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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Breaking News: Bishop Walter Hawkins Dead at Age 61

By: Joseph Middleton

Reports are coming in that Bishop Walter Hawkins of the famed Hawkins Singers died on Sunday, July 11, 2010 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Bishop Hawkins was 61 years old.

In 1967, Bishop Hawkins' brother, Edwin Hawkins along with Betty Watson formed The Northern California State Youth Choir of the Church of God in Christ, Inc. Bishop Hawkins was a part of this group when they recorded their rendition of the mid 18th century hymn, "Oh Happy Day" in 1967. "Oh Happy Day" changed the sound of gospel music for decades to come, going on to win a Grammy in 1970 and has since gone down in music history as the bridge between Golden Era Gospel and today's Contemporary Gospel.

More information will be posted about Bishop Hawkins' passing and services as it becomes available.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review: Gospel Classics by Goldenlane Records

By: Joseph Middleton

If you are looking for a CD of vintage gospel goodies to add to your gospel music collection, look no further than Gospel Classics by Goldenlane Records. Gospel Classics was released earlier this year and proves itself to be a worthy addition to any gospel music collection, for gospel experts and beginners alike.

The CD contains 44 tracks by a variety of artists. Track 1 starts with the Late Bishop Samuel Kelsey leading "I'm a Soldier" while an enthusiastic congregation and instrumentation (including brass instrumentation!) backs Bishop Kelsey.

Further on down the line, we have a rendition of "By and By" by The Davis Sisters. As far as I know, there were three renditions of this song recorded by The Davis Sisters, one led by Imogene Greene alone, one led by Imogene and Ruth Davis and one led by Jackie Verdell and Ruth. The rendition on this CD features Imogene and Ruth and sounds like a mixture between the original Gotham released recording with Imogene and Ruth, and the later Savoy recording with Jackie and Ruth. It's a pew flipper, that's for sure!

If you like duets, you won't be disappointed with the duet featuring Brother Joe May and Sister Wynona Carr singing "I See Jesus". It's a bouncy little number featuring the classic golden era trio of instrumentation, a piano, an organ and drums. Of course, the real star instruments are the pipes on Brother Joe and Sister Wynona.

Other old favorites on this CD include "Didn't It Rain" by Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Marie Knight, "Touch Me Lord Jesus" by the Angelic Gospel Singers in a rendition that I've never heard before (I would guess that it's possibly the original 1947 version sans the drums that were added to the recording in the 1960s), "Let's Talk About Jesus" by the Bells of Joy from Austin, TX, "Surely God Is Able" by The Clara Ward Singers, "Where Can I Go" by The Roberta Martin Singers led by Myrtle Scott & Roberta Martin herself, and "Let Us Run" by The Caravans and led by Bessie Griffin.

There are also some preachers and congregations on this CD such as Rev. Gatemouth Moore, Rev. C.C. Chapman, and the St. Paul Baptist Church of Los Angeles singing "God Be With You" led by Prof. James Earle Hines.

To sum it up, I believe this CD is a good buy. If you're looking to purchase it, it looks like your best bet is iTunes, where you can get the CD for $9.99. While it didn't contain all of the artists I was looking for, I am greatly satisfied with Gospel Classics.

I have to give Gospel Classics 4.5 well deserved out of 5 stars. Kudos to Goldenlane Records for putting out a fine product that Golden Era Gospel lovers will truly appreciate!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Breaking News: Legendary Golden Era group, The Caravans, set to release new CD in 2010

By: Joseph Middleton

Since 1952 (or 1949 if you want to count their days as Robert Anderson's backing ensemble), The Caravans have become one of the legendary female gospel groups of all time. While other female groups from The Golden Era such as The Davis Sisters or The Clara Ward Singers no longer exist, or simply exist without any original founding members still singing with the group, The Caravans are still going strong with an original founding member and are recording today with essentially the same lineup from 1958-59, give or take a few members. That's a rarity in both secular and gospel genres.

According to Albertina Walker's brand new website,, The Caravans are set to release a 10 track CD later this year titled "My Soul Says Yes".Those of you familiar with that title may remember the song, written by Cassietta George and led by Josephine Howard from their 1965 Vee-Jay album, "The Caravans in Concert", or its 1969 re-release on Buddah Records.

I'll keep you posted as I get more information. You can read the blurb about the new CD here:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Father of Gospel Music, Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey

On July 1, 1899 in Villa Rica, Georgia, Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born. Over the next 93 years, Dorsey would set forth a path that would take him from being a top blues artist in the 1920s and 1930s known as "Georgia Tom", to one of the most prolific writers of gospel music. While Rev. Dorsey's songwriting career was at its peak from the 1930s to the 1950s, Rev. Dorsey influenced generations of gospel singers, and that influence still resonates today in new artists and songwriters such as Marvin Sapp, whose hit composition, "Never Would Have Made It", took churches by storm during 2007 and beyond in a similar fashion to Rev. Dorsey's "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" in the 1930s. Other songs like "Peace in the Valley", "I Was Standing by the Bedside of a Neighbor (If You See My Savior Tell Him That You Saw Me)" "When The Gates Swing Open" and "I Don't Know Why" are still in regular rotation in churches worldwide and can be found in many a modern hymnal.

No doubt about it, Rev. Dorsey left behind a rich legacy.

Check out some of these videos featuring songs by Rev. Dorsey, and footage of Rev. Dorsey himself.

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