Black Gospel Ladies I Walked Out In Jesus Name 1947-1970 CD cover

I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970 – The Black Gospel Ladies (Various Artists)

The Black Gospel Ladies (Various Artists)
I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970
Gospel Friend-NarroWay Records (2023)

The Black Gospel Ladies CD art work

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Sweden-based producer Per Notini of Gospel Friend Records presents traditional gospel music lovers a three-disc reissue of gospel pearls with the release of I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970. The effort, comprised of songs spanning more than two decades, features Black all-female and primarily female gospel groups, choirs, and soloists.

In the 1940s, Black gospel music was a blooming genre primarily performed in churches and religious events. By the end of the decade, there was an increase in the recording and broadcasting of gospel music, which enabled gospel artists to reach audiences beyond their local communities. Gospel music continued to expand in the 1950s with the growing popularity of quartets and groups, and in the 1960s as gospel choirs flourished. Throughout the time period, gospel music lyrics perpetuated messages of faith, hope, and resilience.

The roster of artists, of whom Notini refers collectively as “The Black Gospel Ladies,” includes well known acts like the Caravans, Clara Ward Singers, Roberta Martin Singers, Dionne Warwick featuring the Drinkard Singers, Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as well as lesser known singers of comparable talent like the Detroit Harmonettes, Ruth Beck Singers, Spiritual Singers for Christ, Evelyn Tyler and The Tyler Singers, and Alberta Kay Williams.

With songs arranged alphabetically by artist name, the 83-track offering opens with Sister Beatrice Adams’ recording of Robert Anderson’s “Prayer Changes Things.” The Minnie Woods Trio, thought to be an amateur ensemble, closes the project with “I’m In His Care.” An accompanying CD booklet includes artist bios and photos.

My preference would be to hear this multi-CD compilation chronologically so as to experience an even greater appreciation of the progression of gospel music over the 23-year span. Yet, regardless of order, the disc set is filled with treats. The Ruth Beck Singers’ joyous “His Love Bubbles Over In My Soul” is one. Another is “Meet Me In the City,” which the Choraliers Singers of Dayton drive with all the intensity of a live performance. Likewise does Mary Lee Haynie sing with verve, leading the Gore Family on “By My Side.” Dionne Warwick’s rendering of James Cleveland’s “Jesus Will” with her family, The Drinkard Singers, is simply delightful.

Notini writes in the album notes, “From the very beginning of Christianity, certain Bible passages were used by the male clergy to justify the discrimination of women. Yet, while the men have dominated the leadership in the American black church, the females have held—and still hold—a crucial position in it.” As such, it seems wholly appropriate that “I Walked Out In Jesus Name,” penned by Evelyn and Mildred Gay and sung assertively by Christine Sykes (mother of Georgia Mass Choir founder Rev. Milton Biggham), is the title track for this project.

I walked right out in Jesus’ name
I’ve been falsely accused, so many times I bear the blame
I’m gon’ live a Christian life—I’m not ashamed
Yes, I’m gon’ talk, keep walking in my Jesus’ name

Notini’s curated selection of recordings for I Walked Out In Jesus Name – 1947–1970 showcases the genre’s big names as well as unsung greats. Notwithstanding my wish for a chronological listening journey, the presentations of these gospel classics from “The Black Gospel Ladies” worthily exemplify the enduring power of gospel music.

“His Love Bubbles Over In My Soul” – “Meet Me In the City” – “Jesus Will”

Fever Meter
SMOKIN’ (4 of 5 Stars)

This is the art work for the single "You're Gonna Win" by Johnny Ruffin, Jr.

“You’re Gonna Win” – Johnny Ruffin, Jr.

“You’re Gonna Win”
Johnny Ruffin, Jr.
JBP Music Entertainment (2023)

This is the art work for the single "You're Gonna Win" by Johnny Ruffin, Jr.

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Johnny Ruffin, Jr. is a singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. No newcomer to the gospel music scene, he presents his current offering, “You’re Gonna Win.”

Ruffin touches on the unpredictability of life’s journey within the verses of his self-penned single. Nevertheless, he encourages, “Just hold on and be strong; you’re gonna win.” His measured and heartfelt delivery underscores his understanding of life’s highs and lows while desiring to convey a much-needed message of inspiration.

Among Ruffin’s accolades are multiple Rhythm of Gospel Awards, a DunAmis Gospel Award, and the President’s Award from the American Gospel Quartet Convention. His commitment to music that uplifts is yet evident in “You’re Gonna Win.”


Pastor Mike, Jr. won eight Stellar Awards

38th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards announces winners

Stellar Awards logo

It was a wonderful night for Pastor Mike, Jr. at the 38th Annual Stellar Gospel Awards, held this weekend at the Las Vegas New Orleans Arena. The Birmingham pastor and singer had his hands and arms full with a total of eight awards, including Stellars for Album of the Year (Winning), Song of the Year (“Impossible”), and Artist of the Year.

DOE collected three statues for her Clarity album: Albertina Walker Female Artist of the Year, Contemporary Female Artist of the Year, and Urban/Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year (“When I Pray”). Zacardi Cortez also earned a trio of awards for Traditional Male Artist of the Year, Traditional Album of the Year (Imprint), and Praise and Worship Song of the Year (“You’ve Been Good to Me”). Maverick City Music x Kirk Franklin and Tye Tribbett celebrated wins in two categories each. The complete list of winners is available at

In addition, four gospel greats were honored for their contributions to gospel music:

CeCe Winans – Aretha Franklin Icon Award
Rev. Dr. Milton Biggham – James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award
Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones – Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award
Dottie Peoples – Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award

This year’s awards show will premiere on the new Stellar Network on Sunday, July 30 at 6 p.m. ET (available on Charter Spectrum, Verizon Fios, and Xumo Play); BET on Sunday, August 6 at 8 p.m. ET; and Bounce TV on Sunday, September 3 at 1 p.m. ET. The show will also be broadcast nationally from August 7, 2023, to September 10, 2023, through TV syndication. The Stellar Awards Red Carpet Special pre-show will air on Stellar Network on July 30 at 5 p.m. ET. Viewers should check with their local provider for availability.

John Thorpe and Truth

John Thorpe and Truth to close out ‘Gospel In Person’ concert series

John Thorpe and Truth
John Thorpe (second from right) and Truth

Sponsored by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex – John Thorpe and Truth are set to take the stage for the fifth and final installment of the “Gospel In Person” concert series, presented by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex in partnership with Just Love In Person community service organization and Gentry Visuals production company. The event gets underway Saturday, April 29, at 6 pm, at the Kirby Theater in Roxboro, NC.

“Gospel In Person” is a multipart celebration of the rich Black gospel music history found in North Carolina’s rural Person County, located in the Piedmont region along Virginia’s border. Since the fall of 2022, the concert series has included live performances featuring MG Music Group, The Torain Family, Just Us Guys, The Spiritual Lights, and The Mighty Harmonaires, along with short documentaries chronicling the performers’ histories and Person County roots. John Thorpe and Truth round out the series this month.

John Thorpe and Truth was founded in April 2012, by Thorpe, Lorenzo Dixon, and Robert Lunsford. Since organizing, the group members have performed throughout their home state of North Carolina and along the east coast, engaging traditional gospel enthusiasts with their infectious charisma, rollicking drives, and passion for spreading the good news in song. In 2015, they released their debut project, Stay With Jesus. An EP, Come By Here, followed in 2019, as well as their second full-length project, Let Him In. The group’s current single is, “I Made It.” John Thorpe and Truth have earned multiple Rhythm of Gospel Award nominations and are Season 14 recipients of the Prayze Factor Award. The present roster of singers and musicians includes Thorpe and Dixon along with Jamaal Moore, Brandon Gibbs, Bernard Dixon, Jarmaal Lawson, Iakee Pettiford, Zynell Hardnett, and Giovanni Hardnett.

Before founding John Thorpe and Truth, Thorpe traveled the gospel highway with the Mighty Jubilaires of Newburgh, NY, and The Brower Brothers of Newark, NJ. Upon returning to North Carolina in 1999, he brought together his 13 siblings to form an aggregation known simply and fittingly as The Thorpe Family. He says it was a last wish of his mother Vida—with whom he sang his first song at age five—for him to “keep the family together.” Thorpe, the ninth of fourteen children, honored her request through his family’s shared love of singing, and The Thorpe Family went on to spread the gospel, eventually releasing two CDs, In His Name (2007) and Child Of God (2012). The latter was recorded live at the Kirby Theater with special guest, Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones.

The Thorpe Family

“John Thorpe is a force—from his stature, to his bellowing voice, to his incomparable energy,” says Just Love In Person’s Michael Gentry, who is also the creator and producer of the forthcoming feature-length documentary titled, Gospel In Person, which premieres in June 2023.

“And with Truth,” Gentry continues, “he is indeed surrounded by awesome talent. In the Dixon brothers, Jamaal Moore, Jarmaal Lawson, and others, John is surrounded by men who were born and bred in Person County quartet and can all sing and play. And they’ll dance too. The John Thorpe and Truth concert will be a high-energy celebration and a fitting way to end this beautiful concert series.”

Purchase tickets for the live concert on Saturday, April 29, at Kirby Theater is located at 213 N. Main Street.


Michael Gentry co-founder of Just Love In Person and creator of Gospel In Person documentary

Director Michael Gentry discusses creating ‘Gospel In Person’ documentary

Michael Gentry, creator, producer, and director of Gospel In Person documentary

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin Ganey-Hill, cultural arts program director at Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, had an idea, recounts Michael Gentry.

Over the years, Erin had witnessed how the community celebrated Black gospel music and its singers in their small city of Roxboro (population, roughly 8,100) and throughout Person County. Several quartet-styled groups regularly booked the Kirby to host their singing anniversaries or major programs, and Erin and the Person County Arts Council envisioned a project that would pay homage to the valuable legacy of music and culture in the community.

“Erin’s goal was to talk about the history of gospel [music], but from the standpoint of quartets,” Michael explains. “She wanted to celebrate the history of that [in Person County] and [the impact its] singers had.”

The culminating result is a feature-length documentary titled Gospel In Person. It premieres on Father’s Day at the Kirby Theater. Michael is the film’s creator, producer, and director.

Map of NC with Person County highlighted
Image Credit | Amy Rudersdorf

Gospel In Person chronicles over eight decades of the rich Black gospel music history found in Person County, located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, along Virginia’s border. Much of the history is told by the singers themselves, many of whom still travel the circuit singing God’s praises. In their vivid accounts, they also reminiscence about area legends who are no longer with us, such as Roosevelt Whitfield of the pioneering Silver Moon Quartet and his son, prolific singer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Whitfield; Martha Pettiford of the Joylettes; Leroy Cash of the Spiritual Lights; Victor Hester of another pioneering group, the Traveling Sextet; Willie Carrington of the Mighty Harmonaires; and many more. Additionally, the film features classic performances of the Mighty Gospel Travelers, Original True Lights, Spiritual Lights, Mighty Prophets, Joylettes, and others. And although they may not be household names beyond the region, their impact has created ripple effects throughout the broader gospel music scene, as their stories reveal.

Michael grew up in Person County and in church. Admittedly, he was more interested in playing basketball as a youngster than attending weekend gospel music programs. His parents, on the other hand, “know all about this music scene,” he asserts. “This is what they grew up in. Of course, as I grew in Christ and grew in ministry, as God had told me that my work would be in Person County, I developed an interest in wanting to get to know [some of these singers’ stories]. I just didn’t know that I would be called upon to do this.

The calling of which he speaks came about after Erin took notice of Just Love In Person, an organization Michael co-founded that is committed to strengthening Person County through acts of service powered by love. One way the organization does this is by sharing first-person narratives of people in the community with webisodes fittingly called “Just Love Stories.” The web series piqued Erin’s interest so much so that she jotted Markeith Gentry’s name down to contact about her idea. Markeith is the head of Gentry Visuals multimedia publishing company, the official publisher of Just Love In Person’s “Just Love Stories” series. He is also Michael’s younger brother. In the meantime, she ran it by fellow arts council board member Kim Hargrove. 

“So it just so happens that Erin asked Kim one day, ‘Hey, do you know Markeith Gentry? I need to find a way to get in touch with him,’” Michael recalls. What Erin did not know, he says, is Kim “is like my brother’s second mother.” 

It turns out Markeith’s schedule was full, but he had already been showing his big brother the ropes when it came to videography. Erin and Michael finally met in March 2022 and began developing the project.

The first Sunday in June, Michael visited New Hope Person Missionary Baptist Church in south-central Person County to invite its pastor to appear on “Just Love Stories.” “I went to the church—this is after I had met with Erin—and of course, who do I see? Dr. Libra Boyd. And that’s when I told you about this idea that the Kirby had. And you got on your phone, pulled up several pictures, and said, ‘Here are the people you have to contact. Here are some of the older groups.’”

One of the first people Michael contacted was David Ramsey, a renowned singer and bass guitarist who has been a member of several of the groups discussed in the Gospel In Person film. He is also a longtime radio personality and host of the David Ramsey Gospel Show on WRXO 1430 AM / WKRX 96.7 FM. “I started with David Ramsey, and he’s just a gold mine of knowledge.”

You’re going to
see a lot of things
that were not in
the stories we’ve
already [released]. . . .
We have not released
any information on
Facebook or in
these concerts about
maybe the most
talented gospel
singer in Person
County history.

Ambitiously, he went on to conduct interviews with more than 60 people for Gospel In Person and estimates working on the project an average of eight hours every day for just over one year. “But my soul was getting fed. My knowledge was being increased. So it was a labor of love—emphasis on love, not labor.” Still, the most demanding task may have been condensing nearly 100 hours of accumulated interview and archival footage into a suitable documentary length for one sitting. Gospel In Person runs approximately three hours and is divided into three parts. “From a quartet standpoint, you’re talking about probably 85 years of history.” 

And even though the film focuses on singers of the quartet style, both choirs and churches are acknowledged in this body of work because “all the quartets, for the most part, come directly from a church choir,” he points out. “They were in the choirs, even though they were singing full-time, you know, every weekend, all evening long. They were always in their churches on Sunday morning.”

Another eye-opener, one that blew him away as he collected stories and listened to audio and video recordings, was, “I believe all of these groups could have been professional. Traveling the country. Famous. And I think had these groups been in a larger city, they would have been. . . . You know, they weren’t just ‘Roxboro’ good. They weren’t just ‘North Carolina’ good. They were awesome. But not only that; they had relationships with professional groups. . . . ‘I’m coming through North Carolina. Can I come stay at your house?’ (laughs) The professionals knew them. Some of these singers were singing alongside professionals before they were professionals.” 

The Gospel In Person documentary rounds out the “Gospel In Person” series, which since the fall of 2022 has featured live concert performances of MG Music Group, the Torain Family, Just Us Guys, the Spiritual Lights, the Mighty Harmonaires, and John Thorpe and Truth. Concertgoers were treated to short documentaries spotlighting the headliners, but Michael is quick to emphasize that the full-length documentary is a new release and not a stringing together of the previously released short docs. “You’re going to see a lot of things that were not in the stories we’ve already [released]. . . . We have not released any information on Facebook or in these concerts about maybe the most talented gospel singer in Person County history.”

“Historic and monumental” is how the talented producer and director describes the significance of Gospel In Person; and yet, his prayers and hopes for it are profoundly humble.

“My prayer for [Gospel In Person] has been that it moves people spiritually because that’s [Just Love In Person’s] assignment; our assignment is to make a spiritual impact. I pray that it gets folks saved, revitalizes people, strengthens the spiritual work of quartets in Person County, and continues to strengthen the church community. I hope it encourages the active quartets to continue the work they’re doing and realize they’ve made an impact. And then my prayer is that people can know, understand, and appreciate what exists in our community. We have greatness all throughout. I hope people understand what is in these roots and see it as their responsibility to continue to feed these roots by producing more greatness. My main prayer is that God is glorified and the people are encouraged.

“I’m grateful that God called me to the work because it is, to me, it’s been the most important thing that I’ve really ever worked on.”

Flyer for Gospel In Person documentary film

Gospel In Person premieres Sunday, June 18, at Kirby Theater on 213 N. Main Street in Roxboro. Showtimes are 1 pm and 5:30 pm. Admission is FREE. GMF’s Libra Boyd appears in the film.

Editor’s Note: The group pictured on the graphic is The Mighty Gospel Travelers. Seated from left to right are the late Michael Whitfield, David Ramsey, and Stacey Pettiford. Standing from left to right are the late James Lunsford, Rev. McArthur Pettiford, the late Victor Hester, the late Burley Pettiford, and the late Freddie McGhee.

Kelontae Gavin

Kelontae Gavin talks new music, sharing his platform, and ‘the necessity of being alone’

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Kelontae Gavin

Kelontae Gavin was only a high school freshman in 2014 when a cafeteria worker captured him on video singing Rev. Paul Jones’ popularized version of “I Won’t Complain.” The South Carolina native was already such a force that when the video was posted on social media, it spread with virality.

Just nine years later, Kelontae has Billboard charting music—including the single “No Ordinary Worship”—over 55 million audio streams, two full-length albums (The N.O.W. Experience and The Higher Experience), and a Stellar Award. He is set to release his third album, Testify, this summer. The first two singles from it, “Live Again” and “Good Love” have already dropped. It might appear that his music career is progressing at lightning speed. 

When I caught up with Kelontae, he had just performed at the 8th Annual Black Music Honors, a star-studded celebration of music legends including this year’s gospel honorees, The Hawkins Family. He took some time to talk with GMF about music, mentoring, and maturing.

First off, I love the new single “Live Again”! It represents a fresh start and the joy of being able to walk into a new beginning. That being said, what fresh start(s) are you celebrating?

One fresh start that I am celebrating is I just launched a worship mentorship for worship leaders and aspiring artists—those who have the big dreams, but they’re from small towns. You know, many of us come from small churches or smaller ministries where we don’t really have the facilitators to help us grow in our gifts. And so I wanted to be the lifeline for worship leaders that have felt like the communities that they’ve served have overlooked them. It is not really the case, it’s just God develops us in the dark. And those who may have felt like you are unseen, you are seen, like, you got all of heaven backing you up! And God has given them gifts that are beyond their last name, that are beyond where they come from. And so the “live again” for me is being the platform for somebody else.

So, yeah, let’s talk about platforms. You have multiple #1s on Billboard and Mediabase Gospel charts, and you’ve earned a Stellar Award so far. How do these achievements fit in with what you envisioned at this stage for your platform of music and ministry?

Yeah, I would have, like, I don’t even know if the little boy in me knew that I would even be answering a question like this. Everything that I have, God gave it to me. Every place that I’ve been, God took me. Everything that I know, God has placed people in my life to help teach me. And the awards are just the consequence, the byproduct of my relationship with God, of trusting God and knowing that the gifts and talents that He has given me are not just to shine my light, but it’s also for people to see his light.

“Live Again” is the first single from your upcoming album. “Good Love” is the second one. What is it that we absolutely must know about the full-length project that drops later this year? What can we expect?

Yeah, Testify is gonna be incredible! And Testify is the name of my upcoming album that is dropping. Testify is an album that is a collaboration of worship songs and life songs that you will hear and you can sing that will not just be a testimony to you, but be a testimony for others as well [of] just how great our God is. I’m so excited that people will get the opportunity to purchase and download and stream and even share with other people. This record is special. It’s another baby of mine that I’m birthing out for the world to hear and just be changed and encouraged.

Kelontae Gavin seated

A final thought as we’ve talked mentoring, music, and testimonies:  If your life were a book, what wisdom would a chapter titled, “The Maturing of Kelontae Gavin” contain?

Man, if my life were a book, I would say that the wisdom in that chapter of “The Maturing of Kelontae Gavin”…I would just talk about the fear of being different. We all want a crew, we want friends. We wanna belong to something, we wanna run with the herd. But as I am growing and maturing as a man, I’m realizing that some of the greatest leaders in the world and leaders in the Word of God were lonely, or felt lonely, or practiced the art of being alone. And many people don’t understand that true leadership is evolved, nurtured, developed—not when everybody’s applauding, but when you’re by yourself looking in the mirror to your core [at] who you are. Do you love who you are when there is no best friend, when there is no marriage, when you’re not dating, when you didn’t get the promotion? So I think a chapter on maturing would definitely entail a lesson called “The Necessity of Being Alone.”

Wow, man! If you were to write it, I would certainly read it. It would be profoundly introspective.

What else would you like to share with GMF?

I would say get the album! I’m so excited about Testify! Subscribe to my YouTube channel: I Am Kelontae Gavin. [I’m] dropping some new heat, some exclusive releases and videos, and I’m just excited. And of course, follow me on Instagram @kelontae_gavin, Facebook @Kelontae Gavin, and stay locked in for all that I have going on in my life, my journey, and on the road.


Vernon Oliver Price singing

Homegoing celebrations set for Vernon Oliver Price

Homegoing celebrations start today for beloved gospel great, Vernon Oliver Price. Mother Price died on October 5, 2023. She was 93. 

In Price’s hometown of Chicago, a musical salute will be held this evening at the Greater Tabernacle Cathedral COGIC, with Pastor Angela Spivey as the host. Among those scheduled to pay tribute at the 7 p.m. service are Lemmie Battles, Pastor Derail Smith and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Warriors, Dexter Walker and Zion Movement, LeAnne Faine, and Price’s sister and frequent singing partner, Mother Loretta Oliver. There will also be a public viewing from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m.

The final service takes place tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Abounding Life COGIC in Posen, IL, with a public viewing beginning at 9 a.m.

I met Mother Price several years ago in Chicago. She was just as delightful as I imagined. My experience was equally as memorable the last time we had an in-person conversation. I am one of many who will miss her, and I extend my prayers to her children, grandchildren, siblings, and the entire family.

Our friend Robert Marovich shares more about Mother Price’s life and ministry in The Journal of Gospel Music: RIP Pioneer Gospel Singer Vernon Oliver Price

Life of L. Stanley Davis to be celebrated with musical homegoing service

L. Stanley Davis

The life of L. Stanley Davis will be celebrated this Sunday, August 20, 2023, with a musical homegoing service at Chicago’s First Church of Deliverance. The service begins at 4 pm, with family hour and visitation one hour prior. Davis, 71, died on August 2, 2023.

I have traveled to Chicago on multiple occasions. Never have I visited without being in the presence of Professor Davis. He was a lover of gospel music and its history with the gift of gab and ability to recall historical information in acute detail. He is already greatly missed.

Here is an excerpt of the obituary from Cannon Funeral Services:

Lurell Stanley Davis was born April 4, 1952, in Baltimore, Maryland—the only child—born to the late William Lurell Davis and Annie Laura Winston Davis. Mrs. Davis helped to raise and nurture her late brother’s two children—Stanley’s first cousins Mena Suzette Winston and Reginald O. Winston of Washington, DC. Stanley was a bright, inquisitive, music-savvy boy who thrived in school and in his home church, the historic Morning Star Baptist Church. By age 7, Stanley’s love of being front-and-center in church sparked his budding musical talent on the piano, singing and directing. That early spotlight earned him local fame as the “church boy who does it all.

Stanley was also a standout student academically, earning a scholarship to attend the private and prestigious Friends School of Baltimore. Up late every Sunday evening, Stanley often recalled how he ended his busy Sundays by staying up till midnight east coast time to listen to the live 11 pm radio broadcast of First Church of Deliverance. He matriculated at Northwestern University in Evanston in the fall of 1969. Bingo, that set the stage for Stanley’s love affair with everything Chicago! As a college first-year student, Stanley frequently took CTA trains and buses all over Chicago to learn and experience the city’s rich variety of different Black worship experiences and their unique musical styles. Already a gospel music savant from Baltimore, Stanley used Chicago as a living classroom. The excited, musically gifted teenager continued growing his encyclopedic knowledge and talent as a gospel performer, musician, director, teacher, historian and eventually a renowned expert—affectionately known as Professor L. Stanley Davis. Stanley used his trademark “bigger-than-life” personality, his broad easy smile, and his genuine nature to listen and learn from others while using his compassion to uplift and motivate just about anyone who ever crossed his path in this lifetime. Stanley proudly proclaimed, “I march to a different drummer’s beat.” In the process, Stanley became lifelong personal friends with Chicago’s gospel royalty—Julia Mae Kennedy, Ralph Goodpasture, the “Father of Gospel” Thomas A. Dorsey, the Barrett Sisters, Rev. Milton Brunson, Audrea Lenox, Albertina Walker, Sallie Martin, and Vernon Oliver Price. The teenage devotee’s most defining move was joining the nation’s oldest, premiere community choir, the fabled Wooten Choral Ensemble (WCE).

By the end of his sophomore year in college, Stanley’s Chicago discovery slowed down. Dr. Eileen Cherry-Chandler and Clifton Gerring, III, then both fellow Northwestern University upper-class students, finally convinced Stanley to become the founding artistic director of the Northwestern Community Ensemble (NCE) on May 8, 1971. Stanley proudly credited his musical blueprint for NCE directly from his firsthand experience with the WCE playbook. Stanley insisted NCE perform more than just gospel music—just like his beloved time in the Wootens. He demanded a repertoire of mastering, without sheet music in hand, anthems, Negro spirituals, and classic church hymns. After 53 years, Stanley’s musical dream continues to fill a spiritual void on Northwestern’s predominately white campus and throughout the Chicago community. NCE celebrated 52 years in May 2023, and is moving forward to celebrate “55 years of Stanley’s dream and legacy” in May 2026.

Musical homegoing flyer

After graduating from Northwestern in 1974 with a degree in Sociology with a focus on Urban Affairs, Stanley excelled in two high-tech corporate gigs with the old Illinois Bell Telephone Company and Montgomery Wards Signature Group. But by the late ‘70s, Stanley refocused his professional career on Black sacred music and teaching. Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne recruited noted Chicago Tribune music and arts critic and lecturer of music at Northwestern, Thomas Willis, to draft a plan for an International Music Festival. Willis tapped young Stanley to help him develop the plan. Tom and Stanley by this time were old music colleagues. When Willis taught Stanley in his music appreciation class in 1972, he turned a 15-minute presentation assignment on gospel music into a fact-filled, interactive hour. A stickler for details, Stanley concluded his presentation over three more entire class sessions later. Still as a Northwestern undergraduate student, Willis offered Stanley to teach six for-credit courses on the gospel music tradition, which included mandatory field trips to Chicago church services! From that humble teaching start, the Professor shared his ever-growing wealth of gospel, ethnic music knowledge, and performance studies as an adjunct instructor at Chicago’s Loyola University, University of Chicago, and DePaul University.

In the early ’90s, Northwestern invited Stanley back as a graduate student with a joint appointment to teach history and music in the African American Studies Department (now known as the Global Black Studies Department) and in the Bienen School of Music. While present on campus he became a faculty advisor/voice coach to his baby, NCE. In June 1997, Stanley earned his Master of Arts degree.

Over the years Stanley has achieved several firsts under the broad musical umbrella organization he created, Gospel Arts Workshop (GAW).

The full obituary can be viewed here.

GMF joins countless others in prayer for the family, friends, colleagues, and mentees of Professor L. Stanley Davis.

Jack Dempsey Winstead

R.I.H. Jack Dempsey Winstead, quartet singer and guitarist

Jack Dempsey Winstead, quartet singer and guitarist

A homegoing service took place Wednesday (Aug. 15) in Roxboro, NC for Jack Dempsey “Demp” Winstead, 75, who passed August 11.

Winstead was remembered as a loving family member and friend as well as a singer and guitar player who shared his talent with several North Carolina-based groups including the Silver Stars of Blanch, Souls of Calvary from Franklinton, and for a time, the Brooklyn Allstars (whose founding member Rev. Thomas Spann transitioned last week, one day before Winstead).

Artis Swann, formerly of the Brower Brothers, was among those who comforted the family in song at the homegoing celebration.

GMF extends deep condolences to the Winstead family during this emotional time.

Haywood Barnes of the Sunset Jubilaires has died

Haywood Barnes of the Sunset Jubilaires passes on

GMF extends sympathy to the Barnes family in the passing of Mr. Haywood Barnes on August 14, 2023, at the age of 82.

Haywood was a longtime member of the Sunset Jubilaires, organized by his brother, the late Bishop F.C. Barnes. According to Bishop Barnes in a bio on the Red Budd Holy Church website, “After I was called into the ministry and began pastoring, it took me away from the group, so my brother Haywood took over as lead singer.”

Haywood Barnes leads “I’m Going On” with the Sunset Jubilaires while other quartet greats look on.

Haywood’s nephew, Rev. Luther Barnes, eventually became the Jubilaires’ primary lead singer with Haywood continuing to share both lead and background chores. Other Barnes family members also rounded out the lineup.

A public viewing is scheduled for Saturday, August 19, at 10 am at Red Budd Holy Church in Rocky Mount, NC. The celebration of life service follows at 11.

Celebration of life flyer for Haywood Barnes