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.