THE GOSPEL GREATS Program
P. O. Box 1372
Lancaster PA 17608-1372
Phone (717) 898-9100
Fax (717) 898-6600
Southern Gospel Music Guild
Southern Gospel Music Assn.
Gospel Music Association
"The Gospel Greats"
syndicated radio program
celebrates its 20th anniversary
"The Gospel Greats," America's
premier nationally-broadcast Southern Gospel music radio program, celebrated
its twentieth anniversary in February, 2000, maintaining its long-held
distinction as the most popular and widely-heard program of its type ever.
Paul Heil, the program's originator, producer and host, feels this is a
significant milestone. "To do something like this for twenty years and,
especially, to see the success the program has had is almost unbelievable.
We thank God every day for the opportunities he has given us."
The Gospel Greats, a two-hour program originating weekly in Lancaster,
PA., presently airs on more than 200 radio stations across the United States
and in Canada. That's a far cry, though, from the handful of stations which
aired the first program back in February, 1980. The very first station to
sign up was WRIS in Roanoke, Virginia. That station still carries the program.
SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY EDITION
A centerpiece of the program's on-air celebration was the program's 20th
Anniversary Edition which aired the weekend of February 5th. For the first
time ever, the program had a co-hostGeorge Younce, the beloved former
bass singer for the Cathedral Quartet. Voice tracks for the program were
recorded at Younce's home in Stow, Ohio.
(See separate story and photos.)
Many other well-known artists also provided recorded congratulatory
comments for the unusual special edition.
Why is The Gospel Greats program so popular? Singing
News magazine, in an article in its February, 2000, issue about the
anniversary said, "Paul's commitment and dedication to producing a quality
program each time he steps up to the microphone has, no doubt, assisted in
making The Gospel Greats the huge success it is today."
ABOUT THAT NAME...
Although the program's name, The Gospel Greats, has become well known
nationally over the past two decades, Heil says he can't remember exactly
how he came up with it. "I remember making a list of all the possible names
I could think of for such a program. The Gospel Greats was on that
list and, I suppose, it's what was left after the rest were eliminated. It
does have a certain alliteration to it that makes it easy to rememberand
for me to say. I do have to be careful, though. I've received more than one
letter over the years addressed to 'The Gospel Grapes.'"
Heil, who will celebrate 35 years in broadcasting later this year, has been
interested in radio networking and syndication since childhood. After about
15 years as a radio and then television news director, he decided to bring
together his radio production interests and his love for Southern Gospel
music together in such a programThe Gospel Greats.
PROGRAM INCLUDES MANY FEATURES
Each weekly program includes a featured artist, with whom numerous short
interview segments are aired in fast-paced fashion. Other regular features
include "The Gospel Greats Headline Update," song introductions by
listeners and the artists, chats by phone with Gospel music DJs about favorite
songs in their areas, "Top 10 Back Then" selections, occasional Artist Spotlight
segments, recent releases and more.
Heil credits the show's numerous features with setting it apart from any
other Southern Gospel program of its type, making it "much more interesting
than any music-only program could be, while still being primarily a music
Giveaway promotions are also regular features on the program because of their
popularity with listeners. In fact, during March the program will be airing
details of its big "20th Anniversary Great Annual Giveaway 2000."
POPULAR ON COUNTRY RADIO, TOO
Although an entirely Southern Gospel program, The Gospel Greats has
become very popular on country stations as well as Southern Gospel stations.
In many cases it's the only Gospel music such country stations air.
"Being on so many country stations," Heil says, "provides a great outreach
for us. Because of the program's production style, it fits right in with
the overall sound of a country station. But the music is Gospel. And that
means the gospel message in the music is being heard by a whole different
audienceperhaps folks who wouldn't dream of turning on their local
Southern Gospel station (if such a station exists in their area)."
BEHIND EVERY SUCCESSFUL MAN...
Heil's wife, Shelia, has become a major behind-the-scenes part of The Gospel
Greats. She handles listener correspondence, handles billing and directs
a small but very busy office staff. Paul and Shelia have
been married since 1982, and she knew
what she was getting into: "The first date we ever went
on, Paul took me to a concert, where I watched him
As proof of The Gospel Greats' popularity with listeners, Heil has
been given every major national award currently being offered for radio DJs
in the field of Southern Gospel music. He and the program have been voted
Fan Awards by Singing News magazine readers every year since 1987.
In 1988, he was awarded the prestigious "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the
board of the National Quartet Conventionan award given to only one
person each year from the entire field of Southern Gospel music. He was honored
with the prestigious Marvin Norcross Award in 1991. For his work, Heil also
has been included in Marquis' Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Religion,
Who's Who in the East as well as Who's Who in Entertainment.
Additionally, Southern Gospel Music Association president Jerry Goff recently
presented a special plaque to Heil for "20 Years Of Quality Broadcasting,
January 1980February, 2000."
SUPPORTING SOUTHERN GOSPEL
Heil's interest in, and support for Southern Gospel music led him to become
a founding member of the Southern Gospel Music Guild, an organization of
industry leaders working together to spread the gospel by exposing Southern
Gospel music to more people. He served as the group's president for nine
years. The Guild also works to raise the professional standards of the industry,
including artists and radio.
Heil also serves on the Advisory Board of the Southern Gospel Music Association,
which operates the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Pigeon
Forge, Tennessee. (Some of the equipment used in the early years of producing
the program can be seen in the museum.)
For more information: 717-898-9100 or e-mail
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