Back to the 90's again this week to talk about a CCM vocal quartet, Avalon. Avalon was formed in 1995 in Nashville as a vision by Norman Miller and Grant Cunningham, A&R Director at Sparrow Records to have two male and two female vocalists who could sing tight harmonies and carry the Gospel to the world. Cunningham publicized his intentions and received many demo tapes, but nothing fit his desires.
After letting the idea of Avalon rest a while, Cunningham attended an artist showcase in Nashville to listen to a singer. However, another artist, Michael Passons, caught his attention, and Passons was the first of the group's founding members. Soon after, former Truth vocalist and South Carolina native Janna Potter (Long) heard about Avalon's formation. Rikk Kittleman and Tabitha Fair became part of the group, but each left after a short time. Fair was offered a solo record deal, and Kittleman left for other opportunities. With two member openings, Long contacted former Truth vocalist Jody McBrayer, who became a member of Avalon a few days later. Nikki Hassman Anders was the fourth founding vocalist of Avalon. Hassman recorded two albums with Avalon, Avalon (December 26, 1996) and A Maze of Grace (December 1997), but left in May 1998 to pursue a solo career with Sony Records.
A Maze of Grace was a great album and the single "Testify To Love" became the group's trademark song. This was Avalon's first album to be certified Gold by the RIAA.
Cherie Paliotta Adams replaced Hassman after one of Avalon's co-managers listened to a country music demo tape recorded by Adams. Though country is not a genre Avalon performs in, executives chose Adams as they believed she would be a perfect fit. Adams recorded four albums with Avalon, In a Different Light (March 23, 1999), Joy: A Christmas Collection (September 26, 2000), and Oxygen (May 22, 2001) including a remix album, O2: Avalon Remixed (March 2002). In 1999, it won the Concert Artists Guild Competition.
In A Different Light was Avalon's second album to be certified Gold by the RIAA. The project was an instant hit at Christian radio, containing four No. 1 singles: "Can't Live A Day", "Take You At Your Word", "In Not Of", and my personal favorite "Always Have, Always Will".
On March 25, 2003, Avalon released a greatest hits record, Testify to Love: The Very Best of Avalon, which featured two new singles that became No. 1 hits; "Everything to Me" and "New Day". It was the last album to include founding member Michael Passons; only months after the album's release the member known as 'Father Avalon' was dismissed by the group in summer 2003. On February 24, 2004, Avalon released the studio album The Creed. Three singles were released: lead single "All", which made it to No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary Christian Songs chart; "You Were There"," a No. 2 Inspirational Charts hit, and "I Wanna Be With You", featuring Greg Long as the lead singer. Avalon's sixth studio album, Stand, was released on January 24, 2006. Lead single "Love Won't Leave You" peaked in the Top 20 of both Billboard Hot Christian Songs and Hot Christian Adult Contemporary charts. On October 17, 2006, Avalon released a fan-requested hymns album, titled Faith: A Hymns Collection. On February 26, 2008, Avalon released their ninth album, Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics.
In 2009, Avalon had more than three million albums had been sold since its founding. That same year in June 2009 Avalon released an album titled Reborn. The first single "Arise" was released to Christian radio in August 2009; on December 9, it officially became Avalon's 22nd career No. 1 radio hit, topping Billboard's Soft AC/Inspirational chart.
In 2009 Avalon stopped making new music to focus on family and church life, but on June 20, 2019 (nearly a decade later) Avalon announced the name of a new album, Called. Their first single for the album, "Keeper of my Heart", launched on December 7, 2019, 10 years after Avalon's previous radio single, "Alive", from the album Reborn.
In the history of Avalon, they have had: 9 successful studio projects, 2 RIAA-certified gold records, 21 No. 1 radio hits, 23 Dove nominations, six Dove Awards, three GRAMMY nominations, a 2002 American Music Award for Contemporary Inspirational Music, and “Group of the Year” for three years in a row with the 2002, 2003, and 2004 CCM Reader’s Choice Awards.