march 2011


Gospel News & Notes


The Search for Blind Willie Johnson and The Texas Gospel Searches For Funding

Shane Ford has informed The Black Gospel Blog of a Kickstarter campaign to fund The Search for "Blind" Willie Johnson and the Texas Gospel, a documentary that will explore Texas gospel music and its antecedents.

According to the film's Kickstarter page: "The goal of this documentary will be to explore the social and cultural significance of gospel music within the state of Texas. Presented from the view of historians, professors, and the current participants in the churches, we will seek to flesh out the idea of what gospel music has meant to Texas and the world of music in general."

Blind Willie Johnson, 'Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground'

Shane adds: "We will seek to understand the spirituals, tracing them from their roots through the civil rights movement and to what these songs mean today. This is a subject that has slipped through the cracks of contemporary music history. Most of its historical participants and founders died penniless, persecuted, and in unmarked graves with little to no information known about them. Unlike the blues, most of the gospel songs and performers have been relegated to obscurity."

Featured artists to be examined in this documentary include Blind Willie Johnson, Arizona Dranes, Washington Phillips and the Soul Stirrers.

The documentary is in its early stages and the producers are seeking financial backing. The project will be funded only if at least $7,000 is pledged by Wednesday, June 8, at 3:07 p.m. EDT. Learn more here: Texas Gospel. Consider giving a little something something to help these guys out!



Tornado Flattens Malaco Records Complex In Missisissippi;

Owners Uncertain About Rebuilding; Master Tapes Lost

A piece of Mississippi history and American music history both was virtually blown away by the destructive storms that tore through the state on April 15. When the twister subsided, the legendary Malaco Records complex was reduced to rubble, including the room that housed the master tapes chronicling decades of recording by giants on the order of Little Milton, Bobby Blue Bland and ZZ Hill. In the three-building compound, one building was a total loss, the other two were reduced to less than half of their original size. The 15 employees who were inside the buildings when the storm hit were unharmed. Label co-founder Wolf Stephenson, who started the company with his partner Tommy Crouch when both were college students booking bands for fraternity dances at the University of Mississippi, has indicated he is uncertain whether to rebuild after 44 years in the business. A local radio station reported that "record keeping and royalty offices looked like they had been struck by a wrecking ball."

The April 15 tornado that hit Jackson, MS, and destroyed most of the Malaco Records complex

It was three years ago in April that Malaco Records was honored with an official marker recognizing it as a Jackson landmark along the Mississippi Blues Trail. The marker is now the most dramatic physical evidence that Malaco once existed. The company was founded in 1962 and moved to Northside Drive, where the tornado did most of its damage, in 1967.

Bobby Blue Bland sings one of his great Malaco records, 'Members Only,' live in St. Louis

 "We started seeing limbs and debris flying through the air and decided we better take cover," Stephenson said. "The ladies that were in there went up to the front of the coffee room in the front of it and made it through okay. We were lucky." Stephenson says the warehouse can probably be saved. As for the rest of Malaco Records: "Well, the buildings are old. It's a real tricky question as to whether or not it's worth rebuilding," said Stephenson.

"Well, it's a very sad feeling to see 44 years of work; 44 years of my life out here gone in 15 seconds," Stephenson said, "but we'll clean up; come back to cry another day."

Malaco purchased the gospel division of Savoy Records in 1986, making it the number one African-American Gospel company in North America.

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024