Entertainment

At 74, Gaither still has 'plenty to do'

There isn't much more for Bill Gaither to accomplish. At least that seems to be the case on paper. The veteran gospel star is the figurehead of contemporary Christian music.

The prolific Gaither has crafted more than 500 songs, many of which are Christian standards. His longtime television show, "The Gaither Gospel Hour," remains popular. His shows are often sold out.

Now that Gaither is 74, some might think it's time for a break, but don't expect the charismatic figure to have idle hands anytime soon.

"I still have plenty to do," Gaither said in a phone interview from his Indianapolis office. "I'm going to continue to record and tour. I love the road and I'm looking forward to returning to Kansas."

It's been three years since Gaither has performed in Wichita. His Homecoming Tour will stop today at Intrust Bank Arena.

"I'm really looking forward to visiting your new arena," he said. "I've heard so many good things about it. But I'm just looking forward to coming back to Wichita. I've been performing in that area for most of my life."

Gaither made his Wichita debut as part of the Bill Gaither Trio during the mid-1950s while a student at South Carolina's Anderson College.

"I have good memories from back then and through the years performing in Wichita and Hutchinson in churches," Gaither recalled. "Kansas is a lot like Indiana. I love the rural roots and enjoy the people of the Midwest."

Even though he became very successful courtesy of his albums, television show and Homecoming Tours, which have sold more than one million tickets since 1991, according to Pollstar, Gaither still lives in Alexandria, Ind., a suburb of Indianapolis.

"We still live in the same town and house for the last 45 years," Gaither said. "We don't see any reason to change or move. I love where I am and I love what I do. I'm blessed."

Gaither still has plenty of energy and is old school enough to know how to connect with audiences in an age in which interplay with the crowd is a waning art.

"I know all about how that has changed," he said. "I went to see a secular recording artist, and he didn't say much to the audience. He just played hit after hit, and that was it. I thought it would be fun to have that many hits."

Gaither may not have hits in the secular world, but his Christian audiences sing along with the catchy songs of praise that he has written over the years.

"I appreciate those who come out to the shows," he said. "Without the people who have supported me so well over the years, this wouldn't be possible. If you would have told me when I was a kid or a young adult that I would still be doing what I'm doing now, I would have had a hard time believing it."

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