In the 1970’s, if you lived in a small southwestern desert town near the Mexico border, you didn’t expect to hear much soul music on the radio. So, when Diane Mays ran down 2nd Street hollering “there’s Negroes on the radio!” ; nobody paid attention. Then Gary, her brother, put a radio on the front porch and turned it up. That brought all the Saturday clean-up to a screeching halt. Radios switched on from the gambling man's house all the way down to the preacher's.
The piano was striding, the bass was bumping and the drums thumping. So the words caught us all by surprise.
"Did they say Jesus?"
"Naw, they must be thinking that's how you say Hay-zeus (spelled "Jesus" in Spanish)."
"Hush now, let's us listen."
And yes, that was gospel on the radio.
For a sample of what we heard go to Hoopla, sign in and type this: "Oh Happy Day". Click on the one by Edwin Hawkins-2004. It's short 'cause church mothers was falling out all over and couldn't take much.
Citing Emma Brown, Washington Post Staff Writer; Wed July 14, 2010:
Edwin Hawkins & Family won a Grammy for "Oh, Happy Day" in 1970. It was the 1st gospel song to climb mainstream charts. In 1968, a (Berkeley, Calif., choir) under the direction of Hawkins recorded an album. They expected to sell a few hundred as a fundraiser for an upcoming trip to Washington, D. C. But one of their songs--"Oh Happy Day"--caught the eye of a local Dj, who played it on the radio. It became an international hit, selling an estimated 7 million copies. It was the first gospel song to climb the mainstream charts.
Folks started talking about modern vs traditional gospel.
"What is tradition, anyway?" Bishop (Walter) Hawkins once said. "Gospel music doesn't have a particular style. Gospel's got to progress."
In our little dried up town, far from the centers of black culture, even we knew 'thangs' had changed!