Sorry it's been so long since my last post, my 2K9 got off to a hectic start, but I'm not gonna bore you good people with the details. Let's just get into this post.
For a brief moment in 1971, Warner Bros.Records' Reprise imprint took sometime out from promoting Frank Sinatra,Sammy Davis, Jr., and Lola Falana records to spread the gospel via the electrifying music of the Stovall Sisters. Lillian, Netta, and Joyce Stovall were all born in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were the last three of ten children born to Della Stovall. Four older sisters sang as a church group for years until they married and settled into domestic bliss. The three younger girls sang in churches too as the Little Wonder in the 1950s, but by their teens had changed their name to the Valley Wonders. Della managed the group and booked their concerts. She also snagged them a record deal with a small label.
In 1964,the family moved to Oakland,California, where they finished high school, sang in church as the Stovall Sisters, and took on 9-to-5 jobs. They began to see that there was little money to be made in singing gospel, to they added secular music to their repertoire and started getting nightclub work around the city, lying about their ages because they were still underage. "We were with Ike & Tina Turner for a while," Lillian said in a 1971 press release. "I think we were the 18th set of Ikettes. We did a lot of recording sessions, too, but mostly it was club work. We were [known as] the Sisters Three when we did rock and roll, but we'd still record for the gospel label as the Valley Wonders or the Stovall Family."
Things weren't happening fast enough for their careers, so they took out an as in the Oakland Tribune that read, "Three Black Girls Looking for a Caucasian Band to Sing With." They got a lot of weird calls, but the only decent response from the ad was a keyboardist named William Truckaway. "He came right in and sat on the floor like we'd been knowing him for year," Joyce said back then. Through Truckaway, they did background vocals on "Bluegreens." He also introduced them to his musician buddy Erik Jacobsen, who decided to use them as the background singers on Norman Greenbaum's song "Spirit in the Sky." The song went to No. 3 on the pop charts and became the label's bestselling single up to that time.
Everyone enjoyed the sisters so much that Greenbaum's label, Reprise, decided to record a self-titled LP on them. Reprise issued three singles in 1971 including "Hang On in There," "Spirit in the Sky," and "The World Is in a Change," but none of them took off, The sister' sound was gutsy gospel wrapped in a rock music package and should have been a huge seller. Of particular interest was "Yes to the Lord," a brilliant gospel reworking of Martha Reeves & the Vandella's "My Baby Love Me." Also notable were the powerful vocal punches in the ballad "I'm Ready to Serve the Lord" and the sweet " The World is in a Change." Philip Baily briefly served as their music director before he eventually joined Earth, Wind & Fire. In the meantime, they did background vocals on Greenbaum's follow-up albums Back Home Again and Canned Ham. They did the same on Tom Fogerty's Myopia (1975) and Truckaway's LP Breakaway in 1976.
Bio source: Bil Carpenter's "Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia"
To find out what's going on with the Stovall Sisters today, you can visit their MySpace page by clicking here.
Their self-titled LP is long out of print but with some luck and lotsa patience you may be able to find an affordable vinyl copy here or sometimes here...I did.
The album was also reissued on CD back in 2005 and can be found here & here.
With things bein' as rough as they are lately, it's kinda cool to be able to find some solace within the lines of a song. Stay up y'all... Hang On In There.
Featured cut: "Hang On In There"
Listen to the full album here.