If the success of a fledgling cable channel can be predicted by cute tchotchkes and dancing fuzzy robots, then God is likely to keep blessing the three-year-old Gospel Music Channel (or GMC). When I received publicity materials from GMC, what drew my attention immediately was a lamb wearing a choir robe and cross necklace. Upon pressing his hoof, the channel’s stuffed icon exhorts listeners to “put your hands together, let’s have a Holy Ghost party,” as a gospel choir backs him up and the lamb waves his arms and sways like the backup singers for Ray Charles. Thelonious the Gospel Lamb (so I dubbed him) entertained the house cats until his battery ran out–unlike GMC, which has been broadcasting 24/7 since October 2004 and now reaches more than 20 million households.
GMC sprang from the inspiration of Charley Humbard, best known as the son of Rex Humbard, the pioneering Pentecostal television evangelist who died last month at age 88. It boasts of being the “first-ever advertiser-supported music channel dedicated to the broad spectrum of gospel and Christian music.”
Those who do not follow gospel may be puzzled by the GMC’s capacious slogan: “Rock, Pop, Country, Soul. It’s All Gospel.” Weeknights, prime time on GMC is divided by genre, and implicitly by race. Monday is “Country and Southern Night,” Wednesday features “Soul,” and Friday is “Pop, Rock, and Hip Hop.” Primetime artists range from Ricky Skaggs (a bluegrass gospel performer) to Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams (well-known contemporary black gospel singers). This motley medley of musical forms, so rarely heard on genre-specific radio formats, is true to the biracial heritage of gospel music in America.