Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Updated: Inez Andrews of The Caravans dead at age 83

Inez Andrews, affectionately known as the High Priestess of Gospel, and the Songbird, died on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at her home in Chicago. Andrews was 83 years old and had been receiving treatment for colon cancer. Andrews was born Inez McConico on April 14, 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1957, James Cleveland met Andrews in Nashville, TN, while Andrews was in the Gospel Harmonettes substituting for Dorothy Love Coates. Cleveland notified Caravans leader, Albertina Walker, about Andrews' powerful voice, encouraging Walker to successfully recruit Andrews to join the Caravans. A year later, Andrews led the group on their legendary hit, "Mary Don't You Weep". For 54 years, "Mary Don't You Weep" was arguably her most recognized, most recorded, and most requested song. Andrews left the Caravans in 1962 to lead her own group, the Andrewettes. Andrews returned briefly to the Caravans in 1966 and departed the group again in 1967 to go solo. During the 1970s and 1980s, Andrews recorded solo albums, garnering the crossover song "Lord, Don't Move the Mountain", and recording tunes such as "Stranger in the City" and "Just for Me."

Information about services for Inez Andrews can be found below:

Musical Salute
Thursday, December 27, 2012 – 7:00 P.M.
Funeral Service
Friday, December 28, 2012 – 10:00 AM Visitation
                                               11:00 AM Service
All services will be held at:
Apostolic Church of God
6320 South Dorchester Avenue Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 667-1500
Dr. Byron Brazier, Pastor

Andrews will be greatly missed.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dwayne Lightsey interviews "Lady" Esther Ford

Esther Ford is one of the few gospel singers from the Golden Era still kicking and singing. As a matter of fact, she's the last surviving pre-summer 1958 member of the Clara Ward Singers. She's also making use of social networking, so you'll easily find her commenting on YouTube and posting on her Facebook page.

Dwayne "Rowoches" Lightsey was able to sit down with "Lady" Ford as she delivered life lessons, wisdom, and delivered constructive criticism of modern day gospel.

Check the video for yourself and listen to this living legend.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dorothy Norwood's 1996 rendition of "Brick House"

In 1996, Caravans alum Dorothy Norwood recorded a version of the Commodores' 1977 hit, "Brick House", for the soundtrack to the motion picture, My Fellow Americans. For sixteen years, this recording has been largely forgotten, until YouTube user gsj612 uploaded the song on April 26th.  Since then, the recording has been shared across social networks and has gained a nice amount of views in that short period of time.

The song itself isn't much to write home about. Musically, it sounds like your typical mid 90s fare of the cheesy variety, and in the end, it's just one of numerous covers of "Brick House." The only difference here is this time, the artist who covered the song was one who got her start during the Golden Era of Gospel. Responses to the recording have varied. Some listeners thought the juxtaposition of the lady deemed in gospel circles as "the World's Greatest Storyteller" working it out to "Brick House" was hilarious, while others didn't think highly of the recording at all due to production values or disapproval of a gospel artist singing a secular song. My reaction upon first hearing the song was laughter, because when I hear the name Dorothy Norwood, "Brick House" doesn't come to mind, but rather "The Denied Mother", "Victory Is Mine" and "Old School Boulevard."

This shouldn't take anyone as a surprise, as this was not Dorothy's first time dabbling in the secular pool. Although her performance was purely gospel, Dorothy toured with the Rolling Stones as their opening act during a 30 state American tour in 1972, and introduced many people to her distinctive brand of gospel music who wouldn't have otherwise known about it.

Dorothy Norwood has enjoyed a long, storied career, from joining the Caravans in 1956, composing "Ride On, King Jesus" in 1957, going solo in the 1960s and enjoying numerous albums and concert appearances until the present day. Dorothy is still a crowd pleaser, and doesn't have much difficulty in pleasing her fanbase. Uncovering this song probably won't have a negligible impact on her career, but we'll probably have a few goofballs in the audience at her upcoming appearances shouting "sing Brick House!"

Click below to hear the rendition for yourself.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whitney Houston's familial ties to Golden Era Gospel

It's no secret, Whitney Houston was not a stranger to gospel music. Whitney's voice matriculated in the church, she starred in the mid 90s version of The Preacher's Wife, and her last, known on stage performance was "Jesus Loves Me". Yet, her family's gospel origins stretch back to the late 1930s.

In 1938, Nicholas "Nitch" Drinkard (Whitney's maternal grandfather) formed a singing group in Savannah, GA comprised of his children Emily "Cissy", Anne, Nick, Larry, with sister Lee (mother of Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick) serving as their manager. This singing group was named the Drinkard Four, and later became known as the Drinkard Singers (or Drinkard Jubilairs by some accounts). By the 1950s, the family moved to New Jersey and the Drinkard Singers recorded a few singles between 1954 and 1956 for the Savoy/Regent, and Verve labels. On July 7, 1957, the Drinkard Singers made an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival. After the appearance, the Drinkard Singers recorded an album for RCA Victor in April 1958. This was the group's first appearance on a major record label. The Drinkard Singers continued to record through the 1960s for the Choice label and HOB Records.

Here are the Drinkard Singers in action from 1957 at the Newport Jazz Festival singing "That's Enough."
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