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2013 Asbury Angels Plaque Dedications
 
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bullet Classic Urban Harmony Celebrates Vocal Harmony & the Masqueraders 50th Anniversary
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The Angelic Gospel Singers

 

 

Unlike most male gospel quartets of the forties and fifties, who practiced four part harmony (often acappella) with distinct lead and bass patterns, many female gospel groups of the time were piano centered with the group answering the lead (call & response) in a more choir-like style.  One of the most popular female gospel groups of the era was the Angelic Gospel Singers.  Their 1949 recording of “Touch Me Lord Jesus” almost single-handedly boosted the small Philadelphia Gotham label to national prominence as a black gospel label and prompted more established groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds and Harmonizing Four to sign with the company.

The Angelic Gospel Singers were formed by Margaret Allison in 1944.  Born in McCormick, SC, Margaret migrated to Philadelphia where she began singing with a gospel chorus called the Spiritual Echoes of Philadelphia.  After a short time, she left the group to form the Angelic Gospel Singers with her sister Josephine McDowell and two members of the Spiritual Echoes, Ella Mae Norris and Lucille Shird.  Margaret Allison played piano, composed and arranged songs for the group

After singing in Philadelphia’s Pentecostal churches for several years with occasional tours through the Carolinas, the Angelic Gospel Singers decided to record.  In 1949, they visited Philadelphia record company owner, Ivan Ballen, who had just purchased the Gotham record label from Sam Goody.  Ballen had yet to have a real national hit, but had a walk-in policy for local artists to audition with his label.  Ballen listened to the group and signed them immediately.  Within a week, the Angelic Gospel Singers were in the Gotham studios, making their first recordings.  Josephine, Lucille and Ella Mae crowded around one microphone, while Margaret sat at the piano, with her own mike.  “Touch Me Lord Jesus” was an instant hit.  Over the next six years, the Angelic Gospel Singers would release twenty-five singles on Gotham.

 

 

"Touch Me Lord Jesus" was issued first on 78 RPM.
This 45 came out later.

 

For Christmas releases, Gotham used green print.

 

After a few releases, Iven Ballen suggested adding an organ to the recordings so a young pianist, Doc Bagby got to try his skills on the organ for the sessions.  Bagby would not only develop into a great organist but would also become Gotham’s staff A&R man, producer and session musician for much of the next decade.

Eventually, the Angelic Gospel Singers added a fifth voice, Bernice Cole (from New York City) to the group.  Bernice had previously sung with the Four And One Believers along with Lenace Washington (mother of Denzel Washington).  When the Believers broke up Bernice joined the Angelics.

 

 

 

 

 

In 1950, Gotham first combined the voices of the Angelic Gospel Singers with the male quartet, the Dixie Hummingbirds (Ira Tucker, James Davis, Beachy Thompson and William Bobo) for six recorded songs.  In addition, Ernest James was invited to join the Hummingbirds for the sessions.  The combined Angelic Gospel Singers/Dixie Hummingbirds records sold well, benefiting both groups.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

To take advantage of the recordings, Gotham sent the Angelics on the road with the Birds.  A March 1950 special Easter Sunday spiritual concert in the Coliseum, 2201 N. Monroe Street, marked the first Baltimore appearance of the Angelic Gospel Singers.  Also on the bill were the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Eagle Quartet of Chester, PA, and the Sunset Harmonizers of Washington DC.

The Angelics also continued to release records on their own.   “Do Lord Remember Me,” released in the summer of 1950 did especially well in the South.

 

 

 

 

In February 1952, Okeh Records exec, Danny Kessler, announced he was again combining the talents of the Angelic Gospel Singers and Dixie Hummingbirds on record.  Okeh # 6858 ("Today" b/w "One Day") was the resulting record.  The Dixie Hummingbirds had signed with Okeh, but the Angelics remained under contract to Gotham - they were just on loan to Okeh. 

Some personnel changes occurred through the years.  In 1953, Lucille Shird left the group to get married as did Ella Mae Norris in 1955.  In 1957, Bernice Cole left the group, returning in 1975.  Thomas Mobeley was with them from 1961 to 1973.  But through it all, Margaret Allison and her sister Josephine McDowell stayed together.  All told the Angelic Gospel Singers career spanned more than fifty years.

 

In 1955, the Angelic Gospel Singers left Gotham and began recording for Nashboro.  They recorded with Nashboro until label until 1983, when they joined the Malaco label.

 

 

 

All told, the Angelic Gospel Singers sang for more than fifty years.  For more on the group, see discussion in Jerry Zolten's book, "Great God A'Mighty: The Dixie Hummingbirds," (Oxford University Press, 2003).

 

Margaret "Babe" Allison passed away at 4:45 AM, July 30, 2008 in Philadelphia.  Our condolences to the Allison family.

 

Angelic Gospel Singers Singles Discography

As the Angelic Gospel Singers

Gotham 605    – Touch Me Lord Jesus / When My Savior Calls Me Home   49

Gotham 609    - Jesus / There Is No Friend                                         49

Gotham 613    - Just Jesus / This Same Jesus                                     49

Gotham 618    - Yes My Jesus Cares / Somebody Saved Me                   49

Gotham 627  - My Life Will Be Sweeter / There Must Be A Heaven Somewhere 49

Gotham 633    - Remember Me / Follow In His Footsteps                       49

Gotham 640    - Back To The Dust / He Never Has Left Me Alone           50

Gotham 649    - Do Lord Remember Me / Almost Persuaded                   50

Gotham 675    - Glory Glory To The Newborn King / Jesus Christ Is Born  50

Gotham 685    - All To Jesus / Keep Me All The Way                            51

Gotham 699   - Call On Jesus In Secret Prayer / I Heard Mother Call My Name 51

Gotham 704    - Tell The Angels / My Faith Looks Up To Thee               51

Gotham 711    - If Jesus Goes With Me / Blessed Blessed Jesus             51

Gotham 717    - Milky White Way / Bread Of Heaven                           52

Gotham 723 - Since Jesus Came Into My Heart / Jesus Is All The World To Me 53

Gotham 729    - Jesus Will Carry You Through / My Lord And I              53

Gotham 740    - I Thank You Lord / Do Not Pass Me By O Gentle Savior  53

Gotham 743    - If It Wasn't For The Lord / God's Roll                          53

Gotham 747    - A Child Is Born / Christmas Morning                            53

Gotham 755    - Angels Watching Over Me / I'm Going Home To Jesus     54

Gotham 760    - Jesus Paid It All / I Want To See Him                          54

Gotham 774    - Jesus Is The Light Of The World / Only A Look              55

Nashboro  558 - Jesus Never Fails Me / I'll Be Alright                            55

Nashboro  607 - I've Weathered The Storm / Every Day                       57

Nashboro  644 - Yes Nobody Knows My Troubles / Touch Me Lord Jesus   59

Nashboro  659 - All That I Need In Jesus / Out Of The Depths                60

Nashboro  673 - Jesus Is A Way-Maker / My Sweet Home                      60

Nashboro  687 - I'm Getting Nearer - Pt. 1 / I'm Getting Nearer - Pt. 2     61

Nashboro  709 - Everybody Ought To Pray / Goin' Over Yonder               62

Nashboro  726 - He Never Left Me Alone / Be Sure He'll Take Me             62

Nashboro  787 - I Shall Know Him / I Want To Go To Heaven                  63

Nashboro  809 - Do Lord Remember Me / Yes He'll Take Care Of You        64

Nashboro  879 - Don't Know What I'd Do / Sometimes I Feel My Time Ain't Long   65

Nashboro  907 - Standing On The Highway / Jesus When Troubles Burden Me  66

Nashboro  946 - Father i Stretch My Hands / Glory To The Newborn King   68

Nashboro  951 - I Hope It Won't Be This Way Always / You Don't Know     69

Nashboro  960 - Somebody Saved Me / Will My Mother Know Me             70

Nashboro 1000 - Jesus Will Never Say No / I Will Trust In The Lord          73

Nashboro 1027 - I'm Bound For Mt. Zion / All I Need Is Jesus                  75

Nashboro 1041 - This Old Building Keeps On Leaking / Just Jesus             76

Nashboro 1054 - Hold On To God's Unchanging Hand / When My Savior Calls Me  77

Nashboro 1068 - Welcome Home / Thank You For One More Day             78

Nashboro 1075 - We Shall Meet / I Want Jesus To Make My Dying Bed     79

Nashboro 1087 - I'll Go With Jesus / I Shall Not Be Moved                      79

Nashboro 1090 - Don't Be Uneasy / I Shall Not Be Moved                       79

 

As the Angelic Gospel Singers and the Dixie Hummingbirds

Gotham 663    - Jesus Will Answer Prayer / In The Morning                      50

Gotham 683    - Dear Lord Look Down Upon Me / Standing Out On The Highway

Gotham 694    - Glory Glory Hallelujah / I'm On My Way To Heaven Anyhow

Okeh 6858      - Today / One Day                                                       52

Gotham release numbers are for 78 RPM.  45 RPM numbers are preceded by "7".

 

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