Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Funeral Arrangements for Min. Gene Viale

The funeral service for Min. Gene Viale will be held on Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11am at Allen Temple. 8501 International Blvd. Oakland, CA 94621.

Here is audio of Min. Viale leading "Heartaches" with the James Cleveland Singers in 1965.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Happy 80th Birthday, James Cleveland!

December 5, 2011 marks what would have been James Cleveland's 80th birthday. One can only imagine what the gospel field might have been like today had he lived until now.

Here's a few songs to check out from his 40 year recording career, including his recording debut in 1951 with the Gospelaires as pianist and vocalist, and his last composition and recording in 1990 with the LA Gospel Messengers.

I've broken the list up into different phases of his recording career so you can hear how his style of arranging changed and adapted over the years. There's a 3-6 year gap between each song, and 2-3 songs per decade with exception to the 1990s.

1951 "The Lifeboat is Coming" by the Gospelaires

1955 "What Kind of Man Is This" by the Caravans

1961 "The Love of God" with the Gospel All-Stars

1966 "Christ the Redeemer" with the Walter Arties Chorale

1969 "Over My Head" with the Southern California Community Choir

1973 "Lord, Help Me to Hold Out" with the Harold Smith Majestics

1979 "God Is" with the Southern California Community Choir

1983 "This Time, I'm Going All the Way" with the NJ Mass Choir of the GMWA

1988 "He Knows How Much We Can Bear"with the LA Gospel Messengers

1990 "Always" with the LA Gospel Messengers

Happy Birthday, "King James!" We're sure you're having one heck of a celebration up in Glory with Prof. Dorsey, Mahalia, Roberta, Albertina, Clara, Sallie, Alex, Jessy, Gene, and the rest of your colleagues and mentors.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

R.I.P., Min. Gene Viale, James Cleveland Singer

Min. Gene Viale, member of the famed James Cleveland Singers during the mid 60s, has died. He was 65 years old.

According to his personal website, Viale was born on October 31, 1946, and began singing at the age of five. In 1964, Viale joined the James Cleveland Singers and recorded two albums with them, "Heaven, That Will Be Good Enough for Me", and another album, which remains unreleased. Viale served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968, and was licensed to preach in 1967. In 1968, Viale released his first solo record, "What Color Is God", on the Checker label, and made his first appearance on Jubilee Showcase. Through the late 70s and early 80s, Viale toured the country with gospel singers and appeared on program with singers such as James Cleveland, Inez Andrews, Shirley Caesar, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, and Dorothy Norwood.

In 2007, Viale was ordained by The Fellowship by Bishop Yvette Flunder, and just last year, Min. Viale released a book titled "I Remember Gospel."

Viale touched many hearts and souls through his nearly five decades of recording, as seen by the posts from mourners and colleagues on his Facebook profile's wall. His loss is another devastating blow to the Golden Era Gospel community, which already lost tremendous voices like Delois Barrett Campbell and Jessy Dixon earlier this year. Viale was truly a Golden Era singer, having worked with singers such as Mahalia Jackson, Cassietta George, the Staple Singers, the Roberta Martin Singers, the Ward Singers, Doris Akers, the Caravans, the Gospel Harmonettes, the Argo Singers, Sallie Martin, the Barrett Sisters, the Davis Sisters, the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and many more.

Information about the service(s) for Gene Viale will be posted as it becomes available.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jessy Dixon (1938-2011)

Internationally renowned gospel singer Jessy Dixon has died in Chicago at the age of 73. Dixon was born in San Antonio, TX, but relocated to Chicago with his family when he was a teenager. In the 1960s, Dixon was a member of the James Cleveland Singers and was featured as a studio pianist for Savoy Records. In the 1970s, Dixon toured with his own group, The Jessy Dixon Singers, and became a studio keyboardist for Chess Records and played behind both gospel and secular recordings. Some of Dixon's most popular songs included "I am Redeemed", and "Sit at His Feet and Be Blessed." Dixon was a leader in the Chicago Community Choir and was an inspiration to many current gospel artists, including Donald Lawrence. Dixon is survived by a brother and a sister. Arrangements are pending at this time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

O Johneron Davis, I finally found ya!

By: Joseph Middleton

It's been over a year since I released the original plea, but I am still searching for information on Johneron Davis, a longtime member of of the Caravans (1953-1962). Today, I received a wealth of information on her thanks to Libra Nicole Boyd and Rev. James Herndon of the Caravans (1959-1967).

Johneron was born on April 12, 1929, which is coincidentally just two days before Inez Andrews's birthday. According to Rev. Herndon, Johneron, a second soprano, was "wild about the Caravans" and was "a good soldier", singing in the group from their early days with early members such as Bessie Griffin, Gloria Griffin, Imogene Green, and Louise McDowell, until their early 60s heyday with Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews, and Cassietta George. She left the group in the fall of 1962 and was replaced by Josephine Howard. Johneron died on August 4, 1965 at the age of 36 of cancer. She was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, IL, which is the same cemetery where Emmett Till, Dinah Washington, and Roberta Martin are also buried.

Johneron married at some point and became Johneron Austin. At this point, it is not known if she married an Austin from the family of Rev. James Austin, husband of Roberta Martin, son of Rev. Lucy Smith, and father of Lucy Collier, aka, Little Lucy Smith. There's still more infomation to be found. Did she have children? Does she have any descendants? I hope the answers to those questions can be found soon. I know there are other Golden Era Gospel fans awaiting those answers, too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How Lerone Baker's quest to deify the already grand Cassietta George is wrecking the hard work of Gospel Music Historians

By: Joseph Middleton

Cassietta George (seen at right) was a gem of the Golden Gospel Era. From her days in the early 1950s with the Songbirds of the South, until becoming one of the longest tenured Caravans, there's no doubt she reserved herself a great place amongst the top gospel singers in the history books.

Unfortunately, her nephew's recent actions to honor her name reeks of callousness and ill-hearted intentions. In the past few years, Lerone Baker of Atlanta, GA has released a beyond mediocre, poorly written and poorly researched book that has become both the laughingstock and the bane of the Golden Era Gospel Community. I don't have to remind you that when it comes to the history Golden Era Gospel, it's often hard to get truly correct information when you have different versions of one story coming from different singers. Baker's book only complicates matters that will make the less informed believe they are receiving correct information. Perhaps this stems from the fact that Baker himself is likely misinformed about the rich legacy of the late Cassietta George.

This misinformation has spread to YouTube, causing the deletion of accounts of friends of the Golden Era Gospel Blog such as DJ and Historian, Linwood Heath, Timothy Williams and Emmanuel Jones. In good news, Linwood Heath recently won his counter argument against Baker and had his account fully restored.

This is a message to Lerone Baker from the Golden Era Gospel Community. STOP. CEASE. QUIT. Or to respond with a case of ungrammatical profundity, SITCHOAZZDOWN! It's clear that you are only trying to fill your pocket book and not honor your aunt. Cassietta George truly deserves better than the likes of you representing her. If you truly cared about your aunt's legacy, you would build a platform to raise her up without un-necessarily deriding the names of other members of the Caravans in a libelous manner, publishing outright and easily debunked lies, and claiming works that pre-date your aunt's birth by over 50 years as being owned by her.

Folks, I've done the research, and he's been claiming songs copyrighted by Roberta Martin and James Herndon of the Caravans among others as being his aunt's work. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but in addition to being unethical, isn't that also illegal? Hmm..

To Sonny Austin (son of Roberta Martin), Rev. Herndon, I know you're probably not receiving the proper dues from those copyrighted works, but you may want to speak to a lawyer. He doesn't have the right to claim the hard earned works of Miss Martin and others as his aunt's works.

Lerone Baker, I know you're reading this, and just know that your unkind deeds WILL be stopped. I've got a band of educated scholars and historians, descendants of Golden Era Gospel Singers and even a few Golden Era Gospel Singers on my side and we're ready to debunk your false claims at every turn. Bring it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Funeral Arrangements for Delois Barrett Campbell

Funeral arrangements have been set for gospel pioneer, Delois Barrett Campbell. The musical tribute will be at Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 W. 95th Street in Chicago on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 7:00pm. The funeral will be on Wednesday, August 10 at the same church. Visitation will begin at 6:00pm and the funeral service will begin at 7:00pm. The internment will be on Thursday, August 11 at Oakwoods Cemetery.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Delois Barrett Campbell of the Barrett Sisters and Roberta Martin Singers passes in Chicago

Sad news to report from Chicago. Earlier today, the Golden Era Gospel Blog learned about the passing of gospel legend, Delois Barrett Campbell. She was 85 years old. Delois was born March 12, 1926 in Chicago, IL. In 1943, she became one of the first female members of the Roberta Martin Singers, and also went on to record with her sisters, Billie and Rhodessa as the Barrett Sisters. In 1982, Delois and her sisters appeared in "Say Amen, Somebody", marking a highlight in her career. In later years, Delois would travel internationally to sing for audiences. In recent years, Delois was confined to a wheelchair, and started to lose her voice as her health declined.

Prayers go out to the Barrett Family at this time. Arrangements will be posted as they become available.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Arrangements for F.C. Barnes

The arrangements for Rev. F.C. Barnes are as follows:

Memorial Service
Friday, July 15th
7-9 PM
Red Budd Holy Church
1108 Luper Street - Rocky Mount

Saturday, July 16th
11 AM
Red Budd Holy Church

Arrangements are by Hamilton Funeral Chapel in Wilson, NC.

Monday, July 11, 2011

R.I.P. Rev. F.C. Barnes

The Golden Era Gospel Blog has learned through Malaco Records that Rev. F.C. Barnes, best known for his 1983 hit with Rev. Janice Brown, "I'm Coming Up the Rough Side of the Mountain", has died. More info will be posted as it becomes available. Prayers go out to the Barnes family during this difficult time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

R.I.P., Viola Crowley of the Clara Ward Singers

The Golden Era Gospel Blog has learned of the death of Viola Crowley of the Clara Ward Singers. Crowley died on June 17, 2011 at the age of 89. Per Dwayne "Rowoches" Lightsey's tribute video, Crowley joined the Ward Singers in 1959 as a pianist and vocalist and remained a member until the group disbanded after Clara Ward's death in 1973. Crowley was known for her lead on songs such as "Traveling Shoes", "We're Marching Up to Zion" and "Come On In This House", among others.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Golden Era Gospel Blog Reviews "Rejoice and Shout"

By: Joseph Middleton

"Rejoice and Shout", released by Magnolia Pictures, directed by Don McGlynn and produced by Joe Lauro, is a rousing, educational gem of a documentary. I was lucky enough to catch a pre-screening of "Rejoice and Shout" with friends in tow in Humble, TX on Thursday, June 2.

Like any good gospel documentary, "Rejoice and Shout" begins by discussing the spiritual perspective of black gospel music, and the genesis of black gospel music from the Dr. Watts hymns, to the plantation grounds as enslaved blacks sang the songs telling of the good news in bad times (no plagiarism intended to Anthony Heilbut, but that portion of your landmark book's title describes the situation wonderfully!). The documentary, featuring gospel music historians Bil Carpenter, Jacquie Gayles Webb and Heilbut, presents the history of gospel music in the United States through and after slavery, starting with the world renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers, and on through the early 20th century via priceless videos and audio recordings, some dating back to over 100 years ago. The Dinwiddle Quartet is featured in the documentary as one of the first black quartets to make an audio recording back in 1902. The 109 year old recording is played in the film, and is a delight to hear. One film recording from 1922 of the Utica Quartet predates Bessie Smith's "The Jazz Singer", one of the first "talkies" by five years.

The documentary then covers the great migration of blacks from the 1920s through the 1930s from the South to cities like Detroit and Chicago, two of the hotbed cities of Golden Era Gospel. Mahalia Jackson is covered at length, as are Claude Jeter and the Swan Silvertones, Thomas A. Dorsey, the Golden Gate Quartet, the incomparable Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Clara Ward Singers (featuring an insightful story about Gertrude "Mama Gert" Ward's control over her daughters), Ira Tucker and the Dixie Hummingbirds, James Cleveland, the Caravans, Jackie Verdell of the Davis Sisters and Brother Joe May, the Soul Stirrers, the Staple Singers, the Blind Boys of Mississippi and the Blind Boys of Alabama. This documentary is not just limited to singers, either. Famous preachers such as Daddy Grace and King Louis H. Narcisse were featured, too.

Interspersed throughout the film is footage that likely hasn't seen daylight in decades, including breathtaking color footage of churchgoers from the 1940s. I will have to look again, but I think I spied songwriter Lucie Eddie Campbell-Williams in the color footage, though that will take a second screening to confirm.

Interviews in the documentary with the late Ira Tucker and the late Marie Knight shortly before their deaths in 2008 and 2009 respectively are a treat, and the documentary is dedicated in their memory. Also interviewed were other Golden Era hardhitters, Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers, Willa Ward of the Clara Ward Singers, and R&B stalwart, Smokey Robinson, who noted, without groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds with their ornate stage presence and dance steps, there would be no influence for the Temptations.

Make no mistake, I was tapping my feet, singing along and nodding my head as clips featuring the aforementioned singers and groups were played, and my friends were especially enthralled by the "clean" and "slick" appearance of the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Swan Silvertones with their conks and white suits from the 1940s and 50s, but I feel a lot of important history was left out. I didn't recall any mention of Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes, Rev. Charles Nicks, Prof. Alex Bradford, the Barrett Sisters, the Meditation Singers, Mattie Moss-Clark, the Swanee Quintet, the Pilgrim Jubilees, and perhaps the most surprising of all was the omission of both Marion Williams (I'm surprised that you can cover the Wards and leave out Marion) and, singer, songwriter, accompanist and arranger Roberta Martin, one of the BIGGEST names of the Golden Era who was rivaled only by Mahalia Jackson in the Chicago and national black gospel scene of the 40s-60s.

To McGlynn's and Lauro's credit, over 10,000 hours of footage was accumulated, eventually whittled down to three hours and then to a reasonable one and a half hours. Perhaps some of those names had to be unfortunately cut to fit within the time constraints. While the material as it stands is no doubt extensive, to adequately cover all of the hardhitters of the Golden Era of Gospel in a documentary would likely require an amount of money that might surpass the funding for "Rejoice and Shout", and certainly a running time of over four hours. Maybe a multi-part sequel purely about the Golden Era is in order? Or maybe a DVD with bonus features including the cut clips?

After covering the Golden Era, the documentary begins to snake into the realm of modern gospel music, starting with the break from the Golden Era to the Modern Era in 1968 with Edwin Hawkins' groundshaking arrangement of "Oh Happy Day", an interview by Pastor Andrae Crouch, an interview with Smokey Robinson on the importance of the influence of rap and hip-hop in modern gospel, and concert appearances by current traditional artists, the Selvy Family and Darrel Petties. In one of the most memorable, crowd pleasing scenes, the Selvys "beat" the devil, who is represented by a life-sized, stuffed doll.

Despite the absence of so much Golden Era Gospel history, I left the theater satisfied. I even learned a few things along the way, which is perhaps the most important thing of all.

"Rejoice and Shout" is a limited release film, so if you can't catch it in a city near you, I highly recommend that you purchase the DVD when it comes out. Any die-hard gospel fan would be remiss to omit this documentary from their collection.

I'll close this review with Joe Lauro's explanation about the importance of gospel music:

“The underlying message was just to show that it’s all about the same thing. It’s all about the power of the Lord, and how the music gives you salvation and release.”


Three out of four stars.

Special thanks to the Houston Sun for hosting this event, AMC 24 Deerbrook in Humble for showing the documentary, good friend and blog supporter Chelsey R. for the guest pass, and my other good friend and fellow singer, K. Armel for accompanying us.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Golden Era Gospel SMACKDOWN!!!!

By: Joseph Middleton

This feature comes to us from our good friend, DJ and gospel music historian in Chi-town, Bob Marovich (I think the word "Professor" should be amended to the beginning of his name, what do you think?). Recently, Bob came upon a piece of history and posted it to his Facebook profile. Dated Sunday, August 18, 1945 (though Bob notes it's a typo and the concert actually took place in 1946), the concert bill announces a "BATTLE OF SONGS" between Mahalia Jackson and Roberta Martin. What a battle! Oh, to have a time machine and go back nearly 65 years ago to witness what was surely a GRAND time!

With this "Battle", it's fun to imagine standing on one side of the church, Mahalia and her crew saying "Bring it on!", to which Roberta and her crew of Norsalus McKissick, Sadie Durrah, Eugene Smith, Willie Webb, Bessie Folk and Delois Barrett would reply, decked in their trademark robes with "Oh, it's already been brought, in Jesus' name!"

Silliness aside, also on program was Myrtle Scott, who would later record with the Roberta Martin Singers in the early 1950s, Sallie Martin, who breifly collaborated with Roberta Martin to form the Martin and Martin Singers in the late 1930s before splitting up shortly thereafter, and Robert Anderson, one of the original members of the Martin-Frye Quartet, which later evolved into the Roberta Martin Singers. While others were present, I can see a trend in the spotlighted guests. I wonder whose side won?

I think the real winners were the audience. Witnessing Mahalia and Roberta on the same stage? Mercy! Call the ushers and get the funeral home fans, quickly!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hey, Houston! Want to see "Rejoice and Shout" for free? Here's your chance!

"Rejoice and Shout" is Magnolia Pictures' newest release, scheduled to be released to select theaters nationwide starting Friday, June 3, 2011 This film covers traditional gospel music and the Golden Era of Gospel. Expect to see performances by Clara Ward, the Caravans, the Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Dixie Hummingbirds and many more groups. If you are in the Houston area and want to see a free screening of this film on Thursday, June 2, 2011, please contact KTSU-FM. KTSU has a few passes available to see "Rejoice and Shout" at a local Houston movie theater. These passes are first come, first serve. So, make haste and get your pass ASAP! Passes can be picked up from KTSU studios on the campus of Texas Southern University during business hours beginning on Tuesday, May 31 through Thursday, June 2 from 9am-5pm. For more info, please call KTSU-FM at 713-313-7591.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Birthday to Julia Mae Price-Williams!

By: Joseph Middleton

The Golden Era Gospel Blog is wishing Julia Mae Price-Williams a Happy Birthday this May 19th. Ms. Price-Williams was a member of the Davis Sisters in the mid 60s before joining the Caravans in 1966. After her time with the Caravans, Ms. Price-Williams joined the Johnny Thompson Singers and still remains with that group today.

You can read an October 2009 interview that the Golden Era Gospel Blog did with Ms. Price-Williams here: http://goldeneragospel.blogspot.com/2009/10/golden-era-gospel-blog-interviews.html

Happy Birthday to you, "Ms. Julia!"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Golden Era Gospel Blog didn't make it to the 2011 Black Weblog Awards this time, but some friends did!

I'll start by saying thanks for your support and nominations. The Golden Era Gospel Blog didn't make it on the ballot for the 2011 Black Weblog Awards. There's always 2012, because if this blog could make it on the ballot in 2010, it can certainly do it again.

I'm pleased to find out that two friends of mine have made on the ballot this year, and I'm encouraging you to support them.

The first friend is Leah LaRue, proprietor of Order in the Church. Leah's blog is on the ballot FOUR times. Her excellent blog was nominated in the categories of Best Faith Based Blog, Best Writing in a Blog, Blog of the Year and Blog to Watch!

Kimatni Rawlins' website, Automotive Rhythms, is in the running for Best Automotive Blog. His website is top notch. One visit will have you pining for a Porsche, a Benz or any other one of the fine cars he reviews.

Congrats to Leah and Kimatni! The Golden Era Gospel Blog stands behind the two of you.

To vote for Leah and Kimatni's blogs, click this link: http://blackweblogawards.com/2011vote/

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bob Marovich's Gospel Memories celebrates 10 years on the air on Saturday

Bob Marovich will celebrate 10 years of Gospel Memories at 10am tomorrow morning on 88.7 WLUW-FM, Chicago. If you're in Chicago, tune in. If you're not in Chicago, you can listen online at wluw.org

Congrats Bob! Here's to many more years on the air!

Golden Era Gospel and "Mama"

By: Joseph Middleton

In the United States, Mother's Day is almost upon us. TV, radio, and the internet are filled with ads beckoning consumers to go out and buy gifts and flowers for their dear mother. Gospel music is not immune to this trend of acknowledging mother. In traditional gospel circles, it's not uncommon to hear songs with references to mom, mama, mother, or mama dear with songs like "I Can Still Hear Mama Praying", "I Can See Everyone's Mother But Mine", "Thank God for Mama" and "Mama Prayed for Me". During the Golden Era, mention of mother was frequently executed in gospel songs. Whether listening to the Caravans, the Soul Stirrers, the Bradford Singers, the Roberta Martin Singers, or the Mighty Clouds of Joy, you'd be bound to hear a reference to mother sooner or later.

Some gospel music historians regard this as a "dirty trick" used to rile up emotions among the congregation during a concert or a song when the congregational response is not up to par with the expectation of the singer. Dirty or not, the truth is that this tactic usually worked. Traditional African-American preachers of the extemporaneous style have been known to use this technique, as well. Even today you'll hear a closing line in a sermon that says something to the effect of "somebody here's got a mother waiting for them on the other side!", usually followed by shouting from the congregation.

In music, you can hear this technique in a great number of gospel songs both modern and from the Golden Era. For this short n' sweet entry, we'll focus on the latter. For example, Roberta Martin's composition, "God's Amazing Grace", begins with the words "I was young, but I recall singing songs was mother's joy." Further along in the song, the listener will find out that the narrator's mother is no longer on this earth with the line "Mother was so good to me." In Alex Bradford's "Too Close to Heaven", the singer states "I want to see my old mother again, hallelujah!" However, the most famous of the Golden Era Gospel songs to execute the theme of the mother who has passed away has to be "Leave You In the Hands of the Lord" by Archie Brownlee and the Blind Boys of Mississippi. In that song, the subject of the mother passing away makes up the backbone of the song.

This is an interesting subject and I am sure it could foster a lengthy discussion. However, I hope this little blurb will bring this tidbit of information to your attention. Listen to the songs I pointed out above. If you don't believe there are that many gospel songs dedicated to "mama", I dare you to turn on radio on Mother's Day and listen to a gospel station. There's no doubt you'll hear a song or two (or three plus) about mother, mama, mama dearest, or mom coming from your speakers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fantasia prepares for Mahalia Jackson biopic role

By: Joseph Middleton

If Marion Williams was Packin' Up, Fantasia's Packin' On. According to rollingout.com, Fantasia has been told to gain 30-45 pounds to prepare to play the role of Mahalia Jackson in the upcoming biopic about the Golden Era Gospel singer.

On a side note, with this demand for Fantasia to gain weight, I hope that the producers of the film will keep things authentic. While Mahalia was a large woman during the height of her career, she lost quite a bit of weight towards the end of her career as she battled her physical ailments.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There's still time to nominate the Golden Era Gospel Blog for the 2011 BWAs!

There's still time to nominate the blog for the 2011 Black Weblog Awards. It's super easy to do and won't take you long.

Visit this link: https://blackweblogawards.wufoo.com/forms/z7x3k7/
Then, place the blog URL (http://goldeneragospel.blogspot.com/) in the categories of:
Best Culture Blog
Best Faith Based Blog
Best Music Blog
Blog to Watch
Best Writing in a Blog

That's all it takes. If you've already nominated the Blog, THANK YOU! If not, go ahead and nominate it now. Don't wait until it's too late. The deadline is May 7. Tell your friends and family to nominate the blog, too. Spread the word!

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Orleans Jazz Fest to pay tribute to Mahalia Jackson

By: Joseph Middleton

The 2011 New Orleans Jazz Fest is paying tribute to NOLA's native daughter, Mahalia Jackson. Though Mahalia was perhaps best known for "running" the Chicago gospel scene alongside Roberta Martin in the 40s-60s, New Orleans was her birthplace and place of residence until 1927. Mahalia made her one and only appearance at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in April 1970 with another New Orleans music great, Louis Armstrong. As New Orleans prepares to celebrate Mahalia Jackson's 100th birthday in October, a few tributes have been planned to honor Mahalia. The first tribute took place on April 30 and featured a set by R&B singer Fantasia, who will portray Mahalia in a biopic to be released later this year. Another tribute is scheduled for Friday evening, May 6th from 5:40pm to 6:40pm in the Gospel Tent at the Jazz Fest.

For more info, see the following links:


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Search for Blind Willie Johnson and the Texas Gospel

Texas is largely forgotten when it comes to discussing gospel, while Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia get most of the honors. As a born and bred Texan, it pleases me to see someone taking focus on Texas gospel.

There is a kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary by Shane Ford called "The Search for Blind Willie Johnson and the Texas Gospel." Those of you in the know already know that Texas is no slouch when it comes to gospel greats. Texas was where the Soul Stirrers were founded, and the home and birthplace of legends such as Sister Jessie Mae Renfro, Arizona Dranes and Jessy Dixon just to name a few.

The kickstarter campaign page states, "The goal of this documentary will be to explore the social and cultural significance of gospel music within the state of Texas. Presented from the view of historians, professors, and the current participants in the churches, we will seek to flesh out the idea of what gospel music has meant to Texas and the world of music in general."

For more information, see the following link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1186751327/the-search-for-blind-willie-johnson-and-the-texas?ref=live

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Repost: A Golden Era Easter Playlist

By: Joseph Middleton

Originally posted March 27, 2010

Easter is almost upon us. Come Resurrection Sunday, choir stands across the world will be filled with choirs and praise teams singing familiar songs such as “He Decided to Die (He Would Not Come Down From the Cross)” and and “For God So Loved the World”. For those who want to hear something from the Golden Era for Easter, here are a few songs that should satisfy the ears and the spirit.

1. "Christ The Redeemer" (1966) Rev. James Cleveland and the Walter Arties Chorale

Right at the end of the Golden Era, Rev. James Cleveland recorded this song with the Walter Arties Chorale. The arrangement is jazzy with cues taken from “Cristo Redentor”, and is less bluesy than other popular gospel recordings from the same time. The modern arrangement takes no luster away from this gem. The choir provides haunting, modulating ooohs throughout the song as James mournfully tells the story. This song has almost meditative qualities to it, and is an interesting departure from the usual Resurrection Sunday repertoire.

(Available from Savoy/Malaco on the “James Cleveland Sings with the World’s Greatest Choirs, 20th Anniversary” CD)

2. "The Crucifixion" (1954) The Caravans

During their second recording session with the States label, The Caravans sang of the Crucifixion. On lead, we have the group leader, Albertina Walker as solemnly, yet with the fervor of a minister with her trademark runs, tells the familiar story. On the piano, we have a young James Cleveland, in the background we have Cassietta George, Iris Humble, Gloria Griffin, and Johneron Davis with their sweet, heavenly background vocals.

(Not available on CD. Check eBay for availability of this recording.)

3. "The Crucifixion" (1957) The Roberta Martin Singers

With an intro featuring a throbbing organ being played by Little Lucy Smith Collier, the late, great Eugene Smith sings/narrates the Crucifixion in this recording taken from the Martin Singers’ first recording session with Savoy. In the background, Roberta Martin, Gloria Griffin, Delois Barrett Campbell, Little Lucy Smith Collier, Norsalus McKissick and Romance Watson support Smith’s lead with a cushioning cloud of hums, ooohs, and the occasional few words. Roberta glides over the piano keys and glides through the background with her unmistakable contralto accenting the ends of the vocalizations. Listen as the drummer provides sound effects for the nails being driven and for the sting of death in this quality recording done as only “Bert’s” group would have it done.

(No longer available on CD from Savoy/Malaco. Check eBay for the occasional copy. Album titled on CD as “Twelve Inspirational Songs” and on LP as “Spirituals”.)

4. "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" (1962) The Caravans

On this go-round, the girls (Albertina Walker, Shirley Caesar, Delores Washington, Cassietta George and Johneron Davis) sing this now familiar Andrae Crouch tune. Albertina provides the lead vocals as James Herndon’s skilled hands tear up the ivories and an uncredited organist provides twirling and booming accompaniment. Toward the end of the song, Cassietta chimes in to complement Albertina, putting the icing on the cake.

(Available from Savoy/Malaco on the “Best of the Caravans” CD.)

5. "No Greater Love" (1960) Rev. James Cleveland and the Voices of Tabernacle

Not to be confused with Keith Pringle’s 1988 hit of the same name, James Cleveland and Louise McCord lead the Voices of Tabernacle in this song taken from the early days of James Cleveland’s solo career. The song is rather simple and easy to remember. For those who are looking for a simple song for their choir or praise team to sing on Resurrection Sunday, this is a good candidate.

(Available on various vintage gospel compilation CDs. Check iTunes and other online music outlets.)

6. "He's Alive Today" (1965) The Caravans

We’re taking yet another jaunt with The Caravans, this time it’s a little different. Albertina has stepped aside and let one of the other group members lead and take the limelight. Even though the lineup is almost the same as the 1962 lineup for “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power”, Johneron Davis has been replaced by the late Josephine Howard (mother of r&b songstress Miki Howard). Josephine takes a commanding, authoritative lead and lets the listener know that He is indeed alive! Josephine’s squalls will surely take you in. You may end up putting this one on repeat.

(Not available on CD. Check eBay for the VeeJay LP containing this song titled “Let’s Break Bread Together”.)

7. "Calvary" (1967) Mahalia Jackson

No Golden Era playlist is complete without an entry from Mahalia Jackson. Recorded live in concert at the New York City Philharmonic Hall on March 26, 1967, Mahalia’s pianist Eddie Robinson and organist Charles Clency’s sparse musical accompaniment set a sobering scene that silences the performance hall as Mahalia sings. Compared to James Cleveland’s “Christ the Redeemer” from the previous year, this song sounds more traditional, and sounds typical of most of Mahalia’s later work.

(Available on Disc 1 of the Mahalia Jackson CD compilation tited “Gospels, Spirituals, and Hymns”.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nominate The Golden Era Gospel Blog for the 2011 Black Weblog Awards!

On April 18, 2011, nominations began for the 2011 Black Weblog Awards. The Black Weblog Awards started in 2005 as a way to honor and showcase Black bloggers and their blogs, both of which have generally been overlooked by mainstream Internet awards. Nominations will close on May 7, 2011. Finalists will be announced on May 16, 2011, and voting for finalists will end on June 17, 2011. The winners will be announced and awards will be handed out LIVE in Los Angeles on July 9, 2011 at the Black Weblog Awards Ceremony during the second day of the Blogging While Brown Conference.

Of the 30 plus categories listed, I'm certain that my blog is eligible for nomination in the following five categories. Categories in italics are particularly stressed.

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 blog was a finalist in this category in 2010)

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. 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 Best Writing in a Blog in 2010. If you believe the material on this blog is well written based on the overall posts, feel free to nominate it in this category.

5. Best Writing in a Blog

This category is for blogs which have exceptional writing.

A blog can be nominated in more than one category, so you can nominate this blog in just one, or all five of the categories listed above. You can nominate this blog by clicking on the 2011 Black Weblog Awards icon in the upper right hand corner of this page, or by clicking on this link:
2011 Black Weblog Awards Nomination Form

It will ask you for the URL of the blog you wish to nominate, so remember, this blog's URL is http://goldeneragospel.blogspot.com/

So, why not take a few minutes and help out by nominating this blog?


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Repost: The bridge between James Cleveland's "Christ the Redeemer" and Donald Byrd's "Cristo Redentor"?

By: Joseph Middleton

Originally posted December 15, 2009. I felt a repost was appropriate given the upcoming Easter celebrations.

The late great Rev. James Cleveland was no stranger when it came to combining elements from other genres of music with gospel. As early as 1959, Rev. Cleveland was transforming secular hits into church friendly compositions when he turned Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So" into "Hallelujah I Love Him So." His most popular gospelization may have been when he turned Gladys Knight's "You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" into "Jesus Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" for his 1975 double LP of the same title with the Charles Fold Singers.

While Rev. Cleveland drew upon much inspiration from the R&B and pop singers of the day, he may have also drawn inspiration from the world of jazz. In the early 1960s, legendary jazz pianist and composer Duke Pearson arranged a song titled "Cristo Redentor." As the story goes, Pearson saw the famous Cristo Redentor statue in Rio de Janeiro during a trip to Brazil with Nancy Wilson while he was Wilson's accompanist, and was inspired to compose the song. Along with "Cristo Redentor," Pearson arranged three more tracks for jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd's album titled "A New Perspective." "A New Perspective" was released in 1963 for Blue Note records and "Cristo Redentor" became a jazz hit. "Cristo Redentor" featured Byrd on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano, Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Donald Best on vibraphone, Butch Warren on bass, Lex Humphries on drums, a gospel choir providing background vocals directed by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, and the sound engineering was done by Rudy Van Gelder.

Some of you may be thinking to yourself "Rudy Van Gelder? That name sounds familiar." If it does, it's probably because he was the sound engineer for many of Savoy's late 50's material produced by Ozzie Cadena. Cadena and Van Gelder's work with Savoy gospel artists can be heard on mid to late 50's material by artists such as The Davis Sisters, The Caravans, The Roberta Martin Singers and The Famous Ward Singers. While that may not have much to do with the works in question from 1963 and 1966, it's still interesting to note from a gospel music historian's standpoint.

In 1966, Rev. James Cleveland, just 6-7 years into his solo career, recorded a project with The Walter Arties Chorale. One of the songs on the LP was "Christ the Redeemer," which is what "Cristo Redentor" translates to from Portuguese into English. Cleveland utilized the Walter Arties Chorale to provide a vocal sound that sounds similar to the Perkinson directed choir on "Cristo Redentor." When you listen to Cleveland's other work from the same era, "Christ the Redeemer" sounds like a serious departure from the familiar James Cleveland sound typical of his 50s and 60s work. This similar to the departure many jazz artists of the day were making as they experimented with new sounds in lieu of traditional arrangements.

Now, I encourage you, the informed listener to take a few minutes and listen to both compositions and come to your own conclusion(s).

Donald Byrd- "Cristo Redentor" (1963)

Rev. James Cleveland and the Walter Arties Chorale- "Christ the Redeemer" (1966)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Texas recognizes and celebrates Peacock Records

By: Joseph Middleton

A crowd gathered in front of the Louis Robey Professional Building on Lyons Avenue in Houston's Fifth Ward on April 16 for the unveiling of a marker honoring Don Robey and his Peacock label. The program began promptly at noon with a welcome and introduction of guests by James H. Ford Jr., a storyteller and English professor at Houston Community College who was one of the forces behind making today's dedication a reality. Speakers included Music Historian Dr. Roger Wood, also from Houston Community College, former Peacock recording artist Texas Johnny Brown, Rap-A-Lot records founder J. Prince, and Debra Blacklock-Sloan of the Harris County Historical Commission. A host of Don Robey's relatives were on hand including his daughter, Dr. DonaLeah Robey Fields and his youngest sister. Proclamations and Resolutions were presented from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. Special attendees were recognized, including Dr. Carlos Handy, Department Head Chair of the Physics department at Texas Southern University. Dr. Handy is the nephew of W.C. Handy, known as the "father of blues."

After the speakers had spoken and the special guests were recognized, it was time to unveil the marker. With Don Robey's descendants and relatives standing nearby, the cover was taken off and the marker was revealed to the crowd, culminating a project decades in the making honoring one of Houston's native sons who made his mark on gospel, r&b and blues music.

Malaco Records destroyed by tornado

Sad news from Mississippi. The historic and internationally acclaimed Malaco Records in Jackson, Mississippi was destroyed by a tornado which ravaged the area on Friday, April 15. Two of the three buildings on the compound were destroyed. Just 3 years ago, Malaco was honored with a marker from the state of Mississippi, recognizing the 49 year old company as a landmark on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

In 1986, Malaco purchased the gospel division of Savoy Records, which during the 40s through the 80s was the home of many Golden Era Gospel artists such as Dorothy Love Coates, James Cleveland, the Roberta Martin Singers, the Caravans, and the Davis Sisters just to name a few.

You can read more at this link: http://www.wlbt.com/Global/story.asp?S=14457925

Here is video of the tornado responsible for the destruction.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to Inez Andrews!

The Golden Era Gospel Blog is wishing gospel pioneer Inez Andrews a happy and blessed 82nd birthday!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Peacock Records Historical Marker Dedication in Houston, Saturday, April 16

At noon on Saturday, April 16, 2011, the Harris County Historical Commission will dedicate a Texas State Historical Marker for the Peacock Record Label at 4120 Lyons Ave. at Benson Street. For more information, contact James Ford at (713) 301-9721, drroffe@sbcglobal.net

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pilgrim Baptist Church Rebuild set for 2012 Finish

Thanks to Bob Marovich of the Black Gospel Blog for posting this.
From the Associated Press

CHICAGO — The on-again, off-again reconstruction of a landmark Chicago church known as the birthplace of gospel music is on again.

Church leaders have announced work to rebuild the fire-ravaged Pilgrim Baptist Church will begin in earnest this summer.

A 2006 fire ignited by workers repairing the roof devastated the 120-year-old structure designed by famed architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan.

Officials announced a $37 million rebuilding plan in 2008, but nothing came of it. Pastor Tyrone Jordan says a first construction phase set for a 2012 finish will "prove to the world" the church will rebuild.

The four-phase project is expected to cost at least $30 million.

Mahalia Jackson, Sallie Martin, the Rev. James Cleveland, and the Staples Singers are among those who have sung at the church.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Delois Barrett Campbell hospitalized, said to be resting comfortably

The Golden Era Gospel Blog got a report from Ron Barrett that Delois Barrett Campbell, former member of the famed Roberta Martin Singers and the Barrett Sisters, was admitted to the hospital on Monday, March 28 in Chicago. According to Ron, as of Monday evening, Delois was still in the hospital, resting comfortably.

Delois is in our thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

R.I.P., Loleatta Holloway

By: Joseph Middleton

Loleatta Holloway, former member of The Caravans and renowned disco artist, died on Monday, March 21 at the age of 64 after a brief illness. Holloway joined The Caravans in late 1966 to replace Shirley Caesar, who'd left the group to pursue a solo career. Holloway stayed with The Caravans until the early 1970s, when she began to pursue a solo career. Holloway's music became popular during the disco era, and she scored her biggest hit, "Love Sensation" in 1980. Holloway continued to have dance hits through the 2000s which charted in the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. Holloway rarely participated in reunions with The Caravans, but participated in the reunion of members at Albertina Walker's funeral in 2010 with Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Gwenn Morgan, James Herndon and Delores Washington.

Memorial services for Holloway will be held in Chicago on Thursday, March 31 at Rainbow PUSH Coalition. 930 E. 50th St. Chicago, IL, 60615. The viewing will be from 1-6pm, and the memorial will be from 6-10pm.

Here's Holloway singing with The Caravans in 1969 on "Help is On The Way."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Golden Era Gospel with a side of Funk and Beans

I am pleased to announce that the Golden Era Gospel Blog has started a partnership with a new blog, "Funk & Beans: A Blog With Grand Delusions of Grandeur." Funk & Beans is a social commentary blog run by Jaime Puente, a classmate of mine from my undergrad studies at University of Houston-Downtown who's the "Beans" of the operation, and his friend, PhD student and Lone Star College System professor, Rhonda Ragsdale, on the "Funk" side. Funk & Beans presents social and cultural commentary on books, film, music and other media from all over the spectrum. Since they're covering a wide array of topics, I've been asked to be a guest blogger. So, keep an eye on Funk and Beans for some Golden Era goodness, and check out Funk & Beans for all that it offers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

R.I.P. Sherman Washington of the Zion Travelers

While the earthly roll of Golden Era Gospel singers gets smaller day by day, you can be assured that the Heavenly Choir is getting some prime talent day by day.

Sherman Washington, 86, passed on Monday, March 14th at his home in Boutte, LA. Washington was the last original member of the Zion Harmonizers and the coordinator of gospel music programming at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Washington joined the Zion Harmonizers at the age of 15 in 1942, and became the group manager in 1948. In 1969, the Zion Harmonizers performed at the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in Congo Square and shortly thereafter, Washington began coordinating gospel programming for the event, and helped establish the Gospel Tent at the festival in the early 1970s.

You can read more info at this link

Photo credit:WWL TV

Monday, March 7, 2011

85th Birthday Musical Tribute to Delois Barrett Campbell

The 85th Birthday Musical Tribute for gospel legend Delois Barrett Campbell will be held Sunday, March 13, 2011 3pm at First Church of Deliverance in Chicago. 4315 S. Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL 60653.

Special guests will include the Barrett Sisters, Ron Barrett, Tina Bryant, the First Church of Deliverance Choir, the Chicago Mass Choir, plus more guests.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy 175th Birthday, Texas! Let's celebrate by focusing on the Golden Era Gospel Greats from Texas

March 2nd marks the 175th birthday of the Lone Star State. I know it's a little early, but to celebrate, here's one of my first ever blog posts, which is about Golden Era Gospel in Texas.

Originally posted on September 25, 2009

By: Joseph Middleton

It just wouldn't be right for me as a Texan to discuss Golden Era Gospel without focusing on the aspects of it as it relates to Texas! Modern gospel artists from Texas aren't hard to find. Dallas is known best for Kirk Franklin, and Austin for Chester D.T. Baldwin. Houston on the other hand seems to be where most of the Texas based, well known modern gospel artists are. Houston has Yolanda Adams, Endurance, Kathy Taylor, Soulfruit, Carolyn Traylor, Kim Burrell, Gary Mayes, James Fortune, Yunek, Shawn McLemore and Shei Atkins just to name a few. When Golden Era Gospel is discussed, the cities of Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia are heavily mentioned because they were the places where the major Golden Era artists were based. Chicago is regarded as the birthplace of gospel music and was home to Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, Roberta Martin, Robert Anderson, The Highway QCs, Albertina Walker and James Cleveland among others. Detroit was home to The Meditation Singers, Rev. Charles Nicks, The Voices of Tabernacle, and Dr. Mattie Moss-Clark, while Philadelphia had The Ward Singers, The Angelic Gospel Singers, and The Dixie Hummingbirds. But what about that big state down south called Texas? What did it contribute to the Golden Era? Well, it contributed much!

For starters, one of the founding fathers of gospel blues was born in Texas. Sources show that Blind Willie Johnson was born in 1897 in Independence, an unincorporated town which is located about 85 miles northwest of Houston, or in 1902 in Marlin, which is close to Waco. Johnson lived in Hearne and Temple during his lifetime, and died in 1947 in Beaumont.

Arizona Dranes was born in 1891 (or 1905 depending on your source) in Sherman, which is north of Dallas. Dranes was a blind pianist and singer who made her first recordings in the late 1920s. Her style of piano playing and singing was said to have been influential to Roberta Martin and Clara Ward. While she moved to Chicago and joined the gospel scene there, Texas can still claim her as our own.

Around 1926-27, Roy Crain formed a quartet with some teenagers from his church in Trinity, about 90 miles north of Houston and sang in a jubilee style. Meanwhile, in September 1929, a quartet was formed at New Pleasant Green Baptist Church, located at 1608 Andrews Street in Houston by Walter Lee La Beaux. La Beaux named the group the New Pleasant Green Singers. Crain left the quartet in Trinity in the early 1930s and moved to Houston. Crain joined the New Pleasant Green Singers under the condition that the group's name be changed to The Soul Stirrers upon his arrival. Thus, The Soul Stirrers were born in the Fourth Ward of Houston, Texas, starting a legacy that continues some 80 years later. Quartets proved to be quite popular in those days, especially in the South. So it's no surprise that more quartets were founded in Texas as time progressed, such as the Pilgrim Travelers, who were founded in Houston in 1936 and were based in Houston until they moved to Los Angeles, California in 1942.

In 1951, a quartet based in Austin led by A.C. Littlefield named The Bells of Joy released a hit song titled "Let's Talk About Jesus". "Let's Talk About Jesus" reached into the top 10 listings on the Billboard R&B Charts and sold over 1 million copies. Country legend and fellow Texan Willie Nelson, called the Bells of Joy "the best Gospel group going."

During the 1940s, 50s and 60s, a tenor named Wilmer "Little Axe" Broadnax sang with a number of quartets including the Fairfield Four, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Golden Echoes, The Southern Gospel Singers, and The Spirit of Memphis. Broadnax is regarded as one of the best tenors to ever grace the Golden Era quartets, and was Houston born. Even more interesting is that upon Broadnax's death in 1994, it was revealed that Broadnax was anatomically female.

Texas was also the birthplace of Sister Jessie Mae Renfro (Sapp). Renfro was born in Waxahachie, which is located south of Dallas. Her most popular song was "I Must Tell Jesus", which was recorded in November of 1952. Renfro recorded for Peacock Records in the 1950s and for the Delden label in the 1960s. More Texas born Golden Era Gospel singers include one singer well known for being associated with Chicago, Jessy Dixon. Dixon was born in San Antonio. Willie Neal Johnson, founder of the Gospel Keynotes was born in Tyler. The legendary soprano, Sara Jordan Powell of Houston got her start with The Sallie Martin Singers in 1961, and Houston was also the birthplace of the late Billy Preston, who played the organ and piano on the recordings of James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson, Cassietta George, Bessie Griffin and Doris Akers in the 1960s.

Peacock Records was Don Robey's legendary label and was based in Fifth Ward in Houston. Peacock was founded in 1949 by Robey and along with the Duke subsidiary label was home to many gospel artists in the 1950s through the 1970s including Inez Andrews, The Sensational Nightingales, The O'Neal Twins, The Highway QCs, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Rev. Cleophus Robinson, and The Pilgrim Jubilees. While Duke was shut down in 1957 and Peacock was bought out by ABC Records in 1973, the Peacock/Duke Records building still stands today at 2809 Erastus Street, and now houses the Charity Baptist Church Educational Building.

Houston was also home to The Music Hall, which was built in 1937 and demolished in 1998. The Music Hall hosted many packed gospel programs which drew audience members from hundreds of miles around. It was the venue where The Roberta Martin Singers first introduced their then newest member, baritone Archie Dennis in 1958, and was the place where The Mighty Clouds of Joy recorded their "Live At the Music Hall" LP on the Peacock label in 1967. Click here to listen to a song from that album.

So as you can see, Texas is rich with Golden Era Gospel history. Chicago may be the birthplace of the gospel sound, but the sound resonated from Illinois and deep into Texas, deep into the Piney Woods of East Texas, deep into the Bayou City of Houston, and even the Hill Country region.

The Gospel Discography 1943-1970
Uncloudy Days, The Gospel Music Encyclopedia
We'll Understand It Better By and By
Texas Blues & Gospel

See these links for more information
Postcards From Texas: R&B Royalty: Houston's Own Don Robey (Peacock Records)
Peacock Records Discography
Soul Stirrers History
The Bells of Joy

Monday, February 14, 2011

Repost: A Golden Era Valentine's Day Word

By: Joseph Middleton

Originally posted February 14, 2010

During the Golden Era of Gospel, it was not uncommon to see entire albums dedicated solely to sermons. Some of these popular preachers of the day who recorded sermons included Rev. C.L. Franklin, Rev. Morgan Babb, and Rev. Willie Morganfield just to name a few. Yet, as time went on into the 1980s and 1990s, new sermon albums were rendered obsolete once churches began their own in-house production. Now, a preacher could preach a sermon and have it recorded live, and available for purchase on tape and CD immediately after service. No longer did one have to wait months for the record company to put a sermon out for home enjoyment. Now, you could have that same sermon in your hand just minutes after it ended.

On February 14, 1965, Valentine's Day at Friendship Baptist Church in Houston, TX, Rev. Omie Lee "O.L." Holliday, the father of Jennifer Holliday, preached a sermon titled "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You." In the sermon, Rev. Holliday makes it known that he borrowed the title of the sermon from Marvin Gaye's 1964 hit single of the same name. The sermon was released on LP for Jewel Records in 1966. Rev. Holliday recorded more sermons for Jewel and pastored many churches across America. Rev. Holliday died on June 1, 1987.

While the sermon is hard to find today for purchase, here are links to the entire sermon broken up into 4 parts. You'll notice how dated the sermon sounds today, with references to "modern" dances such as The Mashed Potato and The Dog. Still, it's a nice look into yesteryear, and a good example of old time preaching. Enjoy!





Sunday, February 13, 2011

Congrats to Mavis Staples on her Grammy win!

It's been a long time coming, but after over 60 years in the music business, Mavis Staples has won her first ever Grammy. Staples took home the best Americana album for her latest release, "You Are Not Alone" during the pre-telecast portion of the Grammys. Pop & Hiss, the L.A. Times Music Blog, blogged Staples' win in real time. During her acceptance speech Staples thanked her Heavenly Father and her biological father, the late Roebuck "Pops" Staples.

"Give the honor to God and to my father, Pops Staples. It's because of you, Pops, that I stand here today. I tell you, you laid the foundation, and I am still working on the building ..."

At the end of her speech, Staples invoked the late Albertina Walker.

"You will not see the last of me. God is not through with me."

Congrats, Mavis!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday to Roberta Martin!

February 12, or 14th depending on your source, marks what would have been Roberta Martin's 104th birthday. Varying sources say she would have turned 99 today. Whatever the case, if we're off by a few days concerning the exact date or off by a few years concerning her age, we should still honor the special day of the Grand Lady, the Queen Mother, the Helen Hayes of gospel.

Check the link below for my January 2011 writeup on Martin, which contains a few links to some videos that may be of interest to Roberta Martin fans.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fantasia to play Mahalia Jackson in biopic about Jackson

News outlets are reporting that R&B singer and American Idol alum, Fantasia Barrino, has secured the lead role in an upcoming Mahalia Jackson biopic. The movie will be based on the 1993 book Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel, and directed by Euzhan Palcy from a script written by Jim Evering. Production will begin in April in Philadelphia and Chicago, and the movie will be released in December.

For more info, see the following:



Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Atlanta Post Interviews Dr. Portia Maultsby

For Black History Month, the Atlanta Post has interviewed Dr. Portia Maultsby, Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and Director of the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University Bloomington. When one discusses gospel music historians, Dr. Maultsby is among many of the names to be mentioned alongside Boyer, Mason, Heilbut, Marovich and Darden (perhaps one day, Middleton will be added to that list ;-)).

Like many of the others listed above, Dr. Maultsby's experience transcends gospel music, covering hip hop, rap, jazz, the blues, and any other genre classified as "black music."

You can read the interview with Dr. Maultsby at the following link:

Behind the Research: Ethnomusicologist Discusses The Legacy and Commodification of Black Music

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2010 Footage of Albertina Walker at the DuSable Museum

Here's a gem of a video taken last year of the late Albertina Walker at the DuSable Museum in Chicago.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Repost: Op-Ed: It's Always a Good Day to Sing a "Good Old" Gospel Song!

In recognition of Black History Month, I felt it would be appropriate to repost this entry from April 2010. Please note that since the writeup, BET's Sunday Best has been canceled, and I have made a few minor edits to correct some issues and update a few things.

By: Joseph Middleton

As some of you may know, on Black Entertainment Television (BET), there's a program airing its third season titled "Sunday Best". The gospel duo Mary Mary and solo artist Donnie McClurkin are the judges on this gospel counterpart to Fox's "American Idol". It seems like BET is proving "The Boondocks" correct in their observation that BET is taking old reality shows from five years ago and making them over. However, that particular topic is for discussion on another day, on another blog.

I'm going to cut straight to the issue that's relevant to THIS blog. On the episode filmed in Detroit, which originally aired on Sunday, April 11, 2010, one person auditioned for the judges by singing the old song, "I Know I've Been Changed". Tina Campbell of Mary Mary dismissed the singer and delivered a one-liner in response, stating, “DEFINITELY take that to the Black History Program.”

While I realize the show is all about competition and choosing the person that best exhibits broad marketability and high profitability for the record company, both the lover of the traditional gospel sound in me, AND the Gospel Music Historian in me had to shake my head in response to Tina Campbell's words. That is NOT the type of message that should be put forth. Whether people like it or not, songs such as those have a rightly deserved place within gospel music. Despite their age, old songs still touch the hearts and souls of a great number of parishioners and listeners everywhere, young and old alike. Just as everyone isn't drawn to the old school sound, not everyone is drawn to the contemporary sounds of today, either. One also has to realize that gospel is not some monolithic, or homogeneous genre of music. It is QUITE diverse! Gospel contains many sub-genres which appeal to different people. For example, mass choirs, quartets, neo-soul influenced groups and small mixed vocal ensembles are all lumped into the gospel category for simplicity's sake, but they are all sub-genres within gospel music.

There are those who are still getting Saved off of those old songs, and that's probably one of the most important things to recognize. Upon that realization, I don't believe it's prudent to actually restrict OR to even suggest restricting such songs to only be trotted out for the annual "Black History Program." There are people who enjoy and cherish those songs and wish to sing and hear them year-round. Dorothy Norwood's "Ride On King Jesus", Eugene Smith's "I Know The Lord Will Make a Way", Andrae Crouch's "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" and James Cleveland's "Walk on By Faith" are all songs which are all at least 45 years old in age, but they are still being sung and recorded by current gospel artists. Just look at Vickie Winans and how she scored a hit in late 2009 and early 2010 with her rendition of Rev. W. Herbert Brewster's legendary song, "How I Got Over", some 59 years after it was first published.

What I'm saying is, don't just recognize these songs during Black History Month, that is if they even get recognized at all (and they don't at some churches). Dust off some Golden Era goodies and give them a whirl. You may even want to start a choir or a group to exclusively sing these songs. These "good ole" Golden Era good news songs should be celebrated every day. After all, it's always a good time to give Praise!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Whoops! I almost forgot, January 22, 2011 also would have been Rev. C.L. Franklin's 96th birthday!

I neglected to mention that January 22nd would also have been the birthday of another Golden Era Gospel figure, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. Rev. Franklin was one of the most popular preachers of his day. He was pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, and the father of Aretha Franklin. Rev. Franklin would tour the country and preach in different cities, having groups such as the Roberta Martin Singers or the Clara Ward Singers to minister through song while he would deliver the sermon.

For more about the life of Rev. Franklin, I personally recommend Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America by Nick Salvatore, which can be found at Amazon.com. Don't forget to check your local library, too.

January 22, 2011 would have been Sam Cooke's 80th birthday

By: Joseph Middleton

The gospel and r&b powerhouse Samuel Cook (aka: Sam Cooke) would have celebrated his 80th birthday today. One can't help but wonder what would music be like had he lived. Would he have found continued success in the 70s and 80s as his friend Bobby Womack did? Or would he have faded away into obscurity, only to come out for the occasional PBS sponsored oldies concert? We'll never know. However, we can say for certain that his legacy lives on today. "You Send Me", "Nearer My God to Thee", "Wonderful", and "A Change Is Gonna Come" are recordings which are still celebrated today. On modern radio, you'll hear r&b crooners and gospel singers sneak a Sam Cooke inspired run (sometimes unfortunately "enhanced" by autotune) into their songs. That alone is proof that Sam's influence is still resonating today.

Sam Cooke. Gone? Yes. Forgotten? Not a chance!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

R.I.P., Arthur Lee "Bob" Bailey

Arthur Lee "Bob" Bailey, quartet pioneer, died January 8, 2011 in Spartanburg, SC at the age of 96 at the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. Beatty was inducted into the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2008, and sang with groups such as the Heavenly Gospel Singers, the Violinaires, the Trumpets of Joy, and the Four Gospel Knights.

Remembering Roberta Martin, 42 years later

The Roberta Martin Singers, circa 1949. Rear L-R: Eugene Smith, Bessie Folk, Delois Barrett Campbell, Norsalus McKissick. Front and center: Roberta Martin

By: Joseph Middleton

Forty-two years ago this month, the Golden Era Gospel community lost a pillar. Roberta Evelyn Winston Martin Austin (commonly known as Roberta Martin), died at Mercy Hospital in Chicago on the morning Monday, January 13, 1969 after a long battle with cancer, just one month shy of her 62nd birthday. That's young by today's standards. Ms. Martin was a quadruple threat in the gospel world as she served in the capacity of singer, songwriter, arranger and accompanist. In addition, Ms. Martin was also a savvy businesswoman, operating the Roberta Martin Music Studio. Ms. Martin was such a trailblazing figure that on the cold and snowy Sunday evening when her funeral was held at Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church on the then newly renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Chicago, at least 50,000 people from all across the nation and world came to pay their respects to the grand lady of gospel. Now, 42 years later, Ms. Martin seems to be all but forgotten and overshadowed by contemporaries like Mahalia Jackson. A faithful few still listen to her songs, and even today, choirs sing some of the 200+ songs composed by her, likely not knowing who the writer was, or how large an impact the writer had on gospel music, an impact which still resonates today.

"What impact?" you may say. Well, let's take a look at the current trend of Praise and Worship teams. Most teams consist of four to nine vocalists total, and have at least two vocalists singing each part (2 altos, 2 tenors, 2 sopranos) instead of simply singing in unison, allowing each part to be easily identified by the listener. In the early 1930s, Roberta Martin was one of the first people to assemble a mixed ensemble to sing gospel music with vocalists arranged in that fashion. During their heyday, the Roberta Martin Singers would have 2 tenors , 2 altos and 2 sopranos occasionally adding a bass/baritone register male, or adding or removing an extra singer from the tenor, alto or soprano section. Today, such arrangements are commonplace among Praise and Worship groups and small mixed ensembles, but it wasn't until Roberta Martin came along that such groups gained widespread acceptance and popularity in the church.

Here are a few of my favorite Roberta Martin led songs, in no particular order (though I am quite partial to #8 and #4 on my personal playlist). They encompass nearly her entire recording career, from the jubilee inspired sound of the 40s, to the height of the Golden Era sound of the 50s, to the almost contemporary sounds that would characterize gospel music from the late 60s and early 70s.

1. What a Friend We Have in Jesus (1950)
2. Ride on, King Jesus (1958)
3. Didn't It Rain (1947)
4. From Out of Nowhere (1963)
5. Try Jesus (1960)
6. One Step Away (1966)
7. I Have Hope (Her final recording from 1968)
8. No Other Help (a 1962 duet with Gloria Griffin)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

R.I.P., Sullivan Pugh of the Consolers

By: Joseph Middleton

Sullivan Pugh, the guitar playing half of the husband and wife gospel duo, the Consolers, died December 30, 2010 at his home in Miami at the age of 85. During the 1950s and 60s, Sullivan and his wife, Iola, as the Consolers reached their height of popularity with songs such as "Give Me My Flowers", "Waiting for My Child", and "May the Work I've Done Speak for Me." Their career as a duo stretched from 1953 until Iola's death in 1994. During their career, the Consolers recorded for the Glory and DeLuxe record labels, Nashboro Records, Savoy/Malaco Records, and appeared at the 1972 Newport Jazz Festival. In 2002, Sullivan and Iola (posthumously) were awarded with the Florida Folk Heritage Award. Sullivan continued to sing into his later years, even making an appearance on Malaco's "Gospel Legends" DVD in 2004. Sullivan was also actively involved in The Consolers Progressive Charity Club, an organization which benefited the needy.

There will be two viewings and a funeral service for Mr. Pugh. The information is as follows.

Brother Sullivan S. Pugh, 85, gospel recording artist best known for such hits as “May The Work I’ve Done,” “Give Me My Flowers,” “Waiting For My Child” and “Somewhere Around Gods Throne,” died Dec. 30, 2010, at home surrounded by his wife and family.

Services: Abundant Favor Mortuary, Inc. 115 E. 30th St., Bradenton

First viewing: 5-9 p.m. Jan. 6 at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 6316 S.W. 59th Place, South Miami

Second viewing: 5-9 p.m. Jan. 7 , United Christian Fellowship, 2310 N.W. 58th Street, Miami

Funeral: 11 a.m. Jan. 8, Bethel Apostolic Temple, 1855 N.W. 119th Street.

Another soldier gone home. Rest in peace Sullivan Pugh.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Birmingham, AL to get a Gospel Music Center and Museum

By: Joseph Middleton

Those of you who know your gospel music history know that Birmingham is no slouch when it comes to gospel music. Many groups call Birmingham home. It was in Birmingham where Inez Andrews was born and where Dorothy Love Coates called home. Nearby Bessemer was also the birthplace of Professor Alex Bradford. With historic names such as those powerhouses of the Golden Era of Gospel, it's not surprise that Birmingham, AL is going to receive a Gospel Music Center and Museum. Frankly, I don't know why it wasn't done earlier!

To read more about Birmingham's newest planned historical attraction, please visit the following link: Old Birmingham Church aims for joyful noise as gospel center

Photo courtesy of Hal Yeager, The Birmingham News
Related Posts with Thumbnails