Chicago Gospel Fest’ 2010

 
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 Chicago  Gospel Fest’ June 2010

(photos : Robert Sacre, University of Liege)

 
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  ARTICLES          

               GOSPEL  MUSIC

 Dorothy Norwood/Inez Andrews (Chicago June 2010) (Ph. Robert Sacre)

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 ESSENTIAL  WEB SITES  & blogs :                                                 www.justmovingon.info (with plenty links to other web sites)(Cies DeThije)     www.gospelmemories.com     ( idem  )  (Robert Marovich (click on resources  ( Ali-Baba’s gospel cavern) + www.theblackgospelblog.com (idem ),links  )                                www.gospelgal.com                 (idem)                                   www.raregospel.com  (Jason Rosenberg , sells great(rare stuff)compilations) http://www.recordconnexion.nl/start.html  ( R.Termorhuizen ,  idem   )   www.pewburner.com     (Opal Louis Nations,      idem )                   http://blessmybones.blogspot.com

www.wfmu.org/playlists/CR      (Kevin Nutt ‘s site)     

New and recommended:  www.barrettsistersonline.com

magazines :             www.gospelflava.com                          

 

   Mail orders / Record Companies selling on line) :                 www.raregospel.com (Jason Rosenberg’s web site  , Chicago – Rare black gospel records on CD-R)                                                                                                 www.numerogroup.com     (Rob Sevier,Chris Johnson,Ken Shippley,Tom Lunt- Chicago)          www.biglegalmessrecords.com                                                          www.recordconnection.nl    (Robert  Termorhuizen‘s  site,)                       www.pewburner.com           ( Opal Louis Nations’ s web site)

Introduction:  

A selection of magazines have been indexed to provide entries and references to :

      GOSPEL  MUSIC     -     AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS..... 

            It also includes the :

                    Record Producers / Famous Collectors / Writers / ...

                   Conferences / Events / Areas of interest/ ...

                     

  Collectors:

 La page d'accueil  de mon site web      www.blackmusicUSA.be    donne accès , en cliquant sur  "FOR SALE"  et  « LISTE 2 »   à des listes de disques/livres/magazines/... à vendre...... 

The main page of my web site   www.blackmusicUSA.be :  Click on "FOR SALE" and “LIST 2 “ to get access to lists of records,books, magazines,... for sale.

  

 

Biographies  of Gospel Artists and Groups          see  below

 009_6.JPGInez Andrews (Chicago, June 2010)

ARTICLES   IN   MAGAZINES

ABS  Magazine  ( France)   =  ABS                                                                                               BLOCK  ( Nd)                     =   BL                                                                                                                  Blues & Rhythm (UK          =  BR                            JAZZ  AROUND (B)         =     JA                                                                                      JUKE BLUES   (UK)          =   JB                            BACK TO THE ROOTS (B) : BTTR                                                                                                  Living Blues (USA)            =   LB                            SOUL BAG  (France)             = SB                                                                                                                  

   

   ARTICLES          

               GOSPEL  MUSIC

See also  the Blues Encyclopedia

Craig  ADAMS                 Soul Bag 190 (Mars 2008),20-21

Ben  AIKEN                     obit  BR 245 ( Xmas 2009), 7

Bill ‘Hoss’ ALLEN             BR 237, 20-21

RANCE  ALLEN                       JB 69, 38-39

Margaret ALLISON         died on July 30,2008         LB  201 (June 2009) , 74

THE ANOINTED  JACKSON SINGERS       JB 69, 40

BARRETT  SISTERS      web site :  www.barrettsistersonline.com

Rev.  F.C.   BARNES                   JB 59, 52-54

Luther   BARNES                       JB 59, 54-55

BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA   Bitter battle splits BBofA   Living Blues 197 , 3 (Oct.2008)

HORACE   BOYER               obit  JB 68, 58 ; BR 242, 20

SOLOMON  BURKE          obit ( 10 Oct.2010 )   (LB 210,66)(BR 254,18)

 

SHIRLEY   CAESAR               JB 66 , 48-51

CAMPBELL   BROTHERS     LB 176, 22-29; Block 134, 2 (photo)

CANTON   SPIRITUALS           JB 60, 28-31

Sister Wynona  CARR         BR239(May 2009),4-8 , BR 242,22

Johnny  CARTER       obit  BR 243(Oct.2009),12

Lucy  SMITH  COLLIER   obit (19  Sept 2010)    (CBMR Digest fall 2010/Vol.23,no.2)

 

Calvin    COOKE                   LB 184(May 2006) 24-31

Mme  EDNA  GALLMON  COOKE        JB 67, 4851

 

DILLARD  CRUME        1935-2008    obit.   JB 65 , 66 ; Block 143 (Lente ’08),43                                  

 

  DIXIE HUMMING BIRDS       ABS mag 6 (2004) , 40-47

Willa Mae DORSEY     obit   BR 237, 13

 

Willie C. EASON                 obit.  LB 180,87;    16  June 2005   (JB 60,63)

TOMMY  ELLISON              obit   JB 66 , 63 ; BR 237,13

 

Johnny  FIELDS  (5 Blind Boys Alabama)  obit  JB 68, 59 ; BR 245 (Xmas 2009),7 ;            9 Sept. 1927- 12  Nov. 200)

Clarence FOUNTAIN            SB 179, 11-13

 

Geraldine GAY       obit (  6 April 2010)  (CBMR Digest vol.23,no.2,Fall 2010)

 

Aubrey  GHENT                     LB 176, 30-35

Golden Gate   Quartet      SB 200 , 55-59   www.thegoldengatequartet.com  

Blind Arvella GRAY               LB 180, 71

 

Walter  HAWKINS               obit. 20  Nov. 2010  ( JB 70,62)  ; BR 252 ( Sept.2010),24 ; SB 200 (winter 2010),19

 

Rev.  Charlie  JACKSON     obit (13  Feb. 2006)   LB 184,94; JB 61, 64

Rev. Claude  JETER              LB 176  , 72-79 ;  obit  JB 67, 60 ; BR 237,12

Evelyn  JOHNSON (Peacock)    obit  (1 Nov.2005) SB 182, 36                                                                                       

Reverend ROBERT B.  JONES      JB 62,  55-56                           

 The  KELLY  BROTHERS  / OFFE  REECE     JB 65 , 46-49                                                                                                                                                                                                        KING ODOM Quartet      B&R 227 (March 2008) 18-20                                                                                                                                                                                                             MARIE   KNIGHT              JB 68, 48-50 ; LB 192 (Oct.2007) 20-27 ; obit   BR 243, 14/ LB 204,67   ; The Gospel of M.K.  + discography    BR 250 (June 2010), 18- 24                                         

The LEE BOYS                LB 190 (June 2007), 24-31                                                                                      

Gwen  Mc CRAE                 JB 58, 52-54                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

  MARYLAND  GOSPEL     JB 64 , 48                                              

 Flora   MOLTON        BR 245 ( Xmas 2009), 12-14                                                                                                                

 Gatemouth  MOORE    obit   LB 174, 93 ; SB 176,41

Rev. Willie Lee MORGANFIELD     obit.  LB 171,65

ODETTA    obit  , LB  199(Feb 2009), 74 ; BR 236 (Feb 2009), 11

Robert  RANDOLPH               SB 175, 34-36

MAJOR   ROBERTSON  ( Pilgrim Jubilee Singers)       obit   JB 69, 60, LB 208 (AuG.2010),81  

 

 Junious  NORFLEET            25 March 2008   (  JB 65  Spring 2008 , 67

 

Billy   PRESTON             6 June 2006      (JB 62,68)

 

LOU  RAWLS                                     6  Jan. 2006       (JB 61,62)

Roscoe     ROBINSON            LB 203  ( (Oct.2009)  ,28-33

RONICA & MIGHTY BLAZING STARS    JB 62 , 54

 

George  SCOTT          obit  SB 179,36

SENSATIONAL   NIGHTINGALES        JB 61, 56-58

SLIM & THE SUPREME ANGELS – Rev. Howard Slim Hunt      JB 63, 40-41                                                                                                                                                                                

Elder UTAH SMITH   Living Blues 198 (Dec.2008), 58-65

Eugene SMITH         obit  BR 241(Aug.2009), 14

SPIRIT  OF  MEMPHIS  QUARTET      JB 65 , 36-39

Mavis  STAPLES                LB 175, 14-25,38,  SB 200, 39-47

STAPLES SINGERS           SB 200, 34-38

THE SWANEE  QUINTET       JB 64 (late 2007), 44-47  

 

Rev. Leroy  TAYLOR (Soul Stirrers)    obit   BR 240, 13                                                                                  Sister O.M. (Ola Mae) TERRELL          24  Feb.2006   (JB 62,71)

ROSETTA  THARPE    headstone  LB  199(Feb 2009), 5 ; BR 237,22

IRA  TUCKER       obit   JB 66 , 62 ; LB 197(Oct.2008), 88

Jerome Van JONES        SB 179 , 36                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      VICTORY  FIVE       Blues & Rhythm 226 (Feb.2008)  14-16                                                             Albertina WALKER   obit    8 Oct. 2010  ( JB 70, 59)(SB 201,9)(BR 254,19)

Wilson  WATERS  (Fairfield Four)     obit.   24  Nov.2005)     (JB 60,63)

Ellison WHITE  (Wings Over Jordan Choir)   obit  BR 241, 12                                                              

 Rev. John  WILKINS     LB 189(April 2007) 34-39 ; BR 244 (Nov.2009),12                                                                                            

 LEE  WILLIAMS  & SPIRITUAL Q.C.’s      JB 63 , 42                                                                                       

  Elder  Roma  WILSON       BR 81 ( Aug. '93)  ; notes  Arhoolie CD429                                                       

  David  Pop  WINANS      obit  JB 66 , 61                                                                                                       

     Roy  Mr. Malaco'  WOOTEN      obit  JB 62,70 

Clyde  WRIGHT         SB 200, 59                                                                                          

   Marva  WRIGHT    obit. (23 March 2010)  :  BR 249 (May 2010), 25; ( JB 69,61)(SB 199,6)

 

 

 

 Articles/ CD reviews/…

Black Gospel Fest' , Amsterdam  Sept. 2006      Block 137,40                                             

BLUES  MEETS  GOSPEL   :   Living Blues 176  (Jan.2005                                                                

  Chicago Gospel Festival 2005     ABS 7  (2005) 28-32)                                                   EMI  GOSPEL        SB 199, 73

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Gospel Odyssey , N.O. Jazz & Heritage Fest' 2006      JB 62,57                                  

 idem             South Carolina Gospel Quartet Awards    JB 62,58                                 GOSPEL  TRUTH      SB 201 , 32-33                                       

 Guitar Evangelists          ABS 4 (2004)                                                                                  

HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD CHURCH - Sacred Steel Music      LB 176   12-21                                 

  MARYLAND  GOSPEL            JB 64 , 48

MOUNT  CALVARY BAPTIST GOSPEL CELEBRATION ,    Maryland 2008 ;  JB 66, 53                                                                                                                                                             NEW  ORLEANS  GOSPEL  2009        JB 68, 51   

The  RAINBOW  700  &  900 series      BR240, 10                                                                   

 SOUTH  CAROLINA  GOSPEL QUARTETS AWARDS       JB  62, 58

My own articles and reviews

..\..\26th Chicago Annual Gospel Music Festival.doc (Gospel Fest’ Chicago June 2010)

..\..\ABS.THE  VICTORY  TRAVELERS.doc .

..\..\JAY  T.Clinkscales.rtf

../../Gospel encyclopedia w.intro.doc

..\..\JB.NEW CHICAGO AND BEYOND.Dr.Odie H.Tolbert.doc

..\..\JUBILEE       SHOWCASE.doc

..\..\Soul Bag.Liz McComb.doc

..\..\J B..THE  VICTORY TRAVELERS.doc      

..\..\Mr. OFFE  REESE.doc

 ..\..\TEXAS    GOSPEL.doc

 

 ..\..\IRA  B.TUCKER.rtf

..\..\THE FIVE BLIND BOYS OF MISSISSIPPI.rtf (discography – From R.Laughton-Cedric J.Hayes  Gospel  discography 1971-2008  still unpublished)

 ..\..\..\Pictures\Staple Singers 51 (2).jpg

 

 

 

GOSPEL   ARTISTS  AND  GROUPS                    BIOGRAPHIES

ENCYCLOPEDIA        copyright: Robert SACRE

ANDERSON, Robert

b. Chicago, 1919 ; d. Chicago, June 1995

Anderson began singing in church as a boy and in the early 1930s he was one of the first members of the Roberta *Martin Singers considered as the best mixed (male-female) gospel group of the time in Chicago thanks to Roberta Martin’s gift for writing lyrical songs , she was also a great piano player. Anderson was probably her best singer but he was also ambitious and in 1939, he left the group and began singing duets with R.L.Knowles, a Kansas City singer who was appointed the lead singer of The First Church of Deliverance, the famous Spiritualist church of Chicago led at the time by the flamboyant Reverend Clarence Cobbs. Knowles and Anderson are credited with bringing the "ad-lib" style to church singing with jazz-influenced runs, free spirited melisma, influences of secular music whether pop, blues or swing. Anderson was even called the "Bing Crosby of gospel" because he was crooning and delivered an effortless phrasing; he also had a great sense of timing. Knowles and Anderson successfully toured California and Anderson once told he even played a small role in "Gone with the Wind"! He came back in Chicago to open a music studio, ‘The Good Shepherd’, where he instructed singers and musicians, publishing also his own compositions . In 1943 he stole the show at the National Baptist Convention with his own rendition of his song "Something within". In 1946 he made a tour of the South and he sang on the radio in Birmingham, Alabama, with a tremendous success.

Back in Chicago, he formed his own group modelled on Roberta Martin’s but he hired only female singers, the best he could find in Chicago and in Gary, Indiana.

First, he called them the Good Shepherd Singers (like his studio) then The Gospel Caravans

By the time he recorded for United Records, the group was composed of Albertina *Walker, Elyse Yancey, Ora Lee Hopkins and Nellie Grace Daniels . It was a very strong ensemble whose only rivals were The *Ward Singers and the *Davis Sisters in Philadelphia. Each member could lead and they influenced many groups and singers like Dorothy Love Coates and her *Gospel Harmonettes, James *Cleveland who played piano some years with Anderson, quartet leads like Sam *Cooke, Johnnie *Taylor, Lou *Rawls, etc…who were trained by him and carried Anderson style into pop music. He started a long friendship with Mahalia *Jackson who sang a lot of his compositions. In April 1952, he left The *Caravans and Albertina Walker became the group’s manager, leading it to stardom. Anderson spent some years leading successfully a male group but his popularity declined with the rise of Contemporary Gospel and he worked for a florist . In the 1980s he recorded for Spirit Feel. In early 1995 he entered the hospital for a by-pass operation. It failed because he also had diabetes, he suffered a stroke and some months later, in June 1995, he died , the funeral was held at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church whose choir he had once conducted.

(505)

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995.

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography :

Working the Road-The Golden Age of Chicago Gospel , (1997, Delmark CD 702); The Great Gospel Men , (1993, Shanachie/Spirit Feel (USA) CD 6005).

 

BASS, Martha (Martha Carter Bass Peaston)

b. 1921, Arkansas ; d. 21 September 1998, Saint Louis, MO

Martha Bass’ family moved to Saint Louis when she was two years old and Martha joined the Pleasant Green Baptist Church at an early age under the leadership of Pastor Reverend G.H. Pruitt . Influenced by the National Baptist Conventions, she started to read the Bible and to sing in the choir with a dark, powerful contralto and, from the beginning, was outstandingly good, like her own mother, Nevada Carter. She was chosen by Willie Mae Ford *Smith to perform in her back-up group and of all Smith’s female pupils, Bass came closest to duplicate her vocal power and resonance, even if Martha’s idol was Mahalia *Jackson. Trained and obviously inspired by her mentor, she was known as a "house shouter" with bluesy accents because of her ability to rouse a church into pandemonium . That is how she had a short stay of about three or four years with Clara *Ward and the Ward Singers; she recorded with them for Savoy in 1950 and her version of Wasn’it it a Pity How they Punished my Lord was a huge hit; about the same time, her family and entourage organized a private recording session and two songs were issued on the Bass label. But then she got married and with two sons and a baby girl – later to be the famous soul singer Fontella Bass, married to Lester Bowie the leader of the Chicago Art Ensemble – , Martha chose to raise her family, staying at home and returning to the Pleasant Green Choir. However she stayed in touch with the Ward Singers and in 1963 she was hired as sales manager of a music store the Wards opened to sell printed music, songbooks, records and greeting cards, the shop was closed two years later and in 1966 with plenty of free time again and eager to testify her faith and her love of God, Bass thought it was time to make new records under her own name ; she ‘advertised’ herself and she was well received in Chicago by Checker Records, her first album in March 1966 was entitled I’m so grateful with strong tracks like I do, don’t you and What Manner of Man is this and her daughter Fontella claimed she was playing piano and singing in the backing group, it was a sizeable hit in the Middle East and it led to new albums on Checker, Rescue Me, in 1968, with, among other great songs, In Times like These and Now That I Found the Lord and in 1969 , a tribute to her idol, Martha Sings Mahalia Jackson , her own favourite, a tribute that was not a servile copy of the model but a personal testimony to the greatest of the gospel singers ever. In 1972, she recorded her last album for Checker, It’s Another Day’s Journey" and after that, Martha, who never sang but church songs, toured some time with her mother Nevada and with her daughter Fontella, also in Europe in the 1980s as ‘From the Roots to the Source’ but from the late 1980s until her death in 1998, she was satisfied to be her daughter’s best supporter and she helped her career any way she could until Selah Records gave the whole family – Martha, Nevada and Fontella- an opportunity to make a record altogether in 1990, with Fontella’s brother and special guest David Peaston ( "A Family Portrait of Faith").

With Willie Mae Ford Smith and Cleophus *Robinson, Martha Bass will stay as one of the best gospel singers ever to come out of Saint Louis, Missouri. Unhappily, she was sadly under-recorded.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Ward-Royster, Willa and Toni Rose, How I Got Over. Clara Ward and the World-Famous Ward Singers. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1997.

Wilmer, Val . Martha Bass, interview, The Wire (U.K.) 1985

Discography:

None but the Righteous . Chess Gospel Greats, (1992, Chess CHD 9336); Gospel Sisters and Divas 1943-51, (2002, Frémeaux et Associés (Fr.) FA5053, 2 CD-box) ; Mother Smith and Her Children, (1989, Spirit Feel CD1010) ; From the Root to the Source, (1980, Soul Note LP SN1006); A Family Portrait of Faith, (1990, Selah Records SLD7506)

 

THE BLUE JAY SINGERS ( Famous Blue Jay Singers of Birmingham, Alabama ; Blue Jay Gospel Singers)

Silas Steele (b. 1913, Brighton, AL) (lead)

Members: James "Jimmie" Hollingsworth (tenor);Charles Beal (baritone);Charles Bridges (lead vo);Willie Rose (lead);Dave Davney ( second tenor, lead);Clarence ‘Tooter’ Parnell, Nathaniel Edmonds (bass); Leandrew Woffard (or Wauford) (bass)

The group was formed by Silas Steele , c. 1925-26, in Jefferson County, Alabama where the members developed their specific skills . It was a fertile territory for Jubilee Quartets, as they were called at that time. Steele joined forces with Clarence Parnell, a former bass singer with the Pilgrim Singers, another local quartet, to form the Blue Jay Singers. Parnell had already gained local celebrity as a quartet singer and Steele, a young baritone and the younger brother of James ‘Jimmie’ Steele, leader of the Woodwards Big Four Quartet, was beginning to gain a reputation as an outstanding soloist in his church choir. Parnell and Steele ‘stole’ James "Jimmie" Hollingsworth, tenor, and Charlie Beal, bass, from the *Dunham Jubilee Singers - a tradition in gospel quartets - to form their group. Within a very short time, the Blue Jays featuring young Silas as the lead ( he was only 13 when he joined the group) were the biggest rivals of the *Birmingham Jubilee singers. Because Steele had extraordinary charisma and began to adopt the preaching style of singing introduced by the sanctified singers, the Jays usually "took the program" when they appeared on the same bill with the Birmingham Jubilee Singers. Their style was one that would influence gospel quartets for the next fifty years : according to Horace Clarence Boyer, "they celebrated the beauty and character of the natural male voice with its low sounds and brassy but warm timbre"; they sang with the power of the African American Baptist and Pentecostal preachers. "They celebrated the African American tendency of gathering resonance from the fatty tissues of the mouth rather than placing the tone close to the bridge of the nose and they were not afraid to celebrate the body in their rhythmic accompaniment to their singing". These are the qualities that they brought to their first recordings in 1931, a Dorsey song, the first ever recorded by a quartet ( "If you see my savior"). At the same time, the gospel quartet movement had spread to Dallas, TX and the Blue Jays began to divide their time between Dallas and Birmingham. On one of their trips home, they recruited Charles Bridges, former lead singer of the Birmingham Jubilee Singers. He agreed because his group had become inactive since the death of Dave Ausbrooks, their baritone singer. Bridges felt that they would find no suitable replacement to revive the group and, with Bridges, the Jays became one of the most popular quartets of their time.

Their original double lead swinging technique involving both Silas Steele and Charles Bridges in their recordings of 1947 are perfect examples of the popular Jays’ style of the time. While in Texas, the Jays became close friends and frequent performers with the *Soul Stirrers that they had influenced in the early 1930s but had been surpassed in popularity within a few years. They followed the Soul Stirrers to Chicago in the mis-1940s. After settling in Chicago and seeing the rise of dozens of gospel quartets, Steele adopted the sanctified preaching style of talking through a song which later became known as the ‘sermonette’ before or during a song performance . His preacher shouts became legendary and marked a clear break with their original style of sweet singing in the jubilee style and a pronounced entry into gospel. They were one of the first quartets outside the Tidewater gospel quartets like the *Golden Gates, the *Silver Leafs, the *Harmonizing Four and others,… to employ the "clank-a-lank" response as a rhythmic and syllabic accompaniment to a solo lead.

The Blue Jays had success until the early 1950s but, by the late 1940s, other groups had surpassed them in innovation and popularity, causing Steele to seek more current and fertile ground for his talent and in 1948, Silas Steele decided to leave Chicago and he dropped out of the Famous Blue Jays Singers to join the *Spirit of Memphis Quartet and to start a new career, the Blue Jays were forced to go on without their number one soloist and this of course was a hard blow to their fortunes. For several years, the group continued to tour and to record - now with Charles Bridges and Willie Rose sharing the leads - for Blue Bonnet, Decca and Trumpet before going out of the scene in the early 1950s. Nevertheless The Blue Jay Singers will stay as one of the most important and original gospel group in the history of African American religious music.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

 

Discography:

Vocal Quartets, volume 2 , 1929-32 (1997, Document Records ,Austria, DOCD-5538) ; Going on Home to Glory. Trumpet Gospel Anthology. (1991, P-Vine Records (Japan) PCD-2187.

 

ThE DAVIS SISTERS

Thelma ( 1930 -1963), Ruth (1928-1970), Audrey (1931-1982), and Alfreda (1935-1989) Davis. Imogene Green ( 1930– 1986)

Curtis Dublin, piano (1928 - 1965)

The family group was organized in 1945 and quickly became one of the most famous and most outstanding group of gospel singers in existence.

Hailing from Philadelphia, the group was led by Ruth Davis ( a.k.a. ‘The Big Maybelle of Gospel Music’ and ‘Baby Sister’) whose contralto was deep, powerful, almost manly and moving. She was idolized by many singers like Aretha *Franklin and Mavis *Staples . Thelma and Audrey sang soprano and Alfreda second contralto. Thelma also helped with the sermonettes ( spoken narratives conveying the Bible’s messages) and pianist Curtis Dublin – a cousin of the Davis- served occasionally as co-lead in the group; after his death in 1965 he was replaced by Eddie Brown, Evangelist Rosie* Wallace’s husband.

The Davis Sisters were members of a Pentecostal sect called Fire Baptized founded in 1908 in Atlanta, Georgia and the Davis family was one of the first members of the Mount Zion Fire Baptized Holiness Church in Philadelphia after its founding in the late 1910s. Of course, the young women sang in their church, inspired by their parents’ practice of down home countrified Southern church singing ; a young Ruth Davis served as a WAC during World War II and in 1945 she organized her group, she was only seventeen at that time, Thelma was fifteen, Audrey was fourteen and Alfreda was only ten! After establishing a reputation as "house rockers" in their area, they made their official debut in 1946 at their parents’ home in Port Deposit, Maryland and then, with parental blessing, they followed the Pentecostal circuit, performing in churches and schools.

Gospel talents were plenty in Philadelphia during the late 1940s and the 1950s with the *Angelic Gospel Singers, the *Ward Singers and many more. Gertrude Ward, Clara’s mother, took the Davis Sisters under her wing, guided them, taught them courage and instilled performance skills. During the spring of 1949, she also introduced the group to Ivin Ballen of Gotham Records and he signed them to a 3-year contract . But the Davis Sisters’ first two-known records were issued on Ballen’s Apex subsidiary label in 1949 they were accompanied by their cousin, Curtis Dublin whose piano style was between the sanctified church and the nightclub, with occasional jazz riffs. The following session, in 1950, took place in the Gotham studios in Philadelphia and alto singer Imogene Greene, an outsider from Chicago, joined the group to add depth and excitement to the group’s performance which she did. She was reluctant, however, to assume lead in the Gotham studios until the summer of 1952 when she headed up "Bye and Bye" which became the group’s first hit record. Before that, in 1951 the *Gay Sisters had organized a concert package at the Atlanta Auditorium to promote their own hit ("God will take care of you") and the Davis Sisters who were a part of the program tore up the place and stole the show, they did it again in New York in 1953 when they appeared before a full capacity audience on Joe Bostic’s Fourth Annual Negro gospel and Religious Musical Festival at Carnegie Hall.

All in all, some thirty sides were issued on Gotham between 1950 and 1953, some with organist Herman Stevens. Many songs of the Davis Sisters were taken directly from the church services they attended and experienced while growing up but they were familiar, however with other music (Ruth was inspired by Dinah Washington) and famous gospel composers like Lucie *Campbell, Kenneth *Morris or gospel artists like Ira *Tucker and Alex *Bradford whose "Too close to Heaven" was the Davis Sisters second big hit in 1953.

With Baby Sis’ in the lead, the Davis Sisters emerged as the first female group to sing "hard" gospel which appeared in the early 1950s and was totally different from the Baptist style of singing which emphasized beauty of tone, precise rhythm and occasional ornamentation

while hard gospel is characterized by straining the voice during periods of spiritual ecstasy, singing at the extremes of ranges, repeating words or syllables, adding lots of interjections and "acting out" songs with motions, stoops and movements.

In 1955 the group moved to Savoy Records, adding Jackie Verdell to the crew to replace Imogene Greene who came back later, in 1960.

From their first recording for Savoy (Twelve Gates to the City) to the 1970s, they added hits to hits and the group became a force in gospel music, performing exclusively in churches and auditoriums ; their combination was devastating and for years they were "The Queens of the Gospel Highway". Unhappily they were ill-fated, Thelma died in 1956, removing the group’s spiritual centre, Dublin died in 1965, Ruth in 1970,Imogene in 1986 and Alfreda , three years later. Their deaths were considered tragic losses in the African American church community.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

 

Discography:

Davis Sisters 1949-52 (2003, Heritage (UK) HTCD47.

 

THE GAY SISTERS

Evelyn ( 1924 - 1984), Mildred (Millie) Gay-Chison (1926–28 Feb.2003) , Geraldine Gay-Hambric (1931- )

 

The Gay family hailed from Georgia. They moved to Chicago just after World War One . Jerry Gay, the father, ran two second hand furniture stores and Fanny Parthenia Barnes, the mother, directed a choir at Elder Lucy Smith’s All Nations Pentecostal Church on W. 30th street . Fanny was a major influence on her children : soon after World War Two, she organized her three daughters into a singing group and had them schooled in harmony until they were ready to perform in public; Evelyn (alto, contralto) and Geraldine (tenor) had studied piano at an early age and for all her talent, Geraldine became known later as "the Erroll Garner of gospel". Evelyn and Mildred (tenor) began singing as a duet with Evelyn also playing piano. One of their first engagements was in New York and that’s how they befriended Professor James Earl *Hines from Cleveland who was directing a choir out of the Trinity Baptist Church in Brooklyn when they met. He encouraged the Gay Sisters to seek their fortunes out on the West Coast . In 1948, the Gay Sisters with Fanny serving both as manager and chaperone travelled out to Los Angeles and attended both The Baptist Alliance and Ministerial Alliance meetings where ministers could choose artists to feature on their church music programs. The Gays were regularly chosen and that is how they were introduced to John Dolphin of Recorded-In-Hollywood Records; they recorded their first record in late 1949, but it was not successful and by the summer of 1950, the Gays were back in Chicago, seeking a label to record them. They tried Apollo Records in New York then Gotham Records in Philadelphia, without success .But three months later, their luck changed: they were playing a church in Brooklyn and they were introduced to Herman Lubinsky of Savoy Records in Newark ; they signed a contract in March 1951 and recorded four songs with Herman Stevens on organ ; the first single broke into the charts and the Gay Sisters started to appear at major venues. At that time, the Gays had built a repertoire of intense Baptist and Dr.Watts hymns and sanctified shouts "right out of the 1920s" (Tony Heilbut). Evelyn wrote most of the scores and the group played it straight and refused to let gimmicks and fancy showmanship get in the way of their act ; they accepted however to wear colourful robes and to sport fancy hair-dos. More Savoy sessions followed in May and in July 1951 and the Gays played Carnegie Hall and toured Texas and California.

In early 1955, Evelyn was introduced to Decca Records and the sisters with their mother Fanny Parthenia and brother Preacher Gregory Donald recorded a long session in the Decca studios but one single only was released in March and, poorly promoted, did not get attention. Throughout the mid-fifties, a lot of people tried to lure Evelyn away from her sisters and she was encouraged to lead her own group but it was not successful even if she became a regular on radio programs and in the early 1960s, the reunited Gay Sisters recorded vanity recordings on Evelyn’s own P.E.A. label and toured occasionally. Then Evelyn formed a group called The Pilgrim Outlets and recorded a single for Faith. In 1966, Geraldine and Gregory Donald, labelled as the Gay Singers recorded for Chess Records in Chicago but only one single ever surfaced. The Gay Sisters’ last major gig was an appearance at the 1976 Bicentennial celebration at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

After Evelyn’s death, Mildred stayed in the show business, fronting a Dixieland band in the early 1990s and recording gospel songs for Tony Heilbut and Spirit Feel Records in 1993.

In June and July 2004, Geraldine Gay, the last of the Gay Sisters still alive, recorded for The Sirens Records, in Chicago; she played her jazz-influenced piano to accompany her singing brother Pastor Donald and her nephew Gregory Jr.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Nations, Opal Louis. « The Gay Sisters ». Blues Gazette (Belgium) issue 3 (Summer 1996): 18-19 ; Sacre, Robert. "The Gay Sisters". Blues Gazette (B.) issue 3 (Summer 1996):22

Discography

The Soul of Chicago, (1993, Shanachie/Spirit Feel CD 6008); In the Right Hands . Chicago Gospel Keyboard Pioneers, (2004, The Sirens Records SR-5010).

 

THE HARMONIZING FOUR

The quartet was formed by four students at the Dunbar Elementary School in south Richmond, Virginia on September 1927; they rehearsed at the home of John T.Scott, first and tenor singer, with Joe Curby, second tenor, Lawrence Hatcher, baritone and Willie Peyton, bass; all of them were already singing in local churches choirs. Music teacher Lawrence Langhorne, a friend of Scott’s became the group’s first manager. After much practice, the name of the group was chosen as The Harmonizing Four and they sang regularly at Dunbar, at the start of each school day especially. By 1930, Curby had left the group to join The Heavenly Choir and he was replaced by Leon Gibson who left in 1932 and was replaced himself by Thomas "Tommy" ("Goat") Johnson. Joseph "Gospel Joe" Williams (baritone / alto soloist b.1916, Richmond, VA) joined the group in 1933 and by the mid-1930s, Peyton had been replaced by Levi Hansley .

The group specialized in close harmony singing, Negro spirituals and hymns with precise attack and releases and a smooth sound which gained considerable attention in their area and for sixteen years they sang hymns and spirituals a capella, always impeccably dressed, conservative in style and image and they won the trust and respect of church folk.

"Gospel Joe" Williams who claimed his main influence was Glen T.Settle ( *Wings over Jordan Choir) became the new manager and the leader of the group. John T.Scott , the last founder member, left and was replaced by guitarist/pianist/arranger Lonnie Smith before the group’s first recording session that took place in New York in June 1943 for Decca, they were billed as the Richmond’s Harmonizing Four and cut eight smooth polished songs. Then they headed to Richmond where they obtained a regular radio slot on WRNL, drawing more listeners to the station. The quartet continued touring appearing at the National Baptist Convention in Atlanta in 1944 and singing to an audience of 40.000 souls, then they spent several weeks in San Antonio, Texas. Their notoriety went higher and higher and the quartet was invited to the White House to sing at the funeral ceremony following President Roosevelt’s death in April 1945. Vance Joyner quit in 1946 but soon after, the group was recording again : four sides for Religious Recording in Chicago (1947) as "The Richmond Harmonizers of Richmond" (sic) , 4 sides for Coleman (1948), 2 sides for MGM (1949), with moderate success. In July 1951 the wedding ceremony of Sister Rosetta *Tharpe to Russell Morrison at the Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. was recorded live and issued on an album, the Harmonizing Four had been invited and rendered four songs. At the same time, the group had been signed by Gotham Records in Philadelphia and more than forty songs were recorded and issued between 1950 and 1956, with new changes in the composition of the group: Levi Hansley quit in 1953 and was replaced first by James Walker (tenor) for a few months only –he joined the *Dixie Humming Birds- then by Clarence Ross (bass); Tommy Ellison also came in 1955 and settled with the group, but briefly, like Jimmy Jones (bass) who came to replace Ross but left after a couple of memorable recordings and Ross came back .

In 1957 the group (with Johnny Jones again) signed with Vee Jay Records in Chicago and definitively went up to stardom with their spiritual and hymn singing gaining global acclaim.

All their Vee Jay singles and albums ( some 60 songs) sold very well from 1957 till 1967, despite more changes of personnel and new trends in the tastes of their public: by 1962 Smith had to hang up his acoustic guitar and was replaced by a long series of young male electric players (Sterling Holloman, Jesse Pryor, Clement Burnett…) ; at that time they switched to Atlantic Records (1967-68) then to King Records (1969) , Chess Records (1972),

Jewel (late 1970s) and a variety of labels. The 1990s line-up, its older participants engaged in semi-retirement or dead ( Jimmy Jones died in 1991) consisted of Tommy Johnson, Lonnie Smith, Ellis Ellison, Eddie Green, Calvin Meekins but the group, as such, has been inactive since the mid-1990s.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

 

Discography:

Harmonizing Four 1950-55 , (1995, Heritage, U.K. HTCD 29); The Harmonizing Four, 1957

(1993, Vee Jay NVG2-604).

 

 

KNIGHT , Marie (Roach)

b. Sanford, FL, 1918,

As a child, Marie Knight came in Newark, New Jersey . Her parents were members of the Old Tabernacle Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and Marie started to sing in their sanctified choir when the was five ; she attended the COGIC conventions in Memphis and even served as secretary of the Ministerial Alliance. When she was 20, thanks to her beautiful contralto, she was already a well-known soloist in the COGIC circles with their theme song, ‘Doing all the Good we Can’ and other songs like Thomas *Dorsey’s ‘Today’ .In the early 1940s, she joined the revival team of Frances Robinson, a Philadelphia Evangelist ; around this time, in Texas, she married a COGIC minister and she started to sing on revival meetings across the country and she also worked with male quartets. She made her first recordings in 1946 for Haven Records with a capella jubilee groups like The *Sunset Four.

She formed the first female duo of the history of gospel music with Rosetta *Tharpe in 1947 and this association was incredibly popular during the nine following years. They recorded some twenty songs for Decca Records, with the swinging Sammy Price Trio. Most were hits, like ‘Didn’t it rain’, ‘Beams of Heaven, ‘Precious Memories’, etc… At the same time, she underwent personal tragedies: a fire killed her mother and her two children and she was on the verge to quit singing but then she got moral rescue from Prophetess Dolly Lewis and she perked up although the times were changing: in the 1950s, the popularity of black gospel music went down and many artists crossed over to the much more lucrative R&B market ; Marie Knight did it too, in 1954, duetting for instance with heavy-weight boxing champion Jersey J.Walcott ; it was, at best, poor R&B and, at the same time, she recorded a couple of gospel records. When her contract with Decca ran out in 1955 she was signed by Mercury Records and made better records, one foot in R&B, one foot in gospel like "Songs of the Gospel" with back up singers and guitarist Mickey Baker . From 1956 till the mid-1970s, she was a pop singer, with occasional hits, leading to international tours ( Europe, Australia,…) but, at the same time, she went on performing gospel at churches, with her friend Ernestine *Washington in New York, for instance. In 1973 she was ordained an Evangelist ; her come-back album for Blue Labor, with Louisiana Red on guitar was excellent ; on it, she sang in duo with her sister, Bernice Roach Henry on a couple of songs (Florida Storm,…), and the session was reissued on CD in 1996. At the end of the 1970s, she came back in the Savoy recording studios producing a strong gospel album.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Mary Knight worked as an Evangelist in her church, The Gates of Prayer in New York, she went on writing songs , ready to record again and to tour extensively, everywhere in the world if there was an opportunity.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Kochakian, Dan. "The Legacy of Sam Price". Whiskey,Women,And… 12/13 (December 1983):10-26.

Discography:

Today (1975), (1996, The Blues Alliance TBA-13006); Marie Knight, Hallelujah What a Song ( 1947-1951) , ( 2002, Gospel Friend Records PN 1500 ; Sweden)

 

THE ORIGINAL GOSPEL HARMONETTES

 

During the 1940 National Baptist Convention held in Birmingham, Alabama, Evelyn Starks Hardy (b.1922) a local pianist, composer and arranger who played for the convention decided to form a group with second soprano Mildred Madison Miller Howard (b.1923), second alto Odessa Glasgow Edwards (b. 18 July 1921, Birmingham, ALA ; d. 22 February 2004, Birmingham, ALA), first soprano ,Vera Conner Kolb (b.1924) and first alto Willie Mae Brooks Newberry (b.1923), they named themselves The Gospel Harmoneers, a name changed to The Lee Harmoneers when they started to tour with Georgia Lee Stafford and to The Gospel Harmonettes when, approached to sing for a half-hour weekly radio program on station WSGN, they sang on this weekly program for a year and became regional stars, touring Alabama and several East and West states. In the spring of 1949, they appeared on A.Godfrey’s "Talent Scouts" program and won a recording contract with RCA Victor. Eight songs were recorded and issued but yielded little results; however they continued to travel and to gather large audiences drawing to them the attention of gospel talent scouts working with Specialty Records, like Alex *Bradford and J.W. *Alexander and they were signed to Specialty in 1951. At that time, Dorothy McGriff Love (b. 1928) who had sung with the group on several occasions in the 1940s and a Reverend *Brewster’s disciple, became a regular member of the group that was renamed The Original Gospel Harmonettes . The first releases were hugely successful and they were followed with a string of hits spanning a five year period, Love starring from the beginning as an extraordinary soloist , a gifted songwriter, a hard gospel singer with a sanctified timbre and a preacher’s delivery and Miller proving to be another formidable singer, matching Love nuance for nuance. Their shouting style brought in a whole new era in Gospel music and their influence is still heard everywhere today. In 1953, they appeared at Carnegie Hall and in 1954, Love who by this time had married Carl Coates of the *Nightingales, recorded perhaps her finest composition, You must be born again, with Herbert ‘Pee Wee’ Pickard on piano (he was also the studio organist). The Harmonettes appeared at the Apollo Theatre, Madison Square Garden and concert halls all over the United States and the Bahamas, they recorded briefly for Andex in 1958, followed by a 4 year stint with Savoy Records (1959-1962), a single cut for Motown (1962) and a longer association with Vee Jay Records, in Chicago (1963-66); then followed an album for both Hob and Okeh (1968) before the group signed with Nashboro in 1968. At that time, the group included Dorothy Love-Coates, lead, Mildred Miller Howard, lead, Lillian McGriff (Dorothy’s sister), Cleo Kennedy and Willie Mae Newberry Garth ; they were accompanied by Reverend Charles Kemp on piano. The group disbanded in 1971 and Coates organized the Dorothy Love Coates Singers who made several tours in Europe and appeared in concert at Harvard University.

Throughout their days, the Harmonettes brought a new intensity to gospel that could only be matched by the frenzy of a sanctified shout, with dignity and elegance.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

The Best of D.L.Coates and the Original Gospel Harmonettes ( 1991, Specialty/Ace(UK) CDHD 343); Get on Board ( 1992, Specialty/Ace (UK) CDCHD412); The Original Gospel Harmonettes featuring D.L.Coates . Camp Meeting & God is Here (1993, Vee Jay CD NVG2-607); The Best of D.L.Coates & the Gospel Harmonettes (1995, Nashboro NASH4508-2).

 

 

THE MEDITATION SINGERS

The Meditations were organized by Earnestine Rundless in 1947 in Detroit out of The Voices of Meditation choir at the New Liberty Baptist Church. The group quickly became the Motor town’s most famous female gospel group with Lillian Mitchell, soprano, Carrie M. Williams, lead, Loraine Vincent, soprano and Delloreese Patricia Early ( Della Reese; b. 1932) lead and Marie Waters (Della’s sister), contralto/alto accompanied by Emory Radford , piano and James *Cleveland, piano. When Della Reese quit in 1954 to sing popular music, she was replaced by Earnestine’s daughter, Laura Lee Rundless, a teenager then, who was also bound to pursue a successful career in popular music and soul singing from 1965 on.

Between 1953 and 1959 they personified the gospel sound in Detroit and the surrounding area, introducing instrumental accompaniment where an ‘a capella’ quartet style was dominant before them.

Earnestine Rundless was born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi but was reared in Chicago. When she went to see the Soul Stirrers, she met E.A.Rundless, one of the singers, whom she

married ; soon after, her husband quit the quartet to enter the ministry and they moved to Detroit in March 1945 where Reverend Rundless was called to pastor the New Liberty Baptist Church. Grown up singing in choirs, Earnestine had a rough, emotional and strong voice and she leaned more and more toward the sanctified style of singing .

Della Reese was born in Detroit, she attended high school there and studied at Wayne State University before being recruited by Rundless ; she had been singing in church choirs since she was six years old ; she was an accomplished and experienced singer when she joined the Meditations in 1947.She left in 1954 and went into secular music, beginning a very fruitful recording career in 1955 as pop singer and actress, showing the influence of Dinah Washington (herself an ex-gospel singer).

In September 1953, The Meditation Singers made their first single in Detroit for De Luxe Records in Joe Von Battle’s studios – with James Cleveland on piano; in 1954 they were signed to Specialty Records, making the recordings in Chicago ; the sales were poor and Specialty dropped the group until 1959 when Alex *Bradford urged the company to sign them again; at that time, Laura Lee was lead/alto singer and James Cleveland was back with the group (baritone and piano), he was already known as one of the best gospel composers of his time and Specialty complied, a recording session was held in July 1959; unhappily the company was getting out of gospel in the early 1960s and it was the end of the association. The Meditations went to Hob Records and recorded three albums (1960-62), then Cleveland went his own way to glory and fame as a composer and choir leader while the Meditations recorded a gospel album with ex-member Della Reese for Jubilee Records and appeared on Reese’s television shows ; in 1962 Reese took the Meditations on a tour of colleges, auditoriums, night clubs and casinos . They travelled to Europe for a jazz festival in the late 1960s and recorded for a series of labels, including Sar, Gospel (Savoy), D-Town, Chess/Checker, and Jewel among them. The group disbanded in the early 1980s

 

Bibliography:

 

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

The Meditation Singers - Good News (1993, Specialty/Ace(UK) CDCHD465); The best of Jubilee Gospel . Heaven Belongs to You ( 1999, Westside (UK) WESM 588)

 

THE SELAH JUBILEE SINGERS

Thermon (Thurmond) Ruth (aka T.Ruth) (b. 6 March 1914, Pomaria, S.C.) lead

with Nathaniel Townsley (tenor),Monroe Clark (baritone), John Ford (lead,tenor), Clifton Antley (bass) and Andrew Antley (piano);Fred Baker (lead, guitar) , J.B.Nelson (bass), John Kaiser (baritone);Melvin Coltden (baritone), Norman "Crip" Harris ( tenor).

This group recorded secular music under the name of the Larks.

T. Ruth’s family moved from South Carolina to Brooklyn, N.Y. around 1922. They joined St.Mark Holy Church (Pentecostal), under a lady pastor (Bishop Eva Lambert) and by twelve, Ruth organized the Selah Jubilee Six with members of the church choir ; they sang every Sunday in their church for about ten years; the service was broadcast ands they sang on four radio stations .They started out as disciples of the *Fisk Jubilee Quartet but in 1937, Bishop Lambert took them down to Houston where they met the *Soul Stirrers, discovered a new style of religious singing and exchanged songs. Back in New York, they became part of a rapidly changing gospel quartet scene under the influence of the *Golden Gate Quartet whose popularity was prodigious. Ruth also acknowledged the Mills Brothers and the Charioteers as an influence on the ‘rhythmic spirituals’ style he developed with his group ; they recorded for Brunswick in 1931 (however the matrix numbers suggest it was Columbia) but the seven tracks remained unissued. By 1939, the group was called The Selah Jubilee Singers and they came to the attention of J.Mayo Williams who signed them to Decca and issued fourteen sides in the same year (some with Sam Price on piano). This led to no money but to plenty of appearances and show dates, doing more sessions for Decca while still singing every Sunday night at their church. In 1941, Ruth decided to take the group on tour down South, to North Carolina, but the Antley brothers and Monroe Clark who were reluctant to travel were replaced by Fred Baker, J.B.Nelson and John Kaiser . They did a little U.S.O. Camp Show work and, stranded in Raleigh, N.C., they were hired by WPTF , a 50.000 watt radio station and worked there, in the morning, five days a week, during a couple of years, with plenty of show dates every night . They made frequent trips back to New York to perform and to record for Decca (until 1944) but their radio program became one of the most popular and influential black broadcasts of that era, their brand of jubilee quartet singing influenced a legion of young harmony singers on the East Coast.

In 1943, most members of the group quit and Ruth hired baritone Melvin Coltden and legendary second tenor Norman "Crip" Harris(both ex-* Norfolk Jubilee Quartet) to make a nationwide U.S.O. tour (1945-46) with ex-Golden Gate Quartet and ex-*Southern Sons Bill "Highpocket" Langford (tenor, guitar) and new members Theo Harris(baritone) and Jimmy Gorham (bass) . The Selahs spent the late 1940s in Raleigh, broadcasting regularly on WPTF again and singing in churches and auditoriums ; they also recorded as The Selah Singers for a series of labels, including Manor, Continental, Lenox, Arista, Mercury, Capitol, Cross (as Sons of Heaven) and Jubilee among them. They used to do jubilee songs and Ruth wanted to do gospel or even secular music but their audiences did not accept it and Ruth decided to leave the Selahs and to lead another group in New York with guitarist Alden (Tarheel Slim) Bunn , Junius Parker, Gene Mumford, David McNeil and Pee Wee Barnes , a group that sang under many names, like the *Jubilators (Regal), the Four Barons ( Regent) and the Southern Harmonaires (Apollo Records) in 1950 , but are best remembered today as The Larks ( 1950-54 ;Apollo and Lloyds Records ) .

But the Selah Jubilee Singers still existed as a group and they came back in New York where Ruth joined them for a Savoy recording session in 1955. After that everyone went his own way, Ruth stayed busy as disc-jockey, concert promoter and m.c. at the ApolloTheater in New York, then in Philadelphia, Raleigh, Durham and New York again. The Selahs were reunited for the last time in 1968 as The Jubilators for a recording session (Veep-Gospel Records).

They will stay in gospel history as the only one quartet to break through the Mecca of talent that was New York and to become a major force in gospel during the Golden Age.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

Seroff, Doug, "The Whole Truth about T.Ruth" , Whiskey,Women,And no.9 (July 1982); 14-18 ; Update & Discography, Whiskey,Women,And no.10 (November 1982); 28-33.

Horner, Charlie, " The Whole Truth about T; Ruth – The Larks" part 2, hiskey,Women,And no.10 (November 1982);24-27

 

Discography:

Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, 1939-1945 (1996, Document Records (Austria) DOCD 5499 vol.1, DOCD 5500 vol.2) ;The best of Jubilee Gospel . Heaven Belongs to You ( 1999, Westside (UK) WESM 588); Selah Gospel Train,1945-49 ( 1999, P-Vine Records (Japan) PCD-5547.

 

 

THE STARS OF FAITH

Williams, Marion ( August 29,1927, Miami, FL – July 2, 1994)

The group was formed in 1958 when Marion Williams and Henrietta Waddy quit the *Ward Singers after an argument about their fees and salary with the manager, Mrs Gertrude Ward . Williams contacted other members of the Ward Singers like Kitty Parham, Frances Steadman and Esther Ford who agreed to become members of the group she was organizing and The Stars of Faith were born. Ford was quickly replaced by Mattie Harper but would return on several occasions (1973).

Marion Williams was born in Miami , Florida and brought up in a Pentecostal church.

She developed her taste for shout songs at fast tempo and her unique talent to climb and stay easily into the highest of the soprano register then to drop to the bottom of it and deliver growls like sanctified preachers. In 1947, she joined the Clara Ward Singers in Philadelphia and was a driving wheel for the group who had hits, packed houses and won a lot of money, partly thanks to Marion. Henrietta Waddy (b.1902- d. 1981) was born in South Carolina, she had a rough, unsophisticated alto that blended perfectly with her partners’ voices in the Ward Singers then in the Stars of Faith. Kitty Parham ( b.Trenton, NJ. 1931; d. 3 July 2003 ) grew up in the Church of God in Christ and was a leading soprano soloist in that denomination. She was a welcome addition to the Stars. Esther Ford (b. Detroit,MI,1925) was also a C.O.G.I.C. singer and an associate of Mattie Moss *Clark before coming to the Stars. Her Soprano and her multi-octave range highlighted more than one songs of the Stars. Mattie Dozier Harper (b.1934) was a member of the Sallie *Jenkins Singers and recorded with Alex *Bradford before joining the Stars; her mezzo-soprano tones could change into growls and hollers on command, she did well with the Stars of Faith.

In 1961, the Stars had the honour to appear on Broadway in Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity and in 1962 this show toured Europe several times with the Stars, Alex Bradford and Princess *Steward and became the sensation.

Frances Steadman (b. Greensboro, N.C. 1915) lived in Baltimore and was brought up in both the Baptist and sanctified churches; she was – and stays - one of the most talented contraltos in gospel ; she sang with the *Waldo Singers, Mary Johnson Davis Singers, Clara Ward Specials and the Ward Singers before joining the Stars and she became the leader of the group when Marion Williams quit to start a solo career in the early 1970s; Frances’ daughter, Sadie Frances Keys (b. 1933) is also a member of the group like pianist and tenor Eddie Brown (ex-Famous *Davis Sisters). They toured Europe on an annual basis, appearing at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1983) , in churches and auditoriums and recording for Black & Blue and Ebony Records.

In 1995 the surviving Ward Singers were reunited for one concert with Steadman, Parham, Ford and Willa Ward . In the meantime, the Stars occasionally sang back-up for Marion Williams and they go on touring the USA and Europe, regularly.

 

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Heilbut, Tony. "Queens of Negro Spirituals and Gospel". Jazz 75 (Switzerland) no.6 (December 1975):15-18.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

Marion Williams. O Holy Night (1993, Savoy SCD14032); Marion Williams. My Soul Looks Back, (1994, Shanachie/Spirit Feel 6011); The Best of the Stars of Faith . In The Spirit (1995, Nashboro NASH4519-2); The Stars of Faith Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Glory Glory Hallelujah (1990, Black & Blue (France) 59.186 2)

 

THE SWANEE QUINTET

The "Suwannees" was first a gospel trio formed in Augusta, Georgia by Charlie Barnwell, Rufus Washington and William "Pee Wee" Crawford in the mid-1940s . The became the Swanee Quintet when they added two other members, James "Big Red" Anderson and Reuben W.Willingham on lead vocals in 1945 while Crawford concentrated on his guitar playing that became the trademark of the group, very popular in Georgia and South Carolina. Like the *Harmonizing Four, they stayed an example of the downhome unaffected quartet singing, keeping the same membership for decades and unlike most groups who gained popularity in gospel, the Swanee Quintet always kept Augusta as their home base, cultivating their rural sound.

Like many groups, they were featured daily on a local radio program in Atlanta to spread the gospel message and, most of all, to advertise their singing in churches and performances in auditoriums ; they did it with much success for ten years during which time they won the Golden Cup Award for seven consecutive years and that’s how they came to the attention of Nashboro Records and recorded their first session in December 1951; the success was moderate and they had to wait until March 1956 to enter the Nashboro recording studios again ; twenty songs were recorded and issued on singles, one of which, Sit Down Servant, scoring a big hit on the gospel market with Crawford’s bluesy guitar riffs, Willingham ‘s preaching and singing and the background vocals of Anderson, Barnwell, Washington , a dream team bound to enlighten the Swanee Quintet’s recordings of more than thirty years of presence on the gospel highway. A big move happened in October 1956 when the quintet became a sextet (without change of name) by the addition of a second lead singer, ‘Little’ Johnny Jones , his light tenor was a welcome contrast to Willingham’s harsh admonitions and personal testimonies appealing to his audiences because of the references to black people’s general experience of hard times in poetic phrases. Jones, influenced by Sam *Cooke, could break effortlessly from his tenor solos into melodious falsettos contrasting with Willingham’s growls and baritone. Between October 1956 and 1964, the group recorded forty four songs issued on singles, they were sometimes accompanied by piano, organ, bass and drums , but unobtrusively ; every one of the singles met a great popular success in black communities and the Swanee Quintet became one of the most celebrated groups in the South , appearing at the Apollo Theatre in New York in 1955 and stealing the show, in the Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1957 and touring extensively into forty four states, with a motto: "We put God in everything we do". The best examples of Jones and Willingham ‘s empathy and fascinating complicity from this period are probably "New walk" and "Lowly Jesus" both on the same single (Nashboro 653) but nearly each of the other songs is worth a mention and commendations.

As the years were passing by, there was little change to the Swanees’ personnel and sound, they stayed with Nashboro, keeping up with musical fashion, sounding secular at times (in a bluesy "The fire keeps a-burning" for instance) or even pop (in "Just one more time" and "Holy Ghost Got me"). Willingham went on giving out with heavy calls to salvation and Jones continued to combine sweetness with power, occasionally preaching or testifying .

In 1964, they recorded the first album of a long series for Nashboro and Creed Records and in 1966, they sang hard Gospel songs with the James Brown Road Show; Brown even produced a session for the Swanees in May 1966 with his band’s brass section, issued on Federal Records . Shortly after that session, Willingham left the group to enter the ministry and perform as a solo singer for Nashboro, although on his first recordings in 1969, he used the Swanee Quintet as a backing group. Johnny Jones also left to try an unsuccessful and short pop career and he came back to the Swanees, from time to time.

The new leads were Percy Griffin and Clarence Murray, two other tremendous vocalists who kept the group in the fore in modern gospel but times were changing and the advent of contemporary gospel in the 1970s put a virtual end to the Swanee Quintet musical activities .

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

What About Me? – Anniversary Album, (1992, Ace Records (UK) CDCHD 432)

The Reverend Willingham Collection, (1995, Nashboro NASH4622 2).

 

WALKER , Albertina (Tina)

b. 1930, Chicago, IL

One of the finest gospel singer of all times, Walker began singing at West Point Baptist Church when she was eleven. In 1947, she joined the Gospel Caravan, a group led by Robert *Anderson ; in 1952, she organized her own Caravans with other members of the Anderson’s

group : Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey and Nellie Grace Daniels. The Caravans that were, from the beginning, one of the best female group of their time, bound to produce more gospel superstars than any other group or choir, recorded a dozen songs for States Records in 1952 and 1953 bearing witness to close, earthy harmony, percussive attacks and precise rhythm ; Walker was the only soloist in the original group and it was the beauty of her voice, a throaty contralto, her sincerity and her singing style that drew attention.

By 1953 and with the addition of Bessie *Griffin (b.1927 New Orleans, La ; d.1990), the Caravans began a long association with Gospel /Savoy Records (while still recording for States) and to change into an ensemble of soloists ; Griffin ‘s light contralto was fluid, she sustained tones for long periods, inserting growls, pitch, embellishments and singing for long periods of time. She left the Caravans in 1954 to start a successful solo career. She was replaced by Cassietta *George (b. 1928, Memphis, Tennessee) whose clear, thin but huge voice astounded the audiences; she also composed more than 25 songs while with the Caravans. Gloria Griffin and James *Cleveland joined the Caravans the same year while Dorothy *Norwood (b. Atlanta, 1930), the master storyteller, and Imogene Green (b.1931,Chicago) joined in 1956. Norwood’s alto, capable of great warmth, graced a lot of songs but she left in the late 1950s to go solo and to the superstardom she is enjoying in the 2000s. In 1957, James Cleveland, pianist and arranger for the Caravans persuaded Inez *Andrews (b. 1929 Birmingham, Alabama) to come and join the group; she was a singer with a preacher tone, a metallic contralto and a slow, majestic delivery contrasting with the light alto/ mezzo soprano with a rapid vibrato of Shirley *Caesar (Baby Shirley, b. 1938, Durham, N.C.) also new to the Caravans and whose extensive range and preacher delivery, dramatization of songs and intense activity on stage ( she could run up and down the aisles on tunes with ‘run’ in the lyrics, mimic sweeping on " Sweeping through the city") could energize and unleash an audience’s passion and enthusiasm. An Evangeslist since 1961, Shirley Caesar left in 1966 to organize her own groups, choirs and to become the most popular gospel singer and Evangelist of the 1990s and 2000s.

From December 1962 to the late 1970, Albertina Walker and The Caravans recorded copiously for Vee Jay, Gospel/Savoy and Hob Records, then, in the 1980s, Albertina Walker started a very successful solo career skilfully blending traditional and contemporary gospel , according to her audiences. She was named an honorary member of the famed *Fisk Jubilee Singers by the President of the Nashville University. She performed all over the USA, Canada, Europe and the Carribean Islands, she received countless honors and awards including nine Grammy Nominations and she is a favourite of the media and the show business, appearing in movies, like Save the Children and Leap of Time, or off-Broadway productions ( The Gospel Truth) , hosting radio and television programs and recording regularly for Benson Records , she still is a vital force in gospel music.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Sacre, Robert. "Albertina Walker". Blues Gazette (B) issue 3 (Summer 1996):20

Discography :

The Best of the Caravans, (1977, Savoy SCD7012); The Caravans ( 1993, Vee Jay NVG2-608); Albertina Walker. You Believed in me, (1990, Benson CD02673); He Keeps on Blessing Me (1993, Benson S1416-1001-2); Let’s Go Back : Live in Chicago (1996, Benson 84418 4234 2)

 

WASHINGTON Ernestine

"The Songbird of the East", "Little Momma"

b. 1914, Little Rock, Arkansas ; d. July 1983, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ernestine Beatrice Thomas Washington started singing at age four. Her mother was a popular sanctified singer in the Little Rock black community. A friend of Rosetta *Tharpe, Ernestine completed high school in Little Rock and was engaged in domestic work while still singing in church. At the annual Conventions of the Church of God in Christ she met and married the Reverend Frederick D. Washington (1913- 1988) who travelled with his wife to Montclair, New Jersey, where he founded the Trinity Temple Church of God in Christ and where Ernestine developed her reputation of soloist and vocalist strongly influenced by Arizona *Dranes : high-pitched mezzo soprano/alto voice with a fast vibrato, at range extremes (upper and lower), setting a rhythm to fit the text and mood of the song, a great sense of melody and rhythm and percussive attacks . In the early 1940s they moved to Brooklyn, New York where Washington founded the Brooklyn Church of God in Christ, named the Washington Temple in 1951 in his honor and where he pastored until his death, also serving as Auxiliary Bishop of the Jurisdiction of New York. Ernestine first recorded in 1943 (four songs for Regis/ Manor/ Arco) and two tracks in 1944 with The *Dixie Humming Birds (same labels).

By 1946, the Reverend Washington had become a fixture in Brooklyn, one of the most respected ministers in the C.O.G.I.C. and Madam(e) Ernestine B. Washington, or the "Songbird of the East", as she was called then, was the featured soloist of the denomination on all official days and the gospel queen of the Washington Temple C.O.G.I.C., a beautifully remodelled theatre with a large, middle- and upper-class and very devout congregation, plenty of instruments (organ, piano, guitars, drums, percussions) and six big choirs . At the annual November convocation of the Church of God in Christ in Memphis, it was Ernestine’s pride to sing the solo before the sermon of the presiding bishop. Yet, she recorded in 1946 with the legendary William Geary "Bunk" Johnson and his New Orleans style jazz band (four songs, Jubilee/Disc Records) ; working with secular musicians was generally subject to the contempt of the church membership but this time, the people of her church somehow felt complimented that a jazz star was called upon to accompany one of their own . She made more records for Manor Records with the* Heavenly Gospel Singers (1946 ), the* Southern Sons (1947) and her singers and/or Reverend Frederick D.Washington (1947-48) ; also with the Milleraires in 1954 (Groove) and her first album, in 1958, showed her in her best sanctified style, with the Congregation of Washington Temple C.O.G.I.C: accompanied by her longtime pianist and organist Alfred Miller and the members of her church choir, she gave way to the full power of her voice and the style that made her famous . This type of performance brought her fame as she toured throughout the Unites States and abroad (1958-59). At that time, she recorded a last album for Delden Records with the Celestial Choir directed by Professor Henry O.Coston before devoting the rest of her life to her church and her choirs. At her death, she was mourned in two crowded services at Washington Temple, complete with all the dignitaries of the C.O.G.I.C.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985. 

Discography:

Sister Ernestine Washington, in Chronological Order 1943-48, (1996, Document Records, Austria, DOCD-5462)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Articles/ CD reviews/…

Gospel Tent -  N.O.  Jazz & Heritage GFest  2006     JB 62,57

MARYLAND  GOSPEL     JB 64 , 48

MOUNT  CALVARY BAPTIST GOSPEL CELEBRATION ,  Maryland 2008      JB 66, 53

NEW  ORLEANS  GOSPEL  2009        JB 68, 51

SOUTH  CAROLINA  GOSPEL QUARTETS AWARDS       JB  62, 58

 

..\..\26th Chicago Annual Gospel Music Festival.doc (Gospel Fest’ Chicago June 2010)

..\..\ABS.THE  VICTORY  TRAVELERS.doc

 ..\..\JAY  T.Clinkscales.rtf

 ..\..\Mr. OFFE  REESE.doc

 ..\..\THE FIVE BLIND BOYS OF MISSISSIPPI.rtf (discography)

 

AUDIO   CLIPS  mp³

..\..\..\Biblettes of New Jersey - All Through These Years.mp3

..\..\..\Cincinnati Goldenaires - Gone The Last Mile.mp3

..\..\..\Flying Clouds of Augusta,GA - Don't Let The Devil Ride (Pitch162).mp3

..\..\..\Gerald Sisters - Soon One Morning (HSE LP 1433).mp3

..\..\..\Jackson Golden Aires - So Hard To Say Goodbye (D-Vine 212).mp3

..\..\..\Singing Corinthians of Los Angeles - Sweet Home (Proverb 1005).mp3

..\..\..\Southern Faith Singers - Trouble In My Way (Jewel 131).mp3

..\..\..\Supreme Angels - Soon I Will Be Done (Nashboro LP7195).mp3

..\..\..\Swan Mellarks - A Tribute To Dr. Martin Luther King.mp3

..\..\..\Sweet Singing Cavaliers - There Is No Failure In God (Savoy LP14544).mp3

..\..\..\Wondering Souls of Ohio - You Need Jesus In Your Life (RejoiceLP3107).mp3

..\..\..\Music\FunkForSinnersMix.mp3

 

 

GOSPEL   ARTISTS  AND  GROUPS                    BIOGRAPHIES

ENCYCLOPEDIA        copyright: Robert SACRE

ANDERSON, Robert

b. Chicago, 1919 ; d. Chicago, June 1995

Anderson began singing in church as a boy and in the early 1930s he was one of the first members of the Roberta *Martin Singers considered as the best mixed (male-female) gospel group of the time in Chicago thanks to Roberta Martin’s gift for writing lyrical songs , she was also a great piano player. Anderson was probably her best singer but he was also ambitious and in 1939, he left the group and began singing duets with R.L.Knowles, a Kansas City singer who was appointed the lead singer of The First Church of Deliverance, the famous Spiritualist church of Chicago led at the time by the flamboyant Reverend Clarence Cobbs. Knowles and Anderson are credited with bringing the "ad-lib" style to church singing with jazz-influenced runs, free spirited melisma, influences of secular music whether pop, blues or swing. Anderson was even called the "Bing Crosby of gospel" because he was crooning and delivered an effortless phrasing; he also had a great sense of timing. Knowles and Anderson successfully toured California and Anderson once told he even played a small role in "Gone with the Wind"! He came back in Chicago to open a music studio, ‘The Good Shepherd’, where he instructed singers and musicians, publishing also his own compositions . In 1943 he stole the show at the National Baptist Convention with his own rendition of his song "Something within". In 1946 he made a tour of the South and he sang on the radio in Birmingham, Alabama, with a tremendous success.

Back in Chicago, he formed his own group modelled on Roberta Martin’s but he hired only female singers, the best he could find in Chicago and in Gary, Indiana.

First, he called them the Good Shepherd Singers (like his studio) then The Gospel Caravans

By the time he recorded for United Records, the group was composed of Albertina *Walker, Elyse Yancey, Ora Lee Hopkins and Nellie Grace Daniels . It was a very strong ensemble whose only rivals were The *Ward Singers and the *Davis Sisters in Philadelphia. Each member could lead and they influenced many groups and singers like Dorothy Love Coates and her *Gospel Harmonettes, James *Cleveland who played piano some years with Anderson, quartet leads like Sam *Cooke, Johnnie *Taylor, Lou *Rawls, etc…who were trained by him and carried Anderson style into pop music. He started a long friendship with Mahalia *Jackson who sang a lot of his compositions. In April 1952, he left The *Caravans and Albertina Walker became the group’s manager, leading it to stardom. Anderson spent some years leading successfully a male group but his popularity declined with the rise of Contemporary Gospel and he worked for a florist . In the 1980s he recorded for Spirit Feel. In early 1995 he entered the hospital for a by-pass operation. It failed because he also had diabetes, he suffered a stroke and some months later, in June 1995, he died , the funeral was held at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church whose choir he had once conducted.

(505)

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995.

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography :

Working the Road-The Golden Age of Chicago Gospel , (1997, Delmark CD 702); The Great Gospel Men , (1993, Shanachie/Spirit Feel (USA) CD 6005).

 

BASS, Martha (Martha Carter Bass Peaston)

b. 1921, Arkansas ; d. 21 September 1998, Saint Louis, MO

Martha Bass’ family moved to Saint Louis when she was two years old and Martha joined the Pleasant Green Baptist Church at an early age under the leadership of Pastor Reverend G.H. Pruitt . Influenced by the National Baptist Conventions, she started to read the Bible and to sing in the choir with a dark, powerful contralto and, from the beginning, was outstandingly good, like her own mother, Nevada Carter. She was chosen by Willie Mae Ford *Smith to perform in her back-up group and of all Smith’s female pupils, Bass came closest to duplicate her vocal power and resonance, even if Martha’s idol was Mahalia *Jackson. Trained and obviously inspired by her mentor, she was known as a "house shouter" with bluesy accents because of her ability to rouse a church into pandemonium . That is how she had a short stay of about three or four years with Clara *Ward and the Ward Singers; she recorded with them for Savoy in 1950 and her version of Wasn’it it a Pity How they Punished my Lord was a huge hit; about the same time, her family and entourage organized a private recording session and two songs were issued on the Bass label. But then she got married and with two sons and a baby girl – later to be the famous soul singer Fontella Bass, married to Lester Bowie the leader of the Chicago Art Ensemble – , Martha chose to raise her family, staying at home and returning to the Pleasant Green Choir. However she stayed in touch with the Ward Singers and in 1963 she was hired as sales manager of a music store the Wards opened to sell printed music, songbooks, records and greeting cards, the shop was closed two years later and in 1966 with plenty of free time again and eager to testify her faith and her love of God, Bass thought it was time to make new records under her own name ; she ‘advertised’ herself and she was well received in Chicago by Checker Records, her first album in March 1966 was entitled I’m so grateful with strong tracks like I do, don’t you and What Manner of Man is this and her daughter Fontella claimed she was playing piano and singing in the backing group, it was a sizeable hit in the Middle East and it led to new albums on Checker, Rescue Me, in 1968, with, among other great songs, In Times like These and Now That I Found the Lord and in 1969 , a tribute to her idol, Martha Sings Mahalia Jackson , her own favourite, a tribute that was not a servile copy of the model but a personal testimony to the greatest of the gospel singers ever. In 1972, she recorded her last album for Checker, It’s Another Day’s Journey" and after that, Martha, who never sang but church songs, toured some time with her mother Nevada and with her daughter Fontella, also in Europe in the 1980s as ‘From the Roots to the Source’ but from the late 1980s until her death in 1998, she was satisfied to be her daughter’s best supporter and she helped her career any way she could until Selah Records gave the whole family – Martha, Nevada and Fontella- an opportunity to make a record altogether in 1990, with Fontella’s brother and special guest David Peaston ( "A Family Portrait of Faith").

With Willie Mae Ford Smith and Cleophus *Robinson, Martha Bass will stay as one of the best gospel singers ever to come out of Saint Louis, Missouri. Unhappily, she was sadly under-recorded.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Ward-Royster, Willa and Toni Rose, How I Got Over. Clara Ward and the World-Famous Ward Singers. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1997.

Wilmer, Val . Martha Bass, interview, The Wire (U.K.) 1985

Discography:

None but the Righteous . Chess Gospel Greats, (1992, Chess CHD 9336); Gospel Sisters and Divas 1943-51, (2002, Frémeaux et Associés (Fr.) FA5053, 2 CD-box) ; Mother Smith and Her Children, (1989, Spirit Feel CD1010) ; From the Root to the Source, (1980, Soul Note LP SN1006); A Family Portrait of Faith, (1990, Selah Records SLD7506)

 

THE BLUE JAY SINGERS ( Famous Blue Jay Singers of Birmingham, Alabama ; Blue Jay Gospel Singers)

Silas Steele (b. 1913, Brighton, AL) (lead)

Members: James "Jimmie" Hollingsworth (tenor);Charles Beal (baritone);Charles Bridges (lead vo);Willie Rose (lead);Dave Davney ( second tenor, lead);Clarence ‘Tooter’ Parnell, Nathaniel Edmonds (bass); Leandrew Woffard (or Wauford) (bass)

The group was formed by Silas Steele , c. 1925-26, in Jefferson County, Alabama where the members developed their specific skills . It was a fertile territory for Jubilee Quartets, as they were called at that time. Steele joined forces with Clarence Parnell, a former bass singer with the Pilgrim Singers, another local quartet, to form the Blue Jay Singers. Parnell had already gained local celebrity as a quartet singer and Steele, a young baritone and the younger brother of James ‘Jimmie’ Steele, leader of the Woodwards Big Four Quartet, was beginning to gain a reputation as an outstanding soloist in his church choir. Parnell and Steele ‘stole’ James "Jimmie" Hollingsworth, tenor, and Charlie Beal, bass, from the *Dunham Jubilee Singers - a tradition in gospel quartets - to form their group. Within a very short time, the Blue Jays featuring young Silas as the lead ( he was only 13 when he joined the group) were the biggest rivals of the *Birmingham Jubilee singers. Because Steele had extraordinary charisma and began to adopt the preaching style of singing introduced by the sanctified singers, the Jays usually "took the program" when they appeared on the same bill with the Birmingham Jubilee Singers. Their style was one that would influence gospel quartets for the next fifty years : according to Horace Clarence Boyer, "they celebrated the beauty and character of the natural male voice with its low sounds and brassy but warm timbre"; they sang with the power of the African American Baptist and Pentecostal preachers. "They celebrated the African American tendency of gathering resonance from the fatty tissues of the mouth rather than placing the tone close to the bridge of the nose and they were not afraid to celebrate the body in their rhythmic accompaniment to their singing". These are the qualities that they brought to their first recordings in 1931, a Dorsey song, the first ever recorded by a quartet ( "If you see my savior"). At the same time, the gospel quartet movement had spread to Dallas, TX and the Blue Jays began to divide their time between Dallas and Birmingham. On one of their trips home, they recruited Charles Bridges, former lead singer of the Birmingham Jubilee Singers. He agreed because his group had become inactive since the death of Dave Ausbrooks, their baritone singer. Bridges felt that they would find no suitable replacement to revive the group and, with Bridges, the Jays became one of the most popular quartets of their time.

Their original double lead swinging technique involving both Silas Steele and Charles Bridges in their recordings of 1947 are perfect examples of the popular Jays’ style of the time. While in Texas, the Jays became close friends and frequent performers with the *Soul Stirrers that they had influenced in the early 1930s but had been surpassed in popularity within a few years. They followed the Soul Stirrers to Chicago in the mis-1940s. After settling in Chicago and seeing the rise of dozens of gospel quartets, Steele adopted the sanctified preaching style of talking through a song which later became known as the ‘sermonette’ before or during a song performance . His preacher shouts became legendary and marked a clear break with their original style of sweet singing in the jubilee style and a pronounced entry into gospel. They were one of the first quartets outside the Tidewater gospel quartets like the *Golden Gates, the *Silver Leafs, the *Harmonizing Four and others,… to employ the "clank-a-lank" response as a rhythmic and syllabic accompaniment to a solo lead.

The Blue Jays had success until the early 1950s but, by the late 1940s, other groups had surpassed them in innovation and popularity, causing Steele to seek more current and fertile ground for his talent and in 1948, Silas Steele decided to leave Chicago and he dropped out of the Famous Blue Jays Singers to join the *Spirit of Memphis Quartet and to start a new career, the Blue Jays were forced to go on without their number one soloist and this of course was a hard blow to their fortunes. For several years, the group continued to tour and to record - now with Charles Bridges and Willie Rose sharing the leads - for Blue Bonnet, Decca and Trumpet before going out of the scene in the early 1950s. Nevertheless The Blue Jay Singers will stay as one of the most important and original gospel group in the history of African American religious music.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

 

Discography:

Vocal Quartets, volume 2 , 1929-32 (1997, Document Records ,Austria, DOCD-5538) ; Going on Home to Glory. Trumpet Gospel Anthology. (1991, P-Vine Records (Japan) PCD-2187.

 

ThE DAVIS SISTERS

Thelma ( 1930 -1963), Ruth (1928-1970), Audrey (1931-1982), and Alfreda (1935-1989) Davis. Imogene Green ( 1930– 1986)

Curtis Dublin, piano (1928 - 1965)

The family group was organized in 1945 and quickly became one of the most famous and most outstanding group of gospel singers in existence.

Hailing from Philadelphia, the group was led by Ruth Davis ( a.k.a. ‘The Big Maybelle of Gospel Music’ and ‘Baby Sister’) whose contralto was deep, powerful, almost manly and moving. She was idolized by many singers like Aretha *Franklin and Mavis *Staples . Thelma and Audrey sang soprano and Alfreda second contralto. Thelma also helped with the sermonettes ( spoken narratives conveying the Bible’s messages) and pianist Curtis Dublin – a cousin of the Davis- served occasionally as co-lead in the group; after his death in 1965 he was replaced by Eddie Brown, Evangelist Rosie* Wallace’s husband.

The Davis Sisters were members of a Pentecostal sect called Fire Baptized founded in 1908 in Atlanta, Georgia and the Davis family was one of the first members of the Mount Zion Fire Baptized Holiness Church in Philadelphia after its founding in the late 1910s. Of course, the young women sang in their church, inspired by their parents’ practice of down home countrified Southern church singing ; a young Ruth Davis served as a WAC during World War II and in 1945 she organized her group, she was only seventeen at that time, Thelma was fifteen, Audrey was fourteen and Alfreda was only ten! After establishing a reputation as "house rockers" in their area, they made their official debut in 1946 at their parents’ home in Port Deposit, Maryland and then, with parental blessing, they followed the Pentecostal circuit, performing in churches and schools.

Gospel talents were plenty in Philadelphia during the late 1940s and the 1950s with the *Angelic Gospel Singers, the *Ward Singers and many more. Gertrude Ward, Clara’s mother, took the Davis Sisters under her wing, guided them, taught them courage and instilled performance skills. During the spring of 1949, she also introduced the group to Ivin Ballen of Gotham Records and he signed them to a 3-year contract . But the Davis Sisters’ first two-known records were issued on Ballen’s Apex subsidiary label in 1949 they were accompanied by their cousin, Curtis Dublin whose piano style was between the sanctified church and the nightclub, with occasional jazz riffs. The following session, in 1950, took place in the Gotham studios in Philadelphia and alto singer Imogene Greene, an outsider from Chicago, joined the group to add depth and excitement to the group’s performance which she did. She was reluctant, however, to assume lead in the Gotham studios until the summer of 1952 when she headed up "Bye and Bye" which became the group’s first hit record. Before that, in 1951 the *Gay Sisters had organized a concert package at the Atlanta Auditorium to promote their own hit ("God will take care of you") and the Davis Sisters who were a part of the program tore up the place and stole the show, they did it again in New York in 1953 when they appeared before a full capacity audience on Joe Bostic’s Fourth Annual Negro gospel and Religious Musical Festival at Carnegie Hall.

All in all, some thirty sides were issued on Gotham between 1950 and 1953, some with organist Herman Stevens. Many songs of the Davis Sisters were taken directly from the church services they attended and experienced while growing up but they were familiar, however with other music (Ruth was inspired by Dinah Washington) and famous gospel composers like Lucie *Campbell, Kenneth *Morris or gospel artists like Ira *Tucker and Alex *Bradford whose "Too close to Heaven" was the Davis Sisters second big hit in 1953.

With Baby Sis’ in the lead, the Davis Sisters emerged as the first female group to sing "hard" gospel which appeared in the early 1950s and was totally different from the Baptist style of singing which emphasized beauty of tone, precise rhythm and occasional ornamentation

while hard gospel is characterized by straining the voice during periods of spiritual ecstasy, singing at the extremes of ranges, repeating words or syllables, adding lots of interjections and "acting out" songs with motions, stoops and movements.

In 1955 the group moved to Savoy Records, adding Jackie Verdell to the crew to replace Imogene Greene who came back later, in 1960.

From their first recording for Savoy (Twelve Gates to the City) to the 1970s, they added hits to hits and the group became a force in gospel music, performing exclusively in churches and auditoriums ; their combination was devastating and for years they were "The Queens of the Gospel Highway". Unhappily they were ill-fated, Thelma died in 1956, removing the group’s spiritual centre, Dublin died in 1965, Ruth in 1970,Imogene in 1986 and Alfreda , three years later. Their deaths were considered tragic losses in the African American church community.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

Davis Sisters 1949-52 (2003, Heritage (UK) HTCD47.

 

THE GAY SISTERS

Evelyn ( 1924 - 1984), Mildred (Millie) Gay-Chison (1926–28 Feb.2003) , Geraldine Gay-Hambric (1931- )

 

The Gay family hailed from Georgia. They moved to Chicago just after World War One . Jerry Gay, the father, ran two second hand furniture stores and Fanny Parthenia Barnes, the mother, directed a choir at Elder Lucy Smith’s All Nations Pentecostal Church on W. 30th street . Fanny was a major influence on her children : soon after World War Two, she organized her three daughters into a singing group and had them schooled in harmony until they were ready to perform in public; Evelyn (alto, contralto) and Geraldine (tenor) had studied piano at an early age and for all her talent, Geraldine became known later as "the Erroll Garner of gospel". Evelyn and Mildred (tenor) began singing as a duet with Evelyn also playing piano. One of their first engagements was in New York and that’s how they befriended Professor James Earl *Hines from Cleveland who was directing a choir out of the Trinity Baptist Church in Brooklyn when they met. He encouraged the Gay Sisters to seek their fortunes out on the West Coast . In 1948, the Gay Sisters with Fanny serving both as manager and chaperone travelled out to Los Angeles and attended both The Baptist Alliance and Ministerial Alliance meetings where ministers could choose artists to feature on their church music programs. The Gays were regularly chosen and that is how they were introduced to John Dolphin of Recorded-In-Hollywood Records; they recorded their first record in late 1949, but it was not successful and by the summer of 1950, the Gays were back in Chicago, seeking a label to record them. They tried Apollo Records in New York then Gotham Records in Philadelphia, without success .But three months later, their luck changed: they were playing a church in Brooklyn and they were introduced to Herman Lubinsky of Savoy Records in Newark ; they signed a contract in March 1951 and recorded four songs with Herman Stevens on organ ; the first single broke into the charts and the Gay Sisters started to appear at major venues. At that time, the Gays had built a repertoire of intense Baptist and Dr.Watts hymns and sanctified shouts "right out of the 1920s" (Tony Heilbut). Evelyn wrote most of the scores and the group played it straight and refused to let gimmicks and fancy showmanship get in the way of their act ; they accepted however to wear colourful robes and to sport fancy hair-dos. More Savoy sessions followed in May and in July 1951 and the Gays played Carnegie Hall and toured Texas and California.

In early 1955, Evelyn was introduced to Decca Records and the sisters with their mother Fanny Parthenia and brother Preacher Gregory Donald recorded a long session in the Decca studios but one single only was released in March and, poorly promoted, did not get attention. Throughout the mid-fifties, a lot of people tried to lure Evelyn away from her sisters and she was encouraged to lead her own group but it was not successful even if she became a regular on radio programs and in the early 1960s, the reunited Gay Sisters recorded vanity recordings on Evelyn’s own P.E.A. label and toured occasionally. Then Evelyn formed a group called The Pilgrim Outlets and recorded a single for Faith. In 1966, Geraldine and Gregory Donald, labelled as the Gay Singers recorded for Chess Records in Chicago but only one single ever surfaced. The Gay Sisters’ last major gig was an appearance at the 1976 Bicentennial celebration at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

After Evelyn’s death, Mildred stayed in the show business, fronting a Dixieland band in the early 1990s and recording gospel songs for Tony Heilbut and Spirit Feel Records in 1993.

In June and July 2004, Geraldine Gay, the last of the Gay Sisters still alive, recorded for The Sirens Records, in Chicago; she played her jazz-influenced piano to accompany her singing brother Pastor Donald and her nephew Gregory Jr.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Nations, Opal Louis. « The Gay Sisters ». Blues Gazette (Belgium) issue 3 (Summer 1996): 18-19 ; Sacre, Robert. "The Gay Sisters". Blues Gazette (B.) issue 3 (Summer 1996):22

Discography

The Soul of Chicago, (1993, Shanachie/Spirit Feel CD 6008); In the Right Hands . Chicago Gospel Keyboard Pioneers, (2004, The Sirens Records SR-5010).

 

THE HARMONIZING FOUR

The quartet was formed by four students at the Dunbar Elementary School in south Richmond, Virginia on September 1927; they rehearsed at the home of John T.Scott, first and tenor singer, with Joe Curby, second tenor, Lawrence Hatcher, baritone and Willie Peyton, bass; all of them were already singing in local churches choirs. Music teacher Lawrence Langhorne, a friend of Scott’s became the group’s first manager. After much practice, the name of the group was chosen as The Harmonizing Four and they sang regularly at Dunbar, at the start of each school day especially. By 1930, Curby had left the group to join The Heavenly Choir and he was replaced by Leon Gibson who left in 1932 and was replaced himself by Thomas "Tommy" ("Goat") Johnson. Joseph "Gospel Joe" Williams (baritone / alto soloist b.1916, Richmond, VA) joined the group in 1933 and by the mid-1930s, Peyton had been replaced by Levi Hansley .

The group specialized in close harmony singing, Negro spirituals and hymns with precise attack and releases and a smooth sound which gained considerable attention in their area and for sixteen years they sang hymns and spirituals a capella, always impeccably dressed, conservative in style and image and they won the trust and respect of church folk.

"Gospel Joe" Williams who claimed his main influence was Glen T.Settle ( *Wings over Jordan Choir) became the new manager and the leader of the group. John T.Scott , the last founder member, left and was replaced by guitarist/pianist/arranger Lonnie Smith before the group’s first recording session that took place in New York in June 1943 for Decca, they were billed as the Richmond’s Harmonizing Four and cut eight smooth polished songs. Then they headed to Richmond where they obtained a regular radio slot on WRNL, drawing more listeners to the station. The quartet continued touring appearing at the National Baptist Convention in Atlanta in 1944 and singing to an audience of 40.000 souls, then they spent several weeks in San Antonio, Texas. Their notoriety went higher and higher and the quartet was invited to the White House to sing at the funeral ceremony following President Roosevelt’s death in April 1945. Vance Joyner quit in 1946 but soon after, the group was recording again : four sides for Religious Recording in Chicago (1947) as "The Richmond Harmonizers of Richmond" (sic) , 4 sides for Coleman (1948), 2 sides for MGM (1949), with moderate success. In July 1951 the wedding ceremony of Sister Rosetta *Tharpe to Russell Morrison at the Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. was recorded live and issued on an album, the Harmonizing Four had been invited and rendered four songs. At the same time, the group had been signed by Gotham Records in Philadelphia and more than forty songs were recorded and issued between 1950 and 1956, with new changes in the composition of the group: Levi Hansley quit in 1953 and was replaced first by James Walker (tenor) for a few months only –he joined the *Dixie Humming Birds- then by Clarence Ross (bass); Tommy Ellison also came in 1955 and settled with the group, but briefly, like Jimmy Jones (bass) who came to replace Ross but left after a couple of memorable recordings and Ross came back .

In 1957 the group (with Johnny Jones again) signed with Vee Jay Records in Chicago and definitively went up to stardom with their spiritual and hymn singing gaining global acclaim.

All their Vee Jay singles and albums ( some 60 songs) sold very well from 1957 till 1967, despite more changes of personnel and new trends in the tastes of their public: by 1962 Smith had to hang up his acoustic guitar and was replaced by a long series of young male electric players (Sterling Holloman, Jesse Pryor, Clement Burnett…) ; at that time they switched to Atlantic Records (1967-68) then to King Records (1969) , Chess Records (1972),

Jewel (late 1970s) and a variety of labels. The 1990s line-up, its older participants engaged in semi-retirement or dead ( Jimmy Jones died in 1991) consisted of Tommy Johnson, Lonnie Smith, Ellis Ellison, Eddie Green, Calvin Meekins but the group, as such, has been inactive since the mid-1990s.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

 

Discography:

Harmonizing Four 1950-55 , (1995, Heritage, U.K. HTCD 29); The Harmonizing Four, 1957

(1993, Vee Jay NVG2-604).

 

 

KNIGHT , Marie (Roach)

b. Sanford, FL, 1918,

As a child, Marie Knight came in Newark, New Jersey . Her parents were members of the Old Tabernacle Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and Marie started to sing in their sanctified choir when the was five ; she attended the COGIC conventions in Memphis and even served as secretary of the Ministerial Alliance. When she was 20, thanks to her beautiful contralto, she was already a well-known soloist in the COGIC circles with their theme song, ‘Doing all the Good we Can’ and other songs like Thomas *Dorsey’s ‘Today’ .In the early 1940s, she joined the revival team of Frances Robinson, a Philadelphia Evangelist ; around this time, in Texas, she married a COGIC minister and she started to sing on revival meetings across the country and she also worked with male quartets. She made her first recordings in 1946 for Haven Records with a capella jubilee groups like The *Sunset Four.

She formed the first female duo of the history of gospel music with Rosetta *Tharpe in 1947 and this association was incredibly popular during the nine following years. They recorded some twenty songs for Decca Records, with the swinging Sammy Price Trio. Most were hits, like ‘Didn’t it rain’, ‘Beams of Heaven, ‘Precious Memories’, etc… At the same time, she underwent personal tragedies: a fire killed her mother and her two children and she was on the verge to quit singing but then she got moral rescue from Prophetess Dolly Lewis and she perked up although the times were changing: in the 1950s, the popularity of black gospel music went down and many artists crossed over to the much more lucrative R&B market ; Marie Knight did it too, in 1954, duetting for instance with heavy-weight boxing champion Jersey J.Walcott ; it was, at best, poor R&B and, at the same time, she recorded a couple of gospel records. When her contract with Decca ran out in 1955 she was signed by Mercury Records and made better records, one foot in R&B, one foot in gospel like "Songs of the Gospel" with back up singers and guitarist Mickey Baker . From 1956 till the mid-1970s, she was a pop singer, with occasional hits, leading to international tours ( Europe, Australia,…) but, at the same time, she went on performing gospel at churches, with her friend Ernestine *Washington in New York, for instance. In 1973 she was ordained an Evangelist ; her come-back album for Blue Labor, with Louisiana Red on guitar was excellent ; on it, she sang in duo with her sister, Bernice Roach Henry on a couple of songs (Florida Storm,…), and the session was reissued on CD in 1996. At the end of the 1970s, she came back in the Savoy recording studios producing a strong gospel album.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Mary Knight worked as an Evangelist in her church, The Gates of Prayer in New York, she went on writing songs , ready to record again and to tour extensively, everywhere in the world if there was an opportunity.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Kochakian, Dan. "The Legacy of Sam Price". Whiskey,Women,And… 12/13 (December 1983):10-26.

Discography:

Today (1975), (1996, The Blues Alliance TBA-13006); Marie Knight, Hallelujah What a Song ( 1947-1951) , ( 2002, Gospel Friend Records PN 1500 ; Sweden)

 

THE ORIGINAL GOSPEL HARMONETTES

 

During the 1940 National Baptist Convention held in Birmingham, Alabama, Evelyn Starks Hardy (b.1922) a local pianist, composer and arranger who played for the convention decided to form a group with second soprano Mildred Madison Miller Howard (b.1923), second alto Odessa Glasgow Edwards (b. 18 July 1921, Birmingham, ALA ; d. 22 February 2004, Birmingham, ALA), first soprano ,Vera Conner Kolb (b.1924) and first alto Willie Mae Brooks Newberry (b.1923), they named themselves The Gospel Harmoneers, a name changed to The Lee Harmoneers when they started to tour with Georgia Lee Stafford and to The Gospel Harmonettes when, approached to sing for a half-hour weekly radio program on station WSGN, they sang on this weekly program for a year and became regional stars, touring Alabama and several East and West states. In the spring of 1949, they appeared on A.Godfrey’s "Talent Scouts" program and won a recording contract with RCA Victor. Eight songs were recorded and issued but yielded little results; however they continued to travel and to gather large audiences drawing to them the attention of gospel talent scouts working with Specialty Records, like Alex *Bradford and J.W. *Alexander and they were signed to Specialty in 1951. At that time, Dorothy McGriff Love (b. 1928) who had sung with the group on several occasions in the 1940s and a Reverend *Brewster’s disciple, became a regular member of the group that was renamed The Original Gospel Harmonettes . The first releases were hugely successful and they were followed with a string of hits spanning a five year period, Love starring from the beginning as an extraordinary soloist , a gifted songwriter, a hard gospel singer with a sanctified timbre and a preacher’s delivery and Miller proving to be another formidable singer, matching Love nuance for nuance. Their shouting style brought in a whole new era in Gospel music and their influence is still heard everywhere today. In 1953, they appeared at Carnegie Hall and in 1954, Love who by this time had married Carl Coates of the *Nightingales, recorded perhaps her finest composition, You must be born again, with Herbert ‘Pee Wee’ Pickard on piano (he was also the studio organist). The Harmonettes appeared at the Apollo Theatre, Madison Square Garden and concert halls all over the United States and the Bahamas, they recorded briefly for Andex in 1958, followed by a 4 year stint with Savoy Records (1959-1962), a single cut for Motown (1962) and a longer association with Vee Jay Records, in Chicago (1963-66); then followed an album for both Hob and Okeh (1968) before the group signed with Nashboro in 1968. At that time, the group included Dorothy Love-Coates, lead, Mildred Miller Howard, lead, Lillian McGriff (Dorothy’s sister), Cleo Kennedy and Willie Mae Newberry Garth ; they were accompanied by Reverend Charles Kemp on piano. The group disbanded in 1971 and Coates organized the Dorothy Love Coates Singers who made several tours in Europe and appeared in concert at Harvard University.

Throughout their days, the Harmonettes brought a new intensity to gospel that could only be matched by the frenzy of a sanctified shout, with dignity and elegance.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

The Best of D.L.Coates and the Original Gospel Harmonettes ( 1991, Specialty/Ace(UK) CDHD 343); Get on Board ( 1992, Specialty/Ace (UK) CDCHD412); The Original Gospel Harmonettes featuring D.L.Coates . Camp Meeting & God is Here (1993, Vee Jay CD NVG2-607); The Best of D.L.Coates & the Gospel Harmonettes (1995, Nashboro NASH4508-2).

 

 

THE MEDITATION SINGERS

The Meditations were organized by Earnestine Rundless in 1947 in Detroit out of The Voices of Meditation choir at the New Liberty Baptist Church. The group quickly became the Motor town’s most famous female gospel group with Lillian Mitchell, soprano, Carrie M. Williams, lead, Loraine Vincent, soprano and Delloreese Patricia Early ( Della Reese; b. 1932) lead and Marie Waters (Della’s sister), contralto/alto accompanied by Emory Radford , piano and James *Cleveland, piano. When Della Reese quit in 1954 to sing popular music, she was replaced by Earnestine’s daughter, Laura Lee Rundless, a teenager then, who was also bound to pursue a successful career in popular music and soul singing from 1965 on.

Between 1953 and 1959 they personified the gospel sound in Detroit and the surrounding area, introducing instrumental accompaniment where an ‘a capella’ quartet style was dominant before them.

Earnestine Rundless was born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi but was reared in Chicago. When she went to see the Soul Stirrers, she met E.A.Rundless, one of the singers, whom she

married ; soon after, her husband quit the quartet to enter the ministry and they moved to Detroit in March 1945 where Reverend Rundless was called to pastor the New Liberty Baptist Church. Grown up singing in choirs, Earnestine had a rough, emotional and strong voice and she leaned more and more toward the sanctified style of singing .

Della Reese was born in Detroit, she attended high school there and studied at Wayne State University before being recruited by Rundless ; she had been singing in church choirs since she was six years old ; she was an accomplished and experienced singer when she joined the Meditations in 1947.She left in 1954 and went into secular music, beginning a very fruitful recording career in 1955 as pop singer and actress, showing the influence of Dinah Washington (herself an ex-gospel singer).

In September 1953, The Meditation Singers made their first single in Detroit for De Luxe Records in Joe Von Battle’s studios – with James Cleveland on piano; in 1954 they were signed to Specialty Records, making the recordings in Chicago ; the sales were poor and Specialty dropped the group until 1959 when Alex *Bradford urged the company to sign them again; at that time, Laura Lee was lead/alto singer and James Cleveland was back with the group (baritone and piano), he was already known as one of the best gospel composers of his time and Specialty complied, a recording session was held in July 1959; unhappily the company was getting out of gospel in the early 1960s and it was the end of the association. The Meditations went to Hob Records and recorded three albums (1960-62), then Cleveland went his own way to glory and fame as a composer and choir leader while the Meditations recorded a gospel album with ex-member Della Reese for Jubilee Records and appeared on Reese’s television shows ; in 1962 Reese took the Meditations on a tour of colleges, auditoriums, night clubs and casinos . They travelled to Europe for a jazz festival in the late 1960s and recorded for a series of labels, including Sar, Gospel (Savoy), D-Town, Chess/Checker, and Jewel among them. The group disbanded in the early 1980s

 

Bibliography:

 

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

The Meditation Singers - Good News (1993, Specialty/Ace(UK) CDCHD465); The best of Jubilee Gospel . Heaven Belongs to You ( 1999, Westside (UK) WESM 588)

 

THE SELAH JUBILEE SINGERS

Thermon (Thurmond) Ruth (aka T.Ruth) (b. 6 March 1914, Pomaria, S.C.) lead

with Nathaniel Townsley (tenor),Monroe Clark (baritone), John Ford (lead,tenor), Clifton Antley (bass) and Andrew Antley (piano);Fred Baker (lead, guitar) , J.B.Nelson (bass), John Kaiser (baritone);Melvin Coltden (baritone), Norman "Crip" Harris ( tenor).

This group recorded secular music under the name of the Larks.

T. Ruth’s family moved from South Carolina to Brooklyn, N.Y. around 1922. They joined St.Mark Holy Church (Pentecostal), under a lady pastor (Bishop Eva Lambert) and by twelve, Ruth organized the Selah Jubilee Six with members of the church choir ; they sang every Sunday in their church for about ten years; the service was broadcast ands they sang on four radio stations .They started out as disciples of the *Fisk Jubilee Quartet but in 1937, Bishop Lambert took them down to Houston where they met the *Soul Stirrers, discovered a new style of religious singing and exchanged songs. Back in New York, they became part of a rapidly changing gospel quartet scene under the influence of the *Golden Gate Quartet whose popularity was prodigious. Ruth also acknowledged the Mills Brothers and the Charioteers as an influence on the ‘rhythmic spirituals’ style he developed with his group ; they recorded for Brunswick in 1931 (however the matrix numbers suggest it was Columbia) but the seven tracks remained unissued. By 1939, the group was called The Selah Jubilee Singers and they came to the attention of J.Mayo Williams who signed them to Decca and issued fourteen sides in the same year (some with Sam Price on piano). This led to no money but to plenty of appearances and show dates, doing more sessions for Decca while still singing every Sunday night at their church. In 1941, Ruth decided to take the group on tour down South, to North Carolina, but the Antley brothers and Monroe Clark who were reluctant to travel were replaced by Fred Baker, J.B.Nelson and John Kaiser . They did a little U.S.O. Camp Show work and, stranded in Raleigh, N.C., they were hired by WPTF , a 50.000 watt radio station and worked there, in the morning, five days a week, during a couple of years, with plenty of show dates every night . They made frequent trips back to New York to perform and to record for Decca (until 1944) but their radio program became one of the most popular and influential black broadcasts of that era, their brand of jubilee quartet singing influenced a legion of young harmony singers on the East Coast.

In 1943, most members of the group quit and Ruth hired baritone Melvin Coltden and legendary second tenor Norman "Crip" Harris(both ex-* Norfolk Jubilee Quartet) to make a nationwide U.S.O. tour (1945-46) with ex-Golden Gate Quartet and ex-*Southern Sons Bill "Highpocket" Langford (tenor, guitar) and new members Theo Harris(baritone) and Jimmy Gorham (bass) . The Selahs spent the late 1940s in Raleigh, broadcasting regularly on WPTF again and singing in churches and auditoriums ; they also recorded as The Selah Singers for a series of labels, including Manor, Continental, Lenox, Arista, Mercury, Capitol, Cross (as Sons of Heaven) and Jubilee among them. They used to do jubilee songs and Ruth wanted to do gospel or even secular music but their audiences did not accept it and Ruth decided to leave the Selahs and to lead another group in New York with guitarist Alden (Tarheel Slim) Bunn , Junius Parker, Gene Mumford, David McNeil and Pee Wee Barnes , a group that sang under many names, like the *Jubilators (Regal), the Four Barons ( Regent) and the Southern Harmonaires (Apollo Records) in 1950 , but are best remembered today as The Larks ( 1950-54 ;Apollo and Lloyds Records ) .

But the Selah Jubilee Singers still existed as a group and they came back in New York where Ruth joined them for a Savoy recording session in 1955. After that everyone went his own way, Ruth stayed busy as disc-jockey, concert promoter and m.c. at the ApolloTheater in New York, then in Philadelphia, Raleigh, Durham and New York again. The Selahs were reunited for the last time in 1968 as The Jubilators for a recording session (Veep-Gospel Records).

They will stay in gospel history as the only one quartet to break through the Mecca of talent that was New York and to become a major force in gospel during the Golden Age.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

Seroff, Doug, "The Whole Truth about T.Ruth" , Whiskey,Women,And no.9 (July 1982); 14-18 ; Update & Discography, Whiskey,Women,And no.10 (November 1982); 28-33.

Horner, Charlie, " The Whole Truth about T; Ruth – The Larks" part 2, hiskey,Women,And no.10 (November 1982);24-27

 

Discography:

Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, 1939-1945 (1996, Document Records (Austria) DOCD 5499 vol.1, DOCD 5500 vol.2) ;The best of Jubilee Gospel . Heaven Belongs to You ( 1999, Westside (UK) WESM 588); Selah Gospel Train,1945-49 ( 1999, P-Vine Records (Japan) PCD-5547.

 

 

THE STARS OF FAITH

Williams, Marion ( August 29,1927, Miami, FL – July 2, 1994)

The group was formed in 1958 when Marion Williams and Henrietta Waddy quit the *Ward Singers after an argument about their fees and salary with the manager, Mrs Gertrude Ward . Williams contacted other members of the Ward Singers like Kitty Parham, Frances Steadman and Esther Ford who agreed to become members of the group she was organizing and The Stars of Faith were born. Ford was quickly replaced by Mattie Harper but would return on several occasions (1973).

Marion Williams was born in Miami , Florida and brought up in a Pentecostal church.

She developed her taste for shout songs at fast tempo and her unique talent to climb and stay easily into the highest of the soprano register then to drop to the bottom of it and deliver growls like sanctified preachers. In 1947, she joined the Clara Ward Singers in Philadelphia and was a driving wheel for the group who had hits, packed houses and won a lot of money, partly thanks to Marion. Henrietta Waddy (b.1902- d. 1981) was born in South Carolina, she had a rough, unsophisticated alto that blended perfectly with her partners’ voices in the Ward Singers then in the Stars of Faith. Kitty Parham ( b.Trenton, NJ. 1931; d. 3 July 2003 ) grew up in the Church of God in Christ and was a leading soprano soloist in that denomination. She was a welcome addition to the Stars. Esther Ford (b. Detroit,MI,1925) was also a C.O.G.I.C. singer and an associate of Mattie Moss *Clark before coming to the Stars. Her Soprano and her multi-octave range highlighted more than one songs of the Stars. Mattie Dozier Harper (b.1934) was a member of the Sallie *Jenkins Singers and recorded with Alex *Bradford before joining the Stars; her mezzo-soprano tones could change into growls and hollers on command, she did well with the Stars of Faith.

In 1961, the Stars had the honour to appear on Broadway in Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity and in 1962 this show toured Europe several times with the Stars, Alex Bradford and Princess *Steward and became the sensation.

Frances Steadman (b. Greensboro, N.C. 1915) lived in Baltimore and was brought up in both the Baptist and sanctified churches; she was – and stays - one of the most talented contraltos in gospel ; she sang with the *Waldo Singers, Mary Johnson Davis Singers, Clara Ward Specials and the Ward Singers before joining the Stars and she became the leader of the group when Marion Williams quit to start a solo career in the early 1970s; Frances’ daughter, Sadie Frances Keys (b. 1933) is also a member of the group like pianist and tenor Eddie Brown (ex-Famous *Davis Sisters). They toured Europe on an annual basis, appearing at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1983) , in churches and auditoriums and recording for Black & Blue and Ebony Records.

In 1995 the surviving Ward Singers were reunited for one concert with Steadman, Parham, Ford and Willa Ward . In the meantime, the Stars occasionally sang back-up for Marion Williams and they go on touring the USA and Europe, regularly.

 

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Heilbut, Tony. "Queens of Negro Spirituals and Gospel". Jazz 75 (Switzerland) no.6 (December 1975):15-18.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

Marion Williams. O Holy Night (1993, Savoy SCD14032); Marion Williams. My Soul Looks Back, (1994, Shanachie/Spirit Feel 6011); The Best of the Stars of Faith . In The Spirit (1995, Nashboro NASH4519-2); The Stars of Faith Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Glory Glory Hallelujah (1990, Black & Blue (France) 59.186 2)

 

THE SWANEE QUINTET

The "Suwannees" was first a gospel trio formed in Augusta, Georgia by Charlie Barnwell, Rufus Washington and William "Pee Wee" Crawford in the mid-1940s . The became the Swanee Quintet when they added two other members, James "Big Red" Anderson and Reuben W.Willingham on lead vocals in 1945 while Crawford concentrated on his guitar playing that became the trademark of the group, very popular in Georgia and South Carolina. Like the *Harmonizing Four, they stayed an example of the downhome unaffected quartet singing, keeping the same membership for decades and unlike most groups who gained popularity in gospel, the Swanee Quintet always kept Augusta as their home base, cultivating their rural sound.

Like many groups, they were featured daily on a local radio program in Atlanta to spread the gospel message and, most of all, to advertise their singing in churches and performances in auditoriums ; they did it with much success for ten years during which time they won the Golden Cup Award for seven consecutive years and that’s how they came to the attention of Nashboro Records and recorded their first session in December 1951; the success was moderate and they had to wait until March 1956 to enter the Nashboro recording studios again ; twenty songs were recorded and issued on singles, one of which, Sit Down Servant, scoring a big hit on the gospel market with Crawford’s bluesy guitar riffs, Willingham ‘s preaching and singing and the background vocals of Anderson, Barnwell, Washington , a dream team bound to enlighten the Swanee Quintet’s recordings of more than thirty years of presence on the gospel highway. A big move happened in October 1956 when the quintet became a sextet (without change of name) by the addition of a second lead singer, ‘Little’ Johnny Jones , his light tenor was a welcome contrast to Willingham’s harsh admonitions and personal testimonies appealing to his audiences because of the references to black people’s general experience of hard times in poetic phrases. Jones, influenced by Sam *Cooke, could break effortlessly from his tenor solos into melodious falsettos contrasting with Willingham’s growls and baritone. Between October 1956 and 1964, the group recorded forty four songs issued on singles, they were sometimes accompanied by piano, organ, bass and drums , but unobtrusively ; every one of the singles met a great popular success in black communities and the Swanee Quintet became one of the most celebrated groups in the South , appearing at the Apollo Theatre in New York in 1955 and stealing the show, in the Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1957 and touring extensively into forty four states, with a motto: "We put God in everything we do". The best examples of Jones and Willingham ‘s empathy and fascinating complicity from this period are probably "New walk" and "Lowly Jesus" both on the same single (Nashboro 653) but nearly each of the other songs is worth a mention and commendations.

As the years were passing by, there was little change to the Swanees’ personnel and sound, they stayed with Nashboro, keeping up with musical fashion, sounding secular at times (in a bluesy "The fire keeps a-burning" for instance) or even pop (in "Just one more time" and "Holy Ghost Got me"). Willingham went on giving out with heavy calls to salvation and Jones continued to combine sweetness with power, occasionally preaching or testifying .

In 1964, they recorded the first album of a long series for Nashboro and Creed Records and in 1966, they sang hard Gospel songs with the James Brown Road Show; Brown even produced a session for the Swanees in May 1966 with his band’s brass section, issued on Federal Records . Shortly after that session, Willingham left the group to enter the ministry and perform as a solo singer for Nashboro, although on his first recordings in 1969, he used the Swanee Quintet as a backing group. Johnny Jones also left to try an unsuccessful and short pop career and he came back to the Swanees, from time to time.

The new leads were Percy Griffin and Clarence Murray, two other tremendous vocalists who kept the group in the fore in modern gospel but times were changing and the advent of contemporary gospel in the 1970s put a virtual end to the Swanee Quintet musical activities .

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Discography:

What About Me? – Anniversary Album, (1992, Ace Records (UK) CDCHD 432)

The Reverend Willingham Collection, (1995, Nashboro NASH4622 2).

 

WALKER , Albertina (Tina)

b. 1930, Chicago, IL

One of the finest gospel singer of all times, Walker began singing at West Point Baptist Church when she was eleven. In 1947, she joined the Gospel Caravan, a group led by Robert *Anderson ; in 1952, she organized her own Caravans with other members of the Anderson’s

group : Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey and Nellie Grace Daniels. The Caravans that were, from the beginning, one of the best female group of their time, bound to produce more gospel superstars than any other group or choir, recorded a dozen songs for States Records in 1952 and 1953 bearing witness to close, earthy harmony, percussive attacks and precise rhythm ; Walker was the only soloist in the original group and it was the beauty of her voice, a throaty contralto, her sincerity and her singing style that drew attention.

By 1953 and with the addition of Bessie *Griffin (b.1927 New Orleans, La ; d.1990), the Caravans began a long association with Gospel /Savoy Records (while still recording for States) and to change into an ensemble of soloists ; Griffin ‘s light contralto was fluid, she sustained tones for long periods, inserting growls, pitch, embellishments and singing for long periods of time. She left the Caravans in 1954 to start a successful solo career. She was replaced by Cassietta *George (b. 1928, Memphis, Tennessee) whose clear, thin but huge voice astounded the audiences; she also composed more than 25 songs while with the Caravans. Gloria Griffin and James *Cleveland joined the Caravans the same year while Dorothy *Norwood (b. Atlanta, 1930), the master storyteller, and Imogene Green (b.1931,Chicago) joined in 1956. Norwood’s alto, capable of great warmth, graced a lot of songs but she left in the late 1950s to go solo and to the superstardom she is enjoying in the 2000s. In 1957, James Cleveland, pianist and arranger for the Caravans persuaded Inez *Andrews (b. 1929 Birmingham, Alabama) to come and join the group; she was a singer with a preacher tone, a metallic contralto and a slow, majestic delivery contrasting with the light alto/ mezzo soprano with a rapid vibrato of Shirley *Caesar (Baby Shirley, b. 1938, Durham, N.C.) also new to the Caravans and whose extensive range and preacher delivery, dramatization of songs and intense activity on stage ( she could run up and down the aisles on tunes with ‘run’ in the lyrics, mimic sweeping on " Sweeping through the city") could energize and unleash an audience’s passion and enthusiasm. An Evangeslist since 1961, Shirley Caesar left in 1966 to organize her own groups, choirs and to become the most popular gospel singer and Evangelist of the 1990s and 2000s.

From December 1962 to the late 1970, Albertina Walker and The Caravans recorded copiously for Vee Jay, Gospel/Savoy and Hob Records, then, in the 1980s, Albertina Walker started a very successful solo career skilfully blending traditional and contemporary gospel , according to her audiences. She was named an honorary member of the famed *Fisk Jubilee Singers by the President of the Nashville University. She performed all over the USA, Canada, Europe and the Carribean Islands, she received countless honors and awards including nine Grammy Nominations and she is a favourite of the media and the show business, appearing in movies, like Save the Children and Leap of Time, or off-Broadway productions ( The Gospel Truth) , hosting radio and television programs and recording regularly for Benson Records , she still is a vital force in gospel music.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. ed. We’ll Understand it Better by and by. Pioneering African

American Gospel Composers. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992

Sacre, Robert. "Albertina Walker". Blues Gazette (B) issue 3 (Summer 1996):20

Discography :

The Best of the Caravans, (1977, Savoy SCD7012); The Caravans ( 1993, Vee Jay NVG2-608); Albertina Walker. You Believed in me, (1990, Benson CD02673); He Keeps on Blessing Me (1993, Benson S1416-1001-2); Let’s Go Back : Live in Chicago (1996, Benson 84418 4234 2)

 

WASHINGTON Ernestine

"The Songbird of the East", "Little Momma"

b. 1914, Little Rock, Arkansas ; d. July 1983, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ernestine Beatrice Thomas Washington started singing at age four. Her mother was a popular sanctified singer in the Little Rock black community. A friend of Rosetta *Tharpe, Ernestine completed high school in Little Rock and was engaged in domestic work while still singing in church. At the annual Conventions of the Church of God in Christ she met and married the Reverend Frederick D. Washington (1913- 1988) who travelled with his wife to Montclair, New Jersey, where he founded the Trinity Temple Church of God in Christ and where Ernestine developed her reputation of soloist and vocalist strongly influenced by Arizona *Dranes : high-pitched mezzo soprano/alto voice with a fast vibrato, at range extremes (upper and lower), setting a rhythm to fit the text and mood of the song, a great sense of melody and rhythm and percussive attacks . In the early 1940s they moved to Brooklyn, New York where Washington founded the Brooklyn Church of God in Christ, named the Washington Temple in 1951 in his honor and where he pastored until his death, also serving as Auxiliary Bishop of the Jurisdiction of New York. Ernestine first recorded in 1943 (four songs for Regis/ Manor/ Arco) and two tracks in 1944 with The *Dixie Humming Birds (same labels).

By 1946, the Reverend Washington had become a fixture in Brooklyn, one of the most respected ministers in the C.O.G.I.C. and Madam(e) Ernestine B. Washington, or the "Songbird of the East", as she was called then, was the featured soloist of the denomination on all official days and the gospel queen of the Washington Temple C.O.G.I.C., a beautifully remodelled theatre with a large, middle- and upper-class and very devout congregation, plenty of instruments (organ, piano, guitars, drums, percussions) and six big choirs . At the annual November convocation of the Church of God in Christ in Memphis, it was Ernestine’s pride to sing the solo before the sermon of the presiding bishop. Yet, she recorded in 1946 with the legendary William Geary "Bunk" Johnson and his New Orleans style jazz band (four songs, Jubilee/Disc Records) ; working with secular musicians was generally subject to the contempt of the church membership but this time, the people of her church somehow felt complimented that a jazz star was called upon to accompany one of their own . She made more records for Manor Records with the* Heavenly Gospel Singers (1946 ), the* Southern Sons (1947) and her singers and/or Reverend Frederick D.Washington (1947-48) ; also with the Milleraires in 1954 (Groove) and her first album, in 1958, showed her in her best sanctified style, with the Congregation of Washington Temple C.O.G.I.C: accompanied by her longtime pianist and organist Alfred Miller and the members of her church choir, she gave way to the full power of her voice and the style that made her famous . This type of performance brought her fame as she toured throughout the Unites States and abroad (1958-59). At that time, she recorded a last album for Delden Records with the Celestial Choir directed by Professor Henry O.Coston before devoting the rest of her life to her church and her choirs. At her death, she was mourned in two crowded services at Washington Temple, complete with all the dignitaries of the C.O.G.I.C.

Bibliography:

Boyer, Horace Clarence. How sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark, 1995

Hayes, J.Cedric and Robert Laughton, Gospel Records 1943-1969. A Black Music Discography, 2 vol., London, U.K.: Record Information Services, 1992

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. New York, Limelight, 1985.

 

Discography:

Sister Ernestine Washington, in Chronological Order 1943-48, (1996, Document Records, Austria, DOCD-5462)

 

 

 

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