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.
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