Anthony John Burger (June 5, 1961–February 22, 2006) was an American musician and singer, most closely associated with Southern Gospel music.
Anthony Burger was born in Cleveland, Tennessee
to Richard and Jean Burger. At age eight months, he was using a baby walker
and fell into a heating duct on the floor of his house. He suffered third degree burns
on his hands. After suffering the burns, Burger’s doctor told his parents he was very likely to not be able to move his hands in the future. Despite the odds, Burger was healed. At the age of five, he was accepted at the Cadek Conservatory in Chattanooga, Tennessee
. A child prodigy, Burger was playing classical piano repertoire within a few years.
Mr. Burger’s first recording, Anthony Burger At The Lowry Organ,
was released in 1975 when he was 14 years old. He joined the Kingsmen Quartet
while still a teen and remained with them until 1992. During that time, Mr. Burger recorded nineteen projects with the group and was voted the Favorite Pianist in the Singing News
Fan Awards for an unprecedented ten years. The award was renamed the "Anthony Burger Award" for several years after that. During this period, Mr. Burger presented the award to the winner each year, but was ineligible to receive it.
In 1992, Mr. Burger left the Kingsmen Quartet to pursue a career as a solo pianist. He joined the Gaither Homecoming Tour the following year and was featured on more than 65 Homecoming videos. Mr. Burger continued to release piano solo recordings and headline concerts, but his solo schedule was balanced by about 80 Gaither Homecoming dates per year. Adding more variety to his schedule, Burger formed an impromptu sideline group with Ivan Parker and Kirk Talley around 1998 called “The Trio.” The group performed at several events each year. (Shane Dunlap later replaced Parker.) Night after night, when playing at concerts, he stated that God had healed his hands so he could play music. He was constantly giving all the glory to God instead of himself.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Burger released a number of piano folios, permitting fellow keyboard players to perform his arrangements.
The Hazelton Brothers piano company honored Mr. Burger just after the turn of the century when they began offering an “Anthony Burger Signature” model. Then in late 2005, Steinway & Sons announced that Mr. Burger was being added to their exclusive roster of endorsing artists, making him the first Southern Gospel pianist to ever hold that honor.
The joy over this appointment was short-lived, however. On February 22
, at the age of 44, Mr. Burger died of a massive heart attack
while performing aboard the MS Zuiderdam
, a cruise ship chartered for a Gaither Gospel Cruise. According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Burger was accompanying Bill & Gloria Gaither and Guy Penrod on the song "Hear My Song, Lord" (erroneously reported as "We Shall Behold Him" at first) when fans in the audience noticed Mr. Burger had ceased moving, his hands clenched into fists over the keyboard. Several fellow artists carried him backstage, where the cruise ship's emergency response team futilely performed CPR
for about 45 minutes.
Mr. Burger was survived by his wife LuAnn, two sons, AJ and Austin; a daughter, Lori; his mother and father, Richard and Jean Burger; two brothers, Randy and Clinton Burger, and countless friends and loved ones.
A young blind pianist, Gordon Mote, from the Nashville area superseded Burger as the Gaither Homecoming pianist.