A Gospel Music Bucket List: Six Toe-Tapping Experiences
Our travelers appreciate a variety of musical genres, but few are as popular on our Christian cruises and tours as gospel music. From award-winning performers like The Isaacs and The Martins to the myriad of voices at Gaither Homecoming events, gospel and Southern gospel music serves as the inspirational soundtrack to some of our most memorable events.
For that reason, Inspiration is once again pioneering something new in Christian travel. Built for gospel music lovers, a few of our new USA travel itineraries take you into the heart of American music history. Behind the performers and songs that stitch together the beautiful tapestry of gospel music are the historic places that have been pivotal to its growth. With that in mind, we identified the most iconic locations in the U.S for gospel music fans.
The Ryman Auditorium (Nashville, TN)
Known as the Union Gospel Tabernacle when it first opened in 1892, this live performance venue is now widely considered the “Mother Church” of country music. In its early days, the Ryman boasted the largest indoor gathering space in Nashville and was a home for large-scale revivals and church meetings. In the decades that followed, it helped establish the city’s reputation for music, eventually serving as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974.
Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline all made their Opry debuts during this period. Today, the Ryman is a world-class concert hall that hosts numerous concerts and performances year-round. It’s home to the annual Dove Awards and serves as a beloved concert setting for the Gaither Vocal Band, the Booth Brothers, The Isaacs and so many more.
Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues (New Orleans, LA)
New Orleans is known for the jazz music that spills out of French colonial balconies and into its vibrant and humid streets. The “Queen of Gospel Music” Mahalia Jackson (see below) once called this iconic city her home. Gospel music is as central to its musical culture as any other genre.
You can see it for yourself every Sunday morning at the world-famous House of Blues in the French Quarter. Accompanied by an all-you-can-eat breakfast brunch featuring beloved Southern dishes—like mouthwatering chicken and waffles—a live gospel band performs to capacity crowds at this Decatur Street mainstay. It’s a joyful experience no fan of gospel music will ever forget.
Mahalia Jackson’s Home (Chatham, IL)
The most celebrated gospel singer in the world for her time, Mahalia Jackson moved from New Orleans to Chicago when she was a teenager. Jackson lived in a variety of apartments with her family before rising to international fame in the 1940s. Eventually, she purchased this brick ranch home in Chatham, a Chicago suburb, in 1956.
If any American city, in its entirety, deserves to be on a gospel music bucket list, it has to be Branson. Broadly considered the world’s capital of live music shows, this small town in the Ozarks has been a haven for country and Southern gospel music since the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre opened in 1983.
Today, this family-oriented tourist destination regularly features weekly Southern gospel shows like “New South Gospel,” “Sunday Gospel Jubilee,” “Smoke on the Mountain” and much more. When you’re not tapping your toes, get your fill of a variety of other attractions—like the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum or the underground landscapes of the Southern Missouri Cave and Cavern Tours.
RCA Studio B (Nashville, TN)
RCA Studio B is the oldest remaining recording studio in Nashville and is known for having gospel and country music titans like the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, Elvis Presley and Chet Atkins grace its halls and recording booths.
The influence of this studio helped revitalize country music and establish Nashville as Music City USA. Now managed by the Country Music Hall of Fame, the studio is located in Nashville’s famous Music Row district. It’s accessible to the public for daily tours, allowing visitors to learn about the recording process, get inside details from historic recording sessions and hear classic hits in the same place they were originally recorded.
National Quartet Convention (Pigeon Forge, TN)
Some fans refer to the Southern gospel music genre as “quartet music,” because that traditional four-voice structure has played a prominent role in its development. That’s why the annual National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, remains a popular annual gathering.
The convention features some of the best and brightest gospel quartets performing today, including long-time Inspiration partners like Karen Peck & New River, Legacy Five, Greater Vision, The Nelons, the Booth Brothers, Triumphant Quartet, Mark Trammell Quartet and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound.
Eager for more gospel and Southern gospel music?
Don’t miss the “40 Days & 40 Nights of Gospel Music” festival at the Ark Encounter this summer in Cincinnati. Combining the immersive experience of concerts by the biggest names in gospel music inside of a life-size Noah’s Ark reconstruction, we’ve scheduled multiday USA tours around this unprecedented Christian music festival.