“Tonight’s Late Night Showcase will be sponsored by EMI Gospel and if the old eyes and feet can make it, I will be there…”
Famous last words. I put head to pillow for just a few moments before heading back out the door to check out the EMI Gospel showcase at 11:30 a.m. I woke up two hours later, at 1:30 a.m. The showcase was probably still going on, but my energy was gone, and I was out for the evening/morning.
Wednesday was another day, Scarlett O’Hara, and with it brought more Milestone Moments on Kingdom Road. Early in the first Gospel Announcers Guild session, GAG Chaplain Juandolyn Stokes proved why all you need to raise the roof is a Hammond Organ, drums, and a serious singing voice. As she does every morning to start the GAG sessions, Juandolyn brought the message down upon the souls in the room with such indelibility that the words cannot ever be erased. Together, she and the drum and organ turned the room into church.
But that’s the power of gospel music. If anyone doubts the genre’s ability to turn the heart and mind, tell me what other musical style requires an army of nurses to minister to those slain in the spirit during the singing!
More special guests dropped in the GAG meeting, among them Daryl Coley who is now National Spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes is particularly rampant among the African-American community, and almost caused Daryl himself to undergo amputation. But “I’m still here,” Daryl says, “and we need to rethink our eating habits and get checked out.” Daryl reminded us that diabetes took the life of stalwart artists such as Mattie Moss Clark and Rev. Issac Douglas. Legendary producer Michael Brooks was in the audience to lend his support of Coley’s work, which included a CD of PSAs for announcers to take back to their respective stations.
Dewayne Harvey and Unrestrained Praise provided a praise break. The energetic and soulful performance of Unrestrained Praise’s female lead not only left several audience members slain in the spirit but she brought herself to briny tears of ecstasy.
Donald Lawrence also stopped by to promote his new project. Subsequently, soloists Steven Hurd and Melonie Daniels provided more praise break moments; Daniels rendered Thomas Whitfield’s “Precious Jesus” with strength and beauty.
Sheilah Belle of the Belle Report spoke on the power of media to spread the gospel of gospel. She outlined a number of steps for artists and producers to follow when approaching the media for attention. The Belle Report now has 50,000 email subscribers. She and Lee Michaels will be inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame.
The Central South Distribution showcase later in the afternoon featured performances by Ken Reynolds, Ami Rushes (whose new project, Covering, is taking old-school gospel and redoing it for a contemporary audience). The female ensemble Witness was one of the standout artists to perform during my stay at the showcase. They are the Pointer Sisters of gospel music (or are the Pointers the RnB version of Witness?). Their rendition of “Touch Your Promise” from their new project, Speak to the Generations, wrecked the place, making me rethink my recommendation that “Clap Your Hands” is the top track on the CD. So moving was their performance that the audience kept singing “Promise” after the ladies left the stage, and compelled the ensemble to return to sing more.
The Evereadys from Detroit were also on hand. As thirty-year veterans, they know their quartet singing. They wowed me at GMWA last year with their a cappella singing and they are back with a cool, Northern Soul sound.
Wednesday evening I attended the Quartet Division’s annual Banquet at which a galaxy of quartet pioneers are recognized. The event was sponsored by Miracle 4 Life Records, a label started by former New Orleans Saints player Joe Horn. Horn founded the label to right the wrongs that quartets have suffered in the past. Via DVD, Horn said he “wants to change the industry” by providing top-quality treatment of artists in both their accommodations and remuneration. “If we fail, we will fail trying to change the industry.”
During dinner, the Evereadys performed with enough gusto to tilt a speaker off the stage (ironically during “I’m Learning to Lean,” the speaker leaned down on the shoulder of a banquet attendee). Though still young men on the quartet circuit and performing in the presence of such legends as the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Gospel Keynotes, the Soul Seekers followed the Evereadys and not only held their own but tore the place apart.
After saluting such superstars as Joe Ligon, Evangelist Shirley Caesar, Mildred Clark, Robert Dixon of the Salem Travelers, and the industry’s “radio angels,” Ligon and Caesar duetted, backed by the Mighty Clouds of Joy and members of the Christianaires (the quartet’s Tyrone Porter was banquet host). The winners of the quartet talent search were Reggie and Company. Everyone received a CD featuring vintage recordings of the honorees, said recordings coming via the collection of yours truly.
Though the banquet ended at 12:30 a.m., the GMWA was still very much in full force. The “marriage” of Gospo Centric and Verity Records was taking place in the Hyatt Grand Ballroom. While I headed up to my room, assuming that the ceremony was well underway, it turns out it had just begun. In fact, I woke up around 4:30 a.m. to the sound of heavy bass and gospel singing emanating somewhere from the hotel. Thinking it was someone playing CDs on my floor, I went back to bed. I learned Thursday morning that what I heard was the showcase still going strong, eight floors below me, with Kirk Franklin performing at around 4 a.m. and concluding around 4:30. And they say rock and blues musicians can turn night into day!