october 2011


Gospel News & Notes

New Look, New Sound, New 2012 Indie Release For Zie’l

As Christina Bell departs for solo career, group moves on as trio

The ladies of Zie’l, carrying on (from left): Crystal Bell, Apthen Jones, Keyondra Lockett

Change has come to one of black gospel’s rising young group’s, as powerhouse contralto Christina Bell is leaving her fellow Shreveport, LA-born and bred mates in the Stellar Award-nominated Zie’l (pronounced Zye-el) for a solo career. The remaining ladies of Zie’l (Crystal Bell, Apthen Jones and Keyondra Lockett) will continue on as a trio while working on a new project for 2012 release, while holding out the possibility of adding a fourth member in the future.


Despite the gospel blogosphere's chatter to the contrary, Christina’s split from her Zie’l partners is amicable. The remaining group members, who are long-time friends, expressed their support for their former partner’s solo work, and she in turn sang their praises in a statement announcing her departure. "I am excited for the journey ahead of me and will miss my girls!" Christina says in the statement. "We shall forever remain family and minister to the masses in Jesus name whether together or apart."

The former Light Records/Gospel Warehouse Records recording group will be embarking on a future CD release as independent artists. Their 2012 project will be on their lBella Dawn Records label with marketing and development guidance from The Bellamy Group.

Zie’l, ‘Is My Living In Vain.’ The studio version is on the group’s 2006 album, Genesis

"We are very excited to be working with and re-united with Benita Bellamy [The Bellamy Group] and we want everyone to know we are still strong and plan to bring forth a huge project," says group manager Ronda Lockett. "We would like to thank those fans and supporters who have kept our standing in the Lord upright. We would love and need their continued support."  

While working on their new project the ladies of Zie'l are busy with school, family and ministry. Crystal Bell is currently an Education major at Wiley College in Marshall, TX. Aphten Jones is married and is also a student at Wiley College pursuing a B.S. in Business Administration. She is also the Youth and Youth Choir director at Peaceful Rest Baptist Church in Shreveport, LA. Keyondra Lockett is pursuing a B.S. Degree at The Art Institute in Atlanta, GA, and is co-owner of the Red Glasses Sisters online fashion boutique.


Sister Rosetta Tharpe Honored with Historical Marker and Film Presentation

Pioneering gospel singer-guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) was honored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with the dedication of an Historical Marker at her former North Philadelphia home (1102 Master Street) on October 24. In addition, the day’s ceremonies included a free film presentation of the recently released documentary, The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, produced and directed by Mick Csaky, in the Central Philadelphia Library auditorium.

These events were sponsored by Girls Rock Philly (GRP), a local music and mentoring non-profit organization, and The Friends of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the committee responsible for funding the Historical Marker.

‘Up Above My Head,’ Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the TV show Gospel Time with the Olivet Institutional Baptish Church Choir, complete with the type of rousing guitar solo that caught the ear of the likes of young Carl Perkins.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was gospel music’s first superstar and its original crossover artist. She brought spiritual music into the mainstream with a blend of blues, jazz, big band, and rhythm & blues. Her ringing soprano voice and guitar virtuosity set her apart from other greats of gospel’s Golden Age. Rosetta toured and recorded with Louis Jordan, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, and Sammy Price. Her charismatic stage presence and skillful playing made an impression on the early rock ‘n’ roll kingpins, especially Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Little Richard, all of whom enthusiastically praised her artistry (Perkins, an architect of rock ‘n’ roll guitar, freely admitted to copping some of Sister Rosetta’s style from her records).

From the BBC documentary The Godmother of Rock & Roll, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a segment on the controversy over Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s move into secular music as the vocalist in Lucky Millinder’s band.

In 1957, Sister Rosetta and her husband, Russell Morrison, moved to Philadelphia, joining a lively gospel scene that included the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Ward Singers. She was a first-generation resident in the historic Yorktown neighborhood, and a member of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Her Philadelphia years were a productive time, as she released five albums and was Grammy nominee for her 1968 album, Precious Memories. In 1998, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor. She is a member of the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame. Sister Rosetta Tharpe rests today at Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Girls Rock Philly is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to empowering girls and women from the greater Philadelphia region through summer music camp education programs and activities that foster self-respect, leadership skills, creativity, self-expression, critical thinking and collaboration. Visit www.girlsrockphilly.org.


Gospel Singer Victoria Hawkins-Westbrook Dies

victoriaSister Victoria Hawkins-Westbrook died Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

Born June 6, 1935, Victoria and her mother, Thelma Hawkins, were a marvelous singing duo back in the 1940s through the 1960s. They recorded for the Staff label in Detroit and for Peacock Records.



Victoria Hawkins sings the Rev. Cleophus Robinson’s ‘Homegoing’

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