Monday, April 09, 2012

A Landmark Record ... and a Riddle

You certainly won't mind if I conclude the Easter posts by two further songs of Edna Gallmon Cooke. She was outstanding in many respects, and her artistry is quite unique. Since Edna was featured on this blog recently (viz. her 45 Nashboro # 705 from late autumn 1961), we might just as well have a look at her 1962 LP Stop Gambler! (Nashboro LP # 7009) which includes this and a number of other single releases (several of them, Nashboro # 745 & 760, were only released after the album!). In fact, only four of the twelve songs didn't appear on 45.

Edna's 1962 Nashboro LP is a landmark album that has not, as far as I can see, received the praise it deserves. Many moods pervade this album, and it is not the »typical« Edna-ser- monette style of »Stop Gambler« which dominates (there are just two more tunes of this kind on the LP, »Jesus Will Never Say No« and »The Lost Sheep«). Especially, we find several very lyrical performances, »Life's Lonesome Road« (recorded in May 1961) and »Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Had«. The latter is a breath-taking performance, never released outside this LP. I've nowhere heard of a category »lyrical gospel« (seriously used and aimed at general acceptance) but I propose to create it on purpose for this gem of a song which is sui generis:

Edna Gallmon Cooke: »Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Had« from the Nashboro LP # 7009 (1962):

But then we have also the very opposite on this LP: Edna taking her chances at an uptempo shouter, backed by the Singing Sons and actually playing somewhat the second fiddle alongside ... yes, whom? This is the riddle.

From Billboard, August 21, 1961, p. 34
First, the song in question is »The Lord Still Answers Prayer«. It was also released on Nashboro # 697 in or little before August 1961. I do not know the 45 version but assume that it is the same as the LP version. The 45 label states, beneath the artists's name, »New Singing Sons« (who, in Billboard's messy review, became »The Friendly Sons«!). Now, this song is not only, as Billboard's careless critic would have it, a »meaningful performance« (hmm, could you say anything more disparaging about a song?), it is a masterful blend of a rough-cut male voice (of the Ermant Franklin-type) paired with the honeyed voice of Edna, hesitantly joining in into this unlikely and eventually nothing but thrilling battle between a vocal sledgehammer and finely-tuned vocal chords accustomed to subtle modulation. But before you listen to this exceptional recording, help me solve the riddle men- tioned above.

Actually, the riddle comes in two parts. First, the Singing Sons (credited on the 45 but not on the back cover of the LP). I found no information about them as such. As male backing group of Edna G. Cooke they are mentioned frequently, but without further details as to their members. A more-than-usual (I hope) profound search on the net (and in the limited number of discographies) turned out the following names: Dave Edrington, Providence Thomas, a certain James Brown (maybe not the famous), Carl Davis, Tommy Ellison, Julius Cheeks, Willie Banks and Johnnie Jones, all members at one time or the other.
  Carl Davis (of Richmond, Va.) was part of Edna's Singing Sons for a number of years, before leading the Miami-based Florida Robbins Singers (see more here). He later joined the Swan Silvertones and the Dixie Hummingbirds. He is heard on the Singing Sons' only '60s Nashboro release, # 676 (Oct. 1960). Willie Banks also joined the Florida Robbins Singers after leaving the Singing Sons. Tommy Ellison (from South Carolina) was part of the Singing Sons, together with Julius Cheeks, but both left before 1960. Ellison left for the Sensational Nightingales and later organized his own group, The Five Singing Stars; Cheeks likewise was part of the Nightingales, later of the Soul Stirrers and others. Dave and Providence were members of the group in the mid-'50s but, it seems, no longer in or after 1960. Regarding James Brown (!) and Johnnie Jones I have no further information. In addition, several other names are mentioned in connection with Edna's Singing Sons, viz. Roscoe Robinson (!) and Horace Thompson. I found no conclusive evidence about how and when they were part of Edna's backing group. Finally, there is guitarist Bobby McDougle (of Valdosta, Ga.) who is said to have been recruited as a musician for the Singing Sons at age sixteen, i.e. in or around 1960. Conclusion: The story of the group is utterly confusing, due to many changes over the years and lacking credits, and remains yet to be written.
   Second part of the riddle: Whose is the prominent male voice doing the group's lead and, as it were, duetting with Edna in »The Lord Still Answers Prayer«? I have no idea. Any suggestions?
   Well, it is no matter of life and death. We'll find out one day. Until then, get carried away here (the musicians got carried away as well ... listen after 00:30, they are about to stumble right out of the song!):

Edna G. Cooke & unidentified singer: »The Lord Still Answers Prayer« from the Nashboro LP # 7009 (rel. 1962):

* * *

Nashboro LP # 7009 (1962)
(this label is post-1968, unfortunately ... alas, I do not possess the LP with the original green label)


  1. Can you try audio other than divshare. Divshare audio links don't seem to work with Adobe Flash 11 or divshare audio just no longer plays. Thanks.
    Your site is blessed. And thanks for all the gospel music links. Jesus bless you.

  2. Yes, unfortunately, divshare seems down, on other sites as well. It has happened before, though, so let's hope things come back to normal. If not ...?
    ... and thank you for your kind words!

  3. Divshare works again, everything should be fine ... I hope (I checked on different computers and there was no problem)

  4. I checked again on several computers. With the result that some older webbrowsers don't support the divshare flash audio and recommend to install a plugin (which then cannot be installed if you follow the link!!), but all updated browsers and/or recent versions (e.g. Firefox 11, Internet Expl 9) do not have any problem. So maybe best install a newer browser version if divshare links don't work?