Saturday, June 4, 2011
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!