By Bob Marovich
On Tuesday, July 29, members of the Gospel Announcers Guild of the Gospel Music Workshop of America saluted their longtime friend and leader, Al “The Bishop” Hobbs, with a special musical program at the GWMA Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the performers were Rev. Milton Biggham, Dottie Peoples, and Dorothy Norwood. Two of his children were present for the tribute.
It was the first year Hobbs, struggling with cancer, was unable to attend the annual Gospel Announcers Guild convention, for which he has served as chairman for many years. Nevertheless, he called in frequently from his home in Indianapolis, Indiana, to ensure that activities were in order as Bishop Sam Williams, his vice president, led the programs on site.
Today, members were shocked to hear the news that Hobbs passed away.
Hobbs was a radio announcer on WLTC, gospel singer, group leader, founder/owner of Aleho Records, and organizer of the When Singers Meet, Inc. Choir that recorded for Jubilee Records in the late 1960s. He had been the chairman of the Gospel Announcers Guild and vice chairman of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, organized in 1967 by Rev. James Cleveland.
“Al should also be remembered for his many contributions for Savoy (with the Indianapolis Mass Choir, such as ‘Try the Lord Jesus,’ ‘Let Him Have His Way,’ ‘Praise Him for Myself’) and with his own Aleho International record label (also being a powerhouse in working a short-lived, but lucrative distribution deal with Star Song).
“Because of him, we were gifted with many recordings from Angela Spivey, the Delegation Mass Choir, Trina ‘Sister Cantaloupe’ Jeffrie, the Ohio Baptist General Convention Mass Choir, and the GMWA Women of Worship (started by Birmingham native, the late Mary K. Elsaw).
“Some of his more memorable compositions include ‘All Is Well,’ ‘Jesus Is the Name,’ ‘If You Give Me Strength’ (recorded by Evelyn Turrentine-Agee) and the comforting ballad ‘So You Would Know,’ a gem recorded by the GMWA Gospel Announcers Guild (Radio Angels). He also guest hosted Bobby Jones Gospel on a number of occasions and even handled the narration on Richard Smallwood’s Journey: Live in New York.
“’So You Would Know’ would probably be his most memorable composition. Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir re-recorded it in 1999 on their High & Lifted Up album, which won a Grammy for Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album. Hobbs, to my knowledge, didn’t earn a Stellar Award for his work. So the Grammy nod to the BTC would be a jewel to his earthly crown.”
Everyone who knew Hobbs will remember his creamy, resonant bass voice and undying sense of humor. As fatigue would overcome delegates toward the conclusion of GMWA activities, Hobbs would announce from the lectern that it was okay to sleep in place, “as long as you sleep dignified!” During a photo shoot one year, he began to sing, “Smile…while you still have your teeth!”
Al “The Bishop” Hobbs was a man with many talents and could keep a meeting running like few others. He was synonymous with the Gospel Announcers Guild and worked all hours of the day and night to make it a success. I enjoyed talking with him at the GAG workshops and when he would come to the Chicago Area GAG events in Chicago. Bless you, Al, as you enter the Golden Gates in glory.