By Philip Foster
Since Jesus came and found me, and put His arms around me and all my binding fetters took away, although I’ve loved Him dearly and trusted Him sincerely, I’ve never loved Him better than today (1)
Those lyrics are from a song written by Henry Slaughter. There are certain songs, which seem to attach themselves to your very spirit. “I’ve Never Loved Him Better” is such a song. Henry and Hazel sing this song on one of the Gaither videos. The video can be found on YouTube, listed below.
Henry Slaughter has received five Dove awards as a result of his piano playing, his singing and songwriting, arranging and as a publisher. For over 50 years now, Henry and his wife Hazel have traveled over 65,000 miles each year, ministering the Gospel through music. Like all of us, Henry has his musical heroes; Lee Roy Abernathy, Frank Stamps, Vep Ellis, James Blackwood, Audrey Meier and Albert Brumley, just to name a few.
Henry and his wife Hazel live in Tennessee. They have three children, David, Mike and Amanda. For several decades now, Henry has been recognized as one of Gospel music’s premier keyboard artists. Henry has written columns for MyBestYears.com and continues to do so. His column I Remember is recognized internationally and features memories of all the artists and people he has met over the decades.
In 2006, Henry was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame(2). Among his many accomplishments, his songwriting contributions include such gospel classics such as “Lonely Mile”, “What a Precious Friend is He”, “If the Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side” and many more.
Henry knew he wanted to serve Christ through music at a very young age. After finding out that information, I had the great pleasure of contacting Henry Slaughter. I asked him how he got started in his ministry. Slaughter said, “I began my gospel music career with the Stamps Ozark Quartet, in Siloam Springs Arkansas. In January 1947, I began as their baritone singer and in six months became the piano player. I stayed with them until 1952.”
“I left to be a singer and piano player for an evangelist,” Slaughter continued. “In six months, I met Hazel in church and in another six months, we were married. I went back to the Ozark Quartet in Texas for a couple of years and in the meantime, Hazel and I sang in church. We soon discovered an acceptance of our music but it did not develop beyond the church stage, until I met the Weatherfords in Akron Ohio at the Cathedral of Tomorrow. It was there where I joined them as their pianist. After three years, I became the music director at the Cathedral of Tomorrow.”
The Cathedral of Tomorrow was a great place for Slaughter and his wife to continue their musical growth. “Hazel and I enjoyed success as the musical staff on Television and it was also here that we recorded our first two records. These records found great acceptance in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as in Ontario, Canada. In 1963, I left there to join the Imperials, where I remained for three years.”
“After that, it was Hazel and me,” Slaughter shared. “We made ourselves available and followed the Lord as our booking agent. I did some part time work for a church in Nashville and also worked as a keyboardist in a recording studio, also in Nashville. Then, the opportunity presented itself to be part of the Bill Gaither Trio concerts across America and Canada. We did that for about seven years and enjoyed wonderful acceptance.”
“After that experience I continued as a recording studio session player in Nashville and produced Gospel records in my own recording studio, and we continued traveling as Henry and Hazel. I sold the recording studio in 1990 and we retired from the road to do the new thing as Lord led. Gradually the roadwork ended and we found ourselves in the new life for the past 20 years in semi-retirement.”
Even though they have slowed down, the Slaughters stay busy with many time commitments. “We remain on call to fill in here and there as needed; as worship leaders, Bible study groups and a weekly radio program for the City’s Ministerial Alliance here in our home town, Ashland City (near Nashville.) We have been featured both as artists and writers on the Gaither Video Series for the past 20 years.”
Henry and Hazel Slaughter have been blessed to touch the lives of many during their careers. Henry noted “Thanks to FaceBook, I keep up with friends and folks I have met and worked with and have been touched with our songs and music. We have lived and still live the good life that the Lord can only give. We are thankful to know the Lord has used our gifts of music to glorify and exalt and proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ.” He concludes, “We enjoy the now, but are looking forward to the next assignment after this life is over and the new phase in heaven begins.
To God be the Glory! To Him we give all the praise and glory, now and forever more. Selah…. hooray and Hallelujah!”
Henry’s life story, chronicled in his 1980 autobiography, In Search of the Pearl of Great Price, is far more than a story about his international recognition, awards and showmanship. The book takes you back to his roots and details not only his career, but his spiritual pilgrimage and the relationships that made him the man he has become. Today, more than 30 years after it was published, the book can be found on Amazon.com. He also published a number of piano courses and songbooks throughout his career. (3)
I have read In Search of the Pearl of Great Price, and I can tell you it is well worth the read. I learned so much about Henry and Hazel Slaughter and the amazing career they both have had. I encourage the reader to order this book.
Thanks to Henry Slaughter for a wonderful interview and for sharing his life with our readers.
Find Henry and Hazel Slaughter on the web: https://www.facebook.com/henry.slaughter
Written by Philip Foster
First published June 2013 on SGM Radio website. For current features go to http://www.sgmradio.com/
(1) I’ve Never Loved Him Better Than Today-Henry Slaughter/James Rowe © 1965 Harvest Time Publishers (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management)