Damon Williams on #WeAreVerity: “Everyone has a Verity Story”

By Bob Marovich

RCA Inspiration and Verity Records are going all out to promote Verity’s twenty-four-year legacy, and it’s starting with the #WeAreVerity campaign.

The June campaign coincides with Black Music Month.

Damon Williams

“We want to honor one of the richest and most legacy-filled catalogs in gospel music,” Damon Williams, RCA Inspiration and Verity Records VP of Marketing, told the Journal of Gospel Music. “We also want to celebrate the place and position gospel music holds in people’s lives.”

Williams, who joined RCA Inspiration at the end of last year, said the celebration will not only include artists, executives, and industry personnel, but most importantly the fans who have helped make Verity a top gospel brand. “Everyone has a Verity story,” he said. “We encourage everyone to share their stories with us.”

Verity was organized in 1994 by Zomba Publishing founder Clive Calder and Barry Weiss, whose father Hy Weiss started the R&B and vocal harmony powerhouse Old Town Records in 1953. After Calder and Weiss signed John P. Kee to their Jive Records roster, Kee introduced them to gospel singer Vanessa Bell Armstrong. The Jive Records execs soon realized the importance of setting up a sister label to Jive, one focused exclusively on gospel. The sister label was christened Verity.

Although Verity went away in 2013, it was revived in 2017 as a subsidiary of RCA Inspiration (formerly Verity Gospel Music Group). Williams said that he, along with Senior Vice President and General Manager Phil Thornton, and the marketing team, developed the #WeAreVerity concept “to reposition the catalog and get it in front of our audience.”

The first step in the process was to retool and revamp the Verity website (www.verityrecords.com) to be a one-stop resource for gospel music enthusiasts. The new site went public on June 1.

“The first thing you see on the site,” Williams said, “is a collage of artists who have graced the hallways of Verity.” He added that website highlights will include curated playlists and an “artist of the day” salute every day in June.  Fans can sign up for an online newsletter to receive information on the label’s current and future activities.

Among the first of many CD reissue projects slated to coincide with the campaign is the June 15 release of The Best of Fred Hammond.  Verity Records Presents the Classics is scheduled for September.

While people get nostalgic about music of any genre, Williams said, gospel music nostalgia is often associated with specific life moments. “Gospel songs carry people through the tough times, but also are associated with good times, such as weddings and the births of children.”

Williams, who worked at Verity from 2000 to 2009 and reunited last year with the label through his new position at RCA Inspiration, has plenty of Verity stories of his own. One involves Vickie Winans and the release of her 2003 album, Bringing It All Together.

“Vickie invited the entire label staff to her home, a beautiful estate in Southfield, Michigan. We had access to her life.” His other Verity stories include working with his pastor, Donnie McClurkin, and with fellow New Yorker Hezekiah Walker—in particular the concert they recorded to honor Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks.

Besides the Fred Hammond and classic Verity projects, Williams said to watch for Koryn Hawthorne’s full-length debut, Unstoppable, on July 13; new projects from Donald Lawrence and William Murphy; and announcements of new signings.  New artists signed to RCA Inspiration will also share their Verity stories and cover classic songs from the company’s catalog.

While the #WeAreVerity campaign will highlight gospel music’s contributions to rock and soul music, Williams notes that “even if gospel music hadn’t transferred into the mainstream, it has played a significant role across all faiths and globally. Its significance in people’s lives alone makes it a pillar of popular culture.”

For more information on the #WeAreVerity campaign, visit www.verityrecords.com.

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.