The Old Rugged Cross and Tent Revival Homecoming: How a Taping Became a DVD

You’ve seen reviews of Gaither Homecoming DVDs. You’ve even seen occasional reports from news websites allowed into Gaither Homecoming tapings. But you probably have not seen coverage that starts with reporting from the live concert (found in its original form here) and focuses on the transition from the live event through the final product.

  • Daddy Sang Bass (#15 on Tent Revival Homecoming): The requisite fixes to the live performance were made. The humor in the live skit translated well to DVD.
  • On the Other Side of the Cross (#7 on The Old Rugged Cross): The intro was replaced by a post-production voice-over.
  • Yes, I Know (#1 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Unlike the other opening track, this one did feel like the start of a concert on the DVD. (Dailey & Vincent’s songs were taped ten or fifteen minutes before the main program began, to allow time for instrument set-up and tear -down,
  • When the Saints Go Marching In (#2 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • Jesus, Hold My Hand (#3 on Tent Revival Homecoming). The three opening songs in the live concert are presented in the same order on the video.
  • When He Calls I’ll Fly Away (#10 on The Old Rugged Cross): Perhaps because of the sound issues which plagued the live rendition, the video omitted the first verse. Everything from that point on was fixed. Odd in retrospect: Bass singer Dave Emery would typically also play guitar to accompany the group. In this song, a young man was standing behind the singers, playing guitar, instead. That young man, Jeremy Stephens, has now replaced Dave Emery, adding bass vocals to his guitar responsibilities.
  • Just Over in the Gloryland: Evidently the sound issues that plagued the live rendition caused the song to be dropped, despite a well-delivered verse from the Hayes Family. (That would have been Howard Hayes’ final Homecoming appearance.) Also noted: The lack of transition time between songs didn’t permit time for Howard and Lucy Hayes to make it down from the back row to the front until the verse was partially over.
  • Life’s Railway to Heaven (#1 on The Old Rugged Cross): During the live taping, Bill Gaither introduced this song by indicating that it would be the opening song for the second video resulting from the taping. Despite the intro, the cut into the video felt more like cutting into the middle of a concert than the extended applause filmed that night.
  • My Savior’s Love (#4 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • The Old Rugged Cross (#6 on The Old Rugged Cross): In the live concert, Bill Gaither set up the song by saying that Franklin Graham had told them to sing whatever they wanted—but to be sure to include songs about the Cross. Gaither had replied that it wouldn’t be a problem with this bunch! This was cut in favor of a tour of the Billy Graham Library grounds and a conversation with Franklin about how the focus of the library was the Cross, not his father.
  • The Ninety and Nine (#10 on Tent Revival Homecoming): The live audience’s delight to see Guy Penrod was captured well on the DVD.
  • George Beverly Shea / Cliff Barrows segment (#11-#13 on Tent Revival Homecoming): My comments on the live performance noted that the segment started with a standing ovation, and that the audience stood through all three songs. I added: “It is hard to say how this will play in the more sterile setting of a commercially released video, but on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library, this was the moment that the live audience will never forget.” Perhaps I am biased since I was there, but it does seem that it is one of the most powerful moments on the DVD.
  • Down to the River to Pray (#5 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored (#4 on The Old Rugged Cross) and Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road (#5 on The Old Rugged Cross): The Gatlin Brothers joined the Gaither Vocal Band for the first song, and sang the second on their own. Where artists recorded two songs, in several cases Gaither assigned one to each DVD; in this case, they were put together, in the original order performed.
  • I Need Thee Every Hour (#18 on Tent Revival Homecoming): The instrumental version recorded the night of the taping was scrapped in favor of an acapella Nelons version, recorded outside the Billy Graham Library’s main building. This was the only song on either DVD not recorded under the tent.
  • Take My Hand, Precious Lord (#7 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me (#8 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • Heavenly Sunrise (#3 on The Old Rugged Cross): This two-decade-old song from the Hoppers repertoire fit the feel needed for the start of The Old Rugged Cross, and was thus bumped from the middle of the program to near the start of that DVD.
  • I’ll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus (#19 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • How Beautiful Heaven Must Be: This featured Mitchel Jon. This was dropped.
  • I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted (#9 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • His Eye is on the Sparrow (#9 on The Old Rugged Cross): Despite my doubt, Bill Gaither’s conversation with Cliff Barrows about Ethel Waters’ landmark performance of this song at the New York City crusade made the cut onto the final DVD. It made sense, though; all three songs with Shea and Barrows singing made the other DVD, so this provided some Barrows presence on this one.
  • Here was where the Oak Ridge Boys sang some secular song. Since the cameras were changing tapes, it naturally didn’t make the cut.
  • Lead Me To That Rock (#6 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Joe Bonsall’s love for Gospel music came through both in person and on camera.
  • Bill Gaither brought Reba Rambo McGuire, her husband Dony McGuire, and their daughter Destiny on stage. He led the Homecoming choir in a Rambos medley that included “Sheltered in the Arms,” “Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome,” “Remind Me, Dear Lord,” and “He Looked Beyond My Fault” (#18 on The Old Rugged Cross). Everything except “Sheltered in the Arms” was dropped.
  • At this point in the live concert, Cliff Barrows led a probably impromptu audience singalong of “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.” It was dropped.
  • Reba, Dony, and Destiny then sang “When I Lift Up My Head”; they were joined by Buck Rambo for “Too Much to Gain to Lose.”  (#19 on The Old Rugged Cross) “When I Lift Up My Head” was dropped, but “Too Much to Gain to Lose” made The Old Rugged Cross (at #19).
  • Gaither brought Stuart Hamblen’s daughter and grandson on stage, and talked about his friendship with their family, and the Hamblen-Graham connection. The homecoming choir sang “It is No Secret,” and then Gene McDonald and Larry Gatlin sang what was evidently an unrehearsed version of “This Ole House”—made evident since Larry Gatlin forgot the second half of his verse!  (#13 on The Old Rugged Cross) Gaither did a favor to Larry Gatlin and edited his verse out. The transition from Gene McDonald’s opening chorus to his closing chorus is so smooth that there is no evidence of a cut.
  • A smooth video edit was made to Janet Paschal’s rendition of “Until Then” (#14 on The Old Rugged Cross), as though there hadn’t been a rain interruption in the midst of the Hamblen segment. (Mark Lowry had sung lines from “It Won’t Rain Always” and did some impromptu comedy with Bill Gaither.)
  • Do Right and Come Smiling Through  (#15 on The Old Rugged Cross): Stan Whitmire did a convention-style piano solo.
  • Here was where the thunderstorm came on in full force, and nearly sunk the recording. Fierce winds shook the tent; lightning and heavy rain flooded the electronic equipment. A little of this was caught on film. But, as I said in the initial concert review, “trust it to lifelong performers to live it up. Ben Speer and Sue Dodge came down for a totally impromptu rendition of “Didn’t it Rain,” and, naturally, Sue Dodge’s “Rain rain go away come again some other day” got a soaked audience laughing” (#16 on The Old Rugged Cross). Gaither’s video introduction, though, made it seem like “Didn’t it Rain” was planned, making the timing even more remarkable.
  • After the hour delay, the taping resumed with “Heaven’s Jubilee,” featuring Gordon Mote, Michael English, and Larnelle Harris (#17 on The Old Rugged Cross).
  • Rock My Soul (#16 on Tent Revival Homecoming): This featured the group going as Elvis’s Imperials (not the Imperials featuring Armond Morales).
  • Old White Flag (Triumphant Quartet) and Since Jesus Came to Live Inside of Me (Booth Brothers): Both were inexplicably dropped from the final. Triumphant’s was especially hard to understand, since the audience had white waving hankies galore and was clearly into the performance.
  • In Christ Alone medley (#12 on The Old Rugged Cross)
  • Consider the Lilies (#22 on The Old Rugged Cross): Charlotte Ritchie led a ladies’ trio with the Isaacs ladies, Sonya Isaacs Yeary and Rebecca Isaacs Bowman. Toward the end, the Martin ladies, Joyce Martin McCullough and Judy Martin Hess, joined in.
  • This is Just What Heaven Means to Me (#20 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Though too slow for the late hour in the live setting, it worked perfectly on the video.
  • I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary (#22 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
  • I’ll Meet You in the Morning  (#11 on The Old Rugged Cross): Bill Gaither played piano for a scrap-iron quartet of tenor Calvin Newton, lead Ben Speer, baritone Guy Penrod, and bass Gene McDonald.
  • Old Camp Meeting: Les Beasley led a scrap-iron quartet (also including Gene McDonald) on his first-ever Homecoming solo. This was dropped.
  • Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho (#8 on The Old Rugged Cross): The Martins
  • Help Me: Russ Taff  (#20 on The Old Rugged Cross): Gaither introduced it on the video as a Gatlin song.
  • Now More than Ever (#14 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Karen Peck and New River
  • Sometimes I Cry (#22 on The Old Rugged Cross): Live, Jason Crabb’s band gave the song a distinctly different feel. By the time post-production and overdubs were finished, it didn’t stand out as quite as different.
  • Then Came the Morning (#25 on The Old Rugged Cross): In a crowd with more energy, this would have certainly been a standing-ovation rendition. And since Gaither needed a closing song other than the obvious pick, “He’s Alive,” this song did the job. Lo and behold, thanks to the amazing powers of video edits, the song ended with a standing ovation on the video!
  • There Is a Fountain / The Blood of Jesus (#21 on The Old Rugged Cross): Courtney Collingsworth’s live violin solo on “There is a Fountain” was dropped. It had been a welcome change of pace amidst a high-energy evening. “The Blood of Jesus” made it onto The Old Rugged Cross, though.
  • The comedy monologue from Jeff Easter was dropped. Too bad, since it was one of the funniest moments of the night.
  • Sweet Bye and Bye (#17 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Jeff and Sheri Easter
  • That Sounds Like Home to Me (#24 on The Old Rugged Cross): Michael English had the solo through the verses, with David Phelps carrying the final chorus. By this point in the DVD, despite their best efforts, it does show on the performers’ faces that it’s 1:30 A.M.
  • He’s Alive (#23 on Tent Revival Homecoming): By this point in the live concert, it was 1:30 A.M., and after over six hours on stage, David Phelps could barely sing. He spoke-sung half his lines, and his face was lined with total exhaustion. Yet, remarkably, it worked perfectly: It accentuated the pathos of the lyric in a way that neither David Phelps, nor Lauren Talley, nor Don Francisco quite capture when they are in peak voice. Somehow Phelps’ years of training took over, and he hit his big notes for the ending, and brought down the house.

The two most memorable moments of the evening—the Barrows/Shea segment and the rain-out—were split between the DVDs. Tent Revival Homecoming had the former, while The Old Rugged Cross had the latter. Yet, despite the integral nature of the rain-out to the night, Tent Revival Homecoming captures more of the moments that make you feel like you were there in person.

When Gaither did his big two-day hymns taping in Nashville several years ago, he had so much good footage left over that he ended up releasing a third DVD, though the original plan had only been for two. Is there enough good footage left to make this a possibility?

  • Just Over in the Gloryland (Hayes Family): Probably unusable due to sound issues.
  • How Beautiful Heaven Must Be: (Mitchel Jon)
  • Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome / Remind Me, Dear Lord / He Looked Beyond My Fault (Rambo McGuire)
  • When I Lift Up My Head (Rambo McGuire)
  • Old White Flag (Triumphant Quartet)
  • Since Jesus Came to Live Inside of Me (Booth Brothers)
  • There Is a Fountain (Collingsworth Family): Probably unusable, since the final note led directly into their next song, “The Blood of Jesus.”
Several groups were there and scheduled to sing one or two songs, but had to get cut due to the late hour (Bowling Family and Blackwood Brothers among them). If these hadn’t been cut, a third might have been possible, but as it is, don’t be watching for a third video from the night.

Traditional or Progressive

A little bit of everything.


Producer: Bill Gaither. • Review copy not provided.

Song list for The Old Rugged Cross: Life’s Railway to Heaven (Stephen Hill, Woody Wright, Joyce Martin Sanders, TaRanda Greene); Tabernacle (Marshall Hall, Sue Dodge, Kim Hopper, Amber Thompson, Karen Peck Gooch, Three Bridges, Woody Wright, Sonya Isaacs Yeary); Heavenly Sunrise (The Hoppers, Reggie & Ladye Love Smith, Charlotte Ritchie, Gene McDonald); Greatly Blessed, Highly Favorited (Gaither Vocal Band, Gatlin Brothers); Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road (Gatlin Brothers); The Old Rugged Cross (Ben Speer, Mike Allen, Judy Martin Hess, Reggie & Ladye Love Smith); The Other Side of the Cross (Jimmy Fortune, Dailey & Vincent); Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho (The Martins); His Eye is on the Sparrow (Larnelle Harris); When He Calls I’ll Fly Away (Chuck Wagon Gang); I’ll Meet You in the Morning (Calvin Newton, Gene McDonald, Guy Penrod, Ben Speer, Bill Gaither); In Christ Alone (The Booth Brothers); This Ole House (Gene McDonald); Until Then (Janet Paschal); Do Right and Come Smiling Through (Stan Whitmire); Didn’t it Rain (Ben Speer, Ann Downing, Jeanne Johnson, Sue Dodge, Gene McDonald); Heaven’s Jubilee (Gordon Mote, Michael English); Sheltered in the Arms of God; Too Much to Gain to Lose (Rambo McGuire, Buck Rambo); Help Me (Russ Taff, Reggie Smith, Gale Mayes, Angela Primm); The Blood of Jesus (Collingsworth Family); Consider the Lilies (Charlotte Ritchie, Becky Isaacs Bowman, Sonya Isaacs Yeary, Joyce Martin Sanders, Judy Martin Hess); Sometimes I Cry (Jason Crabb); That Sounds Like Home to Me (Gaither Vocal Band); Then Came the Morning (Guy Penrod). 

Song list for Tent Revival Homecoming: Yes, I Know (Ivan Parker, Terry Blackwood, Becky Isaacs Bowman, TaRanda Greene, Shane McConell, Jason Clark, Reggie & Ladye Love Smith); When the Saints Go Marching In (Woody Wright, Ivan Parker); Jesus, Hold My Hand (Gaither Vocal Band, TaRanda Greene); I Stand Amazed (Amber Thompson, TaRanda Greene, David Phelps); Down to the River to Pray (Charlotte Ritchie, Janet Paschal, Sonya Isaacs Yeary, Karen Peck Gooch, Tanya Goodman Sykes, Becky Isaacs Bowman, Stephen Hill); Lead Me to that Rock (Oak Ridge Boys); Take My Hand, Precious Lord (Marshall Hall, Angela Primm, Jason Crabb); I’m So Glad (Angela Primm); I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted (Mitchel Jon, Larnelle Harris, Michael English, Angela Primm); The Ninety and Nine (Guy Penrod, The Nelons); The Love of God (George Beverly Shea); Jesus Whispers Peace (George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows); Blessed Assurance (Cliff Barrows); Now More than Ever (Karen Peck & New River); Daddy Sang Bass (Dailey & Vincent); Bosom of Abraham (Elvis’ Imperials); In the Sweet By and By (Jeff & Sheri Easter); I Need Thee Every Hour (The Nelons); I’ll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus (The Hoppers); This is Just what Heaven Means to Me (Tanya Goodman Sykes, Becky Isaacs Bowman, Charlotte Ritchie); Lord, I’m Coming Home (Michael Sykes); I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary (The Isaacs); He’s Alive (David Phelps, Gaither Vocal Band).