Viola Fair Website  


A Birth of the Blues

A YouTube History of Music

Modern Blues 5

Black Gospel Appendix

Group & Last Name Index to Full History:


Tracks are listed in chronological order by year, then alphabetically.

Listings do not reflect proper order by month or day: later oft precedes earlier.

Not on this page? See history tree below.



Inez Andrews
Martha Bass    Alex Bradford
Shirley Caesar    The Caravans    Mattie Moss Clark    James Cleveland    Dorothy Love Coates    Andraé Crouch
Davis Sisters    Thomas A Dorsey
Cassietta George    Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet    Bessie Griffin
Mahalia Jackson
Roberta Martin    Sallie Martin    Brother Joe May
Larry Norman    Dorothy Norwood
Willie Mae Ford Smith    Staple Singers
Jackie Verdell
Albertina Walker    Clara Ward    Marion Williams



Featured on this page loosely in order of first recording if not record release (as possible).

Names are alphabetical, not chronological, per year:


1926 Thomas A Dorsey
1937 Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet    Mahalia Jackson
1940 Sallie Martin    Clara Ward
1947 Roberta Martin    Marion Williams
1948 Bessie Griffin
1949 Shirley Caesar    Davis Sisters    Brother Joe May 
1950 Martha Bass    James Cleveland    Willie Mae Ford Smith
1951 Dorothy Love Coates
1952 The Caravans    Albertina Walker
1953 Alex Bradford    Staple Singers
1954 Cassietta George
1955 Jackie Verdell
1956 Dorothy Norwood
1957 Inez Andrews
1958 Mattie Moss Clark
1964 Andraé Crouch
1969 Larry Norman



This section of modern blues doesn't actually address blues, but rather, their complementary limb of the same roots, black gospel. These histories have no page for the gospel genre, mixed as it is in early blues and folk, the genre not really taking flight in and of itself in recording until the thirties. Broadly considered, gospel music in the United States had two main origins: Its largely European influence was introduced by immigrants via such as hymns. 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God', for example, was composed by Protestant revolutionary, Martin Luther, circa 1528. The words to 'Amazing Grace' were written by Anglican clergyman, John Newton, in 1779. Having been a slave trader prior to that, it's suggested that he drew the melody from black slaves, which leads us to black gospel arising out of the rural South with the southern limb of the blues, the former spiritual (notably Baptist, Methodist or Pentecostal), the latter secular, they interbound like the fingers on one's hands when you interclasp them, yet on two hands as different as were their venues: the blues came with liquor; gospel came with church, and they weren't to be confused. Black gospel owes much to Baptist blues pianist, Thomas A. Dorsey, who began pushing the genre in Chicago in the thirties, he himself influenced by the recordings of blind pianist, Arizona Dranes, whose gospel was a merge with barrelhouse blues in the Bible Belt in Texas. Even as they merged, however, blues and black gospel demarcated like oil and water, distinctly separate as well in purpose, repertoire and styles. Divergent as they were, black gospel would also merge with R&B. It was also elemental in the development of soul music. It thus not only fits, but behoovingly, to touch upon black gospel as tangential to the blues (or R&B), they two aspects of the same coin in a Derridean differance of contrasting likeness.


Well to address the earlier roots of black gospel at least as far back as it was sung along the Underground Railroad, also known as the Freedom Train of abolitionists involved in helping slaves escape their Southern masters to destinations in Canada, Mexico and overseas. Among conductors were such as Peg Leg Joe and Harriet Tubman. Among songs sung along its routes was Peg Leg Joe's 'Follow the Drinking Gourd', published in 1928. Tubman's was a 650-mile route from Maryland to Ontario, she making the first of 19 successful trips in 1850, coming to free several hundred slaves during her dangerous career. (She is said to have had a bounty attached to her that rose to $40,000, equivalent to a million dollars these days.) Texts by Tubman were made available in 1966 on 'The Negro Woman' (Folkways Records FH 5523), read by Dorothy Washington. Also of that period was 'Song of the Free' in 1860, put to the tune of the blackface minstrel song, 'Oh! Susanna' (Stephen Foster 1848). 'Steal Away' was another Underground Railroad song composed by Choctaw freedman, Wallace Willis, sometime before 1862. That was published by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1901. The hymn, 'Go Down Moses' was published as early as 1962 by Reverend Lockwood, arranged by Thomas Baker. The Fisk Jubilee Singers published their version in 1872. 'Sweet Chariot' was composed by Wallace sometime after 1865. 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore' was published in 'Slave Songs of the United States' in 1867. 'The Good Old Way', was also published in 1867 in 'Slave Songs of the United States'. The Jubilee Singers published another version in 1880 as 'Come, Let Us All Go Down'. That got recorded as early as 'I Went Down Into the Garden' (Okeh 40796) on March 22, 1927, by the Price the Family Sacred Singers. Lead Belly recorded a version called 'Down in the Valley to Pray' in 1940 for the Library of Congress. Also of the Underground Railroad period was 'Wade in the Water', eventually published in 1901. It took 'Let Us Break Bread Together' until 1925 in 'The Journal of American Folklore', also 'The Second Book of Negro Spirituals' by James Weldon Johnson in 1927. Gospel music was used by the Underground Railroad to code communications. (Other codes.) Per below is a text by Tubman with hymns written by anonymous slaves at undetermined times, though all known during the period of the Underground Railroad. The Fisk Jubilee Singers were among the earliest and best-known black gospel groups. Founded at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1871, formations of the Jubilee Singers continued throughout the 20th century and yet perform to this day. Principal to the emergence of black gospel in the 20th century was blues pianist, Thomas A. Dorsey, he to develop in Chicago in the thirties what he'd heard in Arizona Dranes. As for 'Down in the Valley to Pray' by Lead Belly, that can be found on 'Let It Shine On Me: The Library of Congress Recordings Volume 3' ('91). Per below, all hymns had been composed by unknown slaves and were existent during the period of the Underground Railroad.

Text by Harriet Tubman  


     Album: 'The Negro Woman'   Issued 1966

     Voice: Dorothy Washington

Hymns of the Underground Railroad

   Wade in the Water

     Published 1901

     Fisk Jubilee Singers

     Recording: Sunset Four Jubilee Singers   1924

   Wade in the Water

     Published 1901

     Fisk Jubilee Singers

     Recording: Fisk Jubilee Singers   1994

   Sweet Chariot

     Published 1909

     Fisk Jubilee Singers

     Recording: Fisk Jubilee Singers   1909

   Down in the Valley to Pray

     1940 for the Library of Congress

     Lead Belly

   Go Down Moses


     Paul Robeson   Piano: Lawrence Brown

   Michael Row the Boat Ashore


     The Highwaymen


Thomas A Dorsey   See Thomas A Dorsey.

  Gospel didn't arise to notable distinction in recording as genre in and of itself until the thirties, due largely to Thomas A. Dorsey insofar as black gospel was concerned. Among the first vocal groups to make gospel its emphasis was the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (GGQ) founded in 1934, later to drop Jubilee from its name. Put together by a group of students at Booker T. Washington College in Norfolk, Virginia, the GGQ performed more in terms of a commercial barbershop quartet, not associated with the black gospel movement in churches by such as Mahalia Jackson who preceded them in 1931 with her obscure recording, likely unissued, 'You Better Run, Run, Run'.) Initially recording numerous titles in August, 1937, the GGQ released such as 'Bedside of a Neighbor' and 'Found a Wonderful Saviour' in December that year [Bluebird B-7278 per 45worlds]. (Jackson's 'Peace in the Valley' is assumed to have preceded that.) They had also recorded such as 'Gabriel Blows His Horn'. Members of that configuration were Willie Johnson (baritone), William Langford (1st tenor), Henry Owens (2nd tenor) and Orlandus Wilson (bass). In June of 1940 they joined Lead Belly on nine titles, six getting issued in 1941 on the 78 rpm album, ''The Midnight Special' and Other Southern Prison Songs' (Victor 27266-A). They issued the 10" vinyl album, 'Golden Gate Spirituals', in 1950 (Columbia ‎6102). They visited Europe for the first time in 1955, to relocate to Paris in 1959. Rateyourmusic shows a fine list of 27 albums to as late as '80 Years' in 2014, that coming with secular titles as well, such as Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean'. The GGQ has been in operation for eighty years, though presently with none of its original members, having been through a revolving door of personnel over the decades. First to leave had been Langford in 1939, he to form the Southern Sons. His replacement was Clyde Riddick who stuck with the ensemble into the nineties. Johnson was drafted and joined the Navy for a brief period in 1943. Returning to the group, he was the next to make his permanent exit in 1948 to form the Jubilaires and emigrate to France in 1959. He was replaced by Oville Brooks for about six years. Owens left in 1950 to become a preacher and solo musician. With the exception of the draft in 1944 to do a couple years in the Navy, Wilson was the glue of the group to his death in 1998. As of this writing the GGQ consists of Paul Brembly (baritone since 1971), Frank Davis (1st tenor since 1995), Timothy Riley (2nd tenor) and Thierry Francis (bass). Some of the traditionals recorded by Golden Gate. Compositions by Orlandus Wilson or others.

Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet   1937

   Bedside of a Neighbor

     Composition: Traditional

  Born Ten Thousand Years Ago

     Composition: Traditional


     Composition: Traditional

Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet   1941

  God Told Nicodemus

     Composition: William Johnson

Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet   1943

  Stalin Wasn't Stallin'

     Composition: William Johnson

Golden Gate Quartet   1955


     Composition: Robert MacGimsey

Golden Gate Quartet   1964

  Sixteen Tonnes

     French telecast

     Composition: Merle Travis

Golden Gate Quartet   1967

  Ave Maria

     Yugoslavian telecast

  Joshua Fit the Battle Of Jericho

     Yugoslavian telecast

     Composition: Traditional

  You Better Run

     Yugoslavian telecast

     Composition: Traditional

     First version: Heavenly Gospel Singers   1937

Golden Gate Quartet   1975

  God Save Music


  Lord Pray for Me Telecast


Golden Gate Quartet   2014

  Billie Jean

     Composition: Michael Jackson

       Album: '80 Years'


     Composition: Robert MacGimsey

      Album: '80 Years'

Birth of the Blues: Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet

Original Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet

Source: earlygospel
Birth of the Blues: Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson

Source: Bio
Born Mahala Jackson in 1911 in New Orleans, contralto, Mahalia Jackson ("Queen of Gospel"), launches the history of black gospel on this page, having its origin, not as music, but as a musical genre, due largely the momentum and organizational abilities of Thomas A. Dorsey. As music, southern folk blues and black gospel had had a left and right hand relationship since the early 20th century, blues branching off from (black) gospel's roots beneath cotton. Not a few early blues musicians sang gospel or styled it into blues, while gospel singers per se hung with tradition, focusing on the church, evangelism and the hymns of old time religion. Though the origins of the blues were otherwise secular (: WC Handy, Hart Wand, Mamie Smith, Ethel Waters, etc., to mention only its more metropolitan origins apart from the rural South) both genres were an easy blend. Black gospel would come to clap with R&B as well. As for Mahalia Jackson, her father was a stevedore who also cut hair and would become a minister. Her mother was a laundress who cleaned houses, but would die when Jackson was five. Some black gospel vocalists were raised in strictly gospel environments. But Jackson listened to blues records as well, Bessie Smith the singer she most admired even as she avoided secular music as a professional. She was baptized as a youth, both into the Baptist Church and the muddy brown waters of the Mississippi. Jackson left Louisiana for Chicago at age sixteen. She met Dorsey in 1929 and would tour with him later in the thirties. Jackson may have recorded 'You Better Run, Run, Run' in 1931 in Chicago for Decca, and apparently it did, there nothing more known about it than its assigned take number (319999A). Mahalia slipped the 'i' into Mahala about that time. In 1937 Jackson recorded four tracks for Decca: 'God's Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares', 'My Lord', 'Keep Me Everyday' and 'God Shall Wipe All Tears Away'. She was yet working with Dorsey when in October of 1946 she recorded four tracks for Apollo: 'I Want to Rest', 'He Knows My Heart', 'I'm Going to Wait Until My Change Comes' and 'I'm Going to Tell God'. A couple sessions followed in latter 1947, the first in September to yield 'Move On Up a Little Higher', which would sell a jaw-dropping eight million copies, a very big deal with black gospel, having never been exactly what the everyday American record buyer has ever sought at the shop. To promote her recordings Jackson would have to say goodbye to Chicago and Dorsey in order to tour. By 1950 she was in full swing and owned the show in black gospel. She performed at Carnegie Hall that year, then toured Europe in '52. Columbia picked her up in the early fifties because she was a money maker. Even as she performed no secular music she yet shares distinction with James Cleveland in taking black gospel out of the church into the wider world, while pursuing gospel not only to evangelize, but to build as a musical industry in itself. Such the golden years of black gospel. 1957 saw Jackson at the Newport Jazz Festival, yet again the following year. She was heard at John F Kennedy's inaugural ball in 1961. She performed 'How I Got Over' at the March On Washington in 1963 on the day Martin Luther King Jr. gave his speech, 'I Have a Dream', to 250,000 people. The next year she sang at the New York World's Fair. Jackson sang 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' at King's early funeral (assassinated at a Memphis motel at age 39) in 1968. She issued her last of some thirty albums in 1969: 'What the World Needs Now'. 1970 found her at the Newport Jazz Festival with Louis Armstrong. Jackson decided to retire in 1971. She was a wealthy girl, having grown from $25 to record 'God’s Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares' to a worth of about four million, using a bit of it to open a beauty parlor and florist shop. Along with relatively minor investments in real estate life was looking forward enough when her heart failed her, complicated by diabetes, in January of 1972. About 50,000 people attended her funeral in Chicago where, this time, 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' was sung by Aretha Franklin. Three days later 24 limousines delivered her to her grave in New Orleans. Among compositions by Thomas Dorsey that Jackson recorded were 'If You See My Savior' ('48) and 'Take My Hand Precious Lord' ('56). Jackson herself wrote 'Tell the World About This' ('59). Songwriting credits to some of Jackson's other recordings.

Mahalia Jackson   1937

   Keep Me Every Day

      Composition: Traditional

   Peace in the Valley

      Composition: Thomas Dorsey

Mahalia Jackson   1947

   Move On Up a Little Higher

Mahalia Jackson   1956

   Motherless Child

      Composition: Traditional


      Music: George Gershwin

      Lyrics: DuBose Heyward

Mahalia Jackson   1958

   He That Sows In Tears


Mahalia Jackson   1960

   Rock of Ages


Mahalia Jackson   1960

   Rock of Ages

      Music: Thomas Hastings

      Lyrics: Augustus Toplady

      Published 1775

      Album: 'The Power and the Glory'

      With Percy Faith

Mahalia Jackson   1961

   Live in Hamburg

     Piano: Mildred Falls   Filmed live

  The Love of God

     Live in Europe

Mahalia Jackson   1962

   Trouble of the World

Mahalia Jackson   1963

   Down By the Riverside

      Live in Europe

      Composition: Traditional

Mahalia Jackson   1967

   Lost In the Stars

      Composition: Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson

Mahalia Jackson   1970

   Just a Closer Walk With Thee

     Newport Jazz Festival

     Filmed live with Louis Armstrong

      Composition: Traditional


Birth of the Blues: Champion Jack Dupree 

Sallie Martin

Source: NCGCC
Born in Georgia in 1895, gospel vocalist, Sallie Martin, was the contemporary of Thomas A Dorsey, generally recognized as "father" of Black gospel. Martin would likewise become popularly known as the "mother" of Black gospel. Raised a Baptist but becoming Pentecostal as a young woman, she began her career in 1927 in Chicago singing in Holiness churches. Some period afterward she was hired by Dorsey as a singer in his trio and manager. She assisted Dorsey in the founding of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in 1933. He had organized an earlier union for choral singers the year before. Leaving Dorsey in 1940, she founded Martin and Morris Music, a publishing house, with Kenneth Morris that year. She also formed the Martin and Morris Singers that year, 'On the Jericho Road' that group's first release. Also recorded in 1940 were 'Must Be Jesus Love Divine' and 'I'm Walking with My Jesus', released much later in 1945. No tracks by the Martin and Morris Singers are represented at YouTube. But a CD released in 2014, 'Just A Little Talk With Jesus', contains 25 issues by Cora and Sallie Martin released between 1940 and 1952. Martin is said to have formed Martin and Martin in 1940 with Roberta Martin. The two didn't go far together though, Sallie putting together the Sallie Martin Singers that year and Roberta moving onward to form the Roberta Martin Singers. The Sallie Martin Singers are thought to have first entered the studio in 1947. That April they recorded 'Even Me, Even Me' and 'Just a Few Days to Labor' for release in 1948. Also recorded on that date were 'Four and Twenty Elders', and 'Jesus Steps Right In', released in February 1950. 'You Know, Lord' and 'He's a Friend of Mine' were possibly issued in 1950 as well. Cora Martin, Brother Joe May and Dinah Washington (as Ruth Jones) each spent some time with the Sallie Martin Singers. Martin performed with them regularly until the mid fifties, backing off after that due the rigors of touring. The Singers continued without her for decades to come but for occasional appearances. Martin died in June of 1988. She was elected into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 1991. Compositional credits to titles recorded with daughter, Cora Martin, between 1940 and 1952.

Sallie Martin   1950?

    There Must Be a Heaven Somewhere

        Sallie Martin Singers

      Composition: Traditional

Sallie Martin   1951

    Working on a Building

         Sallie Martin Singers

      Composition: Traditional

Sallie Martin   1973

    I'll Tell It Wherever I Go

      Piano: Thomas Dorsey

      Composition: Thomas Dorsey

Sallie Martin   1979

    God Put a Rainbow in the Cloud

      Sallie Martin Singers


        Reverend Andrew Jenkins/Irene Spain


  Born in 1924 or '27 in Philadelphia, PA, Clara Ward first sang gospel professionally as a member of the Ward Trio with her mother, Gertrude, and older sister, Willarene. (Her mother had formed a group called the Ward Singers in 1931.) Multiple sources have Ward recording solo as a teenager in 1940 but we've found no documentation of such. Ward formed the Ward Singers in 1943. Sources have that gospel group recording as early as 1947, but no documentation earlier than 'Surely, God Is Able' in 1949 is found, the year that group toured from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in a brand new Cadillac. A recording thought to be from 1948 may be found under Marion Williams. The Ward Singers brought gospel to Carnegie Hall in Philadelphia in 1950. In addition to running the Ward Singers, Ward founded a booking agency as well as publishing house for gospel music. She also formed the gospel group, the Clara Ward Specials. Ward found gospel and R&B a lively equation, moving gospel from the church to the nightclub (including the Playboy Mansion), also trading the austere robes of gospel for jewelry, sequined gowns and wigs. Notable in the sixties was her performance with the Ward Singers at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1962, thought to be the first gospel to find representation at that venue. Also of note was her release of 'The Heart, The Faith, The Soul of Clara Ward' circa 1966, recorded with a symphony of 100 instruments, the Clara Ward Singers and the Golden Voices Ensemble. In 1968 and '69 she toured South Vietnam with the USO. (USO tours were sponsored by the State Department, but performers weren't paid.) Though the hotel in which the Ward Singers stayed in 1968 was bombed, killing several guests, Ward later stated that her favorite concerts were those given in Vietnam. The Ward Singers further toured internationally until Ward's death in Philadelphia in 1973. She was interred in Glendale, California. Songwriting credits to titles released by Ward on 45 RPM. Per below, the Ward Singers appear on all edits with the exception of one solo by Ward (organist unknown, though Ward played both that and piano). Per 1969 below, 'Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho' is a traditional spiritual first recorded by Harrod's Jubilee Singers in 1922 (Paramount 12116). Other covers of the song at secondhandsongs.

Clara Ward   1949

   Each Day


   Prayer Changes Things


Clara Ward   1951

   How I Got Over

      Composition: Clara Ward

Clara Ward   1952

   The Old Landmark

      Composition: Adeline Brunner

   There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood

Clara Ward   1962


     Filmed live at the Newport Jazz Festival

Clara Ward   1963



Clara Ward   1965

   God Bless the Child

      Composition: Billie Holiday/Arthur Herzog Jr   1939

      First issue by Holiday in 1941 (Okeh 6270)

Clara Ward   1966?

   Beyond the Sunset

     Album: 'The Heart, The Faith, The Soul of Clara Ward'

    With the Golden Voices Ensemble

   A City Called Heaven

     Album: 'The Heart, The Faith, The Soul of Clara Ward'

    With the Golden Voices Ensemble

Clara Ward   1968

   Dry Bones

      Filmed live at the Playboy Mansion

      Composition: James Weldon Johnson

      First version: Famous Myers Jubilee Singers   1928


     Television performance

Clara Ward   1969


      Filmed live at the Playboy Mansion

      Composition: Traditional

      First version: Harrod's Jubilee Singers   1922

Clara Ward   1973

   Lean On Me

      Composition: Bill Withers


Clara Ward

Source: Black Kudos
Birth of the Blues: Roberta Martin

Roberta Martin

Source: Re Gospel Coro

Blues and gospel had been something of identical twin siblings during the early part of the 20th century. By Roberta Martin's time the two had become so demarcated into distinctly individual genres that Martin was a galaxy apart from the blues. Martin was born in 1907 in Helena, Arkansas, moving to Chicago with her family at age ten. She studied piano, Arizona Dranes to later become an influence. She was playing at a Baptist church when she met Thomas A Dorsey who assisted her in the formation of the Martin-Frye Quartet with Theodore Frye. That ensemble was renamed the Roberta Martin Singers in 1936. Martin launched the Roberta Martin Studio of Music, a publishing house, in 1939, adding the more cement that made Chicago the metropolitan home of Black Gospel. Her own first composition to publish was 'Try Jesus, He Satisfies' in 1943. Martin released her first vinyl in 1947 with Norsalus McKissick for Fidelity Records: 'Precious Memories'. Having released several albums, Martin's last was 'Praise God' in 1968. She died the next year on January 18, having battled cancer, after which the Roberta Martin Singers separated, though there would be reunions into the new millennium. Her funeral in Chicago was attended by an estimated 50,000 people [*]. With above 200 compositions to Martin's name, among those were 'He Knows How Much We Can Bear' ('41), 'Try Jesus, He Satisfies' ('43), 'Only a Look' ('48), 'I’m Just Waiting on the Lord' ('53) and 'God Is Still on the Throne' ('59). Martin performs with the Roberta Martin Singers on all tracks below.

Roberta Martin   1947

   Precious Memories

      Featuring Norsalus McKissick

      Composition: Georgia Jones/Roberta Martin

Roberta Martin   1950

   Old Ship of Zion

      Featuring Norsalus McKissick

      Composition: Traditional

   What a Friend We Have In Jesus

      Composition: Joseph Scriven

Roberta Martin   1958


      Composition: R.A. Martin

  Ride on King Jesus

      Composition: Roberta Martin

Roberta Martin   1968

   I Have Hope

      Composition: Jessie Jimerson (Jessie Phillips)

      Album: 'Praise God'


Birth of the Blues: Marion Williams

Marion Williams

Source: Record Connexion
Born in 1927 in Miami, gospel vocalist Marion Williams was raised a Pentecostal (Church of God), though exposed to the blues, jazz and calypso of the south Florida region and was encouraged to pursue opera. Poverty saw her dropping out of school at fourteen to work at a laundry with her mother. She joined the Ward Singers in 1947. Multiple sources place her first recordings that year. Below is a sample from among the Ward Singers' first issues: 'How Far Am I From Canaan?', given an unconfirmed date of 1948. On 'Surely, God Is Able' she is thought to follow Clara Ward on lead. Albeit Ward was lead vocalist with the Ward Singers, Williams was the gal who stole the show until she left the Singers in 1958. Mother (Gertrude) and daughter (Clara) Ward were very good about featuring the talents of their singers, all top rate. But they had a reputation for shaving coin, pay so poor that members of the group had to pay their own hotel accommodations. Since Williams was a main draw and couldn't get a raise she formed the Stars of Faith with Kitty Parham, another Ward Singers luminary with the same problem. In 1965 Williams embarked on a solo career, touring the States, Africa and West Indies. Williams was sixty when she graduated from Pacific Union College in 1987. In 1993 she was honored by both the MacArthur Foundation and Kennedy Center. Williams died on July 2, 1994, in Philadelphia. She had issued 'In This House, On This Morning' with the Wynton Marsalis Septet that year, recorded in 1993. Per 1962 below, all edits were filmed live in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Marion Williams   1948

   How Far Am I From Canaan?

      Clara Ward Singers

      Composition: Reverend Herbert Brewster

Marion Williams   1949

   Surely, God Is Able

      Clara Ward Singers

      Composition: Reverend Herbert Brewster

Marion Williams   1958

   Packing Up

      Clara Ward Singers

      Composition: Ward/Love

Marion Williams   1962

   It Is Well With My Soul

   Mean Old World

   Somebody Bigger Than You and I


       Johnny Lange/Hy Heath/Sonny Burke

   Take Me to the Water

      Composition: Al Green/Mabon Hodges

Marion Williams   1964

   I'm Going to Live the Life

      Composition: Thomas Dorsey

      Brown/Jackson album: 'Much In Common'

      Bass: Ray Brown

        Vibes: Milt Jackson

        Drums: Albert Heath

     Organ: Wild Bill Davis

Marion Williams   1965

   How I Got Over

      Television performance

      Composition: Clara Ward

  Joy to the World

      Television performance

      Composition: See Wikipedia

  Packing Up

      Television performance

      Composition: Ward/Love

   Praise the Lord I Have a New Life

      Television performance

   Traveling Shoes

      Television performance

Marion Williams   1969

   I Live for Jesus

      Filmed live in Europe with the Stars of Faith

   When the Saints Go Marching In

       Filmed live in Europe with the Stars of Faith

      Composition: See Wikipedia


  Born Arlette B. Broil in 1922 in New Orleans, Bessie Griffin began her recording career as a contralto vocalist with the Sittin' In With label in 1948, releasing 'He Walks With Me' and 'My Trouble Is Hard'. Those with whom she performed those recordings are less than forthcoming so it's assumed they were name releases. She also sang with the Gospel Consolators in the latter forties. Though she is said to have released multiple 78s with that group no documentation is found but for one, 'Every Now and Then', in 1948 for the King label. She also recorded 'Someday, Somewhere' in 1948 for King. It's assumed that was a name release until documentation is found otherwise. Moving to Chicago in 1951, she joined Albertina Walker's Caravans, recording with them in December of 1953 for the States label. Among the songs on which Griffin sang lead for the Caravans was 'Since I Met Jesus', released in 1955. After leaving the Caravans Griffin briefly signed up with the Parrot label before heading to Los Angeles and Specialty Records in 1956. The Liberty label released Griffin's debut album in 1960, 'Portraits in Bronze', performed with the Gospel Pearls. Like other gospel artists, Griffin emphasized evangelism over profit. Though she did release several more albums during her career through the eighties, what juiced Griffin was performing in person for live audiences rather than recording. During the year of her death in 1989 Spirit Feel Records issued the anthology, 'Even Me: Four Decades Of Recordings By Bessie Griffin'. Griffin was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

Bessie Griffin   1948

   Every Now and Then

      With the Gospel Consolators

   Someday Somewhere

      Composition: Thomas Dewey

Bessie Griffin   1953

   Ain't That Good News

      With the Caravans

    Jesus Is a Rock In a Weary Land

      With the Caravans

  Let Us Run

      With the Caravans

Bessie Griffin   1955

   More Like Jesus

Bessie Griffin   1962

   Deep River

      Filmed live with the Gospel Pearls

    When the Saints Go Marching In

      With the Gospel Pearls

      Television performance

      Composition: See Wikipedia

Bessie Griffin   1963

   The Story of Job

      Album: 'Bessie Griffin and The Gospel Pearls'

    Two Little Fishes

      Album: 'Bessie Griffin and The Gospel Pearls'

Bessie Griffin   1964

   How Great Thou Art

      Composition: Carl Gustav Boberg

Bessie Griffin   1981

   Just a Closer Walk with Thee

      Filmed live at Montreux Jazz Festival

      Composition: See Wikipedia

      First recorded version:

      Selah Jubilee Singers (Decca 7872) 1941

    Two Wings



Birth of the Blues: Bessie Griffin

Bessie Griffin

Source: Cross Rhythms
Birth of the Blues: Shirley Caesar

Shirley Caesar

Source: Ticket Master
The Shirley Caesar was born in 1938 in Durham, North Carolina. A Black Gospel singer, it is agreed throughout the cosmos that she recorded in 1949 at age eleven. But nothing else seems known about that so we can't say she didn't surface on vinyl that year. She did, however, record 'I’d Rather Have Jesus' b/w 'I Know Jesus Will Save' in November of 1951. Billed as Baby Shirley on the 78 for Federal Records, she was described on the label as twelve years old, though she was thirteen. It's not impossible that was recorded early enough for release the same year, though it could well have been '52. Be as may, Caesar joined the Caravans in 1958. The Caravans was the super group of Black Gospel through which nigh everyone in the genre had passed at one time or another. Getting hired by Albertina Walker, who ran the Caravans, something meant you were going to be a star or you wouldn't be in her ensemble in the first place. Thus it's with the Caravans that Caesar came to national acclaim before she left the group in '66 to pursue a solo career. Among the songs on which Caesar sang lead with the Caravans are 'I Feel Good', 'Soul Salvation, Lord', 'Do Something for Me', 'Roll On', 'Choose Ye This Day', 'Hallelujah It's Done', 'I Won't Be Back', 'Jesus, I'll Never Forget', 'He First Loved Me' and 'I Find No Fault in God'. The next year she released the LP, 'I'll Go'. She also participated in 'Jordan River' that year, an album by the Reverend Douglas Fulton Gospel Singers Ensemble with Gwen Carter singing lead. In 1968 Caesar issued the albums, 'A Message to the Nation' and 'My Testimony'. She has since recorded prolifically into the new millennium. Caesar graduated in 1984 from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, with a business degree. She has since received a couple honorary doctorates, one from Shaw, another from Southeastern University in Florida. She currently pastors the Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, with a congregation of about 1,500. Among Caesar's own compositions were 'My Testimony' ('67), 'Let Jesus Fix It' ('72) and 'Hold My Mule' ('88). Songwriting credits to releases on 45 RPM. Per 1968 below, all tracks are from Caesar's album, 'My Testimony'. All tracks per 1980 are from the LP, 'Rejoice'.

Baby Shirley   1951

   I'd Rather Serve Jesus

    I Know Jesus Will Save

Shirley Caesar   1962

   I Won't Be Back

      With the Caravans

         Composition: James Herndon

Shirley Caesar   1968

   God Is Not Dead

      Composition: Shirley Caesar

    He Touched Me

      Composition: James Cleveland

    Long Way to Go to Be Like the Lord

      Composition: Shirley Caesar

   My Testimony

      Composition: Shirley Caesar

Shirley Caesar   1980

   Gotta Serve Somebody

      Composition: Bob Dylan

    He's Got It All In Control

      Composition: Archie Jordan

    I Love You, Mama

      Composition: David Briggs/Shirley Caesar

   Satan, You're a Liar

      Composition: Aaron Wilburn

Shirley Caesar   1984

   Sunday's On The Way

      Composition: Carman Licciardello

        Album: 'Sailin''

Shirley Caesar   1989

   I Remember Mama


      Shirley Caesar/Michael Mathis/Bernard Sterling

Shirley Caesar   1997

   Don't Drive Your Momma Away!

       Filmed live

      Composition: Shirley Caesar

Shirley Caesar   2013

   God Will Make a Way

      Composition: James Fortune/AyRon Lewis

Shirley Caesar   2014

   God Will Make a Way

       Television broadcast: Stellar Awards

      Composition: James Fortune/AyRon Lewis


  The Davis Sisters were raised to attend the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church in Philadelphia. It was 1945 when Ruth Davis (aka Baby Sis) founded the Famous Davis Sisters of Philadelphia, joined by her sisters, Alfreda, Audrey, Edna and Thelma. Ruth was 17 at the time. They signed up with Apex Records in 1947, releasing their first recordings in 1949: 'I'm Going To Tell God/The Hole Will Be Done' and 'Get Away Jordan/Jesus Is Near'. Pianist, Curtis Dublin, had joined the Sisters in time to contribute to those. The Sisters also recorded titles on the Gotham label in 1949, one of them 'In The Morning When I Rise'. Imogene Greene was recruited in 1950. In 1963 the Sisters lost Dublin, also their organist, to an auto accident. Continuing without replacement, Greene left the Sisters in '55 for the Caravans, she replaced by Jackie Verdell. The Sisters would consist of several other vocalists over the years, they releasing their last LP in the eighties. None of the original Sisters survive to this date. Thelma died at a young age in January of 1956, developing pneumonia shortly after delivering the last of her three children. She was fifteen upon becoming one of the Sisters. Ruth died in 1970. Alfreda, the youngest sister who began singing with the group at age ten, died in 1990. Audrey and Edna are also deceased. Per below, Composers of some of the Davis Sisters' better known songs. Ruth sings lead on all edits unless otherwise indicated.

Davis Sisters   1949

   In the Morning When I Rise

Davis Sisters   1950

   Get Right With God

Davis Sisters   1955

   Twelve Gates to the City

       Composition: Reverend Gary Davis

Davis Sisters   1959

   Jesus Gave Me Water

      2nd lead: Jackie Verdell

Davis Sisters   1960

   Bye and Bye

       Composition: Amery Smith

Davis Sisters   1964

   By and By

      'TV Gospel Time'

      Host: Brother Joe May

      2nd lead: Jackie Verdell

      Composition: James Fortune/AyRon Lewis

   Old Landmark

      Introduction: Jackie Verdell

      Lead: Alfreda

      Composition: Adeline Brunner

   We Need the Power Lord

      'TV Gospel Time'

      Host: Brother Joe May

      Lead: Jackie Verdell


Birth of the Blues: Davis Sisters

Davis Sisters with Curtis Dublin

Source: Music Me
  Born in 1912 in Macon, Mississippi, Brother Joe May was a gospel singer raised Pentecostal in the Church of God. He traveled the gospel circuit in the South until moving to St. Louis to work in a chemical plant in 1941. His first performance was at Thomas A Dorsey's annual National Convention of Gospel Choirs & Choruses, probably earlier than 1949. A performance in that venue that year landed him a recording contract with Specialty Records. May issued 'Search Me Lord'/'How Much More Of Life's Burden Can We Bear' in December of 1949. Sales are estimated at around one million for 'Search Me Lord'. The next year he issued 'Do You Know Him'/'The Day Is Past and Gone' to similar success. He then quit his day job and began touring with other gospel groups. Yet later he would perform duets with Willie Mae Ford Smith at her church in St. Louis. May released his debut album, 'Walk On and Talk On', in 1962. He would make recordings with his daughter, Annette, and tour Europe with the musical, 'Black Nativity'. But it was in the South that May was most at home, performing in that region until his death of stroke in Thomasville, Georgia, on July 14, 1972, only age 59. Having released several studio albums during the years he was recording, May was inducted into the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Composers contributing to recordings on 45 RPM. See also AllMusic.

Brother Joe May   1949

   Search Me Lord

      Composition: Thomas Dorsey

Brother Joe May   1950

   The Day Is Past and Gone

      Composition: Isaac Watts

Brother Joe May   1959

   My Mother Prayed For Me

      Composition: Brother Joe May

Brother Joe May   1962

   Walk On Talk On

      Composition: Brother Joe May

  Walk With Me Lord

      Composition: Brother Joe May

Brother Joe May   1969

   Amazing Grace

      Composition: See LOC / Wikipedia

      Album: 'Don't Let the Devil Ride'

  Don't Let the Devil Ride

      Composition: Oris Mays

      Album: 'Don't Let the Devil Ride'


Birth of the Blues: Brother Joe May

Brother Joe May

Source: Last FM

Birth of the Blues: Martha Bass

Martha Bass

Source: Discogs
Born in 1921, where unknown, gospel vocalist, Martha Bass was mother to Fontella Bass and David Peaston. (She was married to James Peaston.) She first turned up in St. Louis as a youth, finding tutelage with Willie Mae Ford Smith Smith. She joined the Ward Singers for about a year, making her debut, and only, recording with that group in 1950: 'Wasn't It a Pity How They Punished My Lord'. Bass issued her first album, 'I'm So Grateful', in 1966. In 1968 she issued her own version of 'Rescue Me', the song her daughter, Fontella, struck oil with in 1965. Her later career would include collaborations with both Fontella and Peaston. Issuing her last name album, 'It's Another Day's Journey', for Checker in 1972, she then supported the career of Fontella into the latter nineties. Martha died in September of 1998. Per 1966 below, all tracks are from Bass' debut album, 'I'm So Grateful'. Per 1969 all tracks are from her LP, 'Martha Sings Mahalia'.

Martha Bass   1950

   Wasn't It a Pity

      With the Ward Singers

Martha Bass   1966

   I'm Getting Nearer My Home

      Composition: Reverend Herbert Brewster

  I'm So Grateful

      Composition: Gloria Griffin

  Mother's Plea

      Composition: Martha Bass

  Sweeter As the Days Roll By

      Composition: Geneser Smith

  What Manner Of Man Is This

      Composition: Roman Holmes

Martha Bass   1968

   Rescue Me

      Composition: Raynard Miner/Carl Smith

       Album: 'Rescue Me'

       Original version 1965 Fontella Bass

   Since I've Been Born Again

      Album: 'Rescue Me'

Martha Bass   1969

    Bowed on My Knees

      Composition: Traditional

   How I Got Over

      Composition: Clara Ward

   Move Up a Little Bit Higher

      Composition: Reverend Herbert Brewster

   Three Steps


Born in Chicago in 1931, pianist and vocalist, James Cleveland attended the Pilgrim Baptist Church as a boy, the same where Thomas A Dorsey and Roberta Martin supplied the music. The King of Gospel, say some (though not all, due controversies in his life), began his career in black gospel in a trio with Bessie Folk and Norsalus McKissick in 1950. Upon the disbandment of that group Roberta Martin hired him as an arranger and composer ('Grace Is Sufficient' '48). Cleveland would publish more than 400 compositions during his career, such as a couple more for Martin like 'Saved' and 'Stand By Me' in '51. Sources differ [*, *, *] on when Cleveland joined the Gospelaires and made his first recordings with them. General consensus is 1950. To simplify we go with Record Connexion 1, 2, placing their first issues in 1950: 'I Call Jesus, My Rock'/'Every Day' (Apollo 236) and 'Oh! What a Time'/'Life Boat Is Coming' (Apollo 242). It was 'Oh! What a Time' on which Cleveland made his lead vocal debut. Others were led by Bessie Folk and Norsalus McKissick ('Every Day'). 1951 saw the issue of 'Talk About a Child'/'He's Pleading in Glory for Me' (Apollo 251) with Bessie Folk at lead. Come 1953 he was issuing with the Gospel All Stars, several sides such as his compositions, 'That's Why I Love Him So', 'Every Now and Then' and 'Lord Remember Me'. Come the major thrust provided by Albertina Walker in 1954, Cleveland first recording with her Caravans in November. In 1959 he put down his first tracks with his group, the Gospel Chimes. 1962 saw him signing up with Savoy Records, first recording the album, 'There Is No Failure In God', with the Gospel Chimes that January. He recorded the LP, 'This Sunday In Person!', with the Angelic Choir the next July, followed by 'Redeemed'/'Leave It There' in September. That December he recorded his first solo vocals for the release of 'The Soul of James Cleveland' the next year. His first sessions with the Cleveland Singers was in May of '63 toward the release of 'The Sun Will Shine After a While'. He is thought to have moved to Los Angeles, still under contract with Savoy, when he recorded more tracks with the Angelic Choir, yielding the song, 'Peace Be Still', among others. He was soon touring both the States and abroad. In 1967 Cleveland joined Albertina Walker in the launch of the Gospel Music Workshop of America. The GMWA has since become a huge organization holding conventions annually, growing from 3000 delegates (by some fashion in the music business) in 1968 to 12,000 in 2008. Along with workshops, recordings are made, most notably with a mass choir of two to three thousand singers. With Cleveland gospel moved beyond its earlier evangelistic concerns to those of gospel as an industry. He also involved himself with secular musicians as earlier black gospel singers weren't inclined to do. Cleveland founded the Southern California Community Choir in time for its appearance on Aretha Franklin's 'Amazing Grace' in 1972. He also appeared on recordings with Elton John. Cleveland further differed from earlier black gospel vocalists in that they were performing rather than recording artists. They sang for church audiences; Cleveland sang for the more not attending church. Recording well over a hundred albums, sixteen of them gold and four worth a Grammy, Cleveland had built an estate worth about five million dollars by the time he died of congestive heart failure on February 9, 1991, in Culver City, California. His funeral is said to have drawn an attendance of nearly 60,000. As mentioned above, Cleveland composed several hundred titles such as 'Ain't That Good News' ('59) and 'Prayer' ('78). Songwriting credits for issues on 45 RPM. See also All Music.

James Cleveland   1950

   Oh! What a Time

      Debut lead vocal w the Gospelaires

James Cleveland   1954

   The Man Jesus

      With the Caravans

   Old Time Religion

      With the Caravans

      Composition: Traditional

   That's Why I Love Him So

      With the Gospel All Stars

      Composition: Cleveland

James Cleveland   1955

   What Kind of Man Is This

      With the Caravans

       Composition: Koko Taylor

James Cleveland   1959

   Something's Got a Hold of Me

     With the Voices of Tabernacle

       Composition: Pearl Woods

James Cleveland   1960

   Try Jesus

      With Sallie Martin

      Composition: Cleveland

James Cleveland   1969

   I'm One of Them Today

      With the Gospel Girls

      Composition: SK Wheatlake

  Meeting Tonight

     With the Gospel Girls

  People Get Ready

      With the Gospel Girls

      Composition: Curtis Mayfield

  Two Wings

      With the Cleveland Singers

      Composition: Cleveland

James Cleveland   1977

   I Write the Songs

      Live at Carnegie Hall

      Composition: Bruce Johnson


Birth of the Blues: James Cleveland

James Cleveland

Source: Black Past
Birth of the Blues: Willie May Ford Smith

Willie May Ford Smith

Source: Ol Skool Saint
Born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, in 1904, gospel vocalist, Willie Mae Ford Smith, was the contemporary of gospel singer, Eugene Smith, both important progenitors of gospel music to arise in the fifties. Smith was raised a Baptist in St. Louis, Missouri, from age twelve. She began singing with her four sisters in a group called the Ford Sisters. It was 1922 at the Baptist National Convention that she began making a name for herself. In 1927 she married one James Peter Smith and began touring with musical revivals. Smith's heydays were in the forties upon switching from Baptist to Pentecostal, Baptists finding her music too aligned with secular blues. Her first issues didn't arrive until 1950. Among those were 'Call Him', 'Jesus Is the Name', 'Goin' On With the Spirit' and 'Pilot Take My Hand'. 'Give Me Wings' and 'What Manner of Man Is This' were issued circa 1950. About five years later she was ordained in the Lively Stone Apostolic Church in St. Louis, where she was satisfied to perform into the early nineties. Shortly after the death of Brother Joe May in July of '72 she took her music out of the church to the Newport Jazz Festival. She also recorded 'Going On With the Spirit' that year, thought to have been released in '74 (possibly). That was a rare event as Smith recorded very little. For all her stature in the field it's yet difficult to determine just when Smith recorded what, so we hazard no discography beyond that. There exists at least one later compilation of her early recordings. Howsoever, Smith's greater emphasis was evangelical. They were her students who took her influence into the recording studio. Among them were Roberta Martin, Martha Bass and Brother Joe May. Smith was recipient of a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988. She died in St. Louis in February of 1974.

Willie Mae Ford Smith   1950

   Jesus Is the Name

   Give Me Wings

      Date is approximate

   What Manner of Man Is This

      Date is approximate

      Composition: Roman Holmes


Birth of the Blues: Dorothy Love Coates

Dorothy Love Coates

Source: Last FM
Born in 1928 in Birmingham, Alabama, vocalist, Dorothy Love Coates, finds this page by virtue of black gospel, a genre as decidedly not the blues as it was intimately tied with them from their inception, especially in the rural South via early blues musicians such as Lead Belly crossing over from black gospel. Secular blues and gospel were rivals due having much in common, which relationship would continue thusly with the R&B that gradually evolved into soul music. Little Richard would mix black gospel with rock. Coates had been born Dorothy McGruff, her father a minister who had divorced her mother and left when she was six. Four years later she began playing piano at her Baptist church. (Baptists were something more conservative with gospel than Pentecostals.) She quit school in 10th grade to become a maid of financial necessity. There was a family group of brothers and sisters called the McGriff Singers before Coates joined the Gospel Harmonettes when they were the Gospel Harmoneers at some time in the forties. (The ensemble had been about since the thirties.) The Harmonettes issued their first tracks, 'In the Upper Room' and 'Move on Up a little Higher', in 1949, though Coates didn't participate. Coates is thought to have first appeared on wax in 1951 with the Harmonettes on the Specialty tracks, 'Get Away Jordan' and 'I'm Sealed'. The Harmonettes eventually disbanded for good in the latter sixties (1970?), Coates forming the Dorothy Love Coates Singers. Coates distinguished herself from other black gospel singers less by multiple performances at the Newport Jazz Festival than by involvement in civil rights. (Black gospel singers ranged from those who kept things in church to those who took the Book where it was thought the most needed, including hedonist venues such as the Playboy Mansion.) Coates, however, didn't indulge in secular music, keeping apart from such as soul. Come 1980 Coates ceased recording, though she continued performing and appeared in a couple of films in the nineties. She died of heart failure in Birmingham in April 2002. Per below, Coates appears with the Gospel Harmonettes on all tracks until 1973, that and and thereafter with her Singers. Among Coates' numerous compositions were 'You Can't Hurry God (He's Right On Time)' ('53), '99 and a Half Won't Do' ('56), 'Strange Man' ('67) and 'I've Got To Make It' ('70). Also see songwriting credits at 45cat and discogs 1, 2, 3. Per 1956 below, all tracks with the exception of '99 1/2' (released that year) are recordings thought to be unreleased until 1992 on the album, 'Get On Board'.

The Gospel Harmonettes   1949

   The Upper Room

      Harmonettes prior to Coates

Dorothy Love Coates   1951

   Get Away Jordan

      Composition: William McDade

   I'm Sealed

      Composition: Roberta Martin

Dorothy Love Coates   1955

   Get Away Jordan

      Composition: William McDade


Dorothy Love Coates   1956

   99 1/2

      Composition: Nate McNair

   He's Calling Me

      Composition: Dorothy Love Coates

   I'm Sealed

      Composition: Roberta Martin

   I Wouldn't Mind Dying

      Composition: Dorothy Love Coates

   Thank You Lord for Using Me

   That's Enough

      Composition: Dorothy Love Coates

   These Are They

      Composition: Reverend Herbert Brewster

Dorothy Love Coates   1964

   You've Been Good to Me

      Composition: Dorothy Love Coates

Dorothy Love Coates   1973

   Prayer Changes Things

      Album: 'A New Day Dawns'

Dorothy Love Coates   1974

   I've Got a Feeling

      Album: 'When It's All Over'

   Let God Abide

      Composition: Robert Anderson

      Album: 'When It's All Over'

Dorothy Love Coates   1977

   Strange Man

      Composition: Dorothy Love Coates



Born the youngest of nine children in 1929 in Chicago, Albertina Walker (aka Queen of Gospel), took the reins of the Caravans in 1952. That group had been formed in 1947 by Robert Anderson, originally the Gospel Caravan. Recordings are thought to have been made in 1949. The group became the Caravans in '51, Anderson and Walker parting ways in '52. Albeit gospel, originating in Europe, and the blues, developing out of northern urban jazz (Chicago particularly) are of quite different origins, in the rural South the two had been a mix for decades. Gospel and the blues had there been identical in origin, blues the secularization of early black music originally developed the prior century on Southern plantations. Nigh all early blues musicians sang gospel, from Lead Belly to Reverend Robert Wilkins and Reverend Gary Davis to Moody Jones but a few early examples. White folk got their gospel from such as the Carter Family. Black folk had black gospel, largely developed as a genre by Thomas A Dorsey with Sallie Martin, contemporaries of the Carter Family. Among Walker's contemporaries in Black Gospel was Martha Bass, only eight years older. Bessie Griffin joined her in the Caravans for a period in the early fifties. Walker's Southern-derived gospel (though born in Chicago, her parents from Georgia) was enormously popular in a genre that was a sliver in comparison to the huge markets for country western, jazz and rock n roll. Walker performed for both presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in the seventies. She was the recipient of multiple awards, among them two Grammy Awards for two albums ('Songs of The Church' in 1994 and 'Paved the Way' in 2006) and a National Heritage Fellowship in 2002. Aka the "Queen of Gospel," Walker died with more than 60 albums in her wake on October 8, 2010, in Chicago. Five of those had gone gold. Among her own compositions were 'See How The Lord Has Kept Me' in '63 and 'Jesus Heard My Earnest Plea' in '65. Songwriting credits to 45 RPM issues by the Caravans. Brief list of composers to some of Walker 's more popular recordings. Both genre-specific and the broader spectrum of Walker's career briefly represented below.

Albertina Walker   1952

   He'll Be Right There

   I Know The Lord Will Make A Way

   What Do You Need

Albertina Walker   1955

   What Kind of Man Is This

        With James Cleveland

        Composition: Koko Taylor

   The Angels Keep Watching Over Me

Albertina Walker   1962

   The Blood

   It's Good to Know Jesus

   The Lord Has Kept Me

Albertina Walker   1979

   Please Be Patient With Me

       Composition: Curtis Burrell

Albertina Walker   1981

   I Can Go to God In Prayer

       Composition: Calvin Bridges


Birth of the Blues: Albertina Walker

Albertina Walker

Source: Liberty Ink

Birth of the Blues: Alex Bradford

Alex Bradford

Source: Last FM

Alex Bradford brushed with blues just a bit, something acknowledging blues as gospel's sibling, but not enough to be identified with blues except as a Black Gospel singer, thereat removed from blues. Born in 1927 in Bessemer, Alabama, Alex Bradford began performing at age four and joined his first gospel group at 13. He had his own radio show as a teenager before attending the Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute where he began teaching as a student. He was thus also known as Professor Alex Bradford. In 1947 he headed to Chicago where he worked for brief periods with Mahalia Jackson and Roberta Martin. He composed 'Let God Abide' ('53) and 'Since I Met Jesus' ('54) for the latter. Bradford followed his Martin period with the Bradford Singers, then the Bradford Specials. His earliest known release was in 1953 as Professor Alex Bradford for Specialty Records, 'I Don't Care What the World May Do'. 'Too Close to Heaven' followed in 1954. That arrived to gospel's party with a million popping corks, going gold. Bradford experienced great success through the fifties, his popularity waning in the sixties as he moved into theatre, touring to London with 'Black Nativity' in 1962. He began arranging for Vignette Carroll in '69 per 'But Never Jam Today'. Come '71 he would tour a couple years with Carroll's 'Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope'. It was another Carroll musical in 1976: 'Your Arms Are Too Short to Box with God'. He was working on 'Don't Cry, Mary' in 1978 when he died of stroke in Newark, New Jersey on February 15. Bradford released over ten studio albums during his career of over two decades as a recording artist. The larger portion of his catalogue was composed by himself, from such as 'I've Got a Job' ('58) to 'Sunday Mo'nin'' ('71). Songwriting credits to titles issued on 45 RPM. See also All Music. He composed all titles below except as noted (* = undetermined).

Alex Bradford   1953

   I Don't Care What the World May Do

Alex Bradford   1954

   Too Close to Heaven

Alex Bradford   1955

   Holy Ghost



       Bez/Paul Davis/Mark Day/Paul Ryder

       Shaun Ryder/Clovis Taylor/Gary Whelan

Alex Bradford   1962

   Close to Thee*

       Filmed live in Utrecht, Netherlands

   It's a Highway to Heaven

       Filmed live in Utrecht, Netherlands

        Composition: Thomas Dorsey/Mary Gardner

   One Step

       Composition: Richard King

   When You Pray


  Staple Singers   See Staple Singers.

Birth of the Blues: Cassietta George

Cassietta George

Source: Discogs
Born in 1929 in Memphis, Tennessee, mezzo-soprano, Cassietta George, is requisite to the Black Gospel current on this page, blues arising out of the South something of a younger sibling to black gospel, though the Black Gospel genre proper postdated blues by a couple decades. Though blues and Black Gospel are two distinctly different limbs they intimately intertwine. Not all black gospel singers sang the blues, the blues being largely secular. But countless early blues musicians sang gospel, as many as sang the more risqué, sometimes between them. Black Gospel would also slap hands with R&B and get infused into soul music. George graduated from high school in Canton, Ohio, after which she returned to Memphis to sing with such as the Songbirds of the South and the Brewster Ensemble. She left for Chicago in 1953, joining one of Black Gospel's premier groups, the Caravans, in 1954. Replacing Bessie Griffin, George is thought to have first appeared on vinyl that year with the Caravans on the States label. That November she recorded lead on 'Wait For Me', though that wasn't released until February of '56. George spent a year or so with the Caravans, left, then returned in 1960. George composed about 25 songs with the Caravans (more than a hundred throughout her career), also singing lead on such as 'Remember Me, Oh Lord' ('62) and 'Walk Around Heaven' ('64). George issued her first of above fifteen albums, 'I Must Tell Jesus', in 1965, the year she left the Caravans for a solo career in Los Angeles. A reunion with the Caravans would occur in 1976 on the album, 'Share'. For being one of the Caravans' major vocalists (which one wasn't?), and highly popular in her own right, there is little information about her. Among George's own compositions were 'The Greatest Gift' ('66), 'Same Train' ('67) and 'The Tremblor' ('71). Songwriting credits at 45Cat and AllMusic. George passed onward in Los Angeles on January 3, 1995.

Cassietta George   1962

   Remember Me, Oh Lord

      With the Caravans

         Composition: James Cleveland

Cassietta George   1965

   I Must Tell Jesus

         Composition: Elisha Hoffman

      Album: 'I Must Tell Jesus'

   Roll Jordan Roll

      Album: 'I Must Tell Jesus'

   Sinner You're Gonna Be Sorry

      Album: 'I Must Tell Jesus'

Cassietta George   1967

   Don't Give Up

       Composition: Isaiah Jones

  In the Garden

       Composition: Traditional

  Oh How I Love Jesus

       Composition: Cassietta George

  Pass Me Not

       Composition: Dorothy Norwood

Cassietta George   1968

   Every Day Brings About Change

       Composition: Cassietta George/Isaiah Jones

   Somebody Bigger Than You and I


       Johnny Lange/Hy Heath/Sonny Burke

Cassietta George   1971

   He Never Left Me Alone

       Composition: Johnson Oatman Jr.

       Arrangement: James Carmichael


Birth of the Blues: Jackie Verdell

Jackie Verdell

Source: Lipstick Alley
Born in 1937 in Philadelphia, PA, Jackie Verdell was raised a Pentecostal in the Church of God In Christ. Verdell's significance to these histories was her first several years in the music business as a gospel singer with the Davis Sisters beginning right out of high school in 1955, replacing Imogene Greene for a time. Both her and the Davis Sisters' debut recordings for the Savoy label were in NYC on February 9, she singing lead on one of four tracks: 'He's My King'. Those with sessions in May and August would lead to the 1955 LP, 'The Famous Davis Sisters' (MG 14000). That included her at lead on 'Lord, Don't Leave Me' and 'Oh Happy Day' as well. Verdell abandoned the Sisters by 1960 but returned in '62 and '64 for recordings. She began her solo career with the release of 'You Ought to Know Him'/'Bye Bye Blackbird' in August of 1961 (Peacock 1905 - See 45cat). Verdell's solo career including secular music was less notable than that with the Davis Sisters. The sixties found her composing such as 'You Ought to Know Him' (above), 'Why Not Give Me a Chance' ('63) and 'I'm Your Girl' ('67). Titles issued by her during that period on 45 RPM with composing credits. During the seventies Verdell worked with Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). Jackson founded PUSH in 1971. Verdell also moved toward theatre in the seventies, appearing in the musicals, 'Black Nativity' and 'Don't Cry Mary'. She surfaced with the Davis Sisters again in 1981 on the last album by that group: 'The Storm Is Passing Over'. Verdell also sang back vocals for a variety of artists, including Van Morrison and Horace Silver. Though a gospel vocalist probably the most removed from blues on this page, Verdell was otherwise loaded with them. Beset with diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease, she passed beyond in August of 1991. More Verdell under the Davis Sisters.

Jackie Verdell   1955?

   He's My King

      Davis Sisters

         Composition: Thelma Davis

   Lord Don't Leave Me By Myself

      Davis Sisters

   Oh Happy Day

      Davis Sisters

        Composition: See Wikipedia

Jackie Verdell   1957

   I Don't Know What I'd Do

      Davis Sisters

Jackie Verdell   1963



       Belford Hendricks/Cynthia Young/Clyde Otis

   Why Not Give Me a Chance

       Composition: Jackie Verdell

Jackie Verdell   1964

   Come Let Me Love You

       Composition: Tucker/Scott/Malone

Jackie Verdell   1967

   Are You Ready For This

       Composition: Buddy Scott/Jimmy Radcliffe

   Does She Ever Remind You of Me

       Composition: Buddy Scott/Jimmy Radcliffe

Jackie Verdell   1973

   He's Mine

       Composition: Jackie Verdell

Jackie Verdell   1978


       Composition: See Wikipedia

Jackie Verdell   1981

   I Believe I'll Go Back Home

     Davis Sisters

        Composition: Ruth Davis

     Album: 'The Storm Is Passing Over'


  Born in 1935 in Atlanta, Georgia, Dorothy Norwood, was singing with Mahalia Jackson in 1955 or '56 upon venturing to Chicago. She was already experienced with singing on tour with her family since the age of eight. After a brief time with Jackson, Norwood joined the Caravans. Albertina Walker, who ran the Caravans, is said to have invited Norwood into the group upon hearing her on the radio in 1956, singing 'Low Is the Way'. Norwood first recorded with the Caravans that year. She began her solo career in 1960. She issued her first LP, 'Johnny and Jesus', in 1964 for Savoy, that to go gold, which would be followed by four more of her albums numbering above fifty. Tours in promotion of her albums included Europe where she built a strong audience. Notable in the seventies was her 1972 tour of the States with the Rolling Stones, not really such an odd pairing, considering R&B's vast capacity, though a long stretch from Black Gospel's original church-bound evangelism of the thirties when Thomas A Dorsey fairly established the genre with Sallie Martin. Well, not a little expands full circle. As Georgia Tom and Tampa Red have said, referring elsewise, it's tight like that. Howsoever, Norwood wasn't the first Black Gospel artist to take The Book to who read otherwise. Clara Ward had found the Playboy Mansion hospitable in 1968 and '69. In 1991 Norwood distinguished herself again, this time with the Northern California G.M.W.A. Mass Choir, releasing the album, 'Live', that gained a #1 spot on Billboard. She founded the Dorothy Norwood Scholarship Foundation in 2004. In 2012 Norwood began her own label, the Dorothy Norwood Music Group. 'An Incredible Journey', issued in 2014, is her latest album.

Dorothy Norwood   1956

   Standing In the Need of Prayer

       With the Caravans

        Composition: Traditional   See Hymnary

Dorothy Norwood   1964

   God's Grace

      With the Caravans

   Johnny and Jesus

      Debut album: 'Johnny and Jesus'

      With the Dorothy Norwood Singers

Dorothy Norwood   1965

   He Will Never Let Go My Hand

      Album: 'He Will Never Let Go My Hand'

   Step By Step

      Album: 'He Will Never Let Go My Hand'

Dorothy Norwood   1970

   Brother Came Too Late

        Composition: Dorothy Norwood

       Album: 'The Dynamic Dorothy Norwood'

   He'll Make It Alright

      Album: 'The Dynamic Dorothy Norwood'


      Album: 'The Dynamic Dorothy Norwood'

Dorothy Norwood   1990

   I Am What God Says I Am

      Album: 'A Wonderful Day'

   Train Wouldn't Move

      Album: 'A Wonderful Day'

Dorothy Norwood   1998

   Grace & Mercy!

      Filmed live

       Composition: Kevin Dorsey/Dorothy Norwood

   It's On the Way   Parts 1 & 2

      Album: 'It's Alright'

      Savannah Community Choir

   Near the Cross

      Filmed live

   We've Come a Long Way!

       Filmed live

        Composition: Alvin Darling/Dorothy Norwood

Dorothy Norwood   2006

   Holy Ghost

      Album: 'The Caravans Paved the Way'

Dorothy Norwood   2011

   We've Come a Long Way

        Composition: Alvin Darling/Dorothy Norwood

       Album: 'God's Been Just That Good'

Dorothy Norwood   2015

   Oh Jesus   Parts 1 & 2

        Composition: Varn Michael McKay

       Album: 'An Incredible Journey'


Birth of the Blues: Dorothy Norwood

Dorothy Norwood

Source: Live My Gospel
  Contralto Black Gospel singer, Inez Andrews, was born Inez McConico in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1929. Her father was a coal miner married to a woman who died when Andrews was two. She herself was a mother, earning $18 a week as a domestic, when she began composing. She worked with the Choral Ensemble in the forties before becoming an understudy to Dorothy Love Coates in the Harmonettes. Joining the Caravans in 1957, among her first recordings with that group was her composition, 'Come On Jesus', that year, sharing lead with Dorothy Norwood. Andrews sang lead on a number of Caravans recordings, also composing such as 'I'm Willing' ('58), Show Me The Way' ('60) and '(You Don't Know Me) The Way The Lord Knows Me' ('61). Andrews abandoned the Caravans in 1962 to form the Andrewettes, composing such as 'It was Jesus in 1963'. Pursuing a solo career later that decade, her record releases include nineteen studio albums with one live in 1974: 'Live at the Munich Gospel Festival'. Her last was 'Shine On Me', issued in 1991.She was elected into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 2002. Andrews died on December 19, 2012. Songwriting credits at All Music.

Inez Andrews   1958

   I'm Not Tired Yet

      With the Caravans

       Composition: Inez Andrews

Inez Andrews   1959

   Mary Don't You Weep

     With the Caravans

       Composition: Traditional

       First recorded by Fisk Jubilee Singers   1915

       See Wikipedia

Inez Andrews   1960

   They Didn't Believe In Me

      With the Caravans

Inez Andrews   1961

   Hear Ye the Word

      With the Caravan

       Composition: Inez Andrews

   Make It In

      With the Caravans

       Composition: Inez Andrews

Inez Andrews   1964

   The Need of Prayer

      With the Andrewettes

Inez Andrews   1973

   Lord Don't Move That Mountain

        Composition: Doris Akers

       Album: 'Lord Don't Move That Mountain'

   Looking Back


        Belford Hendricks/Brook Benton/Clyde Otis

       Album: 'Lord Don't Move That Mountain'

Inez Andrews   1990

   I Made It!

      Filmed live in Washington DC

       Composition: Greg Bowen


Birth of the Blues: Inez Andrews

Inez Andrews

Source: Alchetron
Birth of the Blues: Mattie Moss Clark

Mattie Moss Clark

Source: Praise 1300
Born the seventh of nine children in 1925 in Selma, Alabama, black gospel vocalist, Mattie Moss Clark, began piano at age six. Black gospel runs parallel down this page both with and without the Blues. Though both genres were and remain widely divergent they share the same ancestry in the Deep South, blues a secular path astray from old time religion in black churches. Howsoever, as many early blues musicians sang black gospel as sang the more profane. Black Gospel easily mixed with blues, found R&B accommodating and would become an essence of soul music. Clark, however, was a gospel, not blues, vocalist, her entry on this page being peripheral as such. She's distinguished from other black gospel performers on this page in that her groups were larger, that is, choirs. She also differed in that her base of operations was in Detroit rather than Chicago where Black Gospel was formally developed as a genre, first in the interest of evangelism, then as a musical industry. Clark was, however, Pentecostal, as were the majority of Black Gospel singers (when not Baptist). Clark began playing piano before she was a teenager at church services, her mother the minister of the Holiness Temple Church of Christ in Prayer. Attending Selma University to study music after high school, she then moved to Detroit to join the Greater Love Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. Becoming Minister of Music, she would soon be training choirs throughout the southwest Michigan jurisdiction of COGIC (Church of God in Christ). Her first vinyl was in 1958 with the Southwest Michigan State Choir (SMSC) on an album that went gold (the first of three with that choir): 'Going to Heaven to Meet the King'. In 1968 Clark became International President of the Music Department for COGIC. She received an honorary doctorate in 1981 from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, thus was also known as Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. Clark arranged or composed well over a hundred songs and recorded over fifty albums, most with choirs. Songwriting credits at All Music. She died in Southfield, Michigan, in September 1994.

Mattie Moss Clark   1959

   Going to Heaven to Meet the King

Mattie Moss Clark

       Album: 'Lord Do Something For Me'

      2nd LP by the SMSC

Mattie Moss Clark   1978

   That Shall He Also Reap

      Album: 'I'm Crucified With Christ'

      Michigan State Community Choir

   They Were Overcome

      'American Black Journal' television broadcast

Mattie Moss Clark   1986

   Caught Up To Meet Him

      Southern California Holy Gospel Music Workshop

   Tried Him and I Know Him

      Southern California Holy Gospel Music Workshop

      With Twinkie Clark

       Composition: Twinkie Clark

Mattie Moss Clark   1990

   I Can Do All Things Through Christ

      Filmed live

       Composition: Twinkie Clark

Mattie Moss Clark   1994

   Be Still and Know That I Am God

      COGIC National Music Choir


  Born in 1942 in San Francisco, gospel composer and vocalist, Andraé Crouch, wasn't a blues singer. He is entered here due his proximity to blues via Black Gospel, gospel and the blues being something alike two aspects of the same token, sharing to some degree the same origins. Crouch was among the bigger names in gospel music, beginning his career while Black Gospel was yet in its golden era, finding place here as a successor to those black gospel singers already mentioned in relation to the blues. Crouch's parents owned both a dry cleaning business and a restaurant. They also ran a street, hospital and prison ministry. He began playing piano at church services at age eleven. Like most Black Gospel musicians, Crouch was a Pentecostal, forming his first group in 1960 called the Church of God in Christ Singers. Billy Preston play keyboards in that group. Other members were Edna Wright, Frankie Karl, Gloria Jones, Sondra Williams and Sandra Crouch when they issued 'It's a Blessing' in 1964 (Simpson RS-273) [per discogs]. The album, 'It's a Blessing', issued later in 1966. In 1965 Crouch put together the Disciples. Its original members, Reuben Fernandez, Perry Morgan and Bili Thedford and Sherman Andrus recorded and issued the album, 'Take the Message Everywhere', in 1968. Personnel began changing after that, which we'll not follow but that in 1970 Fernandez and Andrus left, replaced by Sandra Crouch and Danniebelle Hall. The Disciples were a big deal in a genre (gospel) that was very small in comparison to country western or rock. Americans were buying Led Zeppelin and Santana, not evangelism. Hymns traditional and young were sung in churches by a vast population, but the music industry didn't attend services. Early Black Gospel had had big band swing with which to contend; by Crouch's time the musical climate was more by request of Their Satanic Majesties. White folk had their own versions of gospel to dispense, but rock was taking its toll on the country genres as well. Bluegrass was such a small market as to be nigh nonexistent. Folk music that didn't rock went nowhere. Gospel in country western, its bastion most fierce, was fading as its "outlaws," good old boys gone astray, took over, country western gone from country swing toward country rock. Such the American musical zeitgeist when the Disciples played the 'Johnny Carson Show' in 1972. The next year Crouch issued his debut solo album, 'Just Andrae'. The Disciples' first appearance at Carnegie Hall was in 1975. Among titles composed by Crouch with the Disciples were 'Soon and Very Soon', 'They Shall Be Mine', 'Quiet Times', 'Sweet Love of Jesus', 'Praises' and 'I Just Wanna Know You'. They released 'Live in London' in 1978. The Disciples' ninth and last LP, 'I'll Be Thinking of You', was issued in 1979, the year they played Carnegie once again before disbanding. Pursuing a solo career, in 1982 Crouch had a bit of bad luck, getting arrested for a vial of cocaine in his pocket during a traffic stop. Crouch's explanation: it was chicken soup powder, that then belonged to a friend. He was released with no charges. In the latter eighties and early nineties the Andraé Crouch Choir would appear on releases by Michael Jackson. Crouch's popularization of gospel music, having small resemblance to what had passed before, had lasting power, Warner Brothers Records releasing a collection of his compositions, performed by various artists, that won a Grammy in 1996: 'Tribute: The Songs of Andraé Crouch'. Crouch was touring when in 2014 his heart began to fail. He died in January 2015 after a heart attack in Los Angeles. Crouch had released nearly twenty albums, won seven Grammy Awards, four Dove Awards (GMA: Gospel Music Association founded 1969) and had been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (GMA) in 1998. Amidst his extensive catalogue of compositions are such as 'I'll Be Thinking Of You', 'Please Come Back' and 'Jesus Is Lord'. All Music's list of Crouch's compositions covered by others. Crouch composed all titles below.

Andraé Crouch   1964

   He Included Me

      With the COGICs

      Album: 'It's a Blessing'   1966

   It's a Blessing

      With the COGICs

      Album: 'It's a Blessing'   1966

Andraé Crouch   1972

   I Don't Know Why Jesus Loves Me

      Filmed live at Explo Dallas

      With the Disciples

Andraé Crouch   1975


      Television broadcast

   Through It All

      Billy Graham Crusade

      Filmed live in New Mexico

Andraé Crouch   1980

   It's Gonna Rain

      'Michael Douglas Show'

Andraé Crouch   1983

   An Evening of Praise and Worship

      Television broadcast

Andraé Crouch   1986

   That's Why I Needed You

      Filmed live

Andraé Crouch   1997

   Lord I Thank You

      Album: 'Pray'

   Your Love

      Album: 'Pray'

Andraé Crouch   2011

   I Don't Know Why

      Filmed live


Birth of the Blues: Andrae Crouch

Andrae Crouch

Source: All Music


With Pacific Gas & Electric we pause this history of modern blues. We will be entering other notable blues musicians as such occur.




Early Blues 1: Guitar

Early Blues 2: Vocal - Other Instruments

Modern Blues 1: Guitar

Modern Blues 2: Vocal - Other Instruments

Modern Blues 3: Black Gospel Appendix


Medieval - Renaissance


Galant - Classical

Romantic: Composers born 1770 to 1840

Romantic - Impressionist

Expressionist - Modern

Modern: Composers born 1900 to 1950




Country Western


Early Jazz 1: Ragtime - Bands - Horn

Early Jazz 2: Ragtime - Other Instrumentation

Early Jazz 3: Ragtime - Song - Hollywood

Swing Era 1: Big Bands

Swing Era 2: Song

Modern 1: Saxophone

Modern 2: Trumpet - Other Horn

Modern 3: Piano

Modern 4: Guitar - Other String

Modern 5: Percussion - Other Orchestration

Modern 6: Song

Modern 7: Latin Jazz - Latin Recording

Modern 8: United States 1960 - 1970

Modern 9: International 1960 - 1970

Rock & Roll

Early - Boogie Woogie - R&B - Soul - Disco

Doo Wop

The Big Bang - Fifties American Rock

UK Beat

British Invasion

Total War - Sixties American Rock

Other Musical Genres - Popular Music Appendix

Musician Indexes

Classical - Medieval to Renaissance

Classical - Baroque to Classical

Classical - Romantic to Modern

The Blues

Bluegrass - Folk

Country Western

Jazz Early - Ragtime - Swing Jazz

Jazz Early - Swing Jazz

Jazz Modern - Horn

Jazz Modern - Piano - String

Jazz Modern - Percussion - Song - Other

Jazz Modern - 1960 to 1970

Boogie Woogie - Doo Wop - R&B - Rock & Roll - Soul

UK Beat - British Invasion

Sixties American Rock - Popular

Latin Recording - Europe

Latin Recording - The Caribbean - South America


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