“The Birth of Gospel” Airs on WTTW May 6

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

CHICAGOMarch 8, 2022 – The Pillsbury Dough Boy. The Iroquois Theatre. Mayor Jane Byrne. The Father of Gospel. These iconic people, places, and things each have fascinating stories behind them. On Friday, April 1 at 8:00 pm on all platforms, WTTW will premiere a new season of CHICAGO STORIES, the only weekly documentary program dedicated to uncovering the sweeping history, rich diversity, and breadth of human experience that shaped this great American city.

Each of the six new stories profiles a person or event that shaped Chicago, including the city’s first female mayor, Jane Byrne, who left an indelible mark on the city; the dramatic stories of two “downtown disasters” – a devastating theater fire and a mysterious underground flood; the creative genius of some of the city’s advertising legends; Chicago’s Union Stockyards, which revolutionized meatpacking in America; a Mexican-American parish that suffered great losses during the Vietnam War and the disillusionment that followed; and Chicago’s role as the birthplace of gospel music, through the story of its creator.

May 6, 8:00 pm Central Time
The Birth of Gospel (dir. Stacy Robinson, assoc. producer, Mizani Ball)
This episode of Chicago Stories traces the birth and growth of gospel music in Chicago in the 1930s. The story follows “The Father of Gospel”, Thomas A. Dorsey, who wrote one of gospel’s early hits while coping with his grief over the death of his wife and child. It explores the roots of gospel from southern spirituals during slavery, through gospel’s early years, using rare historic recordings and contemporary performances from the choirs of Trinity United Church of Christ and Greater Harvest Baptist Church.

The hour-long program includes:
– The debut of the first gospel choirs at Ebenezer Baptist Church & Pilgrim Baptist Church
– How Thomas Dorsey went on to write one of gospel’s early hits “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” while coping with the death of his wife and child
– Mahalia Jackson’s friendship with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
– Rare historic gospel recordings & contemporary performances

“These stories are quintessential Chicago,” said Executive Producer Dan Protess. “From Jane Byrne’s epic battle to unseat the political machine, to Black migrants from the South creating a new kind of music, to a heroic Mexican-American parish standing up for what it believes in, these six episodes are deep dives into gripping, true stories you will only find in this city.”

“The CHICAGO STORIES series is a cornerstone of our mission to produce and present trusted, best-in-class content fueled by a distinctly Chicago sensibility,” said WTTW President & CEO Sandra Cordova Micek. “These iconic stories take us back to key moments in Chicago’s history, and provide historical context and understanding of the parallels to the critical issues in our community today.”

The companion website (wttw.com/chicagostories) will feature the six new stories with original content including a feature on Jane Byrne’s rise to power, an animated video explainer of Chicago’s tunnel system that caused the 1992 Loop flood, exclusive video of three gospel performances by Trinity UCC Choir, and much more.

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.