Saturday, February 21, 2009

Guest Reviewer Will Harris on "Miss Walk Around Heaven All Day"

TBGB reader Will Harris contributes his own review of Cassietta Lerone Baker's book, Miss Walk Around Heaven All Day:

The legendary Cassietta George is one of the gospel industry’s most revered trailblazers. Her trademark voice is often imitated, but it cannot, and will never be, duplicated.

Sadly, Mrs. George is not known outside of the tight-knit community of her fans. She has not gotten the acknowledgement she deserves, not even being credited by Moby as the lead vocalist of the 1964 rendition of “Walk Around Heaven,” which was sampled by him for the track titled “One of These Mornings” on his 2002 album titled USA. Mrs. George has not been exposed in the same limelight as many of her contemporaries, despite making just as many, if not more, contributions to the genre as they have.

Many gospel stars do not have books written on them, and careful, in-depth studies of this genre of music and its artists is largely non-existent when compared to other areas of study. When I heard that a book was written on Mrs. George, I knew that as a gospel music historian I had to get it, and expand my knowledge as a fan of the Caravans and her.

The book, Miss Walk Around Heaven All Day, is written by Mrs. George’s nephew, Cassietta Lerone Baker of Memphis, Tennessee. As a result, the reader is getting as close of an account of Mrs. George’s life as one can get.

A friend of mine had a copy of Miss Walk Around Heaven All Day, and was nice enough to let me read it. Eager to expand my knowledge, I began to read the book and started to become disappointed in just the first few pages. The book was filled with many typos and grammatical errors, most of them rather simple in nature. Some of those typos were of gospel artists’ names (ex: Johneron Davis as “Johnrine” Davis and Gene Viale as Gene “Vila”), which seems ironic, since the author makes it known in the book that misspellings of Mrs. George’s name are seen as disrespectful. I had to go back over some sentences once or twice to try and understand what was being said because of those errors. Ideally, one only wants to have to go back over one or two sentences or phrases to understand the idea or theme being presented by the author for analytical purposes, not because of typographical and grammatical errors.

While it does ring true that Cassietta George is largely ignored by the gospel community when compared to others (the average person may know of Mahalia Jackson, but nothing of Cassietta George), some of the claims made in the book are exaggerated, or even downright false. Baker constantly mentions that Mrs. George was an original Caravan (pg. 102), and that the group disbanded in 1966 because of Mrs. George’s departure. That 1966 figure depends on what page you read, as other pages give years of 1965 and 1967 as the year the group broke up. In quoting a sentence from the book, “[a]ll you have to do is a little research for yourself and the facts will be there for you.” A little research shows that Mrs. George was an early Caravan, but NOT an original Caravan. The only Original Caravans were Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey, and Irma Gwynn. The Original Caravans were founded in 1951 by Robert Anderson, two years before Mrs. George’s arrival.

The Caravans did not disband in the mid-Sixties because of Mrs. George’s departure. In fact, Mrs. George departed the group for a period between 1956 and 1960, and for a brief time in 1961. Despite her departure, The Caravans didn’t disband during those five years. The Caravans also recorded past the mid-Sixties for Savoy, HOB, Jewel, and Caritas Records, putting out material until 1972 with members such as Willie James McPhatter, Loleatta Holloway, Julia Mae Price Williams, and with help from former members such as James Cleveland and Dorothy Norwood.

A little research also would have revealed that the woman credited as “name unknown” in The Caravans’ group photo from circa 1954-55, erroneously referring to the group as the “Original Caravans” on page 33, is Gloria Griffin, who was more renowned for her tenure with the Roberta Martin Singers from 1957 to 1969. Another false claim made was that that Eddie Williams named the group “The Caravans”, when Robert Anderson gave the group its name in 1951 when he founded it. Plus, Williams wasn’t a member of the group until 1958, long after the group name had been well established.

Some of the material in the book reads as opinion but is presented as fact, departing from the long-held understanding that historical texts are objective and unbiased. These errors, combined with the presentation of biased material, naturally makes one question the veracity of other statements made in the book, such as the potentially hurtful comments about Mrs. George and other members of the group.

Presenting such information as truth hurts the gospel music community and its historians. Historians such as Anthony Heilbut, Cedric J. Hayes, Robert Laughton, Horace Clarence Boyer, Robert Darden, Portia Maultsby and Doug Seroff have done decades of painstaking research to ensure that the information they have presented before us in the form of books, discography listings, interviews and websites is as correct as possible. These factual errors in Baker’s book, which could have been easily cross-checked, combined with the biased statements made in the book, have the potential to hurt the credibility of gospel music historians, and even have the potential to hurt the body of Christ, as the Bible beckons us to do the best we can when we work (Colossians 3:17, 3:23).

Readers expecting to find material comparable to that found in books such as Bernice Johnson Reagon’s We’ll Understand It Better By and By or Anthony Heilbut’s classic, The Gospel Sound, will be sorely disappointed. Miss Walk Around Heaven All Day has the potential to be MUCH better than it is now. Sadly, it reads as nothing more than a literary version of a “diss track” aimed at certain members of The Caravans. Miss Walk Around Heaven All Day is inconsistent and poorly executed.

16 comments:

Lerone Baker said...

Now Mr. will Harris You called me a liar when it came to who came up with the name of the caravans. You said Robert Anderson came up the name now on the malaco "DVD" Legends footage Albertina walker said in the opening part she came up with the name the caravans. Now you say Robert Anderson did. I was told by one of the members eddie williams did. So all of you are lying don't but the lie on me. I didn't think you were good at what you say did. The world doesn't think so either. since albertina walker set you up with her on lie. Ha! Ha! time to turn in your ink pen, out of ink. More on the way You hypocrite, this is only part 1

P. S. don't let her use you that way because you are going to find out some of the other lies she has told.

Lerone Baker Part 1

Will Harris said...

Mr. Baker,

Albertina's story of naming the group The Caravans one night in 1952 does not line up with what has been long documented by Cedric J. Hayes and Robert Laughton. Their records show that Robert Anderson gave the group the name of The Caravans in 1951 while they served as his background singers, and that CANNOT be disputed. Record labels and documentation from the United States Record Label dating from since before Albertina joined can attest to that fact.

Please stop perpetuating the FALSEHOOD that Eddie Williams named the group. HARD, SOLID, FACTUAL DATA proves Robert Anderson named the group. Meanwhile, all you present us with is unverifiable hearsay from an unidentified member. Tell me, which member told you that Eddie founded the group?

Lerone Baker said...

Now i have to make this point to get to the next point with you other wise you want see the point. You dum i want say it i'm saved. The "origion" of Diana Ross and the Supremes began in 1959- 1960 name the "Primettes" with singers, Diana Ross,Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown. In 1960-1961 the singers were Diana Ross,mary Wilson,Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin. On January 15, 1961- fall 1961 the name was changed to "The Supremes" with singers, Diana,Mary,Florence and Barbara. In the Fall of 1961-June of 1967 The supremes were Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and
Florence Ballard. In July 1967-January, 1970 The name was Diana Ross and The Supremes with singers Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. In 1970 Diana Ross went solo and Jean Terrell Took her place in april of 1972- october 1973 Lynda Lawerence was there. In october 1973-January,1976 Scherrie Payne was there and in January,1976- June 1977 Susaye Greene was there until the Supremes disbanded.
The Supremes went on seven years without Diana Ross but disband in 1977.

Now in the Legacy there were big hits and no hits as well as singers and song writers that wrote and sang but the bigger one stund which was the hit's by "Brain Holland,Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland". So my point is singers came and went so did writers but the best stund out that just the way it is.

The same goes for the caravans there was Bessie Griffin,Louis McDonald Ross,Willie James McPhatten, Loleatta Holloway, Julia Mae Price Williams, Gloria Griffin, Johnerine Davis and the rest of them people who only got lost in the fight sorry that's the only way to make it plane. They didn't make it. The key writers in the caravans were James Cleveland,Cassietta George,James Herndon and Eddie Williams. The Singers that stund out were. Cassietta George,Shirley Caesar,Josephine Howard and Inez Andrews. Albertina Walker and Delores Washington don't have that "Extra" they had to have that push in to the spot light when the other girl just had it. I think Albertina got a lot of mercy because she sang with Robert Anderson.

Stay tune more to come

Lerone Baker Part 2

Bob Marovich said...

Let me jump into this scrap and make a couple of comments that might help clarify some things.

As a researcher, I have learned that there are often many versions of “what happened,” depending on who you ask, and it is a historian’s responsibility to sort through all the possible "what happened"s to determine the most likely possible scenario.

What I can tell you from my book research on the history of gospel music in Chicago -- and this is documented in discographies and by experts such as Dr. Horace Clarence Boyer and Prof. L. Stanley Davis -- is that the original Caravans was formed in the 1940s as the Good Shepherd Singers by Robert Anderson, charter member of the original Roberta Martin Singers and one of the smoothest gospel baritones next to Charles Watkins. The Roberta Martin Singers decided to tour nationally, Anderson wasn't keen on touring, and chose to remain in Chicago. He formed his own singing aggregation, originally known as the Good Shepherd Singers.

The Robert Anderson Singers, or Robert Anderson and the Good Shepherd Singers, sang locally to appreciative audiences and made several recordings for the Chicago-based Miracle and United labels. Anderson eventually changed the name of his group to the Gospel Caravan. When at the end of 1951 member Irma Gwynn left the group to start a family, Anderson replaced her with Albertina Walker.
The late Irma Gwynn told me this herself some years ago, and also clarified information about the Good Shepherds.

Robert Anderson and His Gospel Caravan, made up of Albertina Walker, Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey and Nellie Grace Daniels, recorded together for United until April 18, 1952, when during a recording session the parties went their own separate ways. The Caravans finished the recording session by recording “Tell the Angels” and “Think of His Goodness to You,” which were coupled as States 103. Pianist Ed Robinson and organist Louise Overall Weaver – both colleagues of Mahalia Jackson – were hired for the Anderson/Caravan tracks and stayed on to accompany the ‘Vans.

My understanding is that Robert Anderson named his group the Gospel Caravan. Why did he change the group's name from the Good Shepherds to the Caravans? I don't know, and I hope to learn why someday. Did Albertina come up with the name "The Caravans" on that April 18, 1952 session? Possibly, but that would have been a very obvious choice, since the group was already known as the Gospel Caravan.

In 1952 and 1953, the remarkable Cassietta Baker was still a member of the Memphis quartet, the Songbirds of the South. The first appearance of the remarkable Cassietta in a recording session with the Caravans is October 5, 1954, when she led “Wait for Me,” issued on States 154. She also led “New Born Soul,” but this track remained in the can until Savoy’s Gospel subsidiary purchased the Caravans’ States masters and released it on LP 3001.

Group members often toss around "original" with great liberality when it comes to founding members. This wouldn't be the first time it happened. More appropriately, "classic lineups" better describe the Walker/Norwood/Caesar/George/Andrews/Cleveland era of Caravans.

Lerone Baker said...

Thank you Bob for "group members often toss around original with great liberality". When it comes to finding members. This is what happen when "My Aunt Cassietta" came to the group and there being others already there.

Now Mr. Harris, the part of my "Aunt Cassietta" being departing in 1961 isn't true if so what happen to the "Vee Jay Label" "LP'S from 1962 or 1963 to 1965. Where she was featured Sining ang writing Five or six songs on each "LP". The caravans "lets's Break Bread Together" Album has five songs on it. The title track "Let's Break Bread together" was written by James herndon/Soloist Cassietta George,"One Baptism" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Cassietta George "Where is your Faith in God" written by James Herndon/Soloist Cassietta George. Side to of the album "Great Joy" Written by Cassietta George/Soloist Shirley Caesar,"Bread Of Heaven" arr. by Cassietta George/Soloist Cassietta George.

From the album the caravans "Seek Ye The Lord" the song "Lord Stay With Me" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Albertina Walker. "To Whom Shall I Turn" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Albertina Walker,side two of the album "I'm Ready To Serve The Lord" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Cassietta George, the titled track of the album "Seek Ye The Lord" written by Cassietta George/soloist Delores Washington, and "Til I Meet Jesus" written by James Herndon/Soloist Cassietta George.

On the album the caravans "The Soul Of The Caravans" the song "Lord Don't Leave Us Now" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Cassietta George, "Jesus And Me" written by Cassietta George and James Herndon/Soloist Shirley Caesar. Side two of the album "My Religion" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Cassietta George, "Unto Thee Oh Lord" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Delores Wahington.


From the album the caravans "Walk Around Heaven All Day" there are six songs "Walk around Heaven All Day" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Cassietta George, "Revive Us Again" written by Albertina walker/Soloist Cassietta George, "Nothing Can Stop Me" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Delores Washington, "The Lord Tried Me" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Josephine Howard,"Be Sure" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Albertina Walker. On side two of the album "since I've Been Born Again" written by Albertina Walker/ Soloist Cassietta George.

From The Album the caravans "In Concert" there are seven songs Aunt Cassietta was featured as the writer or soloist. "That's Why I call Him Mine" written by James Herndon/Soloist Cassietta George,"I'll Just Wait" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Cassietta George, "Blessed Assurance" written by Cassietta George/Soloist albertina Walker,"Old Man River" written by Hammerstein,Kern/Soloist Cassietta George,"Stand By Me" written by Albertina Walker/Soloist Albertina Walker,Shirley Caesar,cassietta George, "I Want To See Jesus" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Albertna Walker and "My Soul Says Yes" written by Cassietta George/Soloist Josephine Howard. These were the "LP'S" with my Aunt Cassietta on them from 1962 or 1963-1965.

In 1965 My Aunt Cassietta first solo album canme out call "I Must Tell Jesus" on "Audio Gospel/Audio Arts Record Label. So my Aunt cassietta Didn't depart from the caravans until 1965 she told me that herself. So once again there are some lies being planted. Now from the "Vee Jay Label" along that's 27 or 28 songs written or lead by her. On the album the Caravans "I Want Be Back" there Are three more songs "Yes I've Met Jesus" written by cassietta George/ Soloist Cassietta George, "Remember me" written by James Cleveland/Soloist Cassietta George, and "He sit's High" Which my Aunt Cassietta is leading.

The other songs in the caravans she wrote or lead were "Wait For Me, I've got A New Born, I'm Going To Work Until My Day Is done,Behold The Beauties Of The Lord, Believe in me and six or seven or eight others the bottom line. Is ain't none of these women did more in the group to out shine "My Aunt Cassietta" so don't you come to me about the Word "original" and miss and junk to make the reads think i'm some bitter broken hearted nephew that just can't get it together because he lots his poor Aunt. When in fact i got it more together than you think that's why your reading my book. You don't have one or A "Iconic" Aunt that was the Diana Ross of the gospel music industry.

Please look up the songs in the copy office since you are so hooked on facts.

To All my readers "I Love You All" Pray For Me Please" some times you no, you got to put the devil back in he"s place.

Love, Lerone Baker

Will Harris said...

Lerone,

Cassietta was not in the group for the January 3, 1961 recording session in NYC. The lineup for that session was Albertina, Shirley, Inez, Delores, Johneron, and Eddie. It was not until their September 13, 1962 session for Savoy that Cassietta would return.

Lerone Baker said...

Personal Brother Harris i don't care, because if my Aunt Cassietta wasn't on the album i wouldn't own it anyway. Just like the "CD" Pattie Labelle recorded in 2006 called "The Gospel According To Pattie". When she remade my Aunt Cassietta Song "WALK AROUND HEAVEN ALL DAY" and didn't put my Aunt Cassietta name in the "CD" and stoled and kept my Royalies off the song. Why would i go out and buy something that i already am and come from which is the "ORIGINAL".

Katherine Harvey said...

I am the niece and executor and trustee of my late Cassietta George's estate therefore I assure you that Lorne has no legal rights or royalities regarding Cassietta George. If there is a need to talk with me regarding my Aunt Cassietta and her music please fell free to contact me at cassietta70@hotmail.com. The family is very unhappy and disappointed in Lerone and his book. I want asure you that the family have the greatest respect for Albertina and the members of the Caravans which we have known since very small children. My Aunt Cassietta played a very important part in the history of gospel music and the Caravans and we proudly regoniz this and will continue to so.

A Realist said...

Ms. Harvey -
Thank you for clarifying this situation in terms of Ms. George's family position in all of these back and forth claims being stated as factual by Mr. Baker.

I grew up listening to the Caravans as a child (my parents were huge fans) and was disappointed when I read about the concept of Mr. Baker's book.

One of the things that he stated as factual was that Ms. George had written more songs than any other gospel artist and the number of songs that he attributed to Ms. George was 100 . It is a known fact that Ms. Dorothy Love Coates, of the Gospel Harmonettes, has been documented as having written and published over 300+ songs and was inducted into the BMI song writers Hall of Fame many years prior to her death.

As a fan of Ms. Cassietta George's vocal intrepretations, her song writing talents and her being one of the pioneers in the gospel music industry, it is awful that Mr. Baker has decided to take this approach in memorializing her memory and her contribution to gospel music.

Writing a tell all book, in this tabloid vain, does nothing to create the legacy that he might have been trying to accomplish. It does quite the opposite. This appears to be nothing more than an attempt to make a quick buck.

Anonymous said...

Im very dissappointed by Mr. Baker's comments. You should be a shamed of yourself sir the way you are representing your aunt, not only that God! You will give an account for all of the negative videos writings and things said about certain gospel artist.. And you suppose to be a minister above reproach..

Anonymous said...

Mr. Baker, just because your Aunt didn't become as famous as you think she should have been. But the real judge was, is ,and forever will be Jesus Christ. He is pleased of all Cassietta George has done in her lifetime. Quite frankly, nobody cares about you and your feelings towards the members of the Caravans.
Also, the original Cassietta George came in 1954. When she left in 1955, Inez, Shirley, and Delores came in. She did not make the Caravans. Please, hide your pride for once!

Bob Marovich said...

From Cyia Norman:

Thank you, Will Harris, Bob Marovich, and Katherine Harvey, for taking the time to weed through the mess and emerge with the truth. As Dr. King so wisely said, the truth crushed to the ground will rise again. As the daughter of Pentecostal ministers, I cut my teeth on the music of the anointed Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, and others of their era. Although the Caravans were at their peek before my time, I have great respect for their work and for the opportunities they afforded to these ladies and other Gospel artists. I had seen a clip of Mr. Baker speaking very disrespectfully of Pastor Caesar some time ago, but was unaware until today that he was pushing a book behind it. Let's just pray that God will regulate his mind into righteous thinking. He may not even realize that he's done a great disservice to himself and to the memory of his beloved aunt. I'm sure the great majority of her fans would say she would not want her name to be associated with this type of negativity. Some of gospel's classic singers are getting up in age or have passed on. The ones who remain with us should not have to spend their golden years defending themselves against falsehoods. May the the grace of God abide with us all.

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that Lerone Baker didn't make another post after Katherine Harvey stood up?!!!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is WOW!!! Does this guy need an intervention or what? And has anyone else listened to his "sermons"?

blk40 said...

My God, My God!
I sit here with a frown wishing I had Lerone in front of me! This brother seems so unhappy and tortured within. I just happened to run across a couple of his demeaning videos of gospel celebrities and was awe-struck! Thank you to Ms. Harvey for enlightening us with the truth and respect!

Timothy McDUffie said...

Thank God for THE REAL INFORMATION AND SHUTTING THE DEVIL DOWN