Gary McSpadden, a member of iconic country music vocal group the Oak Ridge Boys as it transitioned from its gospel music roots as the Oak Ridge Quartet, died on Wednesday (April 15) following a bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 77 years old.
"As most of you know Gary and I have been in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Cancer Treatment Center of America," wrote his wife Carol in a Facebook post. "Gary has been battling cancer along with other complications over the last several weeks. This has been a quick and difficult journey we have been on. We knew this week that God had a plan and his healing would be here on earth or in heaven."
The Lubbock, Texas native was born on January 26, 1943 and raised by his songwriter parents, Boyd and Helen McSpadden. The elder McSpadden's composition "Heaven" was made popular by George Beverly Shea. Gary first sang in the church his father pastored, Faith Temple.
McSpadden got the call at age 18 to fill legendary singer Jake Hess' role in Southern gospel group The Imperials. That gig opened the door for McSpadden's three album run with the Oak Ridge Boys: He Whispers Sweet Peace to Me (1962), With Sounds of Nashville (1962) and Folk Minded Spirituals for Spiritual Minded Folk (1963).
After his time with the Oak Ridge Boys, McSpadden rejoined The Imperials. His 1964 to '67 run with Hess and The Imperials overlapped when the group started serving as Elvis Presley's backup singers.
In 1977, McSpadden replaced Bill Gaither's brother Danny in the Bill Gaither Trio, a group including its namesake and his wife, Gloria Gaither. By 1981, the trio became the Gaither Vocal Band with the original lineup of McSpadden, Bill Gaither, Steve Green and Lee Young. Most profiles and obituaries also list the Statesmen Quartet as a group that once featured McSpadden's vocal talents.
"Our good friend Gary McSpadden passed away this morning," read an April 1 tweet by Gaither Music. "This is a real loss for our whole family, for us and for the whole world. Gary was an incredible person."
McSpadden also worked as a Dove Award-winning producer for Terri Gibbs, The Cathedrals, The Talleys and Hee Haw star Lulu Roman. As part of the Gaither songwriting machine, he helped write "Jesus Lord to Me," "Hallelujah Praise the Lamb" and "No Other Name but Jesus."
As a television personality, McSpadden's impact on gospel music included his role as the host of Jubilee and as Jim Bakker's replacement on the PTL Club.
Beyond his music ministry, McSpadden followed in his father's footsteps as a pastor, including a stay with his wife Carol at the Faith and Wisdom Church in Branson, Missouri.
He joined the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2000 alongside other members of the Oak Ridge Boys.