Run and Tell That
The Mighty Knights Run and Tell That LP (Mainstream, 1974)
I've written about my love of Black gospel music here and elsewhere, so I'll keep the sermon short. Let me say that growing up in a White Sacramento suburb I really wasn't exposed to much Black music other than what was on Top 40 radio. I certainly had no rub with gospel music, at least not the real stuff. Like many a youngster, I loved the Rolling Stones but never thought of their secular rip offs of gospel music as anything but the Rolling Stones. I tooled through my teenagehood listening to my punk rock, which was my soul music (nothing like the sustenance gained from a listen to I've Heard It Before by Black Flag!). During that time I heard a hundred artists who stole bits and pieces from gospel - Captain Beefheart, Roxy Music, Birthday Party, Beasts of Bourbon, etc. - but, outside maybe some snippets caught from a PBS special on the Civil Rights movement, I was estranged from the music until I hit my 20s.
Like many of you men types, one of my early girlfriends had a stack of Aretha Franklin records, ones that we would listen to over and over when we were at her place. Of course, Aretha is really hard to resist and, when you are a record fiend, impossible to pass on. So I picked up Aretha records. One day I stumbled on Aretha Gospel, a recording of the teenage Aretha singing at her father's church. A must hear if you haven't, on her only Chess release, the wee Aretha's voice almost as strong as it became as an adult. From there I picked up her two record gospel set, Amazing Grace, and I was hooked on gospel music.
Problem was beyond Aretha I didn't know what to look for nor where to find it. Though Sacramento has a thriving Black gospel community, you don't find many Black gospel records in used record stores or thrift stores of the secular persuasion. Some years into my record hunting career, at the point I was determined to find every record hole in the Great Central Valley, I started put in a lot of miles looking for records. My hunt brought me to C & L Records Variety Store on Franklin Blvd., in Sacramento (but not before my friend Larry Rodriguez beat me to it...by a week!).
C & L was the place for Black gospel. It was a small store with two racks of records and a couple piles on the floor. The records were stuffed in and below the racks, many of them sealed. While most of the records were gospel, there was also soul, funk, R&B, and, surprise, bubblegum. The walls were covered with gangsta rap and gospel rap posters. Behind the record racks was a small room set up as a radio dejay booth. Sitting in the room was a very old man named Jesse Calloway. Who is Jesse Calloway? Here is the obituary that ran in Sacramento's African American newspaper, the Sacramento Observer:
Born on November 2, 1925, Jesse L. Calloway went to Glory on Christmas Day, December 25. One of the original members of the well-known spiritual and gospel group, the “Victory Five,” Calloway moved to Sacramento from Ruston, Louisiana in 1946. Calloway played baseball for the Oakland Acorns, worked at the Southern Pacific Railroad Shops, owned his own barbecue café called the “Happy Kitchen,” and managed several service stations in the area. But it was Calloway’s musical background with the Victory Five that he and his brothers were highly recognized for. During their 25-plus years of existence, the Victory Five recorded three albums appeared on the Ted Mack Amaturer Hour and many local televisions and radio shows. From 1956 to 1957, the Calloway and the Victory Five did a regular program on Channel 13, in 1957 they were seen regularly on Channel 3 for two years before performing on Channel 10 for one year. While the Victory Five carried on the tradition of gospel singing as part of Black America, Calloway and his business partner Lamerle Larry ran C & L Records and Variety Store, a shop that specialized in gospel and religious music.
I had no idea of Mr. Calloway's past when I first started going to the store. To me he was the quiet old guy, who seem amused that a godless White guy and a Chicano pagan were coming up to his dejay booth (where he would do Saturday gospel music broadcasts for station KJAY) with stacks of gospel records. He would take the stack from you and have you sit next to him as he held up each record and grunted with approval or stated that he would have to tape this one, come back next week for it (plenty of the records we were buying were from his personal collection). Mr. Calloway would rattle off some number, each record being about $3, $4 if sealed. In about a year's time I bought about 200 records from him, most of them gospel music, some of them full sermons (and great ones, too). When I found a local gospel record, I'd bring it into him and ask about the artist. "Oh he was good. Really fat. Could dance, though. Had a pretty wife. I think he's in LA now," was typical of Mr. Calloway's information. My clue that he was something more than a record store owner came by chance. I was in C & L digging and an Englishman came in and started to interview Mr Calloway. The voice sounded familiar and when the man's companion called him Opal, I knew it was Opal Nations, the gospel music expert from Down Home Music and Arhoolie Records (and his own Pewburner Records). Nations was there quizzing Calloway about the Victory Five and trying to get some recordings out of him. One day I came by the store and it was shuttered. Jesse Calloway, who was pretty frail when I first met him, had gone "to Glory" or at least was on the long walk to it in a hospital or nursing facility.
Larry and I pulled some great, even amazing, records out of C & L. Early on in Crud Crud's existence I posted some tracks from a Vernard Johnson LP I found there. I will post some of the sermons on Gibble Gabble at a future date. Today I am going to lay five tracks from another record I found at C & L.
The Mighty Knights are not one of the "wild" and "primitive" gospel acts the White kids find hip nowadays. Nope, they are a standard gospel group, one whose music would be called R&B or soul if it was secular. The band is stripped down but strong. The vocals are great. As far as gospel records go I would rate this one a 6 or a 7 (which says more about how strong the genre is rather than how week the Knights are).
Atlanta, Georgia was where the Mighty Knights called home. Made up of several pastors and deacons of a few different area churches, the voice you hear up front is the Rev. James Paden. Run and Tell That came out on Mainstream Records, a label mostly known for its funk/blues jazz. Like many Black music labels at the time, Mainstream had a "Spiritual" series. This is the second gospel record in that series.
Actually I'd been there a few times before that over the years. Cleaned up on most of the scratchy funk, soul & blues lp's, most of them not very good. Did pick up a great Rev. Cleophus Robinson, which prompted me to go back for the gospel. The week before I took Scott, I had picked out a stack of 80 gospel records. Since I could only afford half of them, I stashed the remainder in the understock. When Scott & I went there a week later, the first spot he goes for is where the stash was, which had the other Vernard Johnson lp and some other cool shit. I didn't have the heart to stop him though, it was like watching a kid find his first Easter eggs or open his first xmas presents. It was a very special moment.
"a godless White guy and a Chicano pagan"
I don't know if having a personal sort of spirituality and contemplating ones existence in the universe, constitutes being a pagan. Laugh if you want but I've been brought before the goat not once, but twice....and I wouldn't kiss its ass. I would not bow. I ran!