Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Birthday to Rev. Esther "Lady" Ford of the Ward Singers and the Stars of Faith!

The Golden Era Gospel Blog would like to wish Rev. Esther Ford a Happy 80th birthday! For those of you who don't know, Rev. Ford joined the Clara Ward Singers in 1958 and was one of the founding members of the Stars of Faith. Truly a living legend!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Here's a song I forgot to put on my list. Oh well. Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Golden Era Gospel Blog's "Young Folks + Classic Praise" series spotlights Dwayne "Rowoches" Lightsey, Jr.

With over 1,000 uploads, if you've watched a YouTube video about Golden Era Gospel, you've likely watched a video uploaded by this guy. Dwayne "Rowoches" Lightsey, Jr. is a collector of golden era vinyl, he can sing (he can hit that high whoo like Marion!) and a historian who is listed as a contributor to the Hayes and Laughton Gospel Discography.
Dwayne was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and even send a Christmas Card. Thanks! LOL!

TGEGB: I would start off with a gospel question, but I think this one needs to go first. How did you get the nickname "Rowoches"?

LOL! That’s something that EVERYONE asks me! My screen name is basically the “Southern” pronunciation of the word ‘roaches’. Knowing several people from the South, especially older relatives and friends, I’ve heard them say certain words differently. Words like ‘coach’ and ‘roach’ are words they seem to add an extra syllable to, and it has always been funny to me.

TGEGB: How did your interest in Golden Era Gospel begin?

I’d say my interest began in church. My home church in Baltimore, Maryland, had several choirs/groups over the years, and has been affiliated with several notable musicians and singers in the Baltimore area, like the late Jerry Caesar, who is the nephew of Shirley Caesar. Three of the choirs consisted of members over fifty years old. They would sing a lot of the traditional Gospel songs that many soloists, groups, and choirs from the Golden Age of Gospel recorded. Those songs always appealed to me the most. I LOVED to see and hear them sing.

TGEGB: Who was the first Gospel singer you began to like?

Mahalia Jackson was the very first. When I was in the first grade, my mother borrowed IMITATION OF LIFE from a cousin of ours. The funeral scene at the end used to scare me to death, but I loved to hear Mahalia sing. After that, I began to do research and I began to collect her music. In doing that, I came across other Gospel singers like Clara Ward, Alex Bradford, Rosetta Tharpe, and many others.

TGEGB: Do you remember the very first piece of Traditional Gospel music you purchased?

I surely do! It was a cassette of Mahalia Jackson’s called GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN. It consisted of 10 songs from her Apollo years. The one song that I truly enjoyed from that tape was “He’s My Light,” which is one of Roberta Martin’s songs, I believe.

TGEGB: How long have you been collecting Golden Era Gospel music?

I’ve been collecting since 1996. After I got out of my Mahalia phase, I moved into my Clara Ward phase. After Clara Ward, I moved into my Alex Bradford phase. After Alex Bradford, I just started collecting just about EVERYBODY!

TGEGB: How big is your music collection as of now?

That’s a difficult question to answer. LOL!! Over the years I’ve come into contact with people here in the US, as well as abroad, and they have shared music with me. Every now and then I’ll find something on eBay or in some of the smaller record shops that are still in business. I’ve also borrowed albums from several people. So, considering all of that, I’m sure I have over a thousand things; be it cassettes, CDs, LPs, 45’s, 78’s, videos, DVDs, sheet music, pictures, books, etc.

TGEGB: What albums from your collection do you put into heavy rotation?

It really depends on the type of mood I’m in. Within the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to the Angelic Gospel Singers’ LIVE album. The two songs that I continuously play are “I’ve Got Victory” and “If You Can’t Help Me.” I’ve also been playing songs from Evangelist Rosie Wallace’s GOD CARES album. The songs that I’m feeling from that are “The Lord Is My Shepherd” and “God Cares.” So, basically, it’s all a mood thing for me.

TGEGB: You mentioned Clara Ward earlier and I know she’s one of your absolute favorites. I also know that you’ve met several members of her group. Who would they happen to be?

In 2006, I traveled to California and met Mildred Means, Vermettya Royster, and Anthony Lawson. In 2007, I met Clara Wards’ sister, Willa Ward. In 2008, I met Esther Ford, Calvin & Malvilyn Statham, and Barry Currington. Other alumni from the Ward Singers that I’ve never met in person, but have spoken to via telephone are Alice Houston and Madeline Thompson, who is still keeping the name alive on the West Coast. I still keep in touch with several of them.

TGEGB: Have you met or spoken to any other Gospel pioneers?

Yes, Sir, I have. Thanks to you, I had an opportunity to speak to Eugene Smith, of the Roberta Martin Singers, two weeks before his death. I had a chance to talk to Albertina Walker in 2009. When she answered the phone, I forgot EVERYTHING I was going to say. She just laughed. I’ve also been in touch with Richard Smallwood, Nathan Murphy, Rev. James Herndon, Julia Mae Price-Williams, Pastor Douglas Howell (Chukwuemeka), and several others. I’ve met George Jordan (writer of “Jesus Can Work It Out”) and Diane Williams, who is known for her sick ad-libbing skills! There are some others, but my mind shutting down. LOL!

TGEGB: You have a video on YouTube of you singing "Traveling Shoes" which was received well. Can we expect an encore anytime soon?

I’ve posted over a thousand things on YouTube, and of them all, the “Travelin’ Shoes Spoof” that I did with my cousin, Armando Bickum (Tip99 on YouTube) seems to be one of the very few that I frequently receive messages about. Because Mondo and I live over 15 hours away from each other, we can’t get together as often as we’d like. HOWEVER, sometime next year we plan to do some more videos for our fans. LOL! We’ve already discussed some songs, and have even gotten requests from a few people.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tune in to Gospel Memories this Saturday to hear some Golden Era Gospel Christmas tunes

My meager list of Golden Era Gospel Christmas songs is nothing compared to what Bob Marovich has in store for you this Saturday on Gospel Memories. Bob is dedicating his entire 1 hour show on December 18th to Christmas Music that you've probably never heard before. If your ears are itching to hear some Christmas music with that Golden Era beat, tune in Saturday morning at from 10-11am CT and give the show a listen. Don't forget to give Bob a call during the program. Or if you miss it, don't forget that you can download the broadcast 1-2 days after the original broadcast.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Prayers for Leonard "Sonny" Austin (son of Roberta Martin) and Family

Ron Greer of Bay City, TX has notified the blog that the wife of Leonard "Sonny" Austin passed away during the past few days. Leonard Austin is the son of the late Rev. James Austin and Roberta Martin. Please keep the Austin family in your prayers during this time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Now how did I miss this? My Blogging Story at the Black Weblog Awards

You'll recall that this Blog was nominated for an award by the Black Weblog Awards this summer. I didn't win, but there's always 2011! Well, back in October of this year, the Black Weblog Awards posted my blogging story on their blog. I didn't find it until today. C'mon Joe, get with it now, stop dragging!

If you'd like to read it, you can find it at this link:

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's not New Year's Day, but out with the old and in with the new anyhow!

I decided after over a year of the same old same old, it was time to give the blog a slight renovation. The first thing you've probably noticed is my new, self designed banner. The new banner contains from left to right, Roberta Martin, Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, Rev. James Cleveland and Clara Ward. I also took the liberty of adding a few new widgets like a search bar, the ability to subscribe to my posts, and a contact form. That's standard stuff for most blogs. I know I'm late to the program, but it's finally here.

I've also created a Twitter page especially for the blog. I have a widget for that, too. Follow me @goldeneragospel!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Library of Congress: Now What a Time: Blues, Gospel, and the Fort Valley Music Festivals, 1938-1943

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has a collection of 100 blues and gospel recordings made between 1938 and 1943 at the Fort Valley Music Festivals held at Fort Valley State College (now Fort Valley State University) in Fort Valley, Georgia. Of these 100 recordings, approximately 44 of them are gospel recordings.

Visit the site at the link below to find more information and to hear the recordings.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Golden Era Gospel Blog's "Young Folks + Classic Praise" series spotlights Shane Steward-Cowan

North Carolina is the home of Caravans alumni Rev. James Herndon and Pastor Shirley Caesar, and Rev. F.C. Barnes and the Barnes Family of gospel singers. North Carolina is also home to Shane Steward-Cowan, a young Golden Era Gospel aficionado.

TGEGB: When did you start listening to Golden Era Gospel Music?

I would say that question has two answers to it! Officially, I started being a fan when I was 18, and got my first computer and was just listening to music, when I ran into a song by Mahalia Jackson from a movie I had seen when I was younger, called Imitation of Life,the song being of course, "Troubles Of The World". So I started listening more to her music, and that lead me to listen to others, such as The Caravans, and The Original Gospel Harmonettes. And I would also say unofficially, I been listening to it my whole life! A lot of the songs that are sung by the groups, are songs I heard growing up here in North Carolina, where EVERYONE it seems like sings gospel! I remember hearing and singing songs like "Heavy Load" (Edna Gallmon Cooke) and "When The Gates Swing Open" (Clara Ward), and many others.

TGEGB: Who are your favorite artists?

The Caravans, The Original Gospel Harmonettes, Edna Gallmon Cooke, Willie Mae Ford Smith, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, And The Clara Ward Singers.

TGEGB: Who is your favorite golden era gospel artist(s) of all time?

I would say that would be Dorothy Love Coates and The Original Gospel Harmonettes! Their music had a passion and intensity that few could match! Oh and add, The Davis Sisters, The Meditation Singers, The Angelics, And The Roberta Martin Singers.

TGEGB: Tell us a little bit about your YouTube videos.

My videos are very much a mixture of different types of Golden Age Gospel. Posted, I have some very early material from people such as Arizona Dranes, and Clara Ghoulston (The Georgia Peach). I also have several WWII era sides from Sallie Martin and Her Singers of Joy, as well as The Gospel Harmoneers, later to become The Original Gospel Harmonettes. There is also a great amount of music from The Caravans, who rank with the Gospel Harmonettes as being my favorite group, lol. Songs such as their first cut, "Think Of His Goodness" in 1952, as well as songs they did over the years, such as "Steal Away", "Lord Keep Me Day by Day", and so forth. I also wanted to show case some other music that others may not have heard before, such as from the Group Sweet Honey In The Rock. I also have music posted by The Clara Ward Singers, The Golden Harps, The Brewsteraires, Edna Gallmon Cooke, The Original Gospel Harmonettes, and so forth.

TGEGB: Do you sing or lead any Golden Era Gospel songs in a group or choir?

I actually do, I sing with several groups, as I come from a hot bed of Gospel Singing! I sing with Steve Wilson And The Love Center Choir, The Hood Seminary Gospel Choir, and The Anointed Voices. One song in particular I am working on getting into the mix of our different types of songs, is Kitty Parham's "I"m Looking To Jesus"!

TGEGB: What's you favorite Gospel song?

I would say it would be with out a shadow of a doubt, the song "I'm Sealed" by the Original Gospel Harmonettes!

TGEGB: Is singing in your blood? Any particular Gospel artist have influence on your on personal style?

Why yes it is actually! My grandmother, and her sisters, and brothers, sung together as The Voices of Inspiration back in the 70s into the 90s. My great Grandmother, Etta Ree Allison Partee is also another singer, who at the age of 85 is still singing around North Carolina. And I would dare say the one gospel artist whom has influenced me the most, would be the late great Albertina Walker. I have a husky tenor voice, that I have musically without knowing adapted to Tina's singing style! Also the level of sincerity that she displayed has and will always be amazing to me! Will never be another like her!

You can view Shane's YouTube collection here:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Music, Golden Era style

By: Joseph Middleton

A fellow gospel music historian lamented about the homogeneity among radio stations today when it comes to chosing Christmas songs. As he put it, "If I hear "Grandma got run over.." one more time, I'm going to run over grandpa". Unfortunately, it sounds like grandpa will have to brace for impact!

Many of you are probably looking to alternatives to the Christmas songs being played over and over all month long. "Silent Night" by the Temptations is wonderful, but you grow tired of it after hearing it for the 3,693rd time! So, here are a few Golden Era Gospel Christmas Songs and albums to add to your listening rotation this season. I've provided links to songs and albums that are readily available for purchase. Some of these songs may be hard to find, but if you find them, you'll be pleased, no doubt.

1. "Behold That Star" by The Patterson Singers

2. "Away In a Manger" by The Galatians Singers

3. Album: Merry Christmas by James Cleveland and the Angelic Choir
Here's "Oh What a Pretty Little Baby" from that album.

4. Album: Christmas with the Famous Ward Singers.
Here's "Prince of Peace" from that album.

5. "The First Noel" by The Davis Sisters

6. "Christmas in Heaven" by Claude Jeter

7. "God Rest Ye Weary Gentlemen" by The Caravans

8. "Go Tell It on the Mountain" by The Swan Silvertones

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chicago Mag loves Chicago "Because gospel music is still being played in the very churches where it originated"

We all know Chicago is the birthplace of the black gospel sound, where Thomas Dorsey, Roberta Martin, Ralph Goodpastuer, Robert Anderson, Albertina Walker, Willie Webb, and many others cultivated their craft. Today, it is still is a hotbed of black gospel, home to gospel artists like DeAndre Patterson, the Barrett Sisters, Lecresia Campbell, Ron Barrett, Jessy Dixon, and dozens of others. Chicago Mag has chosen "40 Reasons to ♥ Chicago", and the fact that gospel music is still being played in the very churches where it originated is just one of those reasons.

Because gospel music is still being played in the very churches where it originated - Chicago magazine - December 2010 - Chicago

Monday, November 29, 2010

Texas Monthly asks: Who was Blind Willie Johnson?

Those of you who have followed my blog from day 1 may remember my September 25, 2009 entry titled "Golden Era Gospel In the Lone Star State." I made a brief reference to Blind Willie Johnson and that's about it. Now, Michael Hall of Texas Monthly is asking the question, "Who was Blind Willie Johnson?" If you're blessed enough to live in Texas, you can trot on down to your local grocery store checkout aisle and pick up a copy of the December 2010 issue. If you're outside of Texas and don't have a subscription (or you're in Texas and don't feel like going to get your own copy), you can read it online (for free for the next few days after this initial posting) at the following link.

Watch Steve James of Austin demonstrate the music of Blind Willie Johnson at this link:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Golden Era Gospel Blog's "Young Folks + Classic Praise" series spotlights Timothy Williams

Some folks are drawn to Golden Era Gospel because they enjoy the sound and the message. Some also enjoy it because it's in their blood. Timothy Williams is one of those who has Golden Era Gospel in his blood, and like the old song says, it's flowing like a river.

TGEGB: How did you come to like Golden Era Gospel Music?

Timothy: Well between my grandparents being from the south and on the (gospel) circuit themselves and my late father living in Chicago at one time, those elements brought that love for old school gospel to my attention very early in life.

TGEGB: What groups did your grandparents sing with?

Timothy: My grandmother sang with a group out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi called The Zionettes. The group consisted of her brother and first cousins. They had a hit that was big throughout the Southern region called "Where Is the Road That Leads on Home". Then my grandfather sang with the Sunset Travelers for about 5-6yrs. My grandparents met at a program in Memphis, Tennessee. When they married they formed a duo together and toured with Rev. Willie Morganfeild and The Consolers as well as the Sensational Nightingales.

TGEGB: Did your grandparents ever record?

Timothy: Yes, for a small label out of Cleveland, Ohio. I forgot the label's name, but their manager's name was Calvin Brown. He also acted as their produced and was Rev. Morganfield's manager as well.

TGEGB: Are there any more family roots in Golden Era Gospel?

Timothy: Yes. My grandmother's brother sang with a group named the Florida Robbins Singers. My father loved good quartets and the squalling preachers of the day. He saw a lot of those groups when he lived in Chicago. He would tell me many stories about the many programs he went to at Chicago's DuSable High School auditorium. He loved The Caravans Dorothy Love Coates and The Harmonettes, but The Davis Sisters were his favorite above all of the other female singers.

TGEGB: Who are your favorite Golden Era Gospel singers?

Timothy: I am very versatile when it comes to it. I like the soloists like Brother Joe May, Bessie Griffin and so on. I really liked Edna Gallmon Cooke, she knew her Bible. I also love the quartets. The Swan Silvertones are my favorite of the quartets. Oh, and Dixie Hummingbirds as well, can't forget them. I was raised on them and Soul Stirrers. But of the female groups, I love the Clara Ward Singers, both sets of them! I fell in love with the Meditation Singers and the Davis Sisters because they were some squalling women, as were the Caravans. When I want to hear sweet harmonies, I listen to the Barrett Sisters.

TGEGB: Sounds like you have the love of music throughout. Do you play any instruments or sing?

Timothy: I sing in a group with my family named The Newson Family Singers led by my grandfather. I play drums in the group. As you can see, I'm very proud of my musical roots.

TGEGB: If you could go back to any time and sing with any group, what year would you go back to and what group would you sing with?

Timothy: Believe it or not I would like to be apart of the mixed groups of that day
like the Roberta Martin Singers, the Raymond Raspberry Singers, the Gospel Clefs, Herman Stevens' group, or just a soloist by myself. I know I would be very fiery and every song would be a toe tapper lol! You know I'm shouter, I likes to move LOL!

TGEGB: Well get your shout on Tim! LOL. Thanks for the interview.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Golden Era Gospel Blog's "Young Folks + Classic Praise" series spotlights Emmanuel Jones

Emmanuel "Manny" Jones is a 23 year old fellow Golden Era Gospel fan from NYC. I initially met through his YouTube uploads. Under the name MannyManFresh7, he has uploaded fanpost videos by artists such as The Caravans, The Roberta Martin Singers, and Jessy Dixon. Manny agreed to talk with me about his love and appreciation of Golden Era Gospel Music.

TGEGB: So Manny, when did you become interested in Golden Era Gospel?

Manny: Well to believe it or not, only a few years ago. I've always been "Ole school gospel" at heart, but I went mainstream with my passion a few years ago.

TGEGB: Do you like today's gospel music or are you purely "old school"?

Manny: I have to say I like about a handful of the gospel music that's coming out today. But I'm old school at heart. With the old school music you get a message you can't ignore, today's music it's so hard understand what the artist is even saying. More beat & music than the words!

TGEGB: Who are your favorite golden gospel artists?

Manny: The Caravans, The Roberta Martin Singers, The Ward Singers, The Harmonettes.

TGEGB: Who is your favorite golden era gospel artist of all time?

Manny: Hands down The Caravans

TGEGB: If you could sing with any golden era gospel group, which one would it be?

Manny: This is a hard question. Of course I would love to sing with The Caravans, but I always wanted to sing with the RMS to be under the late Roberta Martin's teaching.

TGEGB: Some people have had troubles with their gospel uploads on YouTube. Have you had any troubles?

Manny: Actually yes I have. This one particular character I'm not gonna mention his name. BUT his late aunt was a former Caravans member, so he ALLEGEDLY owns the copyrights to his aunts songs SHE WROTE. But this character goes as far as disputing anything with his aunt's voice on it if it's not uploaded from him. All he is doing is TRASHING his aunt's name. She's gonna have a tarnished reputation he keeps getting our videos taken down!

TGEGB: It's no secret that you loved the late Albertina Walker. Some groups like The Roberta Martin Singers and The Clara Ward Singers either declined in popularity after their leaders died, or stopped recording altogether. What do you think The Caravans will do now that Albertina is gone?

Manny: I do believe The Caravans can go on without Tina. See with the RMS, I believe at that time things were different. You know by the time she passed, groups of the golden era were fading out as a new brand style of gospel music was coming out. I do believe some wanted to branch out on their own too. In today's time it's different. Dorothy Norwood & Shirley, Inez they are all household names. So together, that would be even great!

Monday, November 8, 2010

R.I.P. Calvin Williams of the Golden Gate Quartet, Deep Tones.

Sad news from Bob Marovich via Dr. Charles and Pamela Horner of Classic Urban Harmony, LLC.

In a year filled with bad news, we are extremely saddened to report the passing of our close friend Calvin Williams. Calvin was born in Bucksport, SC, on November 8, 1921. Calvin began singing Gospel music and at the age of 15 joined with a local quartet called the Southern Four Gospel Singers. During World war II Calvin worked at the Wilmington, NC, shipyards where he sang with National Four. After the war, Calvin moved to Trenton, NJ. By 1947 Calvin formed a new group called the Deep Tones. The Deep Tones recorded three fabulous spiritual records, done in the style of the Golden Gate Quartet. Two records were released on the King Solomon label (later on Savoy) and one on Muzicon.

The Deep Tones turned to secular music in 1951, recording "Just In Case You Change Your Mind" and "The Night We Said Goodbye" for the Coral label. The Deep Tones also did uncredited backup for Ella Fitzgerald ("Trying"), "Slim Galliard ("Oh Lady Be Good") and Bill Kenny.

Changing their name to the Hi Lighters, the group recorded for the Celeste and their own HiCo label. (Click HiCo to read the Horners' story of the HiCo label). Calvin sang with the Four Knights before joining the Stereos who recorded on the Robins Nest label during the 1960's.

In 1972, Calvin Williams was asked to join the world famous Golden Gate Quartet, now based in Europe. He spent the next 14 years with the Gates, touring numerous countries. Upon leaving the Golden Gate Quartet, Calvin returned to the United States where he joined Johnny Smith's Ink Spots. The group made one album (CD).

Calvin spent the final years of his life living in Far Rockaway, NY. Calvin was a guest at our wedding and our guest at UGHA on several occasions. We interviewed Calvin on Frank Gengaro and Gordon Skadberg's weekly radio program on WRHU-FM in 2008. Calvin Williams made a huge contribution to group harmony, but most of all he was a friend to us. Our grief is beyond words.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Charles and Pamela Horner of Classic Urban Harmony, LLC

It seems the roll of the legends is being called with haste. This year alone, we've reported the losses of Albertina Walker, Little Lucy Smith, Bishop Walter Hawkins, Major Roberson, and Geraldine Gay Hambric, and now, Calvin Williams. -Ed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mahalia Jackson's Glori-Fried Chicken

By: Joseph Middleton

Mahalia Jackson is well known today for her singing, and even her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. What many don't know is that she also lent her image and name to a chain of chicken restaurants in the late 1960s. In 1968, a chain of restaurants opened up named Mahalia Jackson's Glori-Fried Chicken. These restaurants were the brainchild of John Jay Hooker and his brother, Henry. The story begins in 1966. After seeing the success of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Hooker brothers decided to apply the formula to their own chain of restaurants to give KFC a run for their money, as Wall Street was selling KFC at 40 times its earnings! John Jay Hooker contacted Sarah Colley Cannon, better known as Minnie Pearl of "Hee Haw" and asked her if she would want to appear as the spokeswoman for their new chicken restaurants. She agreed. A lab in Chicago developed a fried chicken recipe and their first location opened up in Nashville. Mahalia did as Minnie Pearl did and lent her image and name to the same company to open up a franchise of take-out chicken restaurants in primarily black neighborhoods in cities such as Jacksonville, Houston, Chicago, Detroit and Memphis.

The franchises were short lived. In 1969, the SEC announced an investigation into Hooker's franchises. Though no wrongdoing was found and Mahalia Jackson, Minnie Pearl, and Hooker were all cleared of wrongdoing, the investigation caused the stock to drop from a high of $40 a share to just 50 cents, and the company virtually liquidated, spelling the end of Mahalia Jackson's Glori-Fried Chicken.

While most locations closed in the 1970s, one located continued to operate until about 2008 in Nashville.

See the following links for more info:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Unsung" covers Miki Howard, daughter of a Caravan and a Pilgrim Jubilee

By: Joseph Middleton

I've been hearing the songs of Miki Howard on the radio since I was a little boy. I didn't find out until recent years that Miki's pipes have Golden Era origins. Her mother, the late Josephine Howard, was a member of The Caravans from 1962 to 1967 and led songs such as "What Will Tomorrow Bring", "Somebody Bigger Than You and I", and "He's Alive". Her father is Clay Graham, long time member of The Pilgrim Jubilees. With roots like that, it's no wonder that she can sing!

On November 1, 2010, Tv One's "Unsung" aired a program about the life of Miki. In the program, Miki tells of her gospel roots, imparting information (which may either surprise you, or in some cases, simply confirm what you'd heard in the past) about her mother and her father. The program of course is all about Miki, so only a little bit of time is devoted to Josephine and Clay, though a lot is told in those few minutes. The rest of the program is worth watching, too.
You can watch the full episode at the link below through November 8, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

R.I.P. James Phelps of the Soul Stirrers, and founder of the Clefs of Calvary

James Phelps, former leader of the Soul Stirrers and founder of the Clefs of Calvary, died Tuesday, October 26, 2010 from complications of diabetes in Inglewood, CA. Phelps was 78 years old. According to the Associated Press, Phelps was born in Shreveport, LA, and moved to Chicago as a teen. Phelps sang with several groups such as the Gospel Songbirds, the Holy Wonders, and the Soul Stirrers before founding the Clefs of Calvary. In 1965, Phelps recorded the soul hit, "Love Is a Five Letter Word."

NYT Article on Phelps' death:

Phelps with the Soul Stirrers in 1964

Monday, October 25, 2010

A New Series: "Young Folks + Classic Praise"

In 2010, your average young adult gospel music connoisseur will likely rock contemporary tunes from the likes of Tye Tribbett, Myron Butler & Levi , Ton3x, James Fortune or Mary Mary. Some may like the modern traditional sounds and listen to quartets like Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC's, soloists like Vicki Winans, and groups like Kathy Taylor and Favor. Then, there's the select few who like to reach WAY back, I'm talking about dusting off the vinyl and turning on the turntables. They prefer the sounds of The Clara Ward Singers, Mahalia Jackson, The O'Neal Twins, The Gospel Clefs, Rev. Maceo Woods, The Roberta Martin Singers, The Caravans, The Barrett Sisters, The Wings Over Jordan Choir, and Jessy Dixon just to name a few.

The aforementioned artists may sound like your great-grandparents' favorites, but these young twenty-somethings have put a 21st century, or Generation Y or Millennial twist on things by starting YouTube channels, Facebook groups, blogs and websites to showcase their interest in this music and share the sounds with others.

This new series will showcase some of those individuals. You already know a little bit about me, but there are others out there from the same age bracket who appreciate this music as I do, and you need to learn about them.

So, be on the lookout for the interviews in the coming days and weeks!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Remembering Albertina Walker with a funny moment

In times of sadness, a laugh is always a good way to help get through the sorrow. For the many greiving fans of Albertina Walker, here's a video which was broadcasted at Ms. Walker's 80th birthday celebration last year. Ms. Walker regales the viewers with a tale about traveling with The Caravans through segregated America with a humorous ending.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tribute, Musical Salute and Funeral information for Albertina Walker

Here is some information regarding tributes, the musical salute and funeral for Albertina Walker.

Saturday, 10/9, 10-11am CT, 88.7FM WLUW-FM, Chicago
Gospel Memories with Bob Marovich
Bob Marovich will dedicate his entire 1 hour long program to playing music by The Caravans in honor of Albertina Walker. Don't miss out, tune in or listen live at If you happen to listen to the show, be sure to call Bob at 773-508-WLUW to let him know you're tuned in. If you miss out, don't worry. The podcast will be available at 1-2 days after the original broadcast.

Thursday, 10/14
Public Viewing at West Point Baptist Church
36th and Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL
Musical Salute at Apostolic Church of God
63rd and Dorchester
Chicago, IL

Friday, 10/15

10am Visitation
11am Funeral Service
West Point Baptist Church
36th and Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL
Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. L. Bernard Jakes officiating

Friday, October 8, 2010

Breaking News: Albertina Walker passes at age 81

By: Joseph Middleton

With a heavy heart, The Golden Era Gospel Blog has sad news to report from Chicago this morning from Rev. Stanley Keeble by way of Ronald Greer and via the Yolanda Adams Morning Show. The legendary Albertina Walker has died at age 81. Ms. Walker passed around 4:30am Friday morning from respiratory problems. Ms. Walker's career spanned nearly six decades. In the late 1940s, Ms. Walker joined Robert Anderson's gospel caravan, later renamed Robert Anderson and The Caravans. In 1952, Anderson left the group, and Ms. Walker became the leader of the group. As leader of The Caravans, Ms. Walker took a more laid back role and helped to launch the solo careers of Caravans alumni such as James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Cassietta George, Loleatta Holleway, Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews and Dorothy Norwood. Ms. Walker released her first solo album in the mid 1960s, but continued to stay as the lead of The Caravans until 1976. During a period spanning from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, Ms. Walker enjoyed a string of hits such as "I Can Go to God In Prayer", "I've Got a Feeling", "Hallelujah, This is The Way to Sing Praises to our God", and "I'm Still Here." In 2006, Ms. Walker and The Caravans (Inez Andrews, Dorothy Norwood and Delores Washington) reunited to record the "Paved the Way" album for Malaco records, which was the first all new album by The Caravans to be released in 30 years. A second album with The Caravans titled "My Soul Says Yes", was set to be released later this year.

If time has taught us anything within the Golden Era Gospel circle, it is that some groups from that era cease to operate without their leader (with exception to many quartets). For example, when Roberta Martin died in 1969, The Roberta Martin Singers tried to soldier on without their leader, but did not make it past 1971. If The Caravans should cease to sing or record after Ms. Walker's death, or if they shall continue strongly with another member taking the reins in the absence of Ms. Walker, we can still say Thank You, Lord for the ministry of Albertina Walker, and Thank You, Lord for the ministry The Caravans, from their days with Robert Anderson until this present time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ebony recreates cover photo with Mahalia Jackson using Yolanda Adams

By: Joseph Middleton

To celebrate their 65th birthday, Ebony decided to recreate 12 of their most legendary covers with modern day singers and entertainers. To recreate their cover featuring Mahalia Jackson, Ebony turned to modern day gospel vocalist Yolanda Adams. You can see the recreation in this post.

Well, what do you think?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Swanee Quintet to celebrate 71st Anniversary with program in Augusta

By: Joseph Middleton

The Swanee Quintet is one of those Golden Era Groups which is still going strong today with new blood. While original members such as the late James "Big Red" Anderson and the late Rev. Ruben Willingham have passed on, longtime member Percy Griffin (Griffin joined the group in 1965) is now at the helm as Manager, Booking Agent, and Lead Vocalist.

The Augusta, GA based group will celebrate 71 years of singing on Sunday, October 3, 2010 at the William Bell Auditorium in Augusta. Doors open at 4:00pm, and the program will begin at 5:00pm. Special guests will include other Golden Era Groups such as Spencer Taylor and the Highway QCs, and the Sensational Nightingales. Also on program will be modern quartet stars Lee Williams of Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs, Doc McKenzie of Doc McKenzie and the Hi-Lites, Harvey Watkins Jr. of the Canton Spirituals, Darrell McFadden and the Disciples, and Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson.

That sure sounds like a good lineup. Congratulations to the Swanee Quintet on 71 years of gospel singing. Here's to 71+ more years!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's our Birthday! The Golden Era Gospel Blog Turns One Year Old!

Today marks the 1st anniversary of the launch of Golden Era Gospel Blog. As the old cliche goes, time really does fly, doesn't it? I've had some lulls in reporting due to lack of material (but that's improving, as a comparison, I've had more posts this month alone than I had from the 3 month period of Sept. 23-Dec. 31 2009), and my blog may not have as many views, visits, or followers as other gospel blogs, but it's faithfully serving its purpose, to educate and inform about the goings on in the world of Golden Era Gospel.

I want to say "thank you" to the subscribers, fellow bloggers, friends and fans who have shown support over this past year. God Bless Ya!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Arrangements for "Little Lucy Smith"

A memorial service for Lucy Collier, aka "Little Lucy Smith" of the Little Lucy Smith Singers and the Roberta Martin Singers, will be held on Saturday, October 2, 2010 at 11 a.m. at Woodlawn A.M.E. Church in Chicago, IL. 6456 S. Evans Ave.

The Chicago Tribune has posted an obituary which you can read here:,0,6451138.story

Monday, September 20, 2010

A message from Albertina Walker

Albertina Walker is "still here", and she wants the world to know that she appreciates the concern and prayers shown toward her during these last few weeks. Click the photo above to see the message more clearly from her to her friends and fans.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

R.I.P. Lucy Matthews "Little Lucy Smith" Collier

The Golden Era Gospel Blog learned from Jameel Fleming and Bob Marovich that Lucy Matthews Collier, aka: "Little Lucy Smith", died this morning in Chicago after an illness. Collier, the granddaughter of the late Rev. Lucy Smith, daughter of the late Rev. James Austin and stepdaughter of the late Roberta Martin was born circa 1926 and was a Chicago gospel mainstay during the Golden Era as a singer, writer, composer, pianist and organist. Collier was musically trained under Roberta Martin in the early 1940s, and was reported to be the one who initially introduced Rev. Austin to Roberta Martin and even helped to train Rev. James Cleveland in playing the piano. Collier became the organist for the Roberta Martin Singers in 1949, sharing the duties with Willie Webb through 1955. In 1955 and 1956, Collier recorded for the States Record Label with the Little Lucy Smith Singers, which consisted of herself, Gladys Beamon Gregory, Sarah McKissick, and Catherine Campbell. In 1959, Collier began transitioning from the organ to the piano on the Roberta Martin Singers' studio recordings, and by 1963 was the studio pianist for the group. It was also during this time that she also became the musical director and leader of the Roberta Martin Singers as Roberta Martin became ill and traveled less with the group. In 1962, Collier released a solo album of instrumentals on the Hammond B3 for Savoy Records, and made an appearance on fellow Roberta Martin Singers alum, Gloria Griffin's debut solo album in 1968 as a pianist and vocalist. After 1971, The Roberta Martin Singers disbanded and Collier became the pianist for the Chicago produced "Jubilee Showcase" TV Show. Sometime during the 1970s, Collier suffered a stroke, which left her partially paralyzed. While she retained the ability to sing, she was left unable to play the piano or organ again.

Collier continued to sing and write into her later years, recording in the 1980s and 1990s for Anthony Heilbut's Spirit Feel label, but was not active in recent years.

Information about funeral arrangements will be posted as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, here is a recording of Collier on lead vocals from 1964 with the Roberta Martin Singers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

African American Museum of Philadelphia Presents Don't Let Go: Music of the Civil Rights Movement

From Bob Marovich at The Black Gospel Blog

African American Museum of Philadelphia
701 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA

September 25, 2010
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Don’t Let Go: Music of the Civil Rights Movement

In celebration of Gospel Music History Month, and in conjunction with the 6th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day, the African American Museum in Philadelphia and Reverend Joe Williams of Mount Airy United Fellowship invite you to meet living legends of gospel and soul, and hear some of the music that strengthened and encouraged African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

Special Guests include Garnett Mims, Bunny Sigler, Goldwire McClendon, Howard Carroll, Rosie Wallace, Ali Hackett, Romance Watson, and Frank Bey.

You can find out more at this link: Don’t Let Go: Music of the Civil Rights Movement

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Golden Era Gospel Blog Interviews (and sings with) Sarah Jordan Powell!

Blog author and Mrs. Powell during the interview, Sunday, Sept 12, 2010 at Good Hope M.B.C., Houston, TX

In August, I learned that I would be singing in the Praise Ensemble at my church with the legendary Sarah Jordan Powell. Mrs. Powell was born in Houston and sang with the Sallie Martin Singers in the 1960s. Personally, I believed it would be an honor just to see Mrs. Powell sing, but to actually get to sing onstage with her and then to interview her was just outstanding! The icing on the cake was that we sang an old school hit with her, none other than the late Eugene Smith's landmark song "I Know the Lord Will Make a Way." Talk about Golden Era goodness all over! I asked Mrs. Powell a few questions after service and this is what I learned.

When did you start professionally singing gospel music?

Professionally, I began singing gospel music in 1971 at the Gospel Music Workshop of America Convention (GMWA) in Dallas, TX after meeting Rev. James Cleveland. Before that, I mostly sang around different churches.

You sang with the Sallie Martin Singers during the 1960s, singing with legends like Bessie Folk, Shirley Bell, and of course Sallie Martin. How did you meet Sallie Martin and become a member of the group?

I was teacher in Chicago at the time at Englewood High School, and singing in the Chicago area, and I was recommended to Sallie Martin. At the time, she was looking for a vocalist to add to her group. She called me and invited me over to her home. We talked for a bit, and I sang for her and that's how I joined the Sallie Martin Singers.

How long did you sing with the Sallie Martin Singers?

I was with her for just a few years. I toured with her during the summer when I wasn't working at school.

Are the stories about Sallie's personality true?

Well, she did speak her mind. I believe that God uses many people and that you have to adjust to others. My father was a pastor and he told me that as long as I was academically smart, and spiritual, that I would be able to adjust to different people. It helped. I adjusted to Sallie Martin and we never had a cross word toward each other. We got along with each other.

What path did you take after you left the Sallie Martin Singers?

After I left the Sallie Martin Singers, I joined the Voices of Melody of Chicago, IL, led by Dr. Charles Clency. After that, I met James Cleveland and he produced my first 3 solo albums.

You come from an era of great gospel sopranos such as Delois Barrett Campbell, Marion Williams, Little Lucy Smith Collier and Delores Washington. Do you have any particular singers who influenced your style?

Delois was a friend of mine, and I loved Little Lucy Smith's music, but I think I have my own personal style. God gives us musical gifts that are our own, in our own personal style.

I'm sure you've met a lot of singers in your travels and shared the stage with many notables. Which of these artists particularly stand out?

Besides working with Sallie Martin, I also knew Roberta Martin and would go to her house as well. Of course, I knew James Cleveland and I even got to perform with Ray Charles. There's a funny story to that too. When James Cleveland was producing my albums, we used Ray Charles' studio one night to record. A tape of my singing was accidentally left there one night and Ray Charles came across it the next day and listened to it. He wanted to know who the singer on the tape was, and he was told that it was Sarah Jordan Powell. A few years later, Ray Charles was to play and sing at a Christmas Concert in Germany. Originally, Aretha Franklin was to accompany him, but she was not available. An agent overheard and suggested me, and Ray Charles agreed since he'd heard me via that tape which was left in his office years ago.

Do you have any plans to release any new material?

Yes. I am working on a project right now as a matter of fact. I expect it to be complete in about six months.

I have personally found that some younger audiences are really interested in the older gospel, especially when it comes to preserving it. What do you think about that?

I believe the older gospel should be preserved because it is timeless. I believe young people need to relate to it because it is our heritage.

Do you have any sage words of advice or tips after traveling the Gospel Highway for nearly 50 years?

Gifts and Talents are a sacred trust which should never be abused.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Aretha Franklin wants Denzel Washington and LaShun Pace to portray the roles of Golden Era Gospel figures in her upcoming biopic

Bridget Bland of AOL Blackvoices Entertainment Newswire reports that Aretha Franklin has asked Denzel Washington and LaShun Pace, among others, to have roles in her upcoming biopic. Denzel would play the role of her father, Rev. Clarence LaVaughn "C.L." Franklin, while LaShun would play the role of one of the Clara Ward Singers (my educated guess is LaShun will play Marion Williams).

You may remember my blog entry from April when it was announced that Karen Clark Sheard would play the role of Kitty Parham of the Ward Singers. Hmm..., that's 2 down, more to go. If she plans to have other Ward Singers in her film, I wonder, who will Aretha ask to play Clara, Willa, Frances, Henrietta, and Mama Gert (complete with the black wig with the white stripe going down the middle!)? It's also well known that Aretha was good friends with James Cleveland, I wonder who she will ask to play his role?

You can read the article in its entirety here:

Feel free to speculate who you think will be picked for further Golden Era Gospel roles in the movie, and/or tell who you would pick for those roles in the comments section. I'll start it off, I think Alicia Keys would be good as Roberta Martin since she can play and sing.

And umm... if Ms. Franklin or anyone connected to the project is reading this, please let it be known that I'll take a role as one of the Roberta Martin Singers in the film. I can be Willie Webb, Norsalus McKissick, OR Eugene Smith, your choice. Ha!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Contrary to the rumormill, Albertina Walker is NOT dead!

Since Saturday, there have been reports on Facebook, Twitter, and gospel related websites stating that Albertina Walker, who was recently hospitalized has died. The reports are not true. According to Bob Marovich of The Black Gospel Blog Ms. Walker is alive, contrary to the misinformation still being posted.

I repeat, Albertina Walker is ALIVE, the rumors are untrue. Please continue to keep her lifted up in prayer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Update: Albertina Walker released from hospital, now at home getting rest

The Golden Era Gospel Blog learned today from Eric Peterson, Albertina Walker's business liaison, that Ms. Walker is now at home and is getting some much needed rest. That is certainly good news to hear.

Fans can send Ms. Walker well-wishes at

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Golden Era Gospel Blog didn't win, but oh well...

The winners were announced today for The 2010 Black Weblog Awards. The Golden Era Gospel Blog was a finalist in the category of Best Faith Based Blog, but didn't win. Oh well! Thanks to everyone for their votes, support and kind words.

There's still plenty of good stuff planned for the blog this month. After all, it IS Gospel Music Heritage Month! On the 23rd, the blog will celebrate one year of operation (wow, it's been that long already?). I want to do something special for the occasion. I have a marvel idea floating in my head for how to celebrate, I'll definitely let you know if that idea comes to fruition.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Breaking News: Albertina Walker hospitalized

Multiple sources tell The Golden Era Gospel Blog that Albertina Walker, who celebrated her 81st birthday just two days ago, was admitted to the hospital last night. The cause is unknown, but she's been told to get plenty of rest. After nearly 60 years on the gospel highway, I believe some rest is indeed in order! Keep Ms. Walker in your prayers and here's to her resting up and getting back on the gospel highway soon!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Services announced for Robert "Sugar" Hightower of the Supreme Angels

From the Goldsboro News-Argus Obituaries:

Robert Lee Hightower was born on Dec. 17, 1948, to the late Elder Nick Hightower Jr. and Susie Hightower-Cook in Deland, Fla. He peacefully entered into eternal rest Tuesday at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

A time to visit with Sugar Hightower and his family will be Monday from 3 until 7 p.m. at Wave of Glory in Goldsboro. Services to celebrate the life and legacy of this gospel legend will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Lawrence Bogier Building. Following the triumphant celebration in the sanctuary, Mr. Hightower’s earthen vessel, along with cherished friends and family, will be escorted to Old Mill Cemetery for farewell rites. For now, Sugar has joined the real Supreme Angels, which are in Heaven, and God, our heavenly father, is listening to him play his new golden guitar.

“Sugar,” as he was affectionately known, began his gospel career with the Hightower Brothers at a very early age. After making his debut with them, he sang with the Swannie Quartet. Later, Sugar joined the Mighty Clouds of Joy. Sugar traveled all over the world, singing with the Mighty Clouds of Joy, which allowed him to meet Howard “Slim” Hunt and the Supreme Angels. Sugar climaxed his gospel career with the Supreme Angels as he sang with them for more than 30 years.

The life of Robert Lee Hightower will continue to live in the lives of those he loved, such as his two brothers, Johnny Hightower and Willie J. Hightower; four sisters, Susie Tucker, Sheila Hightower, Gloria Hightower and Shalga Hightower; spouse, Martha “Nita” Hightower; two step-children, Johnathan and LaQuinta; three special nephews, Nick, Michael and Mario; seven special nieces, Kim, Sonja, Laquinta, Khayana, Nakia, Natasha, and Kenyetta; brother-in-law, Ernestine Hightower and Forrest Tucker. His extended family includes The Supreme Angels and family, Ann and Lakeisha Smith, Charles Rushing, along with a host of great nieces and nephews, cousins and many friends.

Robert Lee Hightower was also predeceased by his brother and sister, Rico and Lillian Hightower-Atkinson; nephew and niece, Shawn and Iofemi Hightower; and his son, Rico Hightower.

The Hightower and connected family are receiving services of compassion and class from the president and staff of E.M. Matthews Funeral Home and Cremations, Inc.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Happy Birthday to Albertina Walker!

Today, August 29, 2010, gospel legend Albertina "Tina" Walker, soloist and an original member of The Caravans celebrates her 81st birthday. The Golden Era Gospel Blog would like to wish Ms. Walker a happy and blessed 81! She's still here!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Voting ends August 31st for the Black Weblog Awards, have you voted for this blog yet?

There's only five days of voting left for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. Voting ends August 31 at Midnight EDT. Thank you to those who have voted. Those of you who have already voted can submit more votes for the blog for the category of Best Faith Based Blog. Unlike the nomination process where you could only submit one ballot, you are able to vote multiple times during the finalist period, so get in those votes for The Golden Era Gospel Blog! You can find the blog on the first page of the ballot, but please make sure to get to the last page to submit your ballot and use a VALID e-mail address, otherwise it won't go through. If you haven't voted at all yet, go ahead and as they say in Chicago, the birthplace of the Golden Era Gospel sound, vote early and vote often! Except this sort of voting is legit. LOL! Let's make this thing happen!

Click HERE to vote.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

R.I.P. Robert "Sugar" Hightower of the Supreme Angels

Robert "Sugar" Hightower of the Supreme Angels died yesterday at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Hightower was 61 years old and had been battling cancer. Hightower was a longtime member of the Supreme Angels, dating back to their early days with Nashboro Records. Arrangements are pending at E.M. Matthews Funeral Home, 401 N. William Street. Goldsboro, North Carolina 27530. Ph: 919-735-2775 Fax: 919-735-2773. Information about services will be posted as it becomes available.

Obituary from the Goldsboro News-Argus

Black Gospel Music Collector's Forum announcement of Hightower's death

Announcement of Hightower's death by The Black Gospel Blog

You can see "Sugar" Hightower in action in the video clip below at 0:30 on the guitar.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Historic Pilgrim Baptist Church still wants $1M promised by Blagojevich

Pilgrim Baptist Church was gutted by fire in 2006. The church served as the birthplace of gospel music and was where Thomas A. Dorsey and James Cleveland among others, perfected their craft. Shortly after the fire, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich promised to allocate $1 million to rebuild the landmark. Blagojevich failed to live up to that promise and now, lawyers for Pilgrim Baptist Church have filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development to give the money that was promised four years ago.

You can read more about the lawsuit here: Chicago's Pilgrim Baptist still wants $1M promised by Blagojevich

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More spinning vinyl for you!

I have some more spinning vinyl to share with you. This time, we have a number by the Gospel Clefs from 1961, "So Good" with the late Leon Lumpkins and Rev. Abe Huston sharing the lead. They were working out on this one for sure, especially that intro! Check it out! As with the last video I shared with you, embeddeding is disabled, so you'll have to view it at this link: "So Good" by The Gospel Clefs

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mavis Staples still going strong after over 60 years!

Mavis Staples is perhaps best remembered for leading the 1972 hit "I'll Take You There" for the Staple Singers. What some folks don't know is that the Staple Singers have roots firmly planted in Golden Era Gospel. The Staple Singers were founded in Chicago in 1948 by Roebuck "Pops" Staples as a gospel group, recording for the United Vee-Jay, Checker, Riverside, and Epic labels through the 50s and 60s before signing with Stax in 1968.

The patriarch of the group, "Pops" Staples died in 2000, and Mavis's sister and fellow group member Cleo was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, effectively disbanding The Staple Singers. Mavis, now 71 is still going strong, and will even be a featured performer at Lollapalooza.

Check out this recent interview with Ms. Staples.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Golden Era Literature: A book about the Roberta Martin Singers is in the works by a Texas author

The Roberta Martin Singers, c. 1960 (left to right; Eugene Smith, Gloria Griffin, Roberta Martin, Harold Johnson, Norsalus McKissick, and Lucy "Little Lucy Smith" Collier)

Ronald Greer of Bay City, TX is writing a book about the Roberta Martin Singers, pictured at right. This really piqued my interest as the group is my favorite Golden Era group. I was able to ask Mr. Greer a few questions about his book and how he became interested in taking on this project.

How did you first become interested in the Roberta Martin Singers?

I became interested in the Roberta Martin Singers after listening to a gospel radio program one night in 1977. They were playing the song, "Ride On, King Jesus" by the Martin Singers. I had never heard piano and organ music played so beautifully and the voice leading the song sounded sheer heavenly. I later found out that the group was The Roberta Martin Singers and the leader was Roberta Martin. That was the beginning of my association with the music of the Roberta Martin Singers. After buying some sheet music , I found the number to the Martin Studio. I phoned the studio. Roberta's husband, Mr. Jimmy Austin was still alive at the time and I told him how the music just literally put a spell on me. He in turn gave me the number to Eugene Smith and a beautiful association began. That was in 1977.

When did you decide to write a book about the group?

After my association with Eugene "Gene" Smith began, we started talking and he began telling me about Roberta Martin and how the Roberta Martin Singers started. As time went on, I began to ask more and more questions, which prompted me to begin writing this information down. One day, Gene said to me that with all this knowledge that he had shared with me, that I ought to write a book about the Martin Singers. I thought about it and after also talking to former members, Bessie Folk, Archie Dennis, Delois Barrett Campbell and Little Lucy Smith; I felt that with the vast amount of info that I had collected over the years, a book about the group was completely in order. Now that I look back, I just wish I would have talked more with Roberta's husband, Jimmy Austin before his death. I still have on my list, to plan a conversation with Roberta Martin's son, Leonard "Sonny" Austin. There's nothing like getting the blessings on the immediate family.

How long has it taken you to do research for this book?

I have been researching the Roberta Martin Singers and their history since I met Eugene Smith, back in 1977. I would get the "bug" and then lose interest in writing. Get the bug again and once again, lose interest. I really became interested in the book after reading Evelyn Hardy's book about her travels with the Gospel Harmonettes. I then collected my thoughts and all my many notes I had written on sheets of paper and began to put them together.

What interesting things can readers expect to see in your book?

They, hopefully will see the significant contributions that Roberta Martin and her singers have made not only to gospel music, but to music in general. They will also get to see a countless amount of photos of singers: some of whom they just heard about. Example: Prof. Theodore R. Frye

When do you expect the book to hit the shelves?

I would like to see this book come out, in the month of February, 2011; just in time to celebrate Roberta's birthday. I would like to plan a big celebration; possibly in conjunction with the Roberta Martin Memorial Club of the Mt. Pisgah Bapt. Church and a book signing in Chicago and and in conjunction with the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses- of which Roberta Martin was their 1st National Supervisor of the Youth Department; the GMWA and various churches across the country where The Roberta Martin Singers traveled.

Mr. Greer can be contacted via e-mail at

To end this message, here's a post from YouTube with the Roberta Martin Singers singing "Try Jesus".

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Documentary released about the life of Albertina Walker

By: Joseph Middleton

Last week at this year's annual Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) convention, it was announced that a 1 hour long documentary about the life of Albertina Walker had been completed and released. I have confirmed with Ms. Walker's assistant, Eric Peterson, that the documentary will be available for purchase by the public via Ms. Walker's official website,, in a few weeks. When asked if the documentary will be aired on TV, I was told that there were negotiations going on concerning the broadcast of the documentary. A documentary about The Caravans is also set to be released at a later date. I will post more about that as more information becomes available.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Walter Hawkins: A Tribute Concert

If you didn't catch the concert on TV, here's your chance to catch it, courtesy of the Gospel Music Channel.

You can watch it here:

I chose not to embed it because the large dimensions of the video player did not allow it to fit within the margins.

Some may be wondering where the Golden Era connection is, considering "Oh Happy Day" is seen by many as the break away point from the Golden Era to today's era of gospel music. Well, I watched an episode of Faith & Fame about Walter Hawkins, and he personally cited groups such as The Caravans, The Davis Sisters, and The Clara Ward Singers as his influences. So there's your Golden Era connection right there!

Gospel Memories podcasts

If you're looking for a worthwhile series of podcasts to download to your MP3 player, I highly recommend that you try the Gospel Memories podcasts. As the saints would say in the old church, "I'm not tellin' you what I heard, I'm tellin' you what I know, 'cause I tried it for myself!" and I can say it's worth it! Each podcast is an hour long, recorded during Bob Marovich's weekly Gospel Memories program, and features great, rare vintage gospel music from Bob's expansive collection. It's truly a great asset to the gospel music historian community, as some of those recordings are being broadcasted for the first time in decades, and in some cases they are being broadcasted for the very first time, ever! Whether you need some tunes to keep you company on a long drive, on a flight, at home, or even at the gym (because we all know shouting music makes great treadmill music!), give the Gospel Memories podcasts a try.

Oh, did I mention they're free?

Click HERE for the latest podcasts.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Golden Era Gospel Blog chosen as Finalist for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards in the category of Best Faith Based Blog

The finalists were announced this morning for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards, and I'm pleased to announce that The Golden Era Gospel Blog made the list of finalists.

I just want to say, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all my fans and friends who took the time to nominate the blog for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. As the title of this post states, you can find this blog in the category of Best Faith Based Blog. Voting ends on August 31. The winners will be announced on September 1.

To vote, click HERE, or click the banner in the upper right hand corner of the page.

Once again, thanks for your continued support, and CONGRATS to my fellow finalists!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Happy 95th birthday to the late Frances "Sister Thunder" Steadman

On July 31, 1915, Frances Steadman was born. Her life would span an amazing 94 years, with her spending a majority of those years as a gospel singer with groups such as the Mary Johnson Davis Gospel Singers, The Clara Ward Singers and The Stars of Faith. Though her distinctive contralto was silenced late last year, her voice lives on today through recordings left behind for us to treasure for generations to come. YouTube user "BerniceJenkins2007" has posted a tribute to Frances Steadman in honor of what would have been her 95th birthday featuring recordings from her career with The Clara Ward Singers and The Stars of Faith. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Watch that vinyl spin!

Here's a Savoy Records 78 in good condition playing "Nothing But a God" by The Roberta Martin Singers with Norsalus McKissick leading. The song was written by James Cleveland in 1956 and recorded in 1957. Embedding is not allowed, so you'll have to click the link to see and hear it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just 3 days left to nominate this blog for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. Have you nominated this blog yet?

Nominations for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards ends in just days! You have until July 25 to nominate The Golden Era Gospel Blog! There are 5 categories which the blog is eligible for. But PLEASE, DO NOT NOMINATE THE BLOG IN ALL 35 LISTED CATEGORIES! I hear some people have been doing that to try to take the easy road. If you do that, that's considered ballot box stuffing and all of your nominations will be thrown out. To make sure your nomination does not get thrown out, only nominate the blog in the following 5 categories.

1. Best Culture Blog

This category is for blogs which analyze and discuss Black culture and/or the African diaspora with respect to art, dance, Black history, music, and other related content.

2. Best Faith-Based Blog

This category is for blogs which feature unique religious and spiritual content from any religion or faith.

3. Best Music Blog

This category is for blogs that focus on music; blogs can provide downloadable mp3s, and may cover more than one genre of music. The majority of the blog should be about music, not satire on pop culture.

4. Best New Blog

This category is for blogs of any topic which have been started on or after September 1, 2009. (Just for the record, this blog was started on September 23, 2009.)

5. Blog to Watch

This category is for that great blog that not everyone knows about…but should! It’s undiscovered. It’s a best kept secret. (Although it won’t be anymore if they win this award!)

A reader notified me that they nominated this blog for a sixth category for Best Writing in a Blog. If you believe the material on this blog is well written based on the overall posts, you can go ahead a nominate it the following category.

6. Best Writing in a Blog

This category is for blogs which have exceptional writing.

So, what are you waiting for? Get to voting! You can vote by clicking on the banner in the upper right corner, or by going to this link:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Who was Harvey?

By: Joseph Middleton

If you have collected any gospel LPs from the 1960s and 70s from the Savoy, Gospel, or Regent labels, you likely either possess or have seen a record with cover art by Harvey. Not much is known about Harvey, but his artwork graced the cover of numerous gospel LPs, as well as jazz and blues LP covers for the Savoy label. Harvey's true identity is a mystery. For nearly 50 years, nobody has been able to say for certain or figure out who Harvey was. Speculative guesses have been made, but they are just that, speculation.

Late last year, Phil Thomson wrote a piece about Harvey for the U.K. music website, It's a substantial piece and worth reading if you have any sort of interest in Savoy's gospel releases or album cover art in general.

Click HERE to read the article.

For more on the subject of Harvey albums, see

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Homegoing Musical and Service Arrangements for Bishop Walter Hawkins

From the Love Center Ministries, Inc. website.

Homegoing Celebrations for
Bishop Walter L. Hawkins
is as follows:

˜ Musical ˜
Tuesday, July 20th at 7:00pm

˜ Homegoing Service ˜
Wednesday, July 21st at 11:00am

BOTH services will be held at:
Paramount Theatre
2025 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612-2303
(510) 465-6400

Hotel Information:

Hilton Oakland Airport
1 Hegenberger Road
Oakland, CA 94621
(510) 635-5000

$85.00 a night, plus tax

Must Use "Love Center Ministries, Inc"

*We are requesting everyone to
wear "CREAM" for Wednesday Morning Service!

Ripon, CA - Walter Hawkins, the Grammy Award-winning gospel singer/composer and pastor of Oakland's Love Center Church, died @ 2:48 PST July 11th at his home in Ripon. For the last two years, Hawkins has been battling pancreatic cancer. He was 61 years old.

During the 1970s, Walter Hawkins personified a new wave of gospel artists such as his brother Edwin Hawkins of "Oh Happy Day" fame, and Andrae Crouch who brought a youthful contemporary vibe to gospel music. Hawkins cut a series of best-selling "Love Alive" LPs that remain gospel classics to this day. Hawkins' songs have been recorded by a who's who in music ranging from Aretha Franklin and "American Idol" champ Ruben Studdard to Vickie Winans and M.C. Hammer.

"The impact that Walter Hawkins had on gospel music was so profound and far-reaching that it is now, and forever shall be, part of gospel's DNA," says gospel music historian, Bob Marovich, who edits The Black Gospel Blog.

Hawkins was born May 18, 1949 in Oakland, CA. Reared in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination, Hawkins became a master pianist as well as a dynamic singer with an operatic vocal range. His brother, Edwin, had already made a name for himself in 1969 when "Oh Happy Day" became an international hit. While studying for his master's of divinity degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Hawkins recorded his first LP "Do Your Best" in 1972. An October 1972 Billboard magazine reviewer wrote, "Walter Hawkins is a pianist of enviable accomplishments while his vocal prowess is in no way disputable. He's gathered around him an exceptional crew of sidemen and vocalists and the total effect is completely invigorating."

The following year, Hawkins became a pastor and founded the Love Center Church in East Oakland. After forming the Love Center Choir, he recorded their first album as a church family. He used $1,800 he borrowed from his mother-in-law to complete the project. It was the first in a series of LPs named "Love Alive" and it debuted on Light Records in 1975. The album featured his then-wife, Tramaine, leading "Changed" and "Goin' Up Yonder" which became two of the biggest gospel songs of the decade. A runaway smash, the "Love Alive" album sold a staggering 300,000 copies. The five "Love Alive" LPs featured classic gospel songs such as "I Love the Lord," "Be Grateful," "I'm Goin' Away," "Thank You, Lord" and "Until, I Found the Lord."

In the `80s, Hawkins recorded a number of solo LPs and produced a number of artists, including Tramaine.

Although, he had earned nine Grammy Award nominations during his career, Hawkins only won one for his performance on "The Lord's Prayer" LP in 1980 (he also performed on the televised Grammy Awards ceremony that year). In 1990, Hawkins released "Love Alive III" which became the biggest seller of the "Love Alive" album series. The radio favorites were "There's A War Going On", " I Love You, Lord" and "He'll Bring You Out." The LP spent 34 weeks at #1 on the Billboard gospel album sales chart during the almost 100 weeks it spent on the survey. The album went on to sell over a million copies. The 1993 "Love Alive IV" also peaked at #1 on the album sales chart and spent a year on the survey. In between projects, Hawkins was ordained a Bishop in October 1992.

As elder statesmen in gospel, Hawkins become a favorite for cameo appearances in recent years. The Mississippi Mass Choir had a hit with him on "Hold, On, Soldier" in 1993 and Donald Lawrence & the TriCity Singers watched him steal the show on "Seasons" from their "Go Get Your Life Back" CD in 2002. The 2001 "Love Alive V" CD featured a huge comeback hit for Hawkins with the ballad, "Marvelous." Hawkins' final solo CD "A Song in My Heart" won a Stellar Award for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year in 2006. He was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

After surgery for pancreatic cancer in late 2008, the Hawkins Family (Walter, Edwin, Tramaine, and sister, Lynette) staged a successful, multi-city Hawkins Family reunion concert tour. At the time of his death, Hawkins was planning a new "Love Alive" CD concert recording for this fall.

Hawkins relished being a pastor as much as he enjoyed singing. "Early on I thought my ministry and my music were apart from each other. But now I see they work hand-in-hand," he once said. "I can go a lot of places with my music that I can't go as a pastor and vice versa. The purpose of both is getting the message out to people. I've had some material blessings and it's okay to have them, but to be blessed with peace of mind and joy in your life, that's when you will be truly fulfilled."

Hawkins is survived by his two children, Walter "Jamie" and Trystan Hawkins; daughter-in-law, Myiia Hawkins; two grandchildren Jamie-Daniel and Jahve; a host of nieces and nephews; the Love Center Church family and Choir; and his siblings Carol, Feddie, Edwin, Daniel, and Lynette.

Media Contact:

Bill Carpenter
202-506-5051 or
Related Posts with Thumbnails