Tuned in concert April 2014 (Lakeland Florida)
Russ Taff was born the fourth of five sons to a fire-breathing Pentecostal preacher father and a gospel music-loving mother. He learned early on that when he sang, people responded. Some of his earliest memories are of being balanced on the church altar by his mother’s strong arms while he belted out a gospel chorus to the rollicking encouragement of the tiny congregation. His trademark rich, emotion-drenched vocals were formed in that fertile environment.
His mother’s extensive collection of gospel records was the only form of entertainment their strict upbringing allowed, so after school Russ would rush home to listen to his favorites. Lying on the floor between two old stereo speakers, the plaintive, powerful sounds of artists like Mahalia Jackson and the Five Blind Boys From Alabama literally filled his head with music. “It really spoke to me,” Taff says. “I would close my eyes and just float away with those voices.” A natural harmony singer, Russ often teamed with his brothers to perform songs by the great quartets of the day—The Statesmen, The Gospel Echoes, and The Blackwood Brothers. “Those guys were like the Beatles or Elvis to me,” Russ laughs.
When Taff moved to Arkansas in his teens, he began listening to popular music for the first time in his life, and found inspiration there, too. Contemporary Christian music was gaining prominence and the traditional lines between ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ were starting to blur. Russ formed a local band called Sounds of Joy, and began writing songs that combined the spiritual truths of his childhood with the music of his generation.
Two years after his band served as an opening act for the legendary Imperials, Taff was invited to join them as lead vocalist. “I was so green,” he remembers fondly. “But Joe Moscheo and the Imperials handed me the opportunity of a lifetime, and I was thrilled to be able to do what I loved to do and have it count as a real job!” With the Imperials he toured extensively and gained recognition as ‘the voice’ behind the award-winning songs such as “Praise the Lord,” “Trumpet of Jesus” and “I’m Forgiven.” These pivotal recordings successfully completed the group’s transition from traditional to contemporary Christian.
Eager to experience and explore all aspects of music, Taff left the Imperials after four and a half years to pursue a solo career. He captured the imagination of the industry by successfully releasing a series of innovative works that delved into his musical heritage while pushing the boundaries of contemporary Christian music. Taff’s lyrics, often co-written with his wife Tori, chronicled his personal spiritual path. Soaring, aching, raucous or tender, the songs Russ chose to wrap his one-of-a-kind voice around were unflinchingly honest.
Artistically, Taff was always authentic but never predictable. His eclectic taste was reflected in his recordings and live concerts, as he drew from all genres– rock, pop, blues, Southern gospel, Black gospel, country, even big band. “I guess I’m just not a right-down-the-middle kind of guy,” he cheerfully admits. “I’ve been influenced by so many styles that I try to never place restrictions on myself. If it moves me, I figure it will probably move other people too.”
In 1991, Russ was invited by his long-time friend Bill Gaither to be part of one of the fledgling Homecoming videos, which honored and celebrated the Southern gospel part of Taff’s musical roots. He eventually became a regular artist on the Homecoming Tour, and in a surprise move, joined the famed Gaither Vocal Band as a baritone in 2001. He was a member of the group for almost three years, and the two projects recorded during his tenure earned unprecedented back-to-back Grammy nominations. Early in 2004, Russ decided to step down from the Vocal Band and return to his solo artist status. A perennial favorite, he is still featured in Gaither videos and makes frequent guest appearances on the Homecoming tour. His solo concerts literally take him all over the world—his latest CD, the multiple Dove Award-nominated “Faroe Islands” project was actually recorded in that mysterious, remote country of islands located in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland.
However you choose to label it, Russ Taff’s music has won him a wide audience and critical acclaim, as well as a total of 6 Grammy awards and 18 Gospel Music Association Dove awards. He has been hailed by Billboard Magazine as “the single most electrifying voice in Christian music,” and cited as a musical influence by artists as diverse as Bart Millard of Mercy Me, Jason Crabb, Michael Tait and the Kings of Leon. He’s been inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame, Christian Music Hall of Fame, and was honored for his lifetime achievements in the industry at the 2012 GMA Dove Awards. Of equal importance, he is quick to add, is the title bestowed on him this year at the annual Moon Pie festival in his tiny new hometown of Bell Buckle, TN. “I’ll have you know that you are talking to the 2013 RC Cola King,” he says with great satisfaction.
Taff’s musical journey is far from over. Whether looking back at a career that spans three decades, or excitedly looking forward to his upcoming recording project, Russ Taff is the picture of a man filled with gratitude and grace. ”God called me to sing when I was just a little preacher’s kid in Farmersville, California,” Taff says with a smile. “And He’s still calling.”
- See more at: http://www.russtaff.com/?page_id=17#sthash.ZHJZNQiS.dpuf
With The Imperials
1977 Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational for Sail On
1979 Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational for Heed the Call
1981 Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational
1983 Best Gospel Performance, Male for Walls of Glass
1991 Best Rock/Contemporary Gospel Album for Under Their
As member of The Imperials
1977: Male Group of the Year
1979: Male Group of the Year
1980: Male Group of the Year
1981: Male Group of the Year
1981: Song of the Year – "Praise The Lord"
1981: Male Vocalist of the Year
1982: Male Vocalist of the Year
1998: Inducted into the GMA's Gospel Music Hall of Fame
(with all five original members: Jake Hess, Armond Morales, Gary McSpadden,
Sherrill Neilsen & Henry Slaughter, as well as Joe Moscheo, Terry Blackwood,
Sherman Andrus, and Jim Murray)
1984: Male Vocalist of the Year
1986: Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year for Medals
1989: Rock Album of the Year for Russ Taff
1989: Recorded Music Packaging of the Year for Russ Taff
Nominations with the Gaither Vocal Band
2003: Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year
2003: Country Album of the Year
Gaither Homecoming video performances
1998: Down by the Tabernacle "The Tabernacle", "I Saw The Light"
1998: Rivers of Joy "We Will Stand"
1999: I'll Meet You on the Mountain "Hold To God's Unchanging Hand"
2000: Good News "When He Set Me Free"
2000: Irish Homecoming "Ain't No Grave"
2000: Whispering Hope "O Say, But I'm Glad"
2001: A Billy Graham Music Homecoming, Vol.2 "My Tribute"
2001: London Homecoming "We Will Stand"
2002: Let Freedom Ring "When He Calls I'll Fly Away"
2002: New Orleans Homecoming "Praise The Lord"
2003: Australian Homecoming
2003: Red Rocks Homecoming "They Call It Gospel Music"
2003: Rocky Mountain Homecoming "The Workshop Of The Lord"
2004: Journey to the Sky "Trumpet Of Jesus"
2004: Passin' the Faith Along "Born Again"
2004: We Will Stand "We Will Stand"
2005: Jerusalem Homecoming "Bethlehem, Galilee, Gethsemane"
2006: Canadian Homecoming "More Than Ever"
2006: Live from Toronto "Trumpet Of Jesus"
2006: Christmas in South Africa "Higher Than Mt. Kilimanjaro"
2007: Amazing Grace "Amazing Grace"
2008: Homecoming Picnic "The Sweetest Song I Know"
2009: Joy in My Heart "Jesus Is The Best Thing"
2011: Alaskan Homecoming "Somebody’s Coming", "We Will Stand"
2011: Majesty "I Shall Wear A Crown"
Year Album US Christian Record label Record producer(s)
1983 Walls of Glass 5 Myrrh Bill Schnee
1985 Medals 2 Jack Joseph Puig
1987 Russ Taff 2
1989 The Way Home 1 Darrell Brown, James Hollihan, Jr., Taff
1991 Under Their Influence 5 James Hollihan, Jr., Taff
1992 A Christmas Song 6 Sparrow James Hollihan, Jr.
1995 Winds of Change Reprise Hollihan, Randy Scruggs, Taff
1999 Right Here, Right Now Benson James Hollihan, Jr., Taff
2007 Now More Than Ever 41 Spring Hill Hollihan, Barry Jennings, Michael Sykes, Taff
2010 Another Sentimental Christmas James Hollihan, Jr.
2011 Faroe Islands Jákup Zachariassen, Óli Poulsen, Kristoffur Mørkøre
1994: We Will Stand (Yesterday & Today) (Myrrh)
2003: The Best of Russ Taff (Spring Hill)
With The Sounds of Joy
1974: YHWH (Shalom Records)
With The Imperials
1977: Sail On (Dayspring/Word)
1978: Imperials Live (Dayspring/Word)
1979: Heed The Call (Dayspring/Word)
1979: One More Song For You (Dayspring/Word)
1980: Priority (Dayspring/Word)
1980: Christmas With The Imperials (Dayspring/Word)
1981: The Very Best of The Imperials (Dayspring/Word) compilation
1986: Old Fashioned Faith (Dayspring/Word) compilation
1996: Legacy 1977–1988 (Word Records) compilation
2006: The Lost Album (Word Records) (originally recorded in 1976)
2006: The Imperials – Classic Hits (New Haven/Provident) compilation
2007: The Definitive Collection (Word/Warner) compilation
With Gaither Vocal Band
2002: Everything Good (SpringHouse/EMI)
2003: A Cappella (SpringHouse/EMI)
Appearances on other albums
1981: For Every Man Steve Camp "Thank You"
1981: Love Overflowing Sandi Patty "The Home Of The Lord"
1983: More than a Feelin' Koinonia (Sparrow) "Give Your Love", "Divina"
1984: Dancing with Danger Leslie Phillips (Myrrh) "Strength of My Life"
1984: The Praise In Us – A Word Family Praise Album Various Artists (Myrrh) "Simple Song For A Mighty God"
1985: The CAUSE (various artists) (Sparrow) "Do Something Now"
1985: Lulu Roman Smith "King of Who I Am"
1985: Sheep In Wolves Clothing Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart (Myrrh) "Gospel Ship"
1988: Phil Keaggy & Sunday's Child Phil Keaggy (Myrrh) "Aint Got No"
1988: Can't Buy a Miracle Randy Stonehill (Word) "Awfully Loud World"
1988: Lead Me On – Amy Grant (A&M)
1989: Our Hymns (Word) "Near The Cross"
1990: Phase II Eddie DeGarmo (Fore Front) "There's Something About That Name"
1990: Stolen Moments – John Hiatt (A&M)
1990: Through Flood & Fire – Sparks "Jesus Rescues Me" (Reunion)
1990: Our Christmas (Word) "Silent Night"
1990: Handel's Young Messiah (A&M) "He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd" with Sheila Walsh
1991: For Such a Time as This Sheila Walsh (Star Song) "A Dove Amongst Eagles"
1991: Big Town – Ashley Cleveland (Atlantic)
1991: Show Me Your Way Glen Campbell (New Haven) "The Greatest Gift of All"
1992: Above And Beyond O'Landa Draper & The Associates (Word) "Wipe A Tear"
1992: Innocent Eyes Tanya Goodman Sykes (Benson) "Who At My Door is Standing?"
1992: No Compromise: Remembering the Music of Keith Green (Sparrow) "Your Love Broke Through"
1992: Did You Think to Pray This Morning? – The Johnson Sisters with Russ Taff (Canaan)
1993: Lead Me Not – Lari White (RCA)
1993: Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams – various artists (Thirsty Ear/Chaos)
1995: Beyond December – First Call (Warner Alliance)
1996: Way I Should – Iris DeMent (Warner Bros.)
1997: Fire Down Below original soundtrack (Warner Brothers) "I'd Walk Through Fire"
1997: Misguided Roses – Edwin McCain Band (Atlantic)
1998: Alabama Song – Allison Moorer (MCA)
1998: The Apostle original soundtrack (Rising Tide) "There Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down"
1998: Joy – Melissa Manchester (Capitol)
1998: Mission 3:16 – Carman (Sparrow) "People of God"
1998: Totally Committed – Jeff Foxworthy (Warner Bros.)
1998: Jesus Saves Greg Long(Myrrh) "Prove That By Me"
1999: Vestal & Friends Vestal Goodman "Giver of Life"
1999: Bridges original soundtrack (Verity) "Raven and the Dove"
2000: Child of the Promise original cast recording (Sparrow) "The Mary I Know", "Mary Recitative", "Zacharias Recitative", "Nothing Ever Happens To A Shepherd"
2000: Hands of Time Anthony Burger (Daywind) "I Wish We'd All Been Ready"
2000: Ordinary Day Jeff and Sheri Easter (Spring Hill) "One Way"
2001: Press On – Selah (Curb)
2001: Supernatural – The Raphaels (Track Records)
2001: Press On Selah (Curb) "Were You There"
2002: Traveling Light: Songs from the 23rd Psalm (Brentwood) "Let It Flow"
2002: Edge of the World Randy Stonehill (Fair Oaks) "We Were So Young"
2004: Better Days Frank Bradford (Frb Records) "Watergrave"
2005: Hymned No. 1 Bart Millard (of MercyMe) (INO/Epic) "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"
2006: Stand Avalon (Sparrow/EMI) "We Will Stand"
Year Single US Country Album
1983 "We Will Stand" Walls of Glass
1985 "I'm Not Alone" Medals
1995 "Love Is Not a Thing" 53 Winds of Change
"One and Only Love" 51
"Bein' Happy" 66
© In-Tune Productions 2011