“Where We’ll Never Grow Old,” AKA “Never Grow Old” (J. Moore, 1914)
Patty Griffin with Buddy Miller, live, 2010
The Canton Spirituals, live, c. 1990
The Carter Family, recording, 1932
Aretha Franklin, live, Detroit, 1996
Johnny Cash, recording, 2004
Helen Levitt (1913-2009), New York
Sullivan Pugh, 1925-December 30, 2010
replay: a clip too good for just one day
The power of conviction?
Look at that smile (1:35).
The Consolers (Sullivan & Iola Pugh [husband and wife])
“The Grace of God,” live (TV broadcast [TV Gospel Time]), early 1960s
“Waiting For My Child,” live
“I Feel Good,” live
In its classic form, gospel was music designed to kill—to slay the congregation in spirit, moving them not just to laughter, tears, and hollers, but to screams and even seizures. The first woman who started shrieking was known, in the parlance of the gospel quartets, as “Sister Flute.” Big churches had volunteers in nurses’ uniforms to tend to the stricken.
Later these forces were unleashed on white teenagers, to memorable effect. Little Richard, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Al Green—two whole generations of soul singers got their start and their sound in church. You know what they can do. And you know the idioms too: You set me free. You set my soul on fire. Have mercy. Help me now. I need you early in the morning/in the midnight hour/in the evening/to hold my hand. Not to mention that rock and roll standby: I feel all right.
But—at the risk of a) sounding like a Christian or b) stating the obvious—in gospel those words make a kind of sense they will never make in secular music. In gospel a grownup can perform them and mean them right down to the ground. The lyrics may not be much in themselves: as [Anthony] Heilbut writes, “the music’s success depended more on its singers than its songs.” But for all the group participation in gospel, for all its expression of communal feeling (and political protest), these songs deal very deeply with loneliness, abandonment, and death. They ask more of God than we can ask of one another. The very idea of “needing” the one you love may predate the gospel explosion, but it is a gospel idea.
—Lorin Stein, “The Gospel According To Gospel,” The Paris Review (blog), 7/2/10
(Originally posted 8/1/10.)
“Glory Land,” 1962
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Sullivan Pugh, interview, “May The Work I’ve Done Speak For Me”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Sullivan Pugh was born in Moorhaven, Florida in 1925. When his mother was killed in the 1926 Lake Okeechobee hurricane, Pugh and his five siblings were adopted by a family in the community of Punta Gorda. Pugh began singing as a child soloist at the First Born Church of the Living God in Miami.
He met his wife lola when she was singing with the Miami Gospel Singers. The couple married in 1950. In 1952 the pair decided to form a gospel trio with Pearl Nance-Rayford, and they called themselves the Miami Soul Stirrers. Their original repertoire was based on the traditional spirituals and songs of the Holiness Church. Early influences included other African American gospel groups such as the Soul Stirrers of Chicago (from which they took their name) and the National Gospel Twins of Delray Beach, Florida. In 1953, Nance-Rayford quit the trio and Sullivan and lola took the name The Spiritual Consolers for their duet.
During the early period of their careers, the Pughs sang for both the Glory and DeLuxe recording labels. In 1955 they signed with Nashboro Records in Nashville, Tennessee and shortened their name to The Consolers. Their first recording with Nashboro was “Give Me My Flowers.” “Flowers” would remain their best selling recording and signature song.
For forty years Sullivan and lola Pugh were considered among the elite traditional African American gospel performers in America. During this period they sang on numerous single releases and produced twenty-five albums. They performed concerts in the Bahamas, England, Africa, Canada, and throughout the United States. Favorite southern gospel performers, The Consolers performed at countless church conventions and camp meetings in Florida, Their blended vocals along with Sullivan’s guitar playing were considered trademarks in the world of gospel music. A gifted composer, Pugh wrote many of the songs heard on their recordings and in concert.
lola Pugh died in October 1994. Sullivan Pugh remains a member of his childhood church in Miami. He is actively involved with The Consolers Progressive Charity Club which assists the needy. Pugh continues to sing and participate in community and church activities.
The Consolers’ “Waiting For My Child,” released in the early ’60s and written by Sullivan, was covered a couple years ago by Mavis Staples and Patty Griffin.Vodpod videos no longer available.