The Gay Family Gospel Music Experience

The Gay Family Gospel Music Experience


Authentic Hand Clapping Footstomping Traditional Gospel Music with a heavy Blues influence.


The migration led Fannie Lewis and Jerry Gay on separate paths from Georgia to Chicago. Their paths would cross in Chicago and they married in 1922. Five children was born to this union: Evelyn (1923 - September 30, 1984), Robert (1924–1967), Mildred (1926–2002), Geraldine (born March 31, 1931), and Donald (born August 28, 1945). Jerry ran two successful furniture shops and a scrap metal business during the Depression. He was able to feed and clothe not only his family, but also other families in his segregated, underprivileged neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. Mother Gay was introduced to holiness and joined the then 25 year old Church of God in Christ denomination under Elder P R Favors, who originally served as a deacon under Bishop C H Mason. Mother Gay played the organ and served as the church's choir director. Evelyn begin taking piano lessons and would soon follow her mother as the church musician.

Fannie and Jerry were known for their hospitality and allowed Mother Katie Bell Nubin, mother of famed guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe to live with them in their home. Mother Gay asked Mother Nubin to pray that God would endow her daughters with the same musical skills as Sister Rosetta. Mother Nubin's prayers were answered when Geraldine started playing the piano without lessons at the age of 3. Evelyn developed a firm, traditional style of playing, while Geraldine cultivated a spontaneous style with dissonant chord progressions and creative passion. Evelyn met and befriended a young Mahalia Jackson in the late 30s. Through their friendship, Evelyn would become one of Jackson's first accompanists in the 1940s. The Gay family lived down the street from Reverend L C Cook, father of Sam Cooke. Evelyn would later go on to accompany Sam Cooke on his Specialty Recordings with the Soul Stirrers. Evelyn had an eye and ear for talented singers and songwriters. Her business acumen and free spirit allowed her to negotiate recording sessions thereby introducing Rev. Cleophus Robinson as well as The Staple Singers into the gospel music arena.

On Sunday nights, the Gay Sisters were featured on the radio broadcast of the famous All Nations Pentecostal Church. This church had the distinction of having a radio broadcast that was heard across the country and was led by the fiery female evangelist Elder Lucy Smith, another Georgia native. The Gay Sisters were soon in demand and being featured in concerts and musical programs across Chicago and the surrounding area. The Gay Sisters trio would travel to Los Angeles in 1948, to make their first records for the Dolphin label. They recorded “Have a Little Talk with Jesus,”backed with "The Old Rugged Cross". They continued singing throughout the Midwest and soon received an invitation to come to New York from Dr. T.S. Harden, president of the National Baptist Convention. He booked them at his church and churches throughout the East Coast. From time to time, Geraldine would join them but wasn’t a permanent member at the time. Father Jerry was extremely protective of his baby girl and didn’t want her traveling on the road since she was newly married and expecting a child.

While in New York, they met Herman Lubinsky , president of the Savoy record label. He extended an invitation for them to join the Savoy Records roster in 1950. They initially recorded as the Famous Gay Sisters. Their first session was the old hymn “God Will Take Care of You.” At the time, most traditional black church music wasn’t considered sacred unless the tempo was slow and the words were drawn out. Evelyn rearranged the song by speeding the tempo a bit and not drawing the words out. The song was a message of hope and instantly resonated with black audiences and soon became a hit. It sold an easy 100,000 copies (an astounding amount of records for any genre to sell at the time), which in today’s sales would be equal to the popularity of a platinum record.

Evelyn was a go-getter and determined to make the group appeal to as many diverse audiences as possible. Older audiences liked them because they sang hymns, and young audiences liked them because they were young and sang up tempo gospel. They even embraced the Apostolic church (The “Jesus Only” denomination that didn’t believe in
the Trinity) by recording “Walk Out in My Jesus Name,”. As a result, many Apostolic
church music ministers booked the Preacher Gay and the Famous Gay Sisters for concerts based on that one song. They continued to make gospel radio hits such as the all time gospel standard “I’m a Soldier (in the army of the Lord),” “We're Gonna Have A Time,”and “On My Way to Heaven.”

At the invitation of Mahalia Jackson, The Gay Sisters Trio, with 4 year old brother Donald appeared at the first Gospel concert in Carnegie Hall in 1951. Preacher Gay, as he was called, was given an opportunity to preach at the Holy Convocation of the Church of God in Christ at age 6. Soon after he was


New York City, NY, March 1951
US12667 God Will Take Care Of You Savoy 4025
US12668 I'm Goin' To Walk Out In His Name Savoy 4025
US12669 I'm A Soldier Savoy 4027
US12670 The Little Old Church Savoy 4046

New York City, NY, May 1951
GS6654 It's Real Savoy 4043
GS6655 That's What I Like About Jesus Savoy 4046
GS6656 He Knows How Much We Can Bear Savoy 4037
GS6657 God Shall Wipe All Tears Away Savoy 4031

New York City, NY, July 1951
GS6658 Only Believe Savoy 4043
GS6659 God Is On Our Side Savoy 4027
GS6660 We're Gonna Have A Good Time Savoy 4031
GS6661 Oh Lord, Somebody Touched Me Savoy 4037

All of the Savoy sides, except "The Little Old Church" have also been released on Savoy LP 14021, called "God Will
Take Care Of You".

-- If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again Regent LP 6080

New York City, NY, March 1955
87565 Oh Lord Won't You Have Mercy Decca 29939, Decca 48335
87566 Take The Lord Along With You* Decca 29939, Decca 48335

* As by Gay Sisters with Sister Fanny Gay and Preacher Gay

Evelyn Gay

Chicago, IL, c. 1955
127 I Shall Not Be Moved (Now Let Me Tell You) P.E.A. 2019
128 Lord My Faith Look Up To Thee P.E.A. 2019

c. 1960
U-1372 On My Way To Heaven B and F 1351
-- Tell It B and F 1351

* As by Evelyn Gay & The Gay Sisters

Chicago, IL?, c. 1964
-- All Around Davis 104
-- Shine On Me Davis 104
BD-110-A Heavenly Home Davis 110
BD-110-B Coming Home Davis 110
-- Saint's Marching Davis 118
-- The Lord Moves In Mysterious Ways Davis 118

c. 1965?
MM554 God Promised To Provide Faith 940
MM555 Oh You Don't Know Like I Know Faith 940
-- Jubilee Joy Faith (n.n.)
-- From The Depths Of My Soul Faith (n.n.)

* Faith 940 as by Evelyn Gay & The Pilgrim Outlets, Faith (n.n.) as by Sister Evelyn Gay.

-- I Must Tell Jesus* Hummingbird 265
-- While I Run This Race* Hummingbird 265
H-5003-A Someday We'll Understand** Hummingbird 286
H-5003-B Lord, I'm Gonna Love You Till I Die** Hummingbird 286

* as by Evelyn Gay & Brother
** as by Evelyn Gaye

1974-1 Friends Gospel Master 205
1974-2 Well Done Gospel Master 205
GM-209-A Amazing Grace, Pt. 1 Gospel Master 209
GM-209-B Amazing Grace, Pt. 1 Gospel Master 209

Geraldine Gay / Mildred Gay

c. mid 1960s
-- Without A Song Faith 209
-- How I Got Over Faith 210

* This is one 45; 209 by Geraldine Gay, 210 by Mildred Gay

Sister Fannie Gay & Gay Singers / Donald "Preacher" Gay

c. 1968
S-2255 A New World In My View Rush 2709
S-2256 I'll Wait Till My Chance Come Rush 2709

* First title mentioned by Sister Fannie Gay & Gay Singers, second title by Donald "Preacher" Gay.

Rev. Donald Gay

Chicago, IL?, c. 1964
BD-109-A My Soul Davis 109
BD-109-B So Glad I Know Davis 109

Set List

You Dont Know Like I Know
You've Got To Move
Eyes Have Not Seen
Just Another Day
God Can Work A Miracle
I Have A Friend
God Shall Wipe All Tears Away
2 sets (30 minute, 45 minute)