Reuben (Bill) Cooper, original member of the Cooper Four, makes transition

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Reuben (Bill) Cooper, original member of the Cooper Four, passed yesterday (January 12), after an extended period of declining health.  He was 87 years old.


The Cooper Four’s brand of folksy traditional gospel, minimal musical accompaniment (often only guitar), and notably deep voices made the sibling foursome–Bill along with Walter, Maria (d. 1996), and Bill’s twin sister Ruth–a regional favorite at the peak of their popularity. 


The group began singing in their rural Hillsborough, NC home in 1935.  In 1954, they began singing live weekly on Durham’s first all-Black radio station, WSRC.  As of 2011, the group could still be heard live each week on WRJD radio in Durham.


The Cooper Four’s early 1960s vinyl single, featuring “This May Be My Last Time” and “Stay in the Field Until the War is Ended” still receives occasional airplay.


GMF extends condolences to Bill’s wife Ella, daughter Rubena, grandchildren, siblings, and host of family members and friends.  He will be remembered fondly.

Louis Dicks of the Blind Boys remembered by family, friends, quartet community

Sandy Foster, Jr. (left) of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and Rev. Frank Thompson of the Fantastic Violinaires pay their respects.

Mourners filled the sanctuary of Durham’s New Metropolitan Church Monday, October 24, to celebrate the life of Louis Dicks, longtime member of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. 
The host of mourners included members from both the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and Alabama, the Fantastic Violinaires, and the Swan Silvertones.
Rev. Frank Thompson of the Fantastic Violinaires was among those who offered tributes with a prayer of comfort and a moving verse of “Father, I Stretch My Hands To Thee.”  Pastor Patricia Reams delivered the eulogy.
Dicks died last Monday, October 17. 

GMF thanks RuBena Cooper-Woods for contributing to this piece.

Related Story:
Blind Boys’ famed lead, Louis Dicks, passes from labor to reward

GMF Sightings – Reuben "Bill" Cooper of NC's legendary Cooper Four

Reuben “Bill” Cooper of the golden era’s Cooper Four was eyed after the CD release musical of New Creation, of which he and his wife Ella’s only daughter, RuBena Cooper-Woods, is a lead singer.

The Cooper Four’s brand of traditional gospel made the sibling foursome a regional favorite at the peak of their popularity.  The group has been a mainstay, singing live weekly on the radio since 1952.  They can still be heard live on Durham’s WRJD-AM each Sunday morning.  In addition to Cooper, the group currently consists of its original members Walter and Ruth Cooper (who was also in attendance at the musical), as well as Stephanie and Cheryal Lipscomb, granddaughters of deceased original member, guitarist Maria Cooper-Whitted.

Editor’s Note: RuBena Cooper-Woods relayed the background information shared with GMF in this piece, including the year the group began singing on the radio.  An interview with the group, which appeared in The Herald Sun in 2006, notes the group began singing at WSRC in 1954, the same year the station launched.

Gospel Legend Delois Barrett Campbell of The Barrett Sisters: Labor to Reward

GMF learned from Bob Marovich at The Black Gospel Blog that gospel legend Delois Barrett Campbell of The Barrett Sisters and formerly of the Roberta Martin Singers entered into eternal rest today.  She was 85 years-old.

I cannot say enough about what Mother Delois meant to me on a personal level.  I have not known a more genuine, kind-hearted, faith-filled, and tenacious person.  Our conversations and exchanges are ones that I will keep private, hold dear, and cherish always.

Delois Barrett Campbell was rare and is irreplaceable.  I love you, Mother Delois.

The Campbell and Barrett families have our sincerest, heartfelt sympathy.  We do rejoice, however, that Mother Delois has gone from the labors and cares of this life to rest and reward.

Arrangements are as follows:

Musical Tribute
Tuesday, August 9th
7 PM
Trinity United Church of Christ
400 West 95th Street – Chicago

Visitation
Wednesday, August 10th
6 PM
Trinity United Church of Christ

Homegoing Celebration
Wednesday, August 10th
7 PM
Trinity United Church of Christ

Interment
Thursday, August 11th
Oak Woods Cemetery

Please read more about her passing and career at The Black Gospel Blog and www.cbsnews.com.

Viola Crowley of the Clara Ward Singers has passed

Joseph Middleton of The Golden Era Gospel Blog reports the passing of Viola Crowley of the famed Clara Ward Singers.  Crowley sang lead on several of the group’s songs including “Traveling Shoes” and “We’re Marching to Zion,” in addition to serving as the group’s pianist for a time.  Read The Golden Era Gospel Blog’s announcement here:  R.I.P., Viola Crowley of the Clara Ward Singers.

GMF sends its condolences to the family of Viola Crowley. 

 Photo:  The Clara Ward Singers with Elvis Presley in 1969.  Viola Crowley is fourth from the right (beside Presley).

Appreciation musical for Nightingales’ “JoJo” Wallace set for this Saturday

GMF reminds you to show your support for one of NC’s own pioneering gospel singers, Brother Joseph “JoJo” Wallace, lifelong singer and guitarist of the world renowned Sensational Nightingales.

What:  “An Evening with Brother Joseph Wallace and Friends”
When: Saturday, June 11, 2011, at 3 P.M.
Where:  Union Baptist Church, 904 N. Roxboro Street – Durham, NC
Admission: FREE; an offering will be received for the Joseph Wallace Scholarship Fund

You can read GMF’s recent post announcing the appreciation musical and guests here: Nightingales’ Joseph “JoJo” Wallace to be honored with musical celebration.

Pictured in the circa 1954-55 photo are, clockwise from top:  Willie “Bill” Woodruff, Carl Coates, Joseph “JoJo” Wallace, Ernest James, and Julius “June” Cheeks.   GMF thanks Opal Nations for verifying this caption.

Nightingales' Joseph "JoJo" Wallace to be honored with musical celebration

The Sensational Nightingales were one of the fiercest quartet-styled groups of gospel’s golden age, and he’s been singing and playing professionally with them since 1946, just as that era in gospel music history was budding.  On Saturday, June 11th, quartet legend Brother Joseph “JoJo” Wallace, who is still a lead singer and guitarist for the internationally known quartet will be celebrated for his 65 years of ministry with the group.

“An Evening with Brother Joseph Wallace and Friends” takes place at Durham, NC’s Union Baptist Church on 904 N. Roxboro Street and starts at 3:00 PM.  Tributes by The Sensational Nightingales, Darrell and Ricky Luster, John K. Thorpe, New Hope Person Baptist Church Male Chorus under the direction of Libra Nicole Boyd, The Hillian Sisters,  Billy Warden, Evangelist Carolyn Satterfield and others are planned.  A couple of surprise musical guests are also expected to pay tribute.
The event is free and everyone is invited; a freewill offering will be received.  Proceeds go to The Joseph Wallace Scholarship Fund.

Top: Pictured in the circa 1954-55 photo are, clockwise from top:  Willie “Bill” Woodruff, Carl Coates, Joseph “JoJo” Wallace, Ernest James, and Julius “June” Cheeks.   GMF thanks Opal Nations for verifying this caption.

Bottom:  Brother Joseph “JoJo” Wallace ministers in concert with The Sensational Nightingales.

Sizzlin’ This Week (4/25/11) – “A God Somewhere”

“A God Somewhere”
Inez Andrews and the Andrewettes featuring Liz Dargan
Originally released on the Songbird Records label
Available as an mp3 download on Amazon

It is terribly hard to beat the hardcore, organic sounds of gospel music from its Golden Era and the years that immediately follow.  This week, trust me when I tell you this sizzler is a T-H-R-O-W-B-A-C-K!

Inez Andrews is known as one of the dynamos of the legendary Caravans.  Her wailing (and often shrieking) lead on Caravans numbers such as “I’m Not Tired Yet,” “I’m Willing to Wait,” and “Oh Mary Don’t Weep” helped to solidify the group’s position as one of the most successful female groups of the era.  In the early 1960’s, Andrews branched out, forming her own group called Inez Andrews and the Andrewettes.  This week’s sizzler features her group with the belting contralto of Liz Dargan on lead.  (In another spin-off, Dargan also eventually left the Andrewettes to form her own group, the Gospelettes.  They too were signed to Songbird Records.)

“A God Somewhere” was released on the album called The Need of Prayer (1963) and as a 7-inch vinyl single in 1965.  While it is going to be difficult to find in these formats, you can download it as an mp3 on Amazon.

(Photo: Inez Andrews, right, and the Andrewettes with Liz Dargan on lead)

Pop music writer profiles Dorothy Love Coates

It’s always refreshing to read about the artistry and impact of trailblazers from gospel’s Golden Age.  Today, Mary Colurso of The Birmingham News spotlights the inimitable Dorothy Love Coates.

Nowadays, Coates is perhaps best known for the songs she composed.  However, at the height of her stardom, her gravelly voice and theatrical stage presence drew the attention of singers both sacred and, well, “worldly,” as it was called in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Read about her and her lasting contributions to music here:  Year of Alabama Music: Dorothy Love Coates.