First of all, hi everyone! I know it's been a while, but I'm still around. I have negelcted to post anything here for nearly two years, so this post hopefully will make up for that.
Back in August 2010, I published a post about a book in the works about the Roberta Martin Singers by Ronald Greer of Bay City, TX. Since that time, I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of Mr. Greer's book. Over the past five years, I've conversed with Mr. Greer regularly, and he can attest that my most commonly asked question was "how's the book coming along?" or some variant of that question. The wait finally ended in September 2015 when his book was finally published. Only a Look: A Historical Look at the Career of Mrs. Roberta Martin and the Roberta Martin Singers of Chicago, Illinois tells the story of Roberta Martin and her aggregation of singers from her humble beginnings in Helena, Arkansas, to the formation of her famous singing group, her passing in Chicago, and even touches briefly upon the surviving members in the present day.
Only a Look tells the story of Roberta Martin in such a way that you feel as if you're sitting down with Mr. Greer as he relates the story of Roberta Martin's life. Given Mr. Greer's young age, you may wonder how he was able to attain so such information about Roberta Martin. From 1976 to 2009, Mr. Greer spoke to Eugene Smith of the Roberta Martin Singers on a nearly daily basis. Smith was a treasure trove of information for Mr. Greer. He had the longest tenure with the group (1934-1970) and was there from nearly the beginning to the very end. Mr. Greer also interviewed other long time members of the Roberta Martin Singers prior to their passing such as Little Lucy Smith Collier and Bessie Folk, providing even more insight about the group.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about Only a Look is the rare photographs provided by Roberta Martin's son, Leonard "Sonny" Austin. Until now, the public's view of Roberta Martin has been limited to a coupe of PR shots taken from the 1940s through the 1960s for various record labels. Austin's family photographs, which are being publicly shown for the first time in Only a Look, show Roberta Martin not just as a singer, but as a mother, a wife, a friend, a community leader, and a businesswoman, and are sure to delight any music historian who knows the name Roberta Martin.
You can purchase your copy of Only a Look from Mr. Greer at the following link: Only a Look
In the coming months, Mr. Greer plans to host book signings and conference appearances to further
promote the book.
A few weeks later on Saturday, December 7, 2013, 'Gospel's Jubilee Showcase' will air on PBS in select cities. The special will tell the history of Sid Ordower's 'Jubilee Showcase', which originally aired in Chicago on WLS from 1963 to 1984 and featured gospel artists such as Albertina Walker and the Caravans, The Barrett Sisters, The Norfleet Brothers, Rev. Dr. Clay Evans, Jessy Dixon, Rev. James Cleveland, and many more. Check your local PBS listings for details.
Some of my friends and followers have asked me about my lack of posts because it's been nearly a year since my last post. I'm still around, I just haven't had time for updating the blog. I hope to change that in these next few weeks with some new posts. Golden Era Gospel will forever be one of my interests. Here's to new material coming in the next few weeks!
For over 60 years, the Barrett Sisters have lifted their sweet voices to the delight of fans worldwide. Despite being so accomplished, the Barrett Sisters have one dream that has yet to be realized, and that dream is the release of The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters. Nearly all of the filming of the documentary was completed before the passing of Delois Barrett Campbell in August 2011. While filming is complete, there are still expenses mounting. Like many other groups and singers of the Golden Era, the Barrett Sisters were often not compensated as they deserved for their performances, and they did not experience financially profitable music careers. So, the Barrett Sisters are asking for financial assistance in helping to defray the costs of filming, packaging, promoting and distributing the movie, and hosting a premiere screening in February 2013.
Help preserve and promote gospel music history by donating to make release of The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters a reality.
Inez Andrews, affectionately known as the High Priestess of Gospel, and the Songbird, died on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at her home in Chicago. Andrews was 83 years old and had been receiving treatment for colon cancer. Andrews was born Inez McConico on April 14, 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1957, James Cleveland met Andrews in Nashville, TN, while Andrews was in the Gospel Harmonettes substituting for Dorothy Love Coates. Cleveland notified Caravans leader, Albertina Walker, about Andrews' powerful voice, encouraging Walker to successfully recruit Andrews to join the Caravans. A year later, Andrews led the group on their legendary hit, "Mary Don't You Weep". For 54 years, "Mary Don't You Weep" was arguably her most recognized, most recorded, and most requested song. Andrews left the Caravans in 1962 to lead her own group, the Andrewettes. Andrews returned briefly to the Caravans in 1966 and departed the group again in 1967 to go solo. During the 1970s and 1980s, Andrews recorded solo albums, garnering the crossover song "Lord, Don't Move the Mountain", and recording tunes such as "Stranger in the City" and "Just for Me."
Information about services for Inez Andrews can be found below:
December 27, 2012 – 7:00 P.M.
December 28, 2012 – 10:00 AM Visitation
All services will be held at:
Apostolic Church of God
South Dorchester Avenue Chicago,
Esther Ford is one of the few gospel singers from the Golden Era still kicking and singing. As a matter of fact, she's the last surviving pre-summer 1958 member of the Clara Ward Singers. She's also making use of social networking, so you'll easily find her commenting on YouTube and posting on her Facebook page.
Dwayne "Rowoches" Lightsey was able to sit down with "Lady" Ford as she delivered life lessons, wisdom, and delivered constructive criticism of modern day gospel.
Check the video for yourself and listen to this living legend.
In 1996, Caravans alum Dorothy Norwood recorded a version of the Commodores' 1977 hit, "Brick House", for the soundtrack to the motion picture, My Fellow Americans. For sixteen years, this recording has been largely forgotten, until YouTube user gsj612 uploaded the song on April 26th. Since then, the recording has been shared across social networks and has gained a nice amount of views in that short period of time.
The song itself isn't much to write home about. Musically, it sounds like your typical mid 90s fare of the cheesy variety, and in the end, it's just one of numerous covers of "Brick House." The only difference here is this time, the artist who covered the song was one who got her start during the Golden Era of Gospel. Responses to the recording have varied. Some listeners thought the juxtaposition of the lady deemed in gospel circles as "the World's Greatest Storyteller" working it out to "Brick House" was hilarious, while others didn't think highly of the recording at all due to production values or disapproval of a gospel artist singing a secular song. My reaction upon first hearing the song was laughter, because when I hear the name Dorothy Norwood, "Brick House" doesn't come to mind, but rather "The Denied Mother", "Victory Is Mine" and "Old School Boulevard."
This shouldn't take anyone as a surprise, as this was not Dorothy's first time dabbling in the secular pool. Although her performance was purely gospel, Dorothy toured with the Rolling Stones as their opening act during a 30 state American tour in 1972, and introduced many people to her distinctive brand of gospel music who wouldn't have otherwise known about it.
Dorothy Norwood has enjoyed a long, storied career, from joining the Caravans in 1956, composing "Ride On, King Jesus" in 1957, going solo in the 1960s and enjoying numerous albums and concert appearances until the present day. Dorothy is still a crowd pleaser, and doesn't have much difficulty in pleasing her fanbase. Uncovering this song probably won't have a negligible impact on her career, but we'll probably have a few goofballs in the audience at her upcoming appearances shouting "sing Brick House!"