Saturday, March 31, 2007

Chicago's Historic Roberts Temple COGIC Receives Landmark Status

From a press release on the City of Chicago website, 3/30/07:

Mayor Richard M. Daley today applauded the Chicago City Council for passing an ordinance giving official landmark status to the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ building, the site of the 1955 visitation for Emmett Till.

For four days in September 1955, Roberts Temple, 4021 S. State St., was the center of the civil-rights movement. Till, a Chicago teenager, was lynched that August while visiting relatives in Mississippi. His murder and his mother's decision on an open-casket funeral called national attention to the plight of African-Americans in shockingly graphic detail.

"The events that took place in this building showed the world the grave injustices and inhuman treatment to which African-Americans were subjected in the 1950's and demonstrated the need for civil-rights legislation," said Mayor Daley.

Built in 1922, it was the first church of its denomination to be established in Chicago and was considered the "Mother Church" in northern Illinois. [Editor's Note: Before it was renamed Roberts Temple, the church was known as "Fortieth" because of its location at 40th and State Streets].

The original building was designed by Chicago architect Edward G. McClellan with simple ornamentation and red brick. By 1927, the building was expanded to include a large second-floor sanctuary.

In 1953, the church was renamed after its founder, Bishop William Roberts. In 1992, the building was refronted with tan brick and the sanctuary was remodeled.


The Roberts Temple Landmark Celebration will be held on Sunday, April 15, 2007 with a reception at 2:00 p.m. and a service at 4:00 p.m.

Elder Mack C. Mason, author of Saints in the Land of Lincoln and Make Room for the Holy Ghost, will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TBGB Reviews...V2 by J Moss

J Moss
Zomba Gospel 2007

J Moss’ forthcoming project V2 is an adrenaline rush of hip hop sound and beats, especially during the first third of the album. And yet while it is out of the box aurally, V2 stays true to the gospel lyric tradition of seeking deliverance from today’s struggles and temptations through faith and prayer.

For example, “I’m Not Perfect” is a musical head-shaking about having to shoehorn moments of prayer into frenetic days filled with conference calls and other responsibilities. “Let It Go” is an affirmation to keep an arm’s length from anyone who can make you crazy, whether lane changers or adulturers. “Afraid” underscores the importance of remaining focused in a sound-bite, attention-deficit society.

The project’s highlight is “Abundantly,” with a lovely melody that borrows somewhat from CCM but is punctuated by bluesy riffs from a Hammond organ. Nevertheless, I suspect radio listeners will clamor for the energetic “Jump Jump,” an urban wall of sound, with Kiki Sheard and 21:03 making guest appearances; and the equally ebullient “Dance” featuring Kirk Franklin.

In fact, guest appearances dot the project, since J can simply speed dial his relatives and fill a project with stars. Besides Kiki, friend Kirk, and PAJAM’s 21:03, cousin Karen Clark Sheard is present, as is fellow Detroiter Marvin Winans, Byron Cage, and Anthony Hamilton.

“Operator” is introduced by J as “something my pops would do.” Bill Moss might not do the song exactly like it is on this album, but it is a nod nevertheless to the traditional sound on which the Moss/Clark dynasty was raised.

What V2 really demonstrates is what a talented production team PAJAM is, and that it may well be on its way to doing for gospel music what Holland-Dozier-Holland did for Motown: change the rules and create a new quality standard.

Overall, V2 is gospel music as an energy drink: powerfully fun, eye-opening, and exhilarating.

Four of Four Stars

Monday, March 26, 2007

Bishop G.E. Patterson Homegoing Services

Posted by Candace Walker, Gospel Editor for

The memorial services and funeral arrangements for Church of God In Christ Presiding Bishop G. E. Patterson will be held at Temple of Deliverance Church of God In Christ at 369 G. E. Patterson in Memphis, Tennessee.

Three services are planned for Bishop Patterson's home going.

Services for the Temple of Deliverance Family and the local Memphis community will take place Thursday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

The Jurisdictional service will be held on Friday, March 30, at 7:00 p.m.

The Official National Church of God In Christ funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 31 at 10 a.m.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dead: Walter Turnbull, 62; founded the Boys Choir of Harlem

From the Los Angeles Times Staff and Wire Reports
March 24, 2007

Walter Turnbull, who founded the Boys Choir of Harlem in a church basement and led the organization to international acclaim that included performances at the White House and the Vatican, has died. He was 62.

Turnbull died Friday at a New York City hospital, said his brother, Horace Turnbull. He said Turnbull had a stroke months ago.

"He was a genius of a man who managed to take his talents in bringing out song in young people who had no training," said Rep Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who helped raise funds for the choir. "To take that talent and turn into academic achievement — it was just remarkable."

Turnbull's death marked the latest in a sad string of events for the fabled choir, which has been reeling from scandal ever since a choir counselor was accused of sexually abusing a student earlier this decade. City investigators said Turnbull failed to deal with the allegations properly.

The world-renowned institution has fallen into debt. The 50-boy choir was evicted from its home last year and now has a reduced, mostly volunteer, staff.

In 2001, a 15-year-old student told choir officials that he had been abused by a man who had directed the choir's counseling and summer camp and chaperoned trips for more than two decades.

Investigators later concluded that choir leaders did nothing to stop the crimes. The worker was arrested and convicted of sexual abuse after the boy's family went to police.

Walter Turnbull said at the time that what happened to the boy was "very unfortunate."

"We have done over the years all the things that we could to make sure that we did the best thing, the right thing," Turnbull said.

The choir, begun with 20 boys in 1968, has performed at the White House, at the United Nations and for Pope John Paul II. It has released albums and been heard on the soundtracks of movies such as "Jungle Fever," "Malcolm X" and "Glory."

Beyond its musical training, the choir provides educational and personal counseling to hundreds of inner-city young people ages 9 to 19 each year.

A native of Greenville, Miss., Turnbull intended to become an opera singer. He earned a bachelor's degree from Tougaloo College in Mississippi in 1966 and a master's from the Manhattan School of Music in 1968.

He performed as a tenor soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic and made ends meet by teaching and driving a taxi.

He never married and poured his energies into guiding the students in the choir and school.

"We try to provide an entire environment that encourages discipline, hard work and self-respect," Turnbull told The Times in 1996. "Everything in terms of their academic and artistic work is based on mutual respect and hard work. It's nothing grandiose or big. We might say, for example, 'How will you have a job, and maintain a job, without consistency?'

"We just try to get kids to understand the importance of simple things and how they grow into big things," he said, "and how those things can make the difference between their life being bearable or unbearable."

Friday, March 23, 2007

TBGB Reviews...Dr. Judith Christie McAllister

CD Review

In His Presence – Live!
Judith Christie McAllister
Judah Music/Artemis Gospel 2006

Dr. Judith Christie McAllister, “the preeminent woman of worship” and recognized widely as a leader in the Praise & Worship category of gospel music, recorded In His Presence – Live! at the Cathedral of Praise COGIC in Nashville on January 22, 2006.

True to her COGIC roots and service to the West Angeles COGIC for nearly two decades, McAllister praises with a plethora of instruments, including a brass section and imaginative use of percussion, the latter which gives the opening track, “To Our God,” a South African gospel feel, especially when blended with call-and-response choral harmony. As such, the whole project has a West Coast COGIC vibe, sharing more with the Pentecostal flavor of Andrae Crouch than the Southern COGIC sound of the late Bishop G.E. Patterson and his salutes to old-time congregational singing.

In His Presence – Live! also bears comparison to Martha Munizzi’s live No Limits in that they both have tightly choreographed stage show pacing and musical sophistication.

Still and all, McAllister’s straight-away singing on “Face-to-Face,” with just a dash of instrumental backing, is one of the project’s finest moments. Here she demonstrates her command of vocal range and dynamics. The concluding track, “Rain!,” is the penultimate moment, when the arrangement simmers to boiling point and McAllister turns to shouting.

Overall, Dr. McAllister provides a very polished and full performance with nary a blemish from front to back.

Three of Four Stars

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson Passes Away

TBGB has learned from Tammy Taylor and The Belle Report that the Church of God in Christ's Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson passed away this afternoon, March 20, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 67 years old.

Bishop Patterson recently earned a Stellar Award for "Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year" for his work on Bishop G.E. Patterson & Congregation: Singing the Old Time Way, Volume 2 (Podium Records).

More details about the services will be forthcoming, but in the meantime you can read more about Bishop G.E. Patterson at this site:

TBGB extends its most heartfelt sympathies to Bishop Patterson's family and friends, as well as to the entire COGIC community worldwide on the loss of their beloved leader.

Monday, March 19, 2007

TBGB Reviews....Debra Henderson

Higher Ground
Debra Henderson
Alpha 7 Ministries 2007

I must admit I’m not a big fan of the Praise & Worship style of sacred music, so when I heard “We’ve Come to Bow Down and Worship,” the first track on Elder Debra Henderson’s CD Higher Ground, with its overly-dramatic synth intro and lovely but understated vocals, I was a bit anxious.

But make no mistake: though Higher Ground is bookended with P&W tracks, the rich, delicious inside is straight-up gospel music in all its bluesy, uptempo glory.

The Hammond organ appears like a familiar friend in the second track, “It’s a Blessing,” on which Elder Henderson renders a low-down gospel blues vocal. “Stand Up” and “Saved” are uptempo charmers, though the title track is the real church wrecker: accompanied once again by Hammond organ, Henderson takes “Higher Ground” slow, wringing every ounce of emotion out of the lyric until there’s not a drop left.

The most pleasant surprise on Higher Ground is the inclusion of a lining hymn, “I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry.” It’s delivered with the haunting a cappella unison singing of an old-time church congregation. If I were to pick a favorite track, it would be this one.

Elder Debra Henderson’s sophomore outing Higher Ground, produced by Melvin Seals, demonstrates that the Bay Area artist is not one-dimensional but capable of delivering gospel music in a variety of shades.

Three of Four Stars

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sensational Nightingales Make First National Television Appearance in 65 Years

From D.A. Johnson of Malaco Records:

Jackson, MS. March 14, 2007 - Nicknamed "The Gales" and known also as gospel music's "Gentlemen of Song," the Sensational Nightingales are a legendary cornerstone of American gospel quartet music.
The quartet, well known for monster hits "It's Gonna Rain," "I Want To Be At The Meeting," "Hold On A Little While Longer," and "I Surrender All," is slated to make its first major network television appearance in 65 years on Sunday, March 18, 2007 at 2:00 p.m. (EST) with gospel artists Tye Tribbett and Coko on The Gospel of Music with Jeff Majors.

The quartet will perform "I'm Taking Back Everything The Devil Stole From Me" and "I'm Blessed." The program airs on the TV One Network, Direct TV, channel 241 and on cable.

"The Sensational Nightingales were the first gospel quartet inducted into the American Gospel Quartet Hall of Fame in 1988," states D.A. Johnson, Executive Director of the Gospel Division of Malaco Music Group. "They are one of the main cornerstones of gospel music, and earned a Grammy nomination for their 2003 release Songs To Edify (featuring the hit single, 'I'm
Blessed'). They have traveled throughout the world yearly -- across Europe and to Africa -- and continue to perform live concerts throughout the United States. As part of our Yes! Quartet Campaign and upcoming tour, they are one of Malaco's most revered legends and we are excited to see them continue to make such important contributions to this genre of gospel music."

The Sensational Nightingales were formed in 1942 by recently departed Dixie Hummingbird member Barney Parks. In 1946, Joseph 'Jo Jo' Wallace joined to become the heart of the group and its first lifetime member. After World War II, the group toured the South and enjoyed much success. They signed with the Peacock label to release their first commercial recordings. In 1957, they appeared on the Gospel Train Tour with The Clara Ward Singers and other top-notch gospel artists.

By 1979, they had long since become a fixture in the gospel music scene and were well respected for their tight harmonies and vocal prowess. The group caught the attention of quartet label Malaco Records, which eagerly snatched them up. The "Gales" continued performing across the United States and eventually won the honor of touring as the Ambassadors of Goodwill for the Arts American Program of the United States Information Agency in 1985.

These "Gentlemen of Song" with golden voices have recorded more than thirty albums/CDs in their sixty five-year career, nineteen with Malaco Records. They have also enjoyed three hit records (I Surrender All, Freedom After Awhile, Message From the Book), all with Malaco.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

TBGB Reviews...Dr. C.J. Johnson

My Father’s Work
Dr. C.J. Johnson
Meltone 2007

In March of 1965, Dr. C.J. Johnson recorded an original song, “I Want to Go Where Jesus Is,” for Savoy Records. Sung a cappella and with thunderous enthusiasm by a jubilant congregation, the sound was so raw and primitive that one might have assumed it was recorded forty years prior by Alan Lomax and came straight from the Library of Congress archives. The composition itself sounded as if it was from the pages of Kentucky Harmony. But sure enough, it was recorded at the same time as other Savoy gospel hits of the day, by artists such as Alex Bradford, the Caravans, the Roberta Martin Singers and James Cleveland.

A succession of singles and albums established Dr. C.J. Johnson as one of the country’s foremost hymnologists. His recordings were at once anachronistic and refreshing at a time when gospel music focused squarely on hard-singing leads and heavy instrumental backing. Dr. Johnson’s commitment to the old time sound – straight congregational singing with occasional slaps of the tambourine – earned him an invitation to sing at the White House on three separate occasions.

A few years ago, Melvin Couch and Meltone Records captured what would become Dr. Johnson’s final recordings before he passed on. The live recordings from Johnson’s St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church are now available on a CD called My Father’s Work.

My Father’s Work is a collection of ten songs, most coupled with an introductory sermonette by Dr. Johnson. Each track demonstrates that Johnson’s command of the old church sound hadn’t diminished one iota since 1965. “Hold My Hand While I Run This Race” is one of the project’s best moments, showcasing how old-as-the-hills congregational singing could integrate the song structure of latter-day gospel music and still stay true to its raising.

This is a loud recording with plenty of treble, but it saves you the trouble of turning up the volume, which is what you are going to want to do anyway.

Three and a Half of Four Stars

Sunday, March 11, 2007

TBGB Pick of the Week: March 12, 2007

“Nobody but the Lord”
Alvin Darling & Celebration
From the new release My Blessing is on the Way
Emtro Gospel 2007

Alvin Darling’s enviable music resume includes a Pentecostal upbringing and time spent as a member of a gospel quartet. He digs deep into both experiences on “Nobody But the Lord,” the first single from his upcoming full-length release My Blessing is on the Way, due out April 17.

Darling and Celebration give the mid-tempo “Nobody” true “country church” treatment. Celebration deftly navigates a mouthful of lyrics with a surgeon’s precision, answering Darling’s quartet-honed baritone exclamations with delight. The result is old-fashioned vocal jubilation marinated to perfection in 21st Century production techniques.

Friday, March 09, 2007

TBGB Reviews...House of Gospel Anthology: The 80s, Volume 1

House of Gospel Anthology
The 80s, Volume 1

Light Records 2007

Light Records has been busy these past few years digging through catalogs – its own and others’ – for gospel classics to reissue. The current concept, “House of Gospel Anthologies,” is its most ingenious yet. If the first installment, a focus on the 1980s, is any indication, the remainder of the series will be definitely worth a listen.

Unlike the mass manufactured, electronic and heavily hair-sprayed sound of the pop 1980s, 1980s gospel music is quite pleasant, even though it is a very different bird from the pre-1970s traditional sound. The decade and its superstars served as a bridge between the contemporary gospel movement of the late 1960s and 1970s and the street toughness of urban gospel that blossomed in the 1990s under the direction of John P. Kee, Kirk Franklin, and O’Landa Draper.

The superstars of the 1980s are well represented on the anthology. Selections range from the deep and hearty vocals of Douglas Miller to the soft soul of the Winans, to the truly transitional work of Daryl Coley and Commisioned. Particularly memorable moments on the CD are Sandra Crouch’s “Completely Yes,” with the COGIC “Yes Lord” chant motif woven throughout; the sing-along “Hold Up the Light” from Donnie Harper and the New Jersey Mass Choir; Vickie Winans’ dramatic high note at the conclusion of “We Shall Behold Him,” and the L.A. Mass Choir’s “Take Up Your Cross” with its traditional feel in three-quarter time.

Even those who own these recordings on vinyl will want to check out the CD because of the appreciable improvement in fidelity that digital sound reproduction affords.

Light Records plans to reissue 1970s, 1990s and 21st century recordings under its House of Gospel Anthology banner. Since music from the latter two decades is still very much available, I recommend that the next installment be the 1970s.

Three of Four Stars

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dorsey Slated for Honor on Gennett Walk of Fame

Before he became the “Father of Gospel Music,” Thomas A. Dorsey was an accomplished blues pianist and vocalist. His solo work; collaborations with Tampa Red, Jane Lucas, and others; and accompaniment of blues diva Ma Rainey were captured on disc by a variety of labels, including Richmond, Indiana’s famed Gennett Records.

On September 8, 2007, the Starr-Gennett Foundation will unveil a Walk of Fame on the site of the original Gennett recording studio and Starr Piano factory in Richmond. The Walk will honor major artists who recorded at the Gennett studio. Among the first ten inductees of the Walk of Fame is Thomas Dorsey, known by several blues noms de plume but most memorably as Georgia Tom.

Dorsey – as soloist or as part of a blues ensemble – recorded several titles in Richmond during 1929 and 1930 for the Gennett and Champion imprints.

In an article written for the Winter 2007 issue of the Association of Recorded Sound Collections Newsletter, Elizabeth Surles, project coordinator for the Starr-Gennett Foundation, explained, “[E]ach Walk of Fame marker features a colored mosaic tile representation of the inductee. The mosaic is contained in the likeness of a Gennett phonograph record cast in bronze.”

Other charter Walk of Fame inductees include Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Gene Autry, King Oliver, and Hoagy Carmichael.

The Starr-Gennett factory area, where the Walk of Fame will be located, is being developed into a riverside park. It will feature interpretive signage throughout the site. “One remaining factory building on the site has been rehabilitated,” Surles remarked. “Referred to as the ‘logo building’ because of the prominent ‘Gennett Records’ logo on the west side of the structure, the building has been renovated into an open-air pavilion and has already been host to a number of community events.”

The Starr-Gennett Foundation was created to promote and preserve the legacy of Gennett Records and its parent organization, the Starr Piano Company. For more information, visit

Sunday, March 04, 2007

RIP Barney Parks of Dixie Hummingbirds and Sensational Nightingales

The Black Gospel Collector's Forum reported that Barney Parks, an original member of the Dixie Hummingbirds and organizer of the Sensational Nightingales, passed away Saturday, February 24 in Durham, North Carolina.

Parks is in the back, second from right, in this 1942 photo of the Dixie Hummingbirds published in the Philadelphia Afro-American (from Jerry Zolten's superb biography of the Dixie Hummingbirds, Great God A'mighty).

Born to James Tate and Maggie Parks on July 15, 1915, Barney Parks was 91 years old at the time of his death. Homegoing services took place in Henderson.

In addition to his pioneering quartet work, Parks was married to, and managed the career of, Madame Edna Gallmon Cooke.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

RIP Calvin White, Gospel Artist and Composer

Anthony Heilbut reported to TBGB that gospel artist and composer Calvin White died two weeks ago in New York. White was approximately 70 years old.

The name of Calvin White is not well known in gospel circles anymore but that's a shame, considering his contributions to gospel music.

As Heilbut reports, White was one of the two soloists on the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir's famous March, 1960 recording "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody" (Madame Margaret Simpson was the other soloist). The recording, reissued on the CD Shaking the Rafters, was selected to represent the gospel choir singing style for the boxed set Voices, which offered aural illustrations of vocal music from around the world.

White was a member of the Gospel Wonders, a New York quartet, and composed "As Long as I've Got Jesus." The Gospel Wonders recorded the song in 1965, but the composition achieved greater fame when it was covered in the same year by James Cleveland and the Cleveland Singers, and in the 1990s by Vickie Winans.

White also appeared with Professor Alex Bradford and Marion Williams in the original company of Black Nativity. He scored a couple of pop hits, too, with a trio called the Sandpebbles, also known as C. and The Shells.