness. Thank you.

  19. themema

    Doug Avery is a kind of pathetic, cynical man who has found a way to try to hurt others as much as he perceives that he has been damamged in this life. I pity him, but he says nothing that is worth my time to read.

    What a shame he can’t turn his energies of hurt into a blessing of healing, as you and Russ have suceeded in doing.

  20. rockin robyn

    Note to self: “Keeping on Tori’s good side is a positive thing – more gifts coming!”

    My! My! My! I’m so clueless as to where this is all coming from and frankly I don’t even want to pay this jerk any of my time to research his site… But Tori, what an awesome letter.

    I am learning and don’t understand it – but people either really love Gaither music (southern gospel music) or they really hate it. To me, it just gives me such joy and such peace. It ministers to me. It teaches me about looking forward to reaching the ultimate goal in life and that is “going home” and knowing without a doubt there is such a place. I have always loved singing and hearing the old hymns from the time I was a little girl, going to church with my grandma. And I love, love the gospel quartets… the harmonies just melt me.

    For close to a year now I have been running a “Gaither Video nite” at my church – once a month on a friday night and the attendance has been so – so. Sometimes a good crowd but most times a sparce crowd. And definitely not a young crowd. Our church has a hymnal with a third of the hymns printed in it being Gaither hymns. I think its all about old vs. new because we hardly open that book anymore. Mostly — anymore it is all the new age “praise and worship” singing. The young people want to hear this new style rather than SG hymns. I’m sure that is where the anger and hatred come from… the music industry has always been like that. The rockers beat up on (critisize) the country and western “hicks”. (I just saw Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt tonight)

    But quoting from Gloria’s book SB she discribes Bill as “an old teacher that uses a negative situation as an opportunity to teach, still believing that human resources are the most valuable creation of God and they should not be wasted”.

    This angry individual (Doug??) is a product of God and God isn’t finished with him yet. Although it’s challaging through his hatred right now – like that old run down, rusted out junker sedan – the mechanic (Jesus Christ) is seeing a Porsche!

  21. Wade


    Thanks for chiming in… it is funny how much back peddling HAPPENED QUCIKLY!! LoL:-)) I wish ppl in the biz would chime in more. There have been a few show up and answer and I have respected them more for it. I do not understand why the person that has done the most for gospel music is the one banged on the most??

    They have been brutal to especially Wes…please educate him to ANYBODY that is successful he will be beat on… it just amazes me what some ppl there allow and what they just go nutz over…makes me shake my head much!!

    In fact the MORE successful you are the MORE they beat on ya… I always took it as a badge of honor. Tell Wes as long as Bill & Gloria are happy little else matters.

    Prepare the Kids for it cause it has always been that way and will never change.

    It is good though in some way to have those sites cause until a few years ago that Singing News was really all there was… don’t get me started on them.

    I have a few black lady friends that often refer to their rants as going BLACK WOMAN on somebody…me thinks… they don’t have nothing on you!!! LoL;-))

    Russ & The Kids should be proud they have someone that loves them so much!!!


  22. Phyllis R

    *Whew* with much wrestling with my password and username thangy,I should log on more and not just lurk :), here I am. Very PROUD of you Tori!!!!! You are cooking with gas now girl! If anyone can get the point across it is you.

  23. trishARKANSAS

    Tori, What a great blog!!! I am not a big fan of Southern Gospel. But I am a big fan of annointed music that changes lives nd gives people hope.

    When i made a commitment to the Lord about 10 years ago these ‘Gaitherites’ (I prefer to call them brothers and sisters) were the ones that encouraged me to keep traveling on. these were the ones that taught me about God’s grace and mercy.

    My aunt is 56 years old with the mind of an 11 year old. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. It is a great comfort to her to listen to Russ sing or Gloria say a prayer.

    My family still sits and cries as we watch Vestal Goodman and Michael English embrace. We cry when we realize that the same Spirit that touched them has made his way into our living room and is now touching us.

    Tell them ‘thank you’ from me they are greatly appreciated.

  24. SusanUnthank

    Well said. I agree with you about the hatred that spews from that website. But, I fear your words fell on deaf ears.

  25. Nancy in Texas

    Tori ~ You took the words right out of my own spirit ~ YOU GO, GIRL…!
    Thank you for your candor! I could not have said it better myself.
    Amen, Sister

  26. Ruthie Edgerly Oberg

    Ah, yes…the world of the ministry. I am not a SG singer (at least not a famous one) but I am raising sixth generation Preacher’s Kids and I can tell you that when God places you in a leadership position the devil places a target right smack in the middle of your chest (or backside).

    There’s an old saying, “The only sure way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

    Thanks, Tori, for commenting on my blog earlier about my appreciation for Russ’ ministry…and the rest of the “Gaitherites.” (What a fun new name…I must remember to use it. It has a bit of a ring to it.) What I appreciated about Russ the other night was that not only has he blessed me with his anointed singing but he took the time to talk and hang out at his table. My husband is all preacher and can be a talker…and Russ stood and listened so patiently when I know he must have been tired. I must admit that I have met other ministers who were looking for the next person to talk to while you were trying to speak to them…Russ didn’t behave that way. You must have raised him up right!

    The only negative thing I’ve ever heard about Russ was when my dad was squinting at the small picture on my “Heed the Call” 8-track and said, “Gee…that one in the white is one ugly woman.” “Umm…Dad, that’s a guy.” “Oh, well, if he were a woman he’d be ugly.”

    I suppose we’re all glad that he’s a man…of God.

  27. tori

    Ruthie– HA!!
    Your dad is right– Russ would make one butt-ugly woman!

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