Gospel Roundup > The Hot 100
Yolanda Adams earned a Dove nomination for Contemporary Gospel Album (Becoming) and to show her tremendous staying power, she ranked number ten on the list of top selling gospel artists last year (2013), without a Top 25 hit. A fashion maven, Adams also spent a great deal of her time last year, showcasing her fashion collection, The Yolanda Adams Collection. “More church, more business, more elegant,” says the Grammy winning gospel recording artist says of the knitwear line—ranging in size from 4 to 26. The five-time Grammy award winner was discovered by the late Thomas Whitfield while singing lead vocals with the Southeast Inspirational Choir. Her 1987 solo debut, Just As I Am, topped the gospel charts and she has released nine albums since, including such classic hits as “The Battle Is The Lord’s.” Her biggest selling album, 1999’s Mountain High…Valley Low, topped Billboard’s gospel and Christian charts for nearly a year, featuring the hit single, “Open My Heart,” which she co-wrote. The famed 51-year-old mother of one authored her first book, Points of Power in 2010 and launched her own label, N-House Music Group in 2011. Daily, she plays host to the Yolanda Adams Morning Show, which airs in over 40 markets including six of the top 10 and 14 of the top 20 African American markets including New York, Atlanta, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Houston.
This 59-year old singer has done it all: Broadway (Don’t Get God Started), TV (cameo role in The Women of Brewster Place) and 15 albums, including her 2012 release, Timeless, the recording of which led to her being named Traditional Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2013 Stellar Awards. The seven-time Grammy nominee and Detroit native who started singing in church at the age of four, performed with her sisters (The Bell Sisters) before coming to the attention of Thomas Whitfield. A debut album, Peace Be Still, in 1983 also became her signature song. Known for her riffs, the mother of five also sang the theme song for the NBC sitcom, Amen (1986-1991).
America first noticed gospel diva Vickie Winans’ nephew Tim Bowman Jr. when he scatted on the vamp of her 2009 Top 10 radio smash, “How I Got Over.” However, the gifted 22-year old Wayne State University pharmacy student, whose vocal influences range from gospel artists to Coldplay, Michael Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald, is no longer singing background. Bowman is putting the finishing touches on debut CD, Beautiful. Family friend, Dorinda Clark Cole of the legendary Clark Sisters, joins Bowman on the funky “Sunday Mornin.” Vickie Winans jazzes up the mid-tempo, “He Will”—the album’s first single, which peaked at #20 on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart. The CD debuted on the charts at #8.
Detroit native Lisa Page Brooks broke Marvin Sapp’s nearly seven month chokehold on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart in 2010 with her #1 smash “I Want To Thank You” from her comeback CD, Strong. Just one of many feats in a career that has seen Brooks perform for a sitting President, earn a Grammy nomination and Stellar Award, tour the world in the late 80’s with the gospel female quartet Witness and star in several touring stage productions. Brooks—who is married to former Commissioned member turned preacher, Michael Brooks— has a new CD, Better Than Life, scheduled for release this Spring. Offstage, she serves as co-pastor of the Detroit-based Restoration Fellowship Church International.
A prolific songwriter (responsible for penning Maurette Brown-Clark’s number 1 hit “It Ain’t Over”), Anthony Brown moved to the gospel forefront with his singing group, group TherAPy, thanks in part to Vashawn Mitchell who partnered with Tyscot to get the record made. Besides songwriting, the music prodigy who began playing the piano at 3, also lent his talents to praise and worship leader, Stephen Hurd’s 2009 Grammy-™ and Stellar-nominated CD, Time Of Refreshing. He has also produced vocals for the likes of Myron Butler and Donald Lawrence. Brown currently serves as Assistant Minister of Music at First Baptist Church of Glen Arden. Anthony Brown celebrated his first top ten release with their debut CD which bowed at #3 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart.
With the release of her first single off her fourth solo album, The Sound of Victory, award-winning gospel singer Maurette Brown Clark claimed her third Top 5 single (following her #1 singles “One God” and “It Ain’t Over (Until God Says It’s Over).” The CD also earned the Long Island, New York native—dubbed “The Princess of Praise & Worship”—a Stellar Award nomination. The University of Maryland accounting graduate grew up performing with her family, the Brown Singers, before joining the Richard Smallwood Singers, with whom she still sings today. She is committed to expanding boundaries and uplifting others in faith as a singer, songwriter, musician, producer, wife and mother. Daughter Jada, who won a Stellar award in 2008, is following in her footsteps.
Things have sure changed for St. Louis-native Amber Bullock who slept on the floor of a co-worker’s house and eventually had to send her then two-year-old daughter to live with her father before auditioning and subsequently winning the 2011 installment of BET’s hit gospel singing competition, Sunday Best. A 2011 EP, Thank You, landed her at number one on Billboard’s Gospel Albums Chart. A full length CD, So In Love, followed last summer and debuted at #3 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums Chart. Through studying classical vocal performance, Bullock signature gospel style is jazz-infused and neo-soul inspired. A former member of the Baltimore, Maryland-based gospel choir Changed, Bullock performed with Myron Butler & Levi, Troy Sneed and Youth for Christ before “Sunday Best.”
A Grammy nominee and three-time Stellar Award winner, Kim Burrell has attracted a worldwide, cross-genre fan base with her distinct alto vocals and her empowering messages of faith and healing. Her 20-plus year career includes five albums, the most recent of which, The Love Album (2011), garnered a Dove Award and two Stellar Awards. Burrell characterizes what she does as “jazz gospel.” Outside of gospel, she’s worked with Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Sean Combs, Chaka Khan and Harry Connick, Jr., while collaborating with the late Whitney Houston, with whom she shared a special friendship. Last year, the pianist/singer signed with Arrow Records. A CD is slated for release in May. The 40-year Houston native, who survived two heart attacks, serves as pastor of Love & Liberty Fellowship Church.
Known for hits such as “Falling In Love With Jesus,” Grammy nominated recording artist Jonathan Butler has sold more than 1.8 million albums worldwide including more than 330,000 Gospel CDs, including Grace and Mercy, which was released last year. Grace and Mercy features 11 original songs with music and lyrics penned by Butler. The first single from Butler’s self-produced CD, I Stand On Your Word, landed on the Gospel New & Active radio chart. The lyrics, which he co-wrote with Kurt Lykes, were inspired by Butler’s experience leading worship in church. Born and raised in Cape Town during Apartheid, Jonathan Butler started singing and playing acoustic guitar as a child.
As the founder and creative force behind the 30-member ensemble Myron Butler & Levi, Myron Butler developed a reputation as an artist unafraid to push the creative envelope and become known for hits like “Set Me Free” and “Stronger.” With Worship, the critically and commercially acclaimed ensemble leader, songwriter, producer, and vocalist, reveals the role for which he was born—worship leader. The CD earned Butler his highest chart debut thus far bowing at #4 on Billboard’s Gospel Music Charts. For the past four years, Butler has served as Minister of Music at The Potter’s House under Bishop T.D. Jakes. The married father of two, who once studied psychology at Morehouse, also serves as vocal director on Marvin Sapp’s recordings.
Anthems like “There Is a Name,” “Psalm 3” and “The Presence of the Lord Is Here” catapulted this gifted worship leader to front and center on gospel’s praise and worship scene. Named “Male Vocalist of the Year” at the 2011 Stellar Awards, Byron Cage received two Stellar Award nominations for his 2012 release Memoirs of a Worshipper, which charted on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart. This marks the eighth CD for the Grammy-nominated artist who first topped the charts in 2003 with a self-titled debut that scored five Stellar Awards and a Soul Train Award. A Morehouse graduate and avid health enthusiast, Cage currently serves as Minister of Music at The Saint Paul’s Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.
The new year is off to a bright start for Gospel artist Kurt Carr, who released his 7th CD project–Bless This House, received the coveted James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award at the 28th Annual Stellar Awards, and was honored with a prestigious BMI Trailblazer award. After graduating from college and experiencing several mentorships with Gospel greats Richard Smallwood and Reverend James Cleveland, Carr—who was actally born “Kirk” (after the actor Kirk Douglass) put together his own ensemble, The Kurt Carr Singers, and released his debut album Together in 1991. Today, the Grammy-nominated singer and choirmaster is best known for his trademark brand of Sunday morning choir fare, including such standards as “In the Sanctuary” and “The Presence of the Lord Is Here.”
Isaac Carree started 2013 with a new manager, new label deal, five Stellar Award nominations (winning for Producer of the Year), and a sophomore CD, set for release later this year. A talented vocalist, songwriter and producer, Carree gained acclaim with the contemporary gospel ensemble Men of Standard, releasing five successful albums over a 15-year period and earning two Stellar Awards. In 2011, Isaac released his solo project, Uncommon Me, debuting at #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart and featuring the #1 radio single “In the Middle,” which topped the Gospel Singles chart eight weeks in a row. The married father of three got his start at 16 performing lead vocals with John P. Kee’s New Life Community Choir.
Dubbed “the Rose of Gospel,” this church girl turned seasoned evangelist is a three-time Grammy winner with over 20 CDs (both solo and with The Clark Sisters) and such hit singles as “Take It Back.” The second youngest of the sisters, Dorinda Clark Cole attributes her convicting singing style to her mother, Mattie Moss-Clark. Offstage, she hosts TCT Network’s Dorinda Show and the syndicated radio show, Serving Up Soul With Dorinda Clark Cole and most recently a fashion line, the “Rose Collection.” The happily married mother of two—and grandmother— who made history in South Africa as the first woman to minister from a pulpit to over 4,000 people, serves as CEO of Lifeline Productions, which hosts an annual Singers & Musicians Conference.
Expect to see more of Karen Clark-Sheard in 2013 thanks to a new CD and a reality TV show picked up by BET which began shooting last fall. Sheard, who is married to Bishop J. Drew Sheard (Greater Emmanuel Institutional C.O.G.I.C.), is also launching her first annual first ladies summit in Virginia Beach this fall. The youngest of the Clark Sisters, Sheard is a four-time Grammy winner who—with her famous sisters— helped redefine contemporary gospel music while enjoying more than a dozen hit albums and chart-topping singles. Solo success came with songs like “Balm in Gilead”. The businesswoman/owner of Karew Records beat the odds after surviving a hernia that left her in a coma. The mother of contemporary gospel singer and actress Kierra “Kiki” Sheard, is also a stage and screen actress.
At the forefront of gospel artists promising to deliver great things in this coming year is the Atlanta-based singer Tasha Cobbs. Her remake of the Jesus Culture hit, “Break Every Chain” (from the CD, Grace) thrust her into the gospel spotlight. Released as a digital single in November, her rendition was the #1 most downloaded Christian song. Her CD, Grace, debuted at #2. Growing up in a family with a talent for music, no one in her family thought she’d be the one to become a singer. She’d always been the one directing the choir, not leading it. “I want people to experience an authentic presence of God, and I believe that’s what’s coming back in 2013.”
His 2012 CD, The Introduction, which debuted at #2 on the gospel charts and earned him a Stellar nomination, but it’s hardly the first time anyone’s hearing from the Houston native who was a drug dealer before he recommitted himself to Christ. His vocals provided some of the octane that fueled the success of James Fortune’s biggest hits including “I Believe” and “The Blood” while he teamed with John P. Kee for “One More Time.” Both are featured on his debut CD along with Lalah Hathaway, Isaac Carree and Kierra Sheard. He began his career singing with his family, The Cortez Singers, and recording with his musical godfather, John P. Kee. He joined up with Fortune in 2008 with the release of the Transformation.
This gospel fan favorite got her start with Bobby Jones and counts among her biggest fans President Barack Obama and Ocho Cinco. The Gainesville, Fla. native who serves as co-pastor of the Gainesville Family Life Center began singing with her sisters (The Camps Sisters). She performed six years with Bobby Jones and recorded with Bishop T.D. Jakes before breaking out in 2007 with her signature #1 hit, “He’s Done Enough,” which dominated Billboard’s gospel charts for over 70 weeks and garnered seven Stellar Award nods. Crawford, who has 7 CDs to her credit made her performing debut at the age of three singing at her father’s church, teamed with Marvin Sapp for a track on Kirk Franklin’s Hello Fear CD, “The Altar.”
Verity Records is also banking on second season runner up Latice Crawford to stir things up with her forthcoming debut and for good reason too. A storefront preacher’s daughter born and raised in Queens, New York, Crawford got her start singing in her cousin’s choir. Donald Lawrence said, “Latice’s strength’s are not only is she an amazing singer, but she has great depth to her,” said Donald Lawrence of the singer who secured the number three spot in the series’ final round during it’s second season run and the heart of fellow finalist contestant Jeff Spain. The two— currently engaged to be married—both star in CentricTV’s newest love-story series Almost Married, which premiered December 8, 2012. A CD is due in July.
Recording artist, choral-master and gospel music historian, Dillard—credited by many as being one of the most influential choir directors in contemporary gospel—is one of the reasons Chicago remains at the center of the gospel universe. Dillard, known for his flamboyant, energetic style and hits such as “One More Chance” and “The Light,” was directing the junior choir when he was five and in 1984, joined the Thompson Community Singers. He released a dance album in 1989, but embraced God’s calling on his life and founded his choir, New G, which along with Dillard was featured in the 1992 film, Leap of Faith. Dillard, who is celebrating his 25th year in the business, is set to record in April and release his 9th recording this summer.
This Brooklyn native is a much sought after guest soloist, who has made her mark as one of Kirk Franklin’s lead singers, but Anaysha Figueroa-Cooper will step into the forefront this year with the release of a debut CD that already has people talking. Figueroa-Cooper, the daughter of Bishop Eric R. Figueroa and younger sister of Kurt Carr vocalist Timiney Figueroa-Caton— has been singing since she could talk. Her resume includes childhood movie appearances (Life with Mikey), the off Broadway show Mama I Want To Sing and recording sessions (Alicia Keys, J.J. Hairston and Youthful Praise, Bishop T.D. Jakes, PJ Morton, James Fortune & FIYA. Her signature soprano can also be heard on background vocals for the hit BET TV gospel competition, Sunday Best.
Their 2012 CD Musical Revival debuted at #17 and while it didn’t have the commercial success of their debut CD, Get Ready, it scored them two Stellar Award nominations. The group finished the year on a high with a TV special, A forever JONES Holiday, featuring the Shreveport, Louisiana-based group preparing for and taking to the stage for a live performance. The seven member family ensemble, comprised of Dewitt and Kim Jones and their five children (D’Jeniele, Dominique, Dewitt, Judah, and Mya) aged 12-26, scored two Grammy nods and a Stellar Award for “Contemporary Group Duo of the Year” with their debut release, Get Ready. Reaching #3 on the charts, the album was among the highest debuts by a new artist.
James Fortune scored his first number one chart debut with the release of Identity which sold over 17,000 units its first week out. It was, however, his second CD, Grace Gift, that found a spot chart on the Billboard’s Gospel chart, which likely is part of the reason why Fortune was ranked #5 on Billboard’s Gospel Artist list. The album—which received two Grammy nominations (Best Gospel album/song) and two Stellar award nominations is the first under a new label imprint with eOne Entertainment. Guest vocalists included Kim Burrell, Fred Hammond, Le’Andria Johnson, R&B songbird, Monica and wife, Cheryl Fortune. The father of three’s breakthrough came in 2007 with the release of The Transformation, which held its #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Song charts for 29 consecutive weeks. His backup group, FIYA (Free in Yahweh’s Abundance) was an outreach of his youth ministry. Offstage, Fortune serves as choir director at Higher Dimension Church in Houston.
With three CDs in the top 20 last year—The Essential Kirk Franklin, Set List, and his 2011 CD, Hello Fear, Franklin who did not record anything last year, still flexed his muscle on the charts and in sales, ranking as #3 on the list of gospel’s biggest selling artist in 2012. The best-selling contemporary gospel artist in SoundScan history (over 15 million to date), Franklin was the first gospel artist to sell more than one million albums. His irresistible rhythms and rhapsodies have resulted in albums that consistently top both Billboard’s Gospel and Christian charts, as well as ascend in to the Top 10 of the mainstream R&B/Hip Hop chart. The father of four is also the host and executive producer of the gospel talent show “Sunday Best,” the highest-rated gospel program in BET history. To date, Franklin has garnered nine Grammy Awards, an American Music Award, 39 Stellar Awards, 16 Dove Awards (CCM), eight NAACP Image Awards, two BET Awards, a Soul Train Award, and numerous other accolades. Written and produced by Franklin, his 12th album Hello Fear debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Gospel sales chart and #5 on the Billboard Top-200 in 2010, making it the 4th highest gospel debut in SoundScan history. He is the author of two books, and while he doesn’t have a record slated for release this year, he is working on a CD for The Walls Group, a quartet of sibling he signed to his label, Fo Yo Soul Entertainment, last summer.
Since bowing in 2000, Deitrick Haddon has enjoyed a string of hits, including his 2011 CD, Church On The Moon, which debuted at #1 and was one of the top ten best-selling gospel CDs. In 2010, Haddon expanded into film with a straight to DVD, Blessed & Cursed. 2012 brought his first theatrical release, A Beautiful Soul. Its soundtrack also weighed in on the gospel charts in 2012. The 39-year old gospel singer wrote, directed and starred in the film, but the licensed preacher is not forfeiting his gospel career. A new CD, R.E.D. Restoring Everything Damaged, is in the works and he’s started a Los Angeles choir called LXW (League of Extraordinary Worshippers). A third film is also in the works for Haddon, who sadly divorced wife, Damita last year, but will remarry this year.
Prolific songwriter, choir director and praise leader JJ Hairston, and his 35-member choir, Youthful Praise scored their third top ten hit with the release of After This which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums Chart with sales that made it gospel’s tenth highest CD debut of the year and subsequently earning Hairston a Stellar award nomination for choir of the year. Featuring Bishop Hezekiah Walker and Tye Tribbett, the 2012 release marks Hairston’s first number 1 album. Hairston—who serves as minister of music at Triumph Church in Detroit— has written, produced and led the choir since its beginnings in 1992 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and the release of their first album in 2001. Their signature hit is “Awesome God.”
After charting with his indie CD, Trip Down Memory Lane, James Hall secured a distribution deal with eOne and skyrocketed to #6 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums charts. Hall, who plays piano by ear and began singing solos in church at five, earned two Stellar nominations for Trip Down Memory Lane, including Choir of the year. The classically trained son of a jazz musician, Hall—dubbed “The Professor”—rose to prominence in 1991 with the top ten hit, “God Is In Control” with Worship and Praise, the choir ensemble he founded in 1987. With his killer vibratos and two choirs, hall has remained at the forefront of New York’s choir scene. Among his 2013 projects is a reality show.
Fred Hammond was back at number one with the release of God, Love & Romance, gospel’s third highest CD debut of the year. The CD also brought a Grammy nomination and six Stellar award nominations including “Male Vocalist of the Year and was ranked as #5 on the list of gospel’s biggest selling artists in 2012. The single, “I Feel Good,” rose to #1 on the Gospel Songs chart. He also earned a nomination for “Hold On” (a track he co-wrote for James Fortune). Hammond got his start as one of the co-founders of Commissioned in 1985, recording ten albums with the sextet before forming Radical for Christ and recording five CDs. All total he has recorded 25 CDs, earning 13 Grammy nominations—and a win for Free to Worship, four Stellars and six Doves. Fred Hammond teams with Dave Holliston, R&B singer Eric Roberson and Brian Courtney Wilson for the release of the United Tenors CD in March.
Making her way onto the gospel charts in 2012 with her CD, Moving Forward, was Sunday Best Season 4 runner up, Andrea Helms. A miracle baby, doctors told her pregnant mother that she would be a vegetable and would never talk or walk. Boy, were they wrong as the only child and daughter of a preacher (also an accomplished musician) was a first chair soprano in the Texas All State Choir for three consecutive years while still in high school. Today, she and her husband Michael co-pastor her late father’s church, with Andrea also serving as minister of music. The Odessa, Texas native was featured in the Florida run of T.J. Hemphill’s play, Perilous Times II.
Donnie McClurkin characterized this Houston-native as “the next fresh sound” with a similar anointing to CeCe Winans, who co-incidentally guested on her 2011 debut project, Live Out Loud which earned Preashea Hilliard two Stellar Award nominations, including “New Artist of the Year.” The CD also featured her father, Bishop I.V. Hilliard, of the New Light Church. It debuted at # 4 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums Chart. Hilliard, affectionately known as Pastor P, serves as youth pastor at her dad’s church and strives to bridge ethnicities and generations in worship with her music. Hilliard is currently anticipating recording her sophomore album live May 24 at New Light Church North, where she also serves as creative director.
Israel Houghton is known by thousands as a worship leader at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. But since 1997 with the release of his debut CD, Whisper It Loud, Houghton has been performing his music for fans all over the world, racking up two gold albums, six Dove Awards, two Stellar Awards, a Soul Train Award and five Grammy Awards in the process. His latest CD, Jesus At The Center earned him his latest Grammy (Best Contemporary Christian song). The album peaked at #2 while a compilation—10: Decade 2002–2012— debuted at number 10. Houghton hit his best mark in three years on the Gospel Songs chart with “It’s Not Over” which features James Fortune and Jason Nelson.
Over the last decade, Stephen Hurd has distinguished himself as one of the leading voices in urban praise and worship music as his songs “Revelations 19:1,” and “Undignified” and “Lead Me To The Rock” are sung at faith gatherings across the nation. With his sixth CD, O That Men Would Worship (Hurd The Word Music), Hurd launched his Hurd The Word label with the mission of getting men of color to realize that worship is not a feminine sport. Hurd, who serves as Minister of music at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, recorded his first song, “Calvary,” with Rev. Donald Vails in 1993. The Brandywine, Maryland-bred psalmist studied music at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Howard University.
Powered by the success of their smash single, “Awesome,” Pastor Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago racked up eight Stellar award nominations—and five wins including song, CD and choir of the year—after shooting #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums Charts with their debut CD, The Best of Both Worlds and holding the top slot for three weeks. The single was #1 on the gospel songs charts for 12 weeks while entering at #1 as the Best Selling Christian/Gospel Song on Amazon. Jenkins, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter who penned “You’ve Been A Friend” for Israel Houghton as well as “Awesome,” is the senior pastor of Chicago’s historic Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Married with three children, he is the author Thriving in Change, 10 principles to help leaders navigate through the opportunities they face.
Named “Best New Artist” at the 2013 Stellar awards as well as “Contemporary female vocalist of the year, 2012 was a big year for Le’Andria Johnson who scored a Grammy nomination for her debut CD, The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson. What’s more, with the #3 debut of her third CD, The Experience, she became the first woman since Juanita Bynum (2007) to have three consecutive top 30 releases (The Evolution of Le’Andria Johnson; The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson and The Experience). Ranked as #6 on the list of gospel’s biggest selling artists in 2012, Johnson can also boast to having had two of the year’s top 15 selling CDs. The singer/songwriter and praise and worship leader began singing at the age of two in her father’s church. Twice divorced, the 28-year-old Florida native currently resides in Orlando with her three children.
A bad breakup and the loss of a job proved powerful inspiration for this gospel newbie whose debut—Transformed—earned her an impressive #13 debut on Billboard’s Gospel Albums Chart and a 2012 Stellar nomination for “Best new artist of the year.” The former lead background singer for Tye Tribbett and 2008 winner of KATZ Hallelujah’s 1600’s Praise Alive gospel competition, wrote all but one song on the CD. Jones got her start in church choirs in her native St. Louis. A stint as part of a local R&B girl group, 3 Shades of Black, yielded a single, “Addictive” that received regional airplay.
Grammy nominated, artist Sheri Jones-Moffett got off to a bright start in 2013 with the release of her new single, “Shine.” Jones-Moffett, the soul-stirring lead singer of the number one gospel song, “Encourage Yourself,” written by Donald Lawrence is positioned to pick up where her first album, Renewed left off. The new CD Power and Authority: Live in Memphis—produced by Myron Butler—was recorded in her hometown of Memphis. Formerly of Ted & Sheri, their debut CD, The Healing Starts Right There, earned her two Stellar Awards. A single from the duo’s second CD, “Celebrate,” charted top ten. The Memphis native got her first big break after joining Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers.
John P. Kee achieves his third #1 and first in a decade on Billboard’s Gospel Album charts as Life and Favor sold 11,000 copies its first week out. Kee, who has received 21 Stellar Award trophies, was honored with the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Stellar Awards for his career achievements, spanning three decades. Since the 80s, the 49-year old, Charlotte, N.C. pastor —dubbed “the Prince of Gospel” has shared his testimony through music with such classic hits as “Show Up.” A one-time drug offender, the Grammy-nominated singer performs with his award winning New Life Community Choir (which includes some of his nine children). Kee—who is featured on recent releases from Fred Hammond, Isaac Caree and Kirk Franklin—has written music for the Hawkins Family, Dorinda Clark Cole, Rev. James Cleveland, the Mississippi Mass Choir, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Hallmark, Inc.
Until last year, Deon Kipping was primarily known as a gifted songwriter who has written for Byron Cage, J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise, Rance Allen and Marvin Sapp, earning a ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award for “Praise Him In Advance,” which was recorded by Sapp. But in 2012, with the release of his sophomore CD, I Just Want To Hear From You, the Bridgeport, Connecticut native showcased his vocal talents, bowing in on Billboard’s Gospel Albums Chart at #6. Before releasing the solo CD, Kipping—who performs with the New Covenant ensemble— released a praise and worship CD, Real Life in 2011.
Her lead vocals have fueled the success of the Brown Singers, one of the hottest female quartets in gospel. The “queen of quartets,” formed in the late 1970s, earned three Stellar Award nominations for their Experience The Evolution release. With a new Brown Singers single rising on the billboard charts, the group’s new album, The Evolution Continues is due this spring. Singularly, Knowles has recorded with John P. Kee, JJ Hairston & Youthful Praise, Earnest Pugh and more. The Tennessee-based artist started out 2013 on the United As One tour headlined by James Fortune, Vashawn Mitchell, KiKi Sheard, and Zacardi Cortez where she earned the nickname “the Tina Turner of Gospel.” Currently at work on a solo album, Knowles anticipates the fall release of her new single.
2012 was another year of showcased versatility for producer/performer/songwriter and choir director extraordinaire Donald Lawrence. He earned a Grammy nomination (Gospel Song) for the track “Released” from the CD, Bill Winston & Living Word, while his own Your Righteous Mind CD continued its run on the charts earning five Stellar Award nominations. Lawrence—dubbed the “maestro of gospel,” also played a key role in the new CD marking the 20-year celebration of the Tri City Singers and is set to produce the follow up to Hezekiah Walker’s 2008 hit CD “Souled Out.” The face of the How Sweet the Sound national choir competition, Lawrence teaches music at a Chicago college. Raised in Gastonia, North Carolina, he is a self-taught pianist who graduated from the prestigious Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
Since signing with Akon’s new label KonLive in 2011, anticipation has been building for what will come next from 23-year old gospel sensation Mali Music. A CD, Mali Is, was slated for release in 2012, featuring his new single, “The Job Experience.” Born Kortney Jamaal Pollard, the recording artist had mastered the keyboard by age 5, and at 11 began ministering at his church, Faith on the Move Ministries in Savannah, Georgia where he is Minister of Music. The 23-year-old singer, composer and producer’s credits include scoring the soundtrack for the Savannah College of Art and Design film Linked and two gospel stage plays. He also co-starred in the movie, Blessed And Cursed, with Deitrick Haddon.
Tamela Mann scored her first Billboard chart topping debut with Best Days Yet, featuring the hit single, “Take Me To The King” which was written and produced by good friend Kirk Franklin, who is also featured. Mann’s 10 weeks atop Gospel Digital Songs is the most for any woman or female-led duo/group since the chart launched in 2010. The CD—which ranked as #4 on the year’s best selling gospel CDs—also scored her a Grammy nomination (Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance). The singer/actress also had a featured role alongside Whitney Houston in the film, Sparkle. The actress/singer, who starred as Cora Simmons on the hit TBS comedy, Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns—and has also starred in four Tyler Perry films including Madea Goes To Jail—has a forthcoming cooking show with husband David Mann. Married 22 years, they have four children.
Even if Erica and Tina Campbell are taking a break from recording together, it will likely do little to dim their star status as one of gospel’s hottest and best-selling acts. Ranking as #4 on the list of gospel’s biggest selling artists in 2012, the four-time Grammy award-winning gospel duo topped the list of Stellar Gospel Award nominations with a total of nine awards, taking home “group/Duo of the year,” “Contemporary CD,” and “Music Video Of The Year” for their 2012 CD, Go Get It, which spent eight weeks atop Billboard’s Gospel Albums Chart. The CD marking their 5th #1 start on the Gospel Albums Chart, also scored them their fourth Grammy (Best Gospel Song—“Go Get It”) and two NAACP Image Awards and topped the list of the top 25 digital songs of 2012. The L.A.–based sister duo also celebrated the second season of their hit reality show on WE TV. But after 12 years of recording and evolving together, the sisters are weighing their options. “We feel like we’ve made a pretty substantial mark with Mary Mary,” said Tina. “It’s part natural. It’s part being prepared for the next phase in life. We may just need to take some time to reassess, to pray and seek God and find out what we can individually offer to the world.” The duo who have sold over 3 million albums since debuting their platinum selling CD, Thankful (featuring the hit single “Shackles”) were reared in Inglewood, Ca. with their seven siblings. Mom Thomasina is an evangelist and accomplished choir director at the Evangelistic Church of God in Christ. Both sang backup individually for a number of R&B acts, including Brandy before breaking out on their own.
Though he hasn’t put out a record in three years, Donnie McClurkin—who has given gospel such classic hits as “Stand,” “Speak To My Heart” and “We Fall Down”— is never far from the spotlight. Last year, the singer/pastor (Perfecting Faith Church—Freeport, NY) toured the country with the Kings Men Tour and served as a judge on Sunday Best while managing his nationally syndicated radio show broadcast to 5 million listeners and commanding list of public appearances. Born in 1959, McClurkin was encouraged at an early age by the legendary Andrae Crouch. This year’s highlights include a cameo on the BET show Til Death Do Us Part and more King’s Men dates. Fighting through a rough home life and a battle with cancer, Donnie first came to light as the founder/director of the New York Restoration Choir. After an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s top-rated television show, Donnie’s self-titled solo debut (featuring his signature hit “Stand”) catapulted to #1 on the Gospel charts in 1996. In the years since, he has released five albums, written a book, has been featured in three films and won three Grammy Awards and ten stellar awards, as well as BET, Soul Train and Dove awards.
William McDowell started 2012 off the right way—at number one on Billboard’s gospel album chart. William McDowell’s single “I Won’t Go Back” rose to #1 on the Gospel Songs Chart while his CD, Arise: The Live Experience spent six consecutive weeks at #1, scoring two Stellar award nominations, including Praise & Worship CD. Ranked as #9 on the list of gospel’s biggest selling artist in 2012. McDowell owns Delivery Room Recording Studio in Orlando, Florida and has launched the IGiveMyselfAway.org website, an online destination portal for information on charitable giving and community service. The Cincinnati native and Full Sail University graduate is best known for his hit, “I Give Myself Away.”
Born on the Southside of Chicago with a love for and connection to music, Jonathan Reynolds says he was the little guy at church (New Original Church of God in Christ) that started on the drums and moved to organ, but never wanted to sing. He only realized his love for singing at Whitney Young High School and it was by divine accident years later that pastor/popular local radio personality John Hannah heard his music and played it one morning on 1390AM. “The rest is history. I woke up and my life had changed,” said the 23-year old. Reynolds’ Life Music debuted at #3 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart.
The musical vision of Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick, Jr., has resulted in three CD’s by the Word and Worship Mass Choir of the Bethel Church that have received national critical acclaim, with one of them, The Right Place debuting at #5 on the Billboard charts. McKissick, Jr., is senior pastor of the 14,000-member strong Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, located in Jacksonville. The 47-year old father of three holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Jacksonville University in Opera/Sacred Church Music, with a minor in pipe organ performance and has written several books. The choir—whose latest project Intimate Worship landed them on the gospel charts in 2012—was born out of McKissick’s desire to enhance the church’s worship experience.
Grammy-nominated recording artist VaShawn Mitchell released his latest project, Created 4 This, recorded live in his hometown of Harvey, Illinois last summer. Mitchell is best known for his mega hit song “Nobody Greater”—declared by Billboard Magazine as the #1 Most Played Gospel Song of 2011, which held the #1 position for nine consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart and crossed-over to the Urban Contemporary Adult charts. The first single of his new project, “Turning Around For Me,” entered at #13 on Billboard’s Top Christian/Gospel Digital Songs chart. Mitchell also produced Tasha Cobbs’ album, Grace, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts. Beginning the year with a national tour, there are talks of Mitchell releasing a holiday album. Meanwhile, the singer/songwriter has a Sunday Best performance to look forward to and is gearing up to take a role in the Philedelpia production of Always Remember, a stage play co-starring Kim Burrell.
Wess Morgan’s sophomore CD Look At Me Now—released last summer—is a powerful testament to how far the talented singer has come. The former drug abuser—who was in and out of jail—began traveling and singing gospel music at a young age with his parents, both pastors. The singer/songwriter of the signature tune, “I Choose to Worship” (featured on his 2010 CD, Under An Open Heaven) held its spot on Billboard’s Radio Chart for over 50 weeks, peaking at #4. A worship leader and associate pastor at Celebration of Life Church, Morgan is also the founder/director of the Wess Morgan Foundation, which focuses on drug and alcohol prevention and recovery. A bowtie enthusiast, he currently records on his own label, Bowtie World Music.
Bishop Paul S. Morton’s latest CD, Best Days Yet, came in at #3 on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart making for his highest debut in nine years. His 10th solo album was described as a combination of Morton’s strong vocals and producer Donald Lawrence’s masterful vocal arrangements with Morton’s son PJ penning several of the tracks. The CD also featured Morton’s daughter Jasmine, Marvin Winans and Karen Clark Sheard. Morton is presiding bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship and pastor of Changing A Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church, with locations in Atlanta and New Orleans. The colon cancer survivor recorded five albums with the Greater St. Stephens Mass Choir before going solo artist with nine CDs to his credit.
“When you can hang out at Billboard’s #1 spot (Top Gospel Albums Chart) for two weeks and get up to #36 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart, you’re doing something as a little small gospel artist.” Couldn’t be more of an understatement for the artist of his CD, V4…The Other Side. So impressed were Donnie McClurkin, Isaac Carree, Monica and multi-platinum producer Timbaland that they took to twitter urging fans to buy it. Over the last decade, Moss—the son of Bill Moss and nephew of Mattie Moss Clark—has ranked among gospel’s biggest stars for his work as an artist whose CD’s have been top 10 hits and powerhouse producer for such artists as Karen Clark-Sheard, Marvin Sapp, Byron Cage and Hezekiah Walker.
William Murphy had to contain his excitement for a year about his new CD, Godchaser. Recorded in December 2011, Murphy began singing the songs in June. “People started blowing up my Facebook and saying when are these songs coming out? The songs are just straight up anointing,” states Murphy who hasn’t released a CD in four years. “I really believe the church is going to embrace this record because the songs are very congregational friendly—Sunday morning songs every church in America can sing.” The Atlanta-based pastor of the dReam Center got his start with the Shekinah Glory Ministry and also presently serves as Bishop of Intercessory Prayer for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.
With his CD, Shifting The Atmosphere, Jason Nelson proved apples didn’t fall that far from the tree in the case of he and twin brother Jonathan Nelson. Debuting on Billboard’s gospel charts in May at #3, the CD remained in the top ten for most of the year, earning three Stellar nominations. It was also one of iTunes top gospel albums of 2012. An accomplished bassist, Nelson got his start performing with his brother, singing lead on the song, “Everything You Are.” In 2005, he released his first praise and worship CD entitled “I Shall Live.” The husband and father of two was called to preach at 17 and serves as the senior pastor at Greater Bethlehem Temple.
A multiple Stellar Award winner and GMA Dove-nominated artist, Jonathan Nelson is also a hit songwriter— penning chart toppers including Donald Lawrence’s “Healed,” for which he won a Stellar Award for Songwriter of the Year in 2006. One of Nelson’s biggest songs to date, Youth For Christ’s congregational ballad, “The Struggle Is Over,” spent 12 weeks at #1 on Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart, while his signature hit “My Name Is Victory,” spent 65 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart. A new CD, Finish Strong, is scheduled for release this year. It will mark his first release on Karew Records, the label that is owned by Karen Clark-Sheard. Nelson is the minister of music at the Faith Center in Sunrise, Florida.
While he spent most of 2012 at the helm of his 6,000-member strong Chicago mega church, Victory Cathedral Worship Center, Norful still managed to snag an impressive peak at # 4 on the gospel charts with Once In A Lifetime. 2012 highlights include a Dove nomination for “How I Got Over” and two Stellar award nominations. The Pine Bluff, Arkansas native, dubbed “the Stevie Wonder of gospel,” once taught history and got his start with the Thompson Community Choir. Noful is slated to have a new studio album out this year. The Grammy-winning artist, pastor and happily married father of three has sold upwards of one million units since bowing in gospel with the 2002 smash hit, “I Need You Now.”
Dubbed “Gospel’s songbird of the south”, Dottie (short for Dorthy) Peoples has released 14 albums since 1984, including the classic song “On Time God,” while also performing in several gospel stage plays. One of ten children, the Dayton, Ohio native got her start on the road with Dorothy Norwood. The Grammy-nominated, Dove, Stellar, NAACP Image Award-Winning singer is gearing up for her highly-anticipated CD I Got This – Live! on February 5, 2013 through her independent label DP Muzik Group. I Got This – Live! is a collection of 13 tracks recorded at Siloam Church International in College Park, Georgia and featuring her signature powerhouse vocals. Also on tap from Peoples this year are a new panty hose line and her very own doll.
After two decades of starts and stops, Earnest Pugh has become a fixture on Billboard’s Gospel charts, beginning with his hit 2007 CD, Rain On Us. The Memphis native garnered four Stellar Award nominations with his 2011 CD, Earnestly Yours while Christmas With Earnest Pugh which debuted at #2 last year. The psalmist, musician/songwriter got his start as a teen with O’landa Draper and the Associates before releasing his solo debut, A Worshipper’s Perspective in 2006. In 2011, Pugh’s EPM Music Group secured a distribution deal with Entertainment One to release new gospel projects by up-and-coming artists, including Vincent Tharpe & Kenosis. In 2012, he moved to Houston and launched a second label, P-Man Music with Central South Distribution. He serves as minister of music at Pearland, Texas’ Silverlake Church.
I guess you could say it was Jessica Reedy’s grandfather—the late Pastor James Dorsey— who gave the Saginaw, Michigan native her start, calling her up to sing after his sermons at the Greater Freewill Missionary Baptist Church beginning when she was just four. Reedy auditioned for American Idol in the hopes of becoming the next R&B star, but found her voice as first runner up in season two of BET’s Sunday Best. Her debut CD, From The Heart—featuring Faith Evans and the Soul Seekers landed the single mother in the number one slot on Billboard’s Top Gospel albums chart. Her latest passion is her blog, found at
Sunday Best winner Joshua Rogers says his family always encouraged him to sing, but it wasn’t until the South Carolina native won the grand prize at a local talent competition that he was encouraged to audition for Sunday Best ultimately beating out 10,000 competitors to win. His debut CD, Well Done, featuring seven of the singer’s musical renditions from the show, scored the number one spot on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart in December. The gifted 18-year old singer—nicknamed by Kirk Franklin as “young Buck”—is the first male to win Sunday Best and is credited with being the show’s youngest winner as well.
Seeing her sing in 1998 so impressed Earnest Pugh that when he launched his label in 2012, she was the first artist he signed. Her debut CD release, You Deserve debuted at #10 on the gospel charts. The Kansas City native and mother of one sang her first solo when she was two and has recorded solos on CDs by Edwin Hawkins and Myron Williams. The youngest of six, her father was the late Bishop C.N. Rucker. In 2007, she suffered a near fatal series of strokes. The healing process took two years and with no income but music, she dragged herself back onto the concert circuit before being miraculously healed at Pastor David Martin’s annual Rhema conference.
With the single, “My Testimony”, Marvin Sapp scored his third #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Songs chart. His CD, I Win, which also debuted at number one was the second highest gospel debut of the year with first week sales topping 44,000 units. The album also earned him three Grammy nominations, including Best Gospel album and song and four Stellar awards, including Artist of the year and “male vocalist of the year.” Ranked as #2 on the list of gospel’s biggest selling artist in 2012, Sapp also charted with Playlist. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native who serves as pastor of the Lighthouse Full Life Center Church (a.k.a. “the Praise Place”) is a former member of the group Commissioned. He went solo in 1996, recording six CDs before making history with his seventh CD, Thirsty, featuring the smash hit, “Never Would Have Made It.” The all-time highest charting gospel album in Billboard history, “Never Would Have Made It” spent 46 weeks at #1, the most weeks ever at #1 on any Billboard radio chart. Offstage, as savvy businessman, the father of three teens (Marvin Jr., 18; Mikaila, 15 and Madisson, 13) has authored three books, opened a full service salon and spa, a school and is shopping a reality TV show, Marvin Sapp, Single Dad.
Multiple Stellar Award-winning recording artist, songwriter and producer, Kierra Sheard was awarded the 2013 Albertina Walker Female Vocalist of the Year for her CD project, Free. The CD debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart and was produced by her brother, J. Drew Sheard II. Free is Kierra’s fourth album since bowing on the gospel charts in 2004 with her debut CD, I Owe You. A graduate of Wayne State University, Kierra is also the founder of the youth and young adult organization, Bold Right Life (BL), which inspires youth to live for Christ. Aside from occasional engagements with her mother, Karen Clark Sheard, and aunts, the legendary Clark Sisters, Kierra is currently in the studio working on a new CD.
A dozen years later, the Chicago-based ensemble known as Shekinah Glory Ministry (whose Hebrew name means “the glorified presence of God”) continues to set standards for urban praise and worship. With five gold and platinum record/video certifications, this coterie of psalmists, minstrels and banner-wavers returned to the charts in 2012 with their fourth CD, Surrender. Their CDs—Praise Is What I Do and Shekinah Glory Ministry—were both certified gold in 2005 and 2008 respectively. The ensemble grew out of Valley Kingdom Ministry International near Chicago and is led by Phil Tarver. In explaining their success, Apostle H. Daniel Wilson, the group’s founder and visionary says, “We put worship on wax and God just blew on it.”
This Grammy-nominated world class pianist, arranger and composer inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998, rose to fame in the 80’s with a string of hits that included his signature tune, “Center of My Joy.” As songwriter, he’s known for authoring such classics as “Total Praise” and “I Love The Lord,” recorded by Whitney Houston. Smallwood began playing piano at four, graduated cum laude from Howard University and has recorded 13 CDs. Among the guest vocalists on his 2007 release, Journey, were Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack (his 8th grade music teacher. His 2011 release, Promises, the first album since the death of his beloved mother, earned him a Grammy nomination. A new CD is due in 2014. In the meantime, he’s working on his autobiography.
All was well for Troy Sneed who debuted at #9 with his All Is Well CD release on Emtro Records, the record label he founded with his wife Emily in 2003. The former educator scored his fifth Top Ten Gospel Songs smash with, “Lay it Down.” Dubbed by some as the “Worship Master,” Sneed got his start with the Georgia Mass Choir. The Texas A&M graduate—who was a member of the Florida A&M University Gospel Choir and once dreamed of a career in the NFL—recorded two solo CDs on Savoy Records before establishing his Jacksonville-based label. Artists on his label include Alvin Darling, Bruce Parham, Youth For Christ and the Arkansas Mass Choir.
2012 was a good year for Renee Spearman who debuted at #4 on the gospel charts with Whoa To Wow, featuring D.J. Rogers. It was in 2003 that singer-songwriter Rene Spearman got the attention of the gospel industry with her CD, Celebrate (featuring the single, “He Can Do Anything”), which rose to #2 on the gospel charts and scored three Stellar Award nominations. The Lynwood, California native co-founded Los Angeles-based Blacksphere Entertainment. Spearman with partner Prez Blackmon— and the 23-voice choir Prosperity. “God gave me the title song to let the world know that ‘what the devil meant for evil, God can turn around for good,’ ” said Spearman. “In a heartbeat, hence the title Whoa to WOW!”
This preacher’s daughter—known for her flamboyant stage moves and gut-wrenching vocals was dubbed the “anointed princess of gospel” by Gospel Announcers Guild chair, Al “the Bishop” Hobbs. A former beautician, Angela Spivey got her big break with the GMWA Women of Worship. A subsequent record deal led to her 1995 debut, “Victorious Praise. In 1996, she was a featured vocalist on the GMWA Women of Praise’s “Crown Collection” and Albertina Walker’s “Road To Glory”. Three CDs—Glory, Honor & Praise, I’m Determined, and Angela Spivey Live—followed. Her Innovative Records debut CD, He Keeps His Promise, debuted at #14 on Billboard’s gospel charts, earning two Stellar nominations including Traditional Female of the Year.
Named the 2004 Stellar Awards National Star Search winner, Micah Stampley is a prodigy who has been performing since the age of seven. Widely known for his astounding bass-to-first soprano vocal range, the Baton Rouge native is also known as a worship leader. In 2005, Billboard magazine placed him on its Top 10 gospel music artists list with the release of his debut CD, The Songbook of Micah, which debuted at #3. He released his fifth CD, One Voice last October. Micah is married to Heidi, who co-wrote much of the album and with whom he founded Interface Entertainment, they now raise five children, ages six to sixteen. A third-generation licensed preacher, he started out directing the choir at his grandfather’s church.
One of the most powerful vocalists in gospel, Kathy Taylor returns to the forefront with the February release of Spirit Of A Grateful People with her church choir. The Houston native—who serves as minister of music at Windsor Village United Methodist Church—has four CDs and a performance for Queen Elizabeth to her credit. While a new solo album is also on tap from Taylor and her backup singing ensemble, Favor, is in the works. You can also hear her on Kurt Carr’s Bless This House CD. In the meantime, the singer, who started her career as a soloist for the GMWA Mass Choir, facilitates gospel music workshops nationally in addition to being a sought after praise and worship leader.
Memphis’ most dynamic gospel ensemble, Vincent Tharpe & Kenosis, debuted at #9 on Billboard’s coveted Top Gospel Albums chart with Live In Memphis. The 24-year old Tharpe wrote all the songs on the project, which he co-produced as well. Tharpe received the inspiration to launch his own group when he was the director of the Voices of Harambee, a gospel choir at Craigmont High School in Memphis. VTK were named the winners of Dorinda Clark Cole’s 2011 National Singers and Musician Conference Artist Showcase in Detroit. The group’s new single, “Let’s Praise Him,” is rising on the gospel top 100 charts as they gear up to kick off their national Faith Tour in March. VTK will be featured on Earnest Pugh’s new project, recording to begin in May.
After 36 years, gospel’s premiere sister act, The Clark Sisters, remain a hot commodity both individually and collectively, both on the road and in the studio. Renowned for their inimitable vocal signature “Clark Sisters Sound,” Jackie, Twinkie, Dorinda and Karen Clark began recording in 1973 (originally with a fifth sister, Denise) and hit pay dirt when “You Brought The Sunshine” peaking at #16 on the Billboard R&B singles chart in 1983. In the time since, they’ve released nearly 20 albums yielding such classic hits as “Miracle” and “Is My Living in Vain?” and their 2007 CD, “Live – One Last Time”—which earned them four Stellar and three Grammy awards. Ironically enough, it was intended to be their swan song. A new album is due in 2013.
Last summer, Kirk Franklin announced the signing of The Walls Group to his company, Fo Yo Soul Entertainment. The quartet of siblings, 20-year-old Darrell, 16-year-old Rhea, 15-year-old Paco, and 14-year-old Ahjah, are the first artists Franklin has signed. Said Franklin, “When I first saw a video of The Walls Group, I knew they were something special. I was truly blown away by their vocal abilities”. They collaborated with producer Levi “Too” King for the release of their self-titled debut album and toured nationally last year. Franklin has begun working with Houston-based group on their sophomore album, which is tentatively scheduled for release later this year.
Tye Tribbett recorded live in both Miami and Los Angeles for his new CD, Greater Than, which—scheduled for release in June— will mark his debut on EMI Records. Tribbett opened the Stellar Awards with a performance of the album’s lead single, Same God. The Grammy nominated/Stellar Award winning artist first soared to the top of the charts with his former group, Greater Anointing (GA) in 2004 with his breakout smash CD, Life. The veteran singer/choirmaster honed his skills playing in his father’s El Bethel Church of Christ in Philadelphia and had three hit CDs before going solo in 2010 with his debut CD, Fresh. In 2011 Tribbett founded a word-driven, multi-cultural ministry in Camden, New Jersey called Word On The Street.
At 67, one of the legends of gospel music, Bishop Richard “Mr. Clean” White, is proving he still has what it takes with his new CD, I’m Glad I Don’t Look Like What I Been Through, which landed him on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart. The Jersey City native, who has composed upwards of 250 songs and worked with the likes of the late Rev. James Cleveland, the Winans, Bobby Jones, Walter and Edwin Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins and Bishop Paul S. Morton, serves on the Board of Directors of the Gospel Music Workshop of America and pastor of the Atlanta-based, Gospel Temple COGIC. Married for 45 years, he is the father of three and a proud grandfather.
Michelle Williams, best known as one-third of the record-breaking R&B group, Destiny’s Child and stage actress—appearing on Broadway in 2003 in “Aida” and the national tour cast of The Color Purple, is set to release a gospel album this year. Williams released two previous gospel recordings, 2002’s award-winning Heart To Yours and Do You Know in 2004 and has collaborated with several gospel artists including Shirley Caesar. The Rockford, Illinois native performed her first solo, “Blessed Assurance”, at the age of seven at the St. Paul Church of God in Christ and sang with the gospel groups, United Harmony and Chosen Expression before joining Destiny’s Child in 2000. Williams will tour with the Tony Award-winning musical, Fela in 2013.
Anita Wilson’s 2012 effort Worship Soul, which garnered three Stellar and one Grammy nominations, debuted at #14 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart and was called one of the top 10 albums of the year by the New York Times. A sophomore CD is set for 2014. A featured vocalist in the award-winning ensemble Donald Lawrence & Company, Wilson began singing when she was five, growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois in the church her father pastored. To those spiritual roots add the influence of jazz and R&B singers like Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Lalah Hathaway, Brandy, and Faith Evans. Her debut CD was recorded live in Chicago at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church where Anita currently serves as worship leader.
The CD cover of So Proud features a picture of Brian Courtney Wilson as a baby wearing headphones— a reminder of both the album’s theme and the artist driving force. Wilson penned the title song and lead single of the CD that debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart, #1 on the Top Christian/Gospel Albums chart and #5 on Billboard’s Independent chart. So Proud follows Wilson’s debut CD, Just Love, which entered at #2 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart and #6 on Billboard’s Christian Albums chart. The CD was in the Top 20 on Billboard Gospel Albums chart for over 90 weeks—longer than any other CD title on Billboard’s Top 50 that year. The Houston-based singer/songwriter graduated from the University of Illinois and once worked as a Johnson & Johnson sales executive.
BeBe Winans hit his highest mark in seven years on the charts as America, America bowed in at #2 last summer. Winans’ seventh CD showcased his patriotic flair with remakes of the classics “America The Beautiful,” “Lift Every Voice,” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” along with three new songs. Winans, who toured with Dave Koz, is working to get a production to the Broadway stage this fall titled Through My Eyes: The Winans Family — The Musical, featuring original songs and selections from the family’s catalog. In the meantime, he has penned a book titled The Whitney I Knew, detailing his memories of Whitney Houston. Winans, who starred on Broadway in Color Purple has six solo albums to his credit and hosts a weekly show, The BeBe Experience on Sirius XM radio. As part of BeBe and CeCe Winans, he topped the charts with 12 R&B hit singles, earning five Grammy awards and scoring one platinum and two gold selling CDs.
The last couple of years have marked a great deal of change for Priscilla Marie Winans Love. The recording star and mother of two can now add “First Lady” to her list of credits as she and her husband Alvin Love have become the senior pastors of the Nashville Life Christian Church, which was born out of a discipleship ministry they established in November 2011. Winans also has new management and is looking to step out of her traditional mold when she records this year for a CD tentatively slated for a fourth quarter release. One of the tracks, “Friend,” was written by her son, Alvin Love III, to chronicle the relationship between the Winans family and Whitney Houston. CeCe is godmother to Whitney’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina. What has not changed is her commitment to her annual Always Sisters Forever Brothers National Conference, which will celebrate its seventh year this summer with its mission to educate, motivate and redirect the choices of our teens, young women and young men. The eighth of “Mom” and “Pop” Winans ten children, born to the first family of gospel. She worked with her brother BeBe in the PTL Singers, before recording with him as the Grammy award-winning and platinum selling duo, BeBe And CeCe. The duo’s blend of soulful vocals and contemporary gospel proved to be a winning combination. In 1998, Winans founded Pure Springs Records. Its roster at one time included her older brother, Marvin. Her top Ten R&B radio hits include “Count on Me,” a duet with good friend, Whitney Houston. She is the author of three books.
2012 was an eventful year for Grammy award winning singer Marvin Winans, who eulogized Whitney Houston in February, was carjacked in May and released his first solo album in five years last summer. That doesn’t include the success of the smash hit (“Let The Church Say Amen”) he recorded with Andrae Crouch. Recorded live at his 10,000+ member strong, Detroit-based Perfecting Church, The Praise Experience—which debuted at #3— features guest vocals from Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Mary Mary, and his mother, Delores “Mom” Winans.” The release marks the debut of MLW Productions, Inc., a company he established with his son, Marvin Winans, Jr. Winans, formerly married to Vickie Winans, earned notoriety with his brothers in The Winans, the quartet that laid the foundation for the family’s gospel empire in the early ’80s. Winans—who hosts a gospel radio show in Detroit— recently completed a major renovation of his Detroit mega church.
Legendary gospel singer Vickie Winans added another element to her already busy singing career as “The Comedianna” (her trademarked definition of a hilarious story-telling Queen), hit the road last year to promote 2 newly recorded Comedy DVDs, entitled, “Hilarious And Unplugged” Volumes 1 and 2. Winans tells one sidesplitting story after another, from her life’s experiences to growing up with 11 siblings in Detroit. The singer—who was once married to Marvin Winans— is currently in pre-production for the starring role as Grace Avery in an uplifting feature film surrounding the issue of homelessness entitled, Amazing Grace. The Grammy nominated mother of two burst on the gospel music scene in 1985 with her signature smash “We Shall Behold Him.”