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
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