Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: The Canton Spirituals


The Canton SpiritualsThe Canton Spirituals

Major Works

Songs

  • It's Gonna Rain
  • Searching
  • Lord, Hold My Hand
  • Wonderful Change
  • Tighten Up The Rope
  • Depending On You
  • Mississippi Poor Boy Live in Memphis
  • Heavenly Choir
  • I'm Coming Lord
  • Fix It Jesus
  • Ride This Train
  • He's There All The Time
  • Strugglin' & Strainin'
  • Tell Me How Long
  • Clean Up
  • Glad I've Got Jesus
  • God Loves You

Albums

  • Live in Memphis I -1993
  • Live in Memphis II  -1995
  • Tribute to the Man  - 1995
  • Living the Dream: Live in Washington, D.C. - 1997
  • I'll Give It All to You - 1990
  • Mississippi Poor Boy - 1990
  • I'm Coming Lord - 1996
  • On The Move - 1996
  • Ride this Train - 1996
  • We'll See You in Church - 1996
  • Meet the Same People - 1996
  • Determined - 1998

Other Appearances

  • Blackberry's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 - 1996
  • Gospel Showcase - 1995
  • Songs Mama Used to Sing - 1994

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The Canton Spirituals: A Biography
By Clarissa L. Nolen (SHS)

For many listeners, the word "gospel" conjures the sound of large African-American Southern choirs singing  joyous songs of celebration.  These  choirs began singing  traditional spirituals and  later evolved  into close knit, small groups that were the blueprint for doo-wop groups (All Media Guide).  However,  the Canton Spirituals have become more than a doo-wop group.  The Canton Spirituals are often described  an accomplished gospel quartet  that has paved the way for many gospel groups and singers.  Founded in  Canton, Mississippi,  the original group included the songwriter and singer, Harvey Watkins, Sr., who began to sing in the group at the age of fourteen, and the other original members: Eddie Jackson, Theo Thompson, and  Roscoe Lucious  (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).The Canton Spirituals has remained  the number one  gospel music quartet in the country.  They represent the best of the past and present in gospel music (i music).

The current lead singer, Harvey Watkins, Jr. has been singing and performingClarissa Nolen, SHS.  Photo by N. Jacobs with the group since he was a young child.  Watkins attributes his interest in  music to his parents.  Watkins's  father and mother are still  the most important persons in his life.  Since The Canton Spirituals'  founding, they have been through heartaches and pains and many people have left the group.   Presently,  The Canton Spirituals members (Wallace Strickland, Victor Allen, Ralph Loften, Michael Richardson, Merlin Lucious, Cornelius Dwayne Watkins, and  Rufus Mapp)  are under the direction of Harvey Watkins, Jr.,  since the passing of his father, Harvey Watkins, Sr.,who died of cancer in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 16, 1994.  Harvey Watkins, Sr., until his death,  was the only original member with the Canton Spirituals  (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).  In the city of Canton, Watkins's  song- writing skills, music and legacy will remain an important part of not just the city of Canton's history, but America's history also.

In July 1994, Watkins received a Legend Award at the Mississippi Gospel Music Awards.  During the same month, Second  Street in Canton, Mississippi,  was renamed Harvey Watkins, Sr., Street  in his honor (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).  The Canton Spirituals have always kept  God as the cornerstone of their life and music.  Their music, according to one source, reflects the "heart"and "soul" of this rich genre and is perhaps the primary reason why they have such a loyal following (i music).  The Canton Spirituals have received numerous awards due to their dynamic and melancholic music.

In Harvey Watkins' hometown of  Canton, Mississippi, The Canton Spirituals received a Concurrent Resolution 557 in February from the Mississippi  Legislature during their 1998 Regular Session honoring them for receiving two Stellar Awards at the 1997 Stellar Gospel Music Awards and for being the only gospel quartet in America and the only Mississippi gospel artist to achieve such honors (Blackmon).  The Canton Spirituals have also received the 1998 Excellence Award for Quartet of the Year-Traditional and LP of the Year- Traditional (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).  The Canton Spirituals have also won Group/Duo of the Year and Traditional group/duo at the thirteenth annual Stellar Awards (gospelcity).  Their album, Live in Memphis I, received a Grammy nomination.  They appeared at the awards show in April 1994.  Live in Memphis I was also the longest running album on Billboard's Gospel Music Chart as of November, 1994 (Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998).

They are currently a part of the Gloryland's Gospel Music Top 15 Quartet Albums - 1st half of December, 1998 (geocities).   Other awards and accomplishments include numerous Stellar, GMWA, Excellence, Dove, Soul Train, Urban Network Awards, and several Grammy Award nominations (i music).  The Canton Spirituals put their heart and soul into their music.  Listeners can only wonder if this is what contributes to their rising success.  The Canton Spirituals have become loved and admired not only because of their ability to sell their music, but also to sing gospel effectively, change lives and people's views on life, and, most importantly,  spread the story of Jesus and the things he does for them and what he can do everyone else.

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Timeline
By Clarissa Nolen (SHS)

1943 - Harvey Watkins,Sr,. started singing and also founded The Canton Spirituals
1943-1993 - The Canton Spirituals have award-winning songs and albums to help them to become the #1 gospel music quartet in the country
1990 - I'll Give It All to You is released
1990 - Mississippi Poor Boy is released
1993 - Live in Memphis I is realized
1993 - Greatest Hits- Vol. 1 is released
1994 - Live in Memphis I receives a Grammy nomination
1994 - Live in Memphis I is  the longest running album on Billboard's Gospel Music Chart
1994 - The Canton Spirituals appear on the album Songs Mama Used to Sing
1994 - Harvey Watkins, Sr. receives a Legend Award
1994 - Harvey Watkins, Sr. dies of cancer in Jackson, Mississippi
1994 - Secondth Street in Canton was renamed Harvey Watkins, Sr.
1995 - Live in Memphis II is released
1995 - The Canton Spirituals appeare on Gospel Showcase
1996 - I'm Coming lord, On The Move, Ride This Train, We'll See You in Church, and Meet The Same People are released
1996 - The Canton Spirituals appear on Blackberry's Greatest Hits-Vol. I
1997 - Living the Dream: Live in Washington, D.C. is released
1998 - Presented with Resolution 557 from the Mississippi Legislature
1998 - Win 1998 Excellence Award for Quartet of the year-Traditional and LP of the year-Traditional

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Review of Live in Memphis II

Live in Memphis II is a album that should be a must in everyone's CD collection.  Live in Memphis II is a album for people who love The Canton Spirituals, gospel music, or for people who turn to gospel music for comfort.  Live in Memphis II is by far the best album to listen to if you are seeking guidance, comfort, or just spiritual relief from God.  This album contains thirteen soothing songs with the my favorite song, Tighten Up The Rope, a bonus track featuring the late Harvey "POP" Watkins, Sr.  It also contains the #1 song Wonderful Change and Searching I would give Live in Memphis II five stars if I were a music critic.

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Related Websites

This page shows The Canton Spirituals album, Live in Memphis and the songs on the album.

This web page gives information about the album Living the Dream.

The Canton Spirituals are more than just the #1 gospel music quartet in the country.

The Canton Spirituals come out on top with Living The Dream: Live in Washington, D.C. during the Soul Train Music Awards.

The Canton Spirituals not only have excellent music, but are G.M.W.A. Excellence Awards winners.

Mississippi Legislature decides to recognize The Canton Spirituals.

Amazon.com has reviews of Live in Washington and includes audio clips of The Canton Spirituals

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Bibliography

"All Media Guide on Gospel."[online] available @ http:// allmusic.com

"All Media Guide on Harvey Watkins, Jr." [online] available @ http://www.all music.com

 Blackmon, Horn.  "Mississippi Legislature: 1998 Regular Session: Senate Concurrent Resolution 557" [online] available
    http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/1998/history/SC/SC0557.html.

Cox, James.  "Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998."  Tallahassee, Florida. Rose Printing Company, Inc. c.1997. Ref F336.C6967

"1998 G.W.M.A. Excellence Award Winners" [online] available @ http://www.gmwa.org/boardmetting/98excellence.html

"Imusic Contemporary Showcase - The Canton Spirituals [music] [online] available @
   

"Imusic Contemporary Showcase - The Canton Spirituals" [online] available

"13th Annual Stellar Award Winners" [online] available @ http:// www. gospelcity.com/news/news.htm

"The Canton  Spirituals - Live in Memphis" [online] available @ http://malaco.com/gospel/cantons

"Tunes - Live in Memphis II" [online] available @ wysiwyg://14/http://www.tunes.com/tunes-cgi2/tunes/release/116134/1

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