Publication Date


Degree Granted


Institution Granting Degree

University of Oklahoma


Gospel Music, Billy Ray Hearn, Chuck Fromm, Ralph Carmichael, John W. Peterson, Robert R. MacKenzie, Jessy Dixon, Bill Gaither, African-American Gospel Music, Southern Gospel Music, Evangelical Christian Music


Advertising and Promotion Management | Christianity | History of Christianity | Marketing | Music


The purpose of this study was to compile a historical survey of gospel music publishing from 1940 to 1960. Elements for investigation included the stated objectives, decisions, and marketing strategies employed by gospel music publishers to expand their markets from 1940 to 1960 and factors contributing to the growth in the gospel music publishing industry from 1940 to 1960.

The information for the study was collected through oral history methodology consisting of interviews with seven leaders in the industry including: Billy Ray Hearn, Chuck Fromm, Ralph Carmichael, John W. Peterson, Robert R. MacKenzie, Jessy Dixon, and Bill Gaither. Personal interviews with all seven participants were completed, recorded on audio tape, transcribed to print, and used as primary research materials.

Additional data were collected from publisher catalogs, interviews, magazine articles, actual music publications, reference books, and trade journals. This information served as secondary resource material and combined with interviews to provide documentation for a historical narrative.

Several conclusions relating to the developments of the gospel music publishing industry may be drawn from this study. First, the centuries-old tradition of dynamic individuals forging changes and developments in gospel music publishing remained an effective method for marketing music to the evangelical church from the 1940s to 1960s. These personalities were often thrust into the limelight through the introduction of one particular song.

Secondly, the complex history of gospel music publishing is based on the intertwining influences of evangelical theological tenets, charismatic performers within the evangelical culture, and modern business practices that capitalize on these two elements. Music publishers remained reactive in a field where change was prompted by events outside their direct influence. Publishers quickly hired the artists and contracted with others to produce and arrange music, but seldom did successful marketing occur as the result of research and development prior to the introduction of specific works or artists. This is due to the fact that, in many ways, the publishing industry is like the religious community it serves, seeking new markets only when sudden artist popularity or publishing tradition were clearly identified. The problem lies with the religious community's reluctant acceptance of the secular style as an avenue for religious expression. Historically that problem has been resolved by large social upheavals such as war, urbanization, industrialization, and religious crises such as denominational divisions and revivalist movements. When a secular style adapted to religious use accompanied one of these cataclysmic changes, the style could be more easily accepted.

Third, musical styles acceptable to the gospel evangelical community resembled the styles accepted to the secular community. This is an interesting anomaly since it implies a muddying of the sacred/secular divisions that, heretofore, had defined musical acceptance by the evangelical community. Yet, no such conflict exists for the gospel artist for whom a style is merely a sound vehicle for gospel text. The particular musical style characteristics that bring emotional satisfaction due to their familiarity, popularity, or inherent musicality are made "sacred" by their adaptation to gospel text and are subsumed under the artist's religious and evangelical intents. The artist's compelling desire to write in a particular style is interpreted not to be the result of anything inherent in that style, but the "will of God" working through that style to reveal greater truth.