The Isaacs sing “When God Seems So Near”
The history of The Isaacs traces back to World War II. The matriarch of the group, Lily, was the daughter of two Jewish Holocaust survivors who moved to the US from Germany when she was two years old. Lily grew up in the Bronx, where she studied theatre and performed on Off-Broadway. In 1968, she recorded a folk album on Columbia Records with her friend, as “Lily and Maria.”
Lily met and married Joe Isaacs, a banjo and guitar player, and the couple settled in Morrow, OH and began a bluegrass band in 1971. After the passing of Joe’s brother, the couple found themselves in a church and the faith they found there would change their lives forever. Putting their faith first, the band transitioned to perform, write and record primarily bluegrass gospel music and began touring as the Calvary Mountain Boys, which was later changed to Sacred Bluegrass. Between 1972 and 1975, Lily gave birth to a son, Ben, and two daughters, Sonja and Becky. As the children grew up, they proved to be extremely talented and joined the show, and the band was renamed, The Isaacs.
In 1992, the group moved to LaFollette, Tenn., a small town located just outside of Knoxville, at the base of the Cumberland Mountain and near the Appalachian Ridge and the Cumberland Gap, and released their first album, Live in Atlanta, on Horizon Records. For the next decade, they released over a dozen albums, but it wasn’t until 2003, that they hit the charts with Songs of the Faith, which earned a slot at no. 14 on the Bluegrass charts. Their subsequent 2004 album, Heroes, produced by Don Cook, placed well on the Country and Heat charts, landing them a Top-20 record in the Christian market.
The Isaacs claimed their first no. 1 album in 2009 with a project co-produced by Bill Gaither on the Spring Hill label, Naturally: An Almost A Cappella Collection. The album earned the #1 position on the Bluegrass chart, #12 on the Heat chart, and produced at Top-30 on the Christian chart. This breakthrough album led to a string of successful album releases between 2010 and 2016, all of which produced a Top 5 ranking on either the Bluegrass chart, the Christian chart, or both.
Throughout the years, the group has gone through a number of member changes. In 1994, it added John Bowman, Becky’s husband, who played with the group until 2006 before leaving to pursue several projects with Bill Gaither and finally taking a teaching position at the local Christian school. In 1998, Joe and Lily divorced and Joe departed the group. Despite the loss of its patriarch, the family continued to successfully record and tour. In 2008, Thomas Wywrot joined the group, to later be replaced in 2011 by award-winning songwriter, Sonya’s Isaacs’ husband, Jimmy Yeary. Today, 35 years since they began, The Isaacs’ members include the mother, Lily Isaacs, and her children Ben, Sonya and Becky, as well as the newest member, Levi Bowman who is Becky and John’s son.
The group has earned multiple Grammy nominations, seven Dove awards (and counting), with additional top honors from the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association), NQC (National Quartet Convention), and the ICMA (Inspirational Country Music Association). The musical family continues to record, while frequently performing at The Grand Ole Opry, as well as on the Gaither Homecoming videos and travels internationally (including but not limited to South Africa, Norway, Holland, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, Canada) spreading an inspirational message of faith and family throughout the globe. If you’d like to learn more about the Isaacs or see them on tour, please visit https://www.theisaacs.com.