Evelyn Starks Hardy, founding member of the Original Gospel Harmonettes, has died

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

One by one, our gospel veterans are exchanging labor for rest.

Marovich of the
Journal of Gospel Music informed GMF this morning that Evelyn Starks Hardy, singer,
arranger, and accompanist for the Original Gospel Harmonettes, passed
today (April 2). We extend our condolences to her family and friends.

Hardy was born in 1922 in Birmingham, AL, and grew up in the church. She began playing for her church when she was nine and later cited Roberta Martin as one of her musical influences.

Marovich highlights Hardy’s career in music as well as education here: Evelyn Starks Hardy Dies; Member of the Original Gospel Harmonettes 

Photo Credit | Professor Nathaniel Frederick, II

Rev. Gene Martin, who formerly traveled with Evangelist A.A. Allen, dies

Rev. Gene Martin

Rev. Gene Martin went to be with the Lord today (March 20), after several months of illness.  He was 75 years old.

The well-known singer, choir director, and evangelist began his recording career in the 1960s with Evangelist A.A. Allen.  For several years to follow, he traveled with Allen, singing at revivals and with the Miracle Valley Choir. From the 1970s through the 1990s, Rev. Martin traveled the country with his own ministry, the Gene Martin Action Revival.  In 2001, he was presented to another generation of traditional gospel music lovers through Bishop Carlton Pearson’s Live at Azusa, Vol. 4, which featured his Holy Ghost-drenched rendition of “Too Close to Heaven/I’ve Got It.”

GMF extends condolences to Rev. Gene Martin’s family and friends during this bittersweet time. Though he is surely at rest, he will be greatly missed.

Photo Credit | Facebook Profile of Gene Martin

Andraé Crouch (1942-2015) was part of my church family [Arrangements Added]

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Andraé Crouch passed today (January 8) in Los Angeles. He was 72.  (Read the related story at USA Today.) My prayers are with his twin sister Sandra and the Crouch family as well as the New Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ, friends, and fans.

Though I knew the Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and pastor had been hospitalized since Saturday, reportedly in critical condition from a heart attack, his passing hits me as though he was part of my church family. In a way, he was. As a minister of music, I felt my repertoire of choir selections was incomplete without a Crouch gem. “Maybe God’s Trying to Tell You Something” (from The Color Purple), “Let the Church Say Amen,” “Soon and Very Soon,” “Jesus is the Answer,” “Through It All,” and the classic he penned at age 14, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” have permanent pages in my music catalog, and he, through his powerful, meaningful, and relatable songs, will have an abiding presence in the Sunday worship services I conduct as music director.

Andraé Crouch was very likely part of your church family too. His contributions to American music are too numerous to mention. The artists he has influenced are copious. The masses he has led to Christ are countless. 

Crouch was a pioneer and a legend–and other legends and contemporaries embraced opportunities to work with him. In 2012, “Queen of Gospel” Pastor Shirley Caesar told me that her dream collaboration would be a duet with the man whom some have called “the father of modern gospel music.”

His music is timeless. His legacy is lasting.   

Arrangements have been announced, and both services will stream live.

What is your favorite Andraé Crouch song? Please share in the comment section below. 

Julia Mae Price-Williams of the Davis Sisters, Caravans, succumbs

Bob Marovich of the Journal of Gospel Music informed GMF that Julia Mae Price -Williams, formerly of the Davis Sisters and the Caravans, passed away.  GMF extends condolences to her family and friends.

Price-Williams started singing at age three.  It’s a talent that ran in her family–her father, Rev. Julian Price (who was a pastor in Augusta, GA), and several aunts also sang. As a teenager, she was a member of the Vashti Singers. In the 1960s, she joined the Davis Sisters of Philadelphia before becoming a member of the Caravans in 1966. In 1983, she released her first solo album, which earned “Artist of the Year” and “Traditional Singer of the Year” nominations from the Gospel Music Workshop of America.

Joseph Middleton of the Golden Era Gospel Blog interviewed Price-Williams in 2009, during which she spoke about her career as well as present-day gospel music: The Golden Era Gospel Blog Interviews a Gospel Legend: Ms. Julia Mae Price-Williams.

Vintage music of two NC quartets featured on Swedish producer’s compilation CD

The Gospel Harmanaires of Oxford and The Carolina Kings of Henderson have songs on a compilation that highlights gospel music from 1959-1962. 

Best of Revelation Records, 1959-1962 cd artBy Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

The year was 2005.  It’s the year Sweden-based producer Per “Slim” Notini began collecting vinyl singles recorded on Bobby Robinson’s short-lived small, independent record label called Revelation Records.  Notini continued to unearth gems over the years and from his treasure has now produced and released a 27-track disc entitled Best of Revelation Records, 1959-1962,for NarroWay Records.  Among the singers featured on the golden era CD compilation are two NC quartets, The Gospel Harmanaires of Oxford with “Too Close” and The Carolina Kings of Henderson with “What A Blessing.”

“Too Close,” featuring James Thornton and bass singer Ray Gill on lead, takes off in uptempo fashion.  It’s a contrast to Alex Bradford’s composition of the same name, which was popularized by quartets like the Brooklyn Allstars and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. 

A few tracks later, paradoxical to its title, “What A Blessing” opens noticeably somber with organ and the tremolo-heavy guitar of the song’s writer, George Hargrove.  Soon enough though, listeners are captured by Lonnie Heggie’s resonant tenor and the sturdy backing vocals of The Kings.  Not unusual for songs of the era, the track length falls 15 seconds short of the three-minute mark.  Given the immediate attention the music and vocals command despite the song’s brevity, “What A Blessing” sounds like it might have been a perfect opening number for The Kings’ concerts.

The CD is accompanied by essay liner notes and photos compiled and composed by Notini about Revelation Records, Bobby Robinson, and the label‘s producer John Bowden.  The essay also contains photos and bios on most of the featured artists.  Notini says he regrets not having any information about the Harmanaires and The Kings at the time his notes were written.  Scouring the Internet yielded no biographical information on either group.

Hargrove, the founder and only surviving original member of The Carolina Kings, talked with GMF about his group’s 61-year history (the group was formed in 1952) and original members (General Rainey, Goodrich Rainey, Prince Moore, William Nowell, and Hargrove). He also recalls appearing frequently on programs with The Gospel Harmanaires, but he believes all the group’s members have now passed on.

Hargrove is thrilled that his group’s music has been preserved and presented in this format.  This is just one of at least 27 reasons Best of Revelation Records, 1959-1962 is a gospel collector’s joy.  If not for the efforts of Per “Slim” Notini, such gems would very likely remain hidden from the present-day generation of traditional gospel enthusiasts.

Bishop Harold Ivory Williams remembered at first of two ‘Celebration of Life’ services

The Caesar Singers sing "You Can Make It" at Friday evening's celebration of life service for Bishop Williams
The Caesar Singers sing “You Can Make It” at Friday evening’s memorial musical.

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Hundreds gathered this evening to celebrate the life of Bishop Harold Ivory Williams, Sr. at the first of two days of services for the former Presiding Prelate and Senior Bishop Emeritus of the Mount Calvary Holy Church of America (MCHCA), Inc.  Bishop Williams, who passed July 4, at age 93, was remembered as “The Patriarch, The Preacher, The Pianist.”

Among the many who gave remarks and musical tributes during the two-and-a-half hour service at Raleigh’s Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Church were Bishop Barbara Amos, Bishop George Bloomer, organist/songwriter Michael Mathis, the Caesar Singers, and the Cornerstone Church of Jesus Christ Combined Choir. 

Bishop Williams was praised for his humility, humor, leadership, scholarship, and particularly his musicianship.  In fact, many in attendance learned tonight that his middle name, Ivory, was acquired in association with a group he founded in the 1940’s, The Ivory Gospel Singers (which also had Thelma Jackson, who later sang with the Clara Ward Singers, as its member).  It happens that Mahalia Jackson was the first to refer to him by “Ivory,” causing the name–actually a fitting one, considering his gift for tickling the ivories–to remain with him.

Saturday’s national “Celebration of Life” service will begin at 11 am, at Raleigh’s Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Church, with viewing for two hours prior.  According to Bishop Kelvin Shouse, you can go to www.mchca.org for information about live streaming.

Donald Lawrence asks for your support of The Thomas A. Dorsey Project

Professor Thomas A. Dorsey, Father of Gospel Music

(Springfield, IL)  The Thomas A. Dorsey
Project is proud to announce the support of Grammy, Dove and Stellar
Award winning recording artist, Donald Lawrence.

Donald Lawrence is an international songwriter, producer, music and
choir director and gospel extraordinaire with a storied musical career.  In support of The Thomas A. Dorsey Project, Lawrence issued this

As the Father of Gospel music, Mr. Thomas A. Dorsey has had a
profound impact on me as an artist. In fact, one of the first
songwriting awards I won as a young songwriter was the “Thomas A. Dorsey
Song of the Year Award,” during The Thomas A. Dorsey Convention of
National Choirs and Choruses. Mr. Dorsey not only paved the way for
future Gospel artists, he laid the foundation for which our genre of
music was built upon. All generations of musicians, regardless of their
musical preference or style need to study the work and life of Thomas
A. Dorsey. What better tool to learn the man than a piece of literature
written by his own grandson, Thomas A. Dorsey III? Thomas is currently
raising money via PayPal to facilitate the creation of this book about
his grandfather. Please contribute to this cause so that all of us
maybe allowed a window into the life of this musical genius.

The Thomas A. Dorsey Project is committed to protecting the image,
works, and reputation of Thomas A. Dorsey while preserving the legacy of
the most prolific innovator of gospel music. Dorsey arguably produced
the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement. Dorsey’s songs have been
recorded and performed by the likes of Sam Cooke, Albertina Walker,
Clara Ward, Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, and Melonie Daniels, just to
name a few. The project is currently in Phase 1 of its Crowdsourcing
& Fundraising Campaign in which all funds received will assist in
facilitating logistics such as research, writing, editing, artistic
design and licensing necessary to complete a factually based narrative
which chronicles nearly a century of American History.

The Thomas A. Dorsey Project is seeking to transform Dorsey’s life story
into a manuscript, film and beyond. Please send all monetary
donations to:

The Thomas A. Dorsey Project
c/o Thomas A. Dorsey III
Box 1825

411 East Monroe
Springfield, IL 62705

Online donations can
be made at PayPal.

For exclusive content and photos please “follow” The Thomas A. Dorsey Project on Twitter @Dorsey_Project, “like” on Facebook at The-Thomas-A-Dorsey-Project, or visit the official Tumblr blog at http://thethomasadorseyproject.tumblr.com.  

The preceding content is from a press release issued by The Thomas A. Dorsey Project.

Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers Recordings 1949-1958

Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers
Recordings 1949-1958
Gospel Friend (2013) 

Clara Ward and the Ward Singer cd cover

By Libra Boyd, Founder & Editor
Gospel Music Fever

Fans of Golden Era gospel will enjoy the current release on the Gospel Friend imprint, Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers. Strolling, strutting, and sometimes shouting down Memory Lane with Clara Ward and the ladies presents 25 reasons “famous” managed to work its way into the group’s name.

Step back at least 55 years, and you will hear gospel singing at its finest. Prior to the days of heavy studio overdubs, electronic instruments, and pitch correction software, there were skilled voices honed from raw talent. Frances Steadman, Henrietta Waddy, Thelma Jackson, Willa Ward Royster (to whom the CD is dedicated), Marion Williams, and Clara were all top-notch lead vocalists. On this particular CD, Marion Williams–the only bona fide gospel artist to date to receive a Kennedy Center Honor–leads several of the numbers, including one of their hits, W.H. Brewster’s “I’m Climbing Higher and Higher” and her self-written “I’ll Be There.”  In contrast to Marion’s robust delivery is Clara’s refined soprano on Robert Anderson’s “Prayer Changes Things,” as well as Willa’s recognizable timbre on “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” and Frances Steadman’s stirring near-baritone on “God’s Amazing Love.”

As I said earlier, forget about the presence of the studio enhancements that give a lot of today’s gospel its marketable sound.  You won’t find them on this CD. What you’ll find are pure and piping unobstructed vocals complemented by piano and organ on the earliest dated tracks, and then drums and “sacred steel” guitar as the 1950s ushers in additional musical accompaniment.

I do not own Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers on vinyl, so I am ecstatic that producer Per Notini of Sweden has made this collection available in a format that gospel music aficionados can enjoy for years to come. If this reissue is ice cream, then the cherry on top is Robert Sacré’s comprehensive liner notes with photos interspersed.

In the United States, Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers is available at www.cityhallrecords.com.

“Prayer Changes Things” – “God’s Amazing Love” 

Fever Meter
SMOKIN’ (4 of 5 Stars)

PBS to air “Jubilee Showcase” anniversary special – Oct. 10

Sid Ordower

By Bill Carpenter

For the first time in almost three decades, fans of Jubilee Showcase,
a groundbreaking gospel music television program that aired from 1963 to
1984 on WLS Channel 7 in Chicago, will be able to see highlights of
the venerable show as it celebrates its 50th anniversary during a Public
Broadcasting System (PBS) Pledge special.  Veteran entertainer Clifton
Davis will host
the pledge break program on WTTW, the Chicago PBS affiliate, on October 10, 2013 at 9 PM CST. The special will also air nationally on PBS stations throughout the United States beginning in December 2013.

The hour-long broadcast
will present historic footage of The Staple Singers, The Soul Stirrers,
and The Caravans among others, from the television show that opened each Sunday morning
with this announcement: “Hello, I’m Sid Ordower and welcome to Jubilee Showcase, the program presenting songs truly American:
gospel, spiritual and jubilee songs–the great inspirational music of
the past and present.”  Dorothy Norwood, who
was once a member of The Caravans and appeared on the program during its 20 year run, will make a cameo during the pledge break to reflect
on the show and its cultural significance at the time.

Sid Ordower launched Jubilee Showcase in 1963
from an auto dealership on 47th Street. As a white man active in
the civil rights movement, Ordower became acquainted with gospel music
because so many political activities took place in churches where he
came in contact with gospel performers. He became a fan of the genre and
created the television show as a mainstream showcase for the artists.

its height, Jubilee Showcase boasted over 250,000 weekly viewers and
presented some of the biggest names in gospel. Many Chicagoans fondly remember watching
Jubilee Showcase on Sunday mornings as “church before church.” Log on at www.jubileeshowcase.com for news and updates.

Pastor Shirley Caesar sings “How I Got Over” at 50th Anniversary of MOW (video)

In 1963, gospel’s Queen Mahalia Jackson took to the platform and rattled the heavens with the Clara Ward-inspired “How I Got Over” at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Exactly half a century later, gospel’s reigning queen, Pastor Shirley Caesar, did the same during the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington commemorative celebration.