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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To end this message, here's a post from YouTube with the Roberta Martin Singers singing "Try Jesus".
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, www.albertinawalker.com, 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.
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!
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.
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!