Various – Spreading The Word: Early Gospel Recordings – 4CD


SKU: JSP 77214 - 4CD Categories: ,


The instruction was quite clear; it appears in Psalm 81: “make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob”, and African Americans took it to heart. Timbrels and tabrets, the recommended devices, being hard to locate in the United States of the Twentieth Century, they resorted to more readily acquired instruments such as the guitar and the piano to ensure that, even when singing of hellfire and damnation, the ‘noise’ that they made fitted the prescribed description. 

Selected sides from a vital American musical tradition. Fully annotated and fully remastered.
Washington Phillips, Rev ‘Shy’ Moore, Arizona Dranes, Bessie Johnson, Luther Magby, Prof Johnson and many more.

105 cuts on 4 CDs.

Track Listing:

CD 1:
Arizona Dranes: 1. In That Day -   2. It’s All Right Now -   3. John Said He Saw A Number -   4. My Soul Is A Witness For The Lord -   5. Crucifixion -   6. Sweet Heaven Is My Home -   7. Bye And Bye We’re Going To See The King -   8. I’m Going Home On The Morning Train -   9. Lambs Blood Has Washed Me Clean -   10. I’m Glad My Lord Saved Me With -   11. I Shall Wear A Crown -   12. God's Got A Crown -   13. He Is My Story -   14. Just Look -   15. I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go -   16. Don't You Want To Go? -   Sister Mary M. Nelson: 17. The Royal Telephone -   18. Judgement -   19. The Seal Of God -   20. Isaiah -   Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers: 21. Thou Carest Lord For Me -   22. Jesus Throwed Up A Highway For Me -   23. Sinner, l’d Make A Change -   24. When I Get Inside The Gate -   Louisville Sanctified Singers: 25. God Give Me A Light -   26. So Glad I’m Here -

CD 2
Washington Phillips: 1. Mother’s Last Words To Her Son -   2. Take Your Burden To The Lord And Leave It There -   3. Paul And Silas In Jail -   4. Lift Him Up That’s All -   5. Denomination Blues:One -   6. Denomination Blues:Two -   7. I Am Born To Preach The Gospel -   8. Train Your Child -   9. Jesus Is My Friend -   10. What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? -   11. A Mother’s Last Words To Her Daughter -   12. I’ve Got The Key To The Kingdom -   13. You Can’t Stop A Tattler:1 -   14. You Can’t Stop A Tattler:2 -   15. I Had A Good Father And Mother -   16. The Church Need Good Deacons -   Bessie Johnson: 17. No Room At The Hotel -   18. Key To The Kingdom -   19. One Day -   20. The Whole World In His Hand -   21. The Great Reaping Day -   22. He Got Better Things For You -   Bro. Williams Memphis Sanctified Singers: 23. He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands -   24. I Will Meet You At The Station -   Texas Jubilee Singers: 25. He’s The Lily Of The Valley -   26. He’s Coming Soon -

CD 3: 
Elder Richard Bryant: 1. The Master Came And Called Me -   2. Saul, A Wicked Man -   3. Come Over Here -   4. How Much I Owe For Love Divine -   5. Lord, Lord, He Sure Is Good To Me -   6. Watch Ye Therefore,You Know Not The Day -   7. A Lie Was Told But God Know’d It -   8. A Wild Man In Town -   9. He Shut The Lion’s Mouth -   10. Everybody Was There -   Luther Magby: 11. Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit -   12. Jesus Is Getting Us Ready For The Great Day -   Rev. Johnny Blakey: 13. King Of Kings -   14. Jesus Was Here On Business -   15. Warming By The Devil’s Fire -   16. The Devil Is Loose In The World   -   Southern Sanctified Singers: 17. Soon We’ll Gather At The River -   18. Where He Leads Me I Will Follow -   Prof. Johnson & His Gospel Singers: 19. Where Shall I Be -   20. Give Me That Old Time Religion -   21. Angels -   22. Standing In The Safety Zone -   Sister Lottie Peavy: 23. When I Move To The Sky -   24. Nobody’s Fault But Mine -   Rev. E.S. ‘Shy’ Moore: 25. Christ, The Teacher -   26. The Solemn Warning -

CD 4:
McIntorsh & Edwards
: 1. What Kind Of Man Jesus Is -   2. Since I Laid My Burden Down -   3. The 1927 Flood -   4. The Latter Rain Is Fall -   5. Take A Stand -   6. Behold! A King Shall Rise -   Jessie May Hill: 7. Earth Is No Resting Place -   8. The Crucifixion Of Christ   - 9. God Rode In The Windstorm -   10. Untitled -   11. This World Is Not My Home -   12. Sunshine In The Shadows -   13. I’m Going To Lift Up A Standard For My King -   Goldoa Haynes: 14. Traveling -   15. The Great Judgement Day -   16. Oh Lord, How Long? -   17. There’s A Hand Leading Me -   18. I’m Going To Hold On -   19. The Truth In The Gospel -   Laura Henton: 20. He’s Coming Soon -   21. Heavenly Sunshine -   22. Lord, You’ve Sure Been Good To Me -   23. I Can Tell The World About This -   24. Plenty Good Room In My Father’s Kingdom -   25. Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes -   Rev. Joe Lenley: 26. Let Us Therefore Come -   27. Lord Who Shall Abide In Thy Tabernacle -

Sleeve Notes:
The guitar, being easily portable, was the favoured instrument of street corner evangelists and separate collections are available on JSP dedicated to their work; what this collection concentrates on is performances more closely associated with churches, performances sometimes backed up by a congregation and featuring a range of instruments from the instantly recognizable to the downright mysterious. 

The last mentioned is that heard on the recordings of Washington Phillips; the argument over just what it is has occupied gospel scholars for years, some favouring the hammered dulcimer, while others plump for the ‘dulceola’ recalled by a member of the team that recorded him, others still, a style of zither, or possibly a homemade instrument. The only known photograph of Phillips contemporary with his recording activities shows him with two zithers. 

After much experimentation, some researchers are now convinced that, despite the photograph, the instrument used on the recordings was actually a Dolceola, a hybrid invented in 1902 by combining a zither with a keyboard similar to that of a piano. Whatever it is, the sound it produced, delicate, almost ethereal, is unique in the arena of black sanctified music. To match it Phillips employed a wistful tone in his almost conversation-like singing voice as he praised his God, railed against the evils he saw around him and gently chided the churches for not combining to combat them.

Phillips was born in Texas in 1880, or, if you prefer it, 1892; the name George Washington Phillips being common enough to almost defy research. He died, still in Texas, after a fall in 1954. It seems that Philips, like the many ‘sanctified’ guitarists, took his own ministry to the streets, although he was a member of a Baptist church. However, as evidenced by his Denomination Blues, he was tolerant of other sects and seems to have found time to both preach and perform as part of a COGIC – the Church Of God In Christ – congregation.

COGIC - the Church Of God In Christ - was a Pentecostal church founded by Bishop C.H. Mason and C.P. Jones either in Lexington, Mississippi, in 1895 or Memphis in 1897 (depending on what you read) and associated with the famed ‘revival’ staged in Azuza Street, Los Angeles, in 1906. 

Around this time Jones split with Mason to form his own Holiness Church, leaving Mason to direct COGIC alone. This was a church wholly dedicated to the ‘joyful noise’, which encouraged every form of extreme expression, from hand clapping to glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and ‘falling out’, their services being renowned (and in some areas condemned) for the fervour and passion of their participants. The use of all and every type of musical instrument was also encouraged. 

Nobody exemplifies this fullblooded commitment to raftershaking musical outpourings than Arizona Dranes. Another Texan, the blind Arizona Juanita Dranes was born in 1984 and became the first piano playing gospel artist to cut a record when she travelled to Chicago to record six sides for OKeh, at $25 each, in 1926. Although she never achieved, or probably even sought, much fame outside the COGIC circle she was an inspiration to many who came after her. During the thirties Dranes moved to Memphis, where COGIC had its headquarters and later relocated in South Central Los Angeles, where she died at the age of 69. Apart from working under her own name Dranes accompanied other artists and it is almost certainly her piano playing heard supporting Rev. Joe Lenley and the Texas Jubilee Singers on various recordings included in this set.

Memphis, the site of COGIC’s annual convention, was also renowned for its jug bands, particularly the Memphis Jug Band and Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers, so it was the obvious place for ‘sanctified’ jug bands to make their appearance. Among them we find the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers, a group which probably included members of the Memphis Jug Band in its back up. 

The sometimes rasping but always forceful and committed voice standing out on these tracks probably belongs to Bessie Johnson. Not much is known about Johnson apart from the fact that she epitomises what music was all about in COGIC churches: involvement. She recorded with her own group in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929 and with her Memphis Sanctified Singers back in Tennessee later the same year. She had also been present in Chicago the previous year assisting the Rev. Johnny Blakey on his four tracks and Elders Mcintorsh and Edwards on their six.

Keith Briggs 

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