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.
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 Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame an unprecedented three times- as a member of the Imperials, a member of the Gaither Vocal Band and to recognize his solo career as well. He has also been inducted into the Arkansas Walk of Fame, Christian Music Hall of Fame, and was honored for his lifetime achievements in the industry in a musical tribute at the 2012 GMA Dove Awards. Of equal importance, he is quick to add, is the title bestowed on him at the annual RC Cola/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 four 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.”
Showtime: 7:00pm | Doors Open: 6:30pm
Admission fee: Tickets Only - $29.95 | Dinner and Theater - $47.95
Blue Gate Theatre
195 N Van Buren, Shipshewana