Beverly Crawford: ‘Live in Los Angeles, Vol. 1 was a dream come true for me. The opportunity to do it again was a double blessing.’
Dreams Do Come True, Twice Over
Beverly Crawford revisits Los Angeles and comes away with another powerhouse live gospel album
By Bob Marovich
Imagine the scene, if you will...
You are in Florida, out in the country. A mother is busy hanging the family’s clothes on the line to dry. Her young daughter is singing in the yard, the grass her captive audience, leaves swaying in the spirit.
Unbeknownst to the young singer, she has another fan who is not a blade of grass. The lady who lives across the street is also listening eagerly.
Years later, the girl recalls, “I didn’t even know that she was watching me from across the street, or that my voice could even carry that far!”
“Little Beverly” grew up to become powerhouse gospel singer Beverly Crawford, who in 2008 was named by beauty lifestyle magazine Shereese as one gospel’s 20 Most Beautiful Artists. More to the point, her new album, Live in Los Angeles, Vol. 2,, released in mid-September, is currently on Billboard’s top gospel album charts. The debut single, “It’s About Time for a Miracle,” is burning up radio.
“I was brought up on gospel,” the Gainesville, Florida singer said by phone recently while touring Texas. “My father was an evangelist and pastor, and he also sang in a quartet. My mom sang in a quartet. In Florida, quartets and choirs were very popular. So singing and gospel have been a part of me all my life.”
Crawford’s father, Bishop Walter Camps, Sr., founded what is now known as Holy Temple of God, Inc. Crawford recalls his quartet’s name as “Walter Camps and His Singers.” They made one 45 rpm record.
Beverly sang first with her family group, the Camps Sisters. “One brother played lead guitar and my other brother played the drums,” she said. “Friends from church played bass and keyboard. All five [Camps] sisters did the singing. This was during the ‘70s and early ‘80s.”
Like their father’s group, the Camps Sisters made a recording.
“It was a cassette!” she laughed. “We went to a local studio in Gainesville and we recorded it there, on our own independent label. I think we still have a few copies lying around somewhere!”
Crawford cites Shirley Caesar, Tramaine Hawkins, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, and Patti Labelle as some of her vocal influences. “There are so many great singers out there who I learned from, just by listening to their vocal techniques. That’s how I really learned how to sing and perform.”
‘I watched Shirley Caesar on stage,’ Beverly Crawford says of her main inspiration, ‘and I’ve patterned myself after her.'
Caesar remains her chief inspiration. “When I was a little girl, my mom used to take me to the gospel concerts. I watched Shirley Caesar on stage, and I think I’ve patterned myself after her, more than anybody else.”
The Live in Los Angeles CDs have been a dream come true for the singer.
“It was always a dream of mine to record in Los Angeles,” Crawford commented. “I was always there visiting churches and doing concerts, but I never thought I’d get the opportunity to record there. So Live in Los Angeles, Vol. 1 was a dream come true for me. The opportunity to do it again was a double blessing.”
Regarding the second volume, Crawford admits, “We didn’t know we wanted to do a volume two. James Roberson of JDI Records and I just knew we wanted to record again. We recorded at the same church, Bishop [Kenneth] Ulmer's church, Faithful Central. Bishop is definitely a good friend of ours and he said yes.
“We didn’t have a title [for the CD] at first. After we did the recording, it just made sense to call it Live from Los Angeles, Vol. 2, because that is where we made it.”
Rather than replicate note for note the formula of the first volume, Crawford and Roberson did some things differently. For example, the vocalists who back Crawford on the new project are Tim Bishop Brown and Miracle Mass Choir. “They have strong voices,” Crawford noted, “and Tim is the one who wrote the song, ‘He’s Done Enough,’ that made Volume One very popular.”
Beverly Crawford performs ‘Marvelous’ at the 2001 Soul Winners Conference. On Live In Los Angeles, Vol. 2, Ms. Crawford performs the song as a duet with Shirley Murdock.
Another dream come true for Crawford was the chance to sing with Shirley Murdock.
“Shirley and I are good friends…she is my sister! I always wanted to meet her and had the opportunity to do so when I was on Bishop Jakes’ record label [Dexterity]. She was on the same label, and so we met and we have been friends ever since.” Murdock flew out to Los Angeles and is featured on "Marvelous" and "Everything Will be Alright."
Crawford’s daughter Trina and son Todd Jr. also make appearances. An especially poignant portion of the live program is Trina's solo performance of “I Need a Word,” a gentle song about selfless prayer.
“Trina wrote the song ten years ago, when she was very young,” Crawford explained. “She was going through some things at the time, and it's her song, so it was fitting that she sing it.” "I Need a Word" has already generated some well-deserved media buzz for Trina.
While Crawford tours in support of her new live CD, she has a couple of other projects on the front burner. One is Choo Choo, a sermon recording.
“A lot of people don’t know that I’ve been evangelizing for a long time,” Crawford laughed. “Even before I went on Bobby Jones Gospel, I was an evangelist for my father’s church. I do a lot of speaking engagements, and I was talking to James [Roberson] about putting my recorded sermons out nationally. Now people can hear another side of me, the spoken word.
‘I was brought up on gospel,’ says the native Floridian. ‘My father was an evangelist and pastor, and he also sang in a quartet. My mom sang in a quartet. In Florida, quartets and choirs were very popular. So singing and gospel have been a part of me all my life.’
A Christmas album is also in the works.
“We hope to get the album out this December,” Crawford said. “If not, it will definitely be ready for next Christmas, but we’re hoping we can get it out in time for this one.”
And Live from Los Angeles, Vol. 2 the DVD? “We’re definitely praying for that. We hope to get really good sales on this album so we can release the DVD.”
So remember: the next time you hear a young girl singing in the yard, you may be hearing the next Beverly Crawford. And be careful not to step on the grass: it's enjoying the music, too.
Gospel music historian and writer, record collector, founder/editor of The Black Gospel Blog, and host of WLUW's (Chicago) "Gospel Memories" since May 2001, he has been working on a comprehensive history of the first fifty years of gospel music in Chicago.