Southern Cultural Icons: Gospel Singers

Rick Bragg describes the all-night gospel singing he recalls from his childhood where church and entertainment combined.


Hi, I'm Rick Bragg and we're gonna talk a little bit about what's happened to the all night gospel singing. When I was a little boy my mother and aunts would, would drag me, sometimes kicking and screaming to. To Talosaga Alabama or Batla Auditoria. Any number of places to. Prop me up in the middle of golden chair. And and and force me to listen to gospel music. All night long. They started in the evening and sang not all night but late into the night. I can still see these, these groups. They were all quartets. And they had these wonderful names, The Happy Goodman Family, the Dixie Echoes. The Florida Boys. My aunt Juanita named her son after the tenor, in The Florida Boys. So these were cultural icons. And I can still remember the announcer announcing, the Dixi, the announcer announcing the Dixie Echoes. By saying, and now folks from Pensacola Florida with sand in their shoes, and I kinda miss that. Anybody who knows anything about gospel singing knows that revival breaks out, it just kind of breaks out. And, and people would get happy. Well that's what we, we that, that's what my momma would call it. She would say she would whisper, lean over and whisper to me, look out he's gettin happy. And that meant they were full of the spirit and they were about to preach. And they would preach and, and, and, and sometimes even do a little kind of dance on the stage and and I don't remember an altar call or anything like that. But, but because it really was kind of a church and entertainment melded together. But it was, I mean it was something to see. And I remember, you know, old ladies With our holding babies, rocking babies in those metal folding chairs kinda creaking back and forth. And people would take a nap and I don't know there's just something kinda, sweet about it. These were not little gatherings. These were, these were, these were big deals. You know the, the groups would would sing you know, sometimes with full bands. would, would, you know, there would be like five, six, seven, eight groups on a playbill. And it was, it was church music. The groups that you saw at an all night gospel singing would be backing up a preacher on Sunday morning on the field coat, which is where we got most of our church. You know, I still remember running through the house, screaming and yelling, my brother Sam trying to shoot me with a bow and arrow. And my mama going, be quite church is on. And I still now and then see like a ghost or a whisper of it, somewhere. And I look at a picture you know, on a playbill or, or a, an advertisement stuck in the window of a, of a country store. And it'll be the same group, but it would be all young men kinda like if the earth, wind and fire got together. You know they gonna have to have a new drummer.
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