march 2011


Gospel News & Notes

Gospel’s Lost ‘B’ Sides Reveal Artists’ Civil Rights Consciousness

A Baylor University professor says a surprisingly large number of lesser-known “B” sides on vintage records of gospel songs championed civil rights, suggesting Christian artists were interested in bettering the here and now as well as proclaiming hope for the hereafter.

The recent discovery “tells us that the gospel community was much more involved in the civil rights movement than we previously thought--outside of Mahalia Jackson and Dorothy Love Coates, who we knew were very involved,” says Robert Darden, an associate professor of journalism at Baylor and a former gospel editor for Billboard magazine.

In 2005, Darden began a search-and-rescue mission for gospel music on old 78s, 45s and LPs and in various taped formats to be preserved digitally and cataloged at Baylor. Darden--author of People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music--was concerned that while contemporary gospel was thriving, early gospel by lesser-known artists recorded during the 1940s to the 1970s--the “Golden Age of Gospel Music”--might be lost forever. He now oversees Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.

A clip from the documentary A Life's Work. (For more about the film visit In this segment Robert Darden, a journalism professor at Baylor University, talks about why he began the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, an organization dedicated to finding, restoring, preserving and archive the most at-risk gospel recordings.

“The reason we haven’t known about the ‘B’ sides before is that more than a third of what we’ve received is not in the lone book that tries to catalog all gospel music,” Darden says. “When we’ve known about a song, it is almost always the hit or ‘A’ side.”

The spirited “Where is Freedom?” by The Friendly Four begins with a rousing appeal: “Here’s a freedom song for all you freedom fighters out there everywhere. And when you sing, remember the wonderful ones who lost their dedicated lives for this precious purpose and won’t be allowed to see it through. Now sing--Sing, every one of you!”

The lyrics speak of civil rights marches and demonstrations in Atlanta, Tennessee, Birmingham and Chicago, of violence and snapping police dogs, of integration and equal rights.

Della Reese performs Bobby Darin’s ‘Simple Song of Freedom’

The All-Star Gospel Singers recorded “I Believe Martin Luther King Made It Home.” And the somber “Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King” by Franklin Fondel speaks of the civil rights leader whose “voice was his weapon that opened barred doors/He’s free now forever, like all men should be, regardless of color, religion or creed.”

One of the well-known individuals who sang of civil rights was Della Reese, a gospel singer before she became a pop singer and star of TV’s Touched By An Angel. She sang Bobby Darin’s “Simple Song of Freedom.”

Baylor has obtained for preservation more than 2,000 loaned or donated LPs, 78s, 45s and tapes. For more information about the project, visit


Kingsmen’s Randy Crawford Battles Staph Infection; Heart Surgery Looms

randy-crawfordThe Kingsmen’s Randy Crawford, who rejoined the quartet in 2010 after having been a member in the early 2000s, has been off the road since mid-June as a result of a staph infection in his heart, which will necessitate heart surgery.

He issued the following statement about his condition and treatment:

"Starting in May of this year I began noticing a considerable drop in my energy levels. I mostly just sang and stayed in the bed each day while on the road. Towards the end of our west coast tour I began running a high fever that would not go away. Once I got back home from that tour it became worse, spiking at 103.3 and never getting below 101.5. After a trip to the doctor and several tests it was determined that I had a staph infection in the mitral valve of my heart. When I was 10 I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse. This is a condition that causes the valve of the heart to not close properly and allows some blood to flow backwards through the valve. At that time it was determined that it was not severe enough to warrant treatment.

The Kingsmen with Randy Crawford, ‘Justified,’ at Heritage Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA, June 25, 2010.

“As the years have progressed it seems to have worsened. While investigating the infection in my system it was discovered that the valve not only had degraded further, it is going to require surgery to repair.

“The surgery has not been scheduled as of this time, but doctors are thinking August. It seems I must be completely finished with my treatment for the staph infection and feeling back to normal before they can attempt the valve repair procedure. As of now I am feeling almost 100 percent and have every intention on assuming my duties back with the Kingsmen as soon as the doctors will cut me loose! We all believe that God has this firmly in His grip and He will be glorified through this ordeal. Caroline and I, as well as all our family, truly appreciate your prayers in this time."

Mike LeFevre's son Jordan LeFevre has been serving as Crawford’s temporary replacement in the Kingsmen.



Valarie Walker Joins Heavens Highway

Absolutely Gospel reports that Valarie Walker has joined the popular Country/Southern Gospel group Heavens Highway.

“Valarie’s been singing with us for about month now, and we couldn’t be more pleased,” says Heavens Highway’s David Timms. “She’s a joy to share the stage with, and we know our friends and fans will love getting to know her just like we have.”

“I have had a longing to sing with a gospel group again for a long time. I’ve been praying that the Lord would allow me to be in a group again for about a year now,” says Walker “God sure does work in mysterious ways! I was told by our precious minister of music that Heavens Highway was looking for an alto singer. I had previously told him about my desire to sing with a group again. I told him I would have to pray about it and speak with my husband. Brett told me he knew this was something I’ve always wanted to do and to go for it. So here I am!”

Heavens Highway: (from left) Valarie Walker, Marty Rock, David Timms, Holly Nash

Walker currently resides in Pontotoc, Mississippi, with her husband Brett and two children. She began singing gospel music as a child and formed the gospel group The Trull Sisters while still in high school.

“Although I’m really new to the group, I can already tell God is in the midst,” Walker says. “Heavens Highway has made me feel right at home. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us!”

Heavens Highway has been making its mark at Southern Gospel radio. Fresh on the heels of scoring its first Singing News and Top 40 hits (“Longing to Go,” “When God Makes a Promise” and “Set Me Free From “), Heavens Highway recently released a new single, “Back On Top Again,” to Southern Gospel radio.

For more information on Heavens Highway, visit the group’s website and MySpace page.

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