Entries tagged with “The Bells Of Joy”.


Promoter Mr. James "Bo" GambleOn Friday, July 29, 2011, James “Bo” Gamble died in Florence, South Carolina. News of his passing was not picked up by AP, NBC, CNN, or any of the other major news outlets. You did not see his name posted as part of the In Memoriam scroll on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. Yet his passing was no less significant.

Why, you may ask? And who was James “Bo” Gamble?

Well, to many in the gospel music industry he was known as “Mr. Blockbuster.” He rightfully earned that title by promoting one of the largest attended gospel quartet concerts on the East Coast, if not in the entire country.

Each year, for over 30 years, he would bring together the best of the best gospel quartets to the Piedmont Region of South Carolina. The program in its infancy was held in Lake City, South Carolina. Because of the many top echelon quartet groups that were a part of the programs, the number of attendees quickly outgrew the Lake City venue. The program was in the later years moved to the Florence Civic Center. Each year fans of gospel quartet music would travel from outside the United States, from the West Coast, and from all points between the West and East Coasts to attend The Blockbuster Showdown.

It became an event that many fans of the genre planned their vacation around. Leave requests would be submitted to employers as soon as the date for the next Blockbuster became known. Fans would travel in buses (sponsored by their area radio station or local promoter), vans, airplanes and trains to attend this event. All because they knew James Gamble would present the best of the gospel quartet genre, all together, for one outstanding evening of gospel music. Fans knew if James Gamble said a particular group was on the program, they would be there. The gospel quartets jockeyed to be on the program. After all, it was The Blockbuster.

So it was no surprise that at his Home Going Services on Friday, August 5, 2011, in the small community of Coward, South Carolina, people showed up to pay their respects to this extraordinary Gospel Music Promoter. Groups like George Dean and The Gospel Four, Doc McKenzie & The Hi-lites, The Swanee Quintet, The Singing Angels, The Gospel Legends, members of The Brooklyn All-Stars, The Bells of Joy and Darrell McFadden & The Disciples attended the services. For many of these groups The Blockbuster has played a significant role in their success. They took the time to let Mr. Gamble’s family know just how much he was appreciated.

To the Family of James Gamble, know that we sincerely appreciate your sharing him with the gospel music industry. Yes, we grieve his passing. Yes, he will surely be missed. But know that he will never be forgotten. The Blockbuster Showdown will never, never, never be the same without him.

Rest In Peace Mr. Blockbuster.

The Fantastic Violinaires - Checker RecordsWhen thinking about Checker Records, the one group that epitomized the powerhouse position of the label during its zenith was THE VIOLINAIRES. The albums that Checker released on The Violinaires are some of the best vintage quartet gospel recordings ever.

Checker Records was actually owned by Chess Records. In 1947, brothers “Leonard and Philip Chess . . . entered into a partnership with Charles and Evelyn Aron in Aristocrat Records. The Arons had just formed Aristocrat Records to record blues, jazz and rhythm & blues.”

“In late 1949, Leonard and Phil Chess purchased the interests of the Arons and became the sole owners of Aristocrat Records. On June 3, 1950, they reorganized the company and changed its name to Chess Records.”

During the 1960’s, Checker released some of the most memorable gospel music by some of the legends of this genre. Some of the groups they recorded were The Bells Of Joy, The Original Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi, The Christland Singers, The Norfleet Brothers, The Harmonizing Four, Aretha Franklin, The Violinaires, The Soul Stirrers, The Meditation Singers, The Cleveland Golden Echos, Alex Bradford, The Salem Travelers and Ernest Franklin.

Checker’s contribution to this genre is immeasurable. Maybe all the gospel artists of Checker would have recorded even if there was not Checker. However, one cannot imagine that the ‘sound’ would have been as rich and lasting without Checker.

Peacock RecordsBefore there was Nashboro Records (see June 10, 2010, posting below), there was Peacock Records. Peacock Records was founded in 1949 by Don D. Robey. The label was based in Houston, Texas.

The label scored a monster hit in 1951 with The Bells of Joy’s “Let’s Talk About Jesus.” It is reported that the song was a “million-seller single.”

Peacock also was the home of The Sensational Nightingales, The Loving Sisters, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Pilgrim Jubilee Singers, The Gospelaires, The Brooklyn All Stars, The Highway QC’s, The Spirit of Memphis, and The Mighty Clouds of Joy, and many, many, many more. Some of the groups that recorded for Peacock are still active today. You recognize some of them from the names listed.

Many of the gospel recordings by Peacock are still being aired today. This is another label whose recordings are now collectors’ items.

A significant portion of the history of traditional quartet gospel music certainly was ‘pressed’ in Houston, Texas. To know (and appreciate) Peacock’s contribution to this genre is to know the music of some of the Kings and Queens of this genre.