Probably the greatest Gospel singer of all time. ‘The Thunderbolt of the Middle West’ had a massive vocal range and unparalleled dynamic control, slipping effortlessly from a whisper to an earth-moving blast. His commanding stage presence and superb delivery could have made him a Blues star, but he would have nothing to do with secular music. He made several million selling records and he was dubbed ‘the male Mahalia Jackson’, a sentiment wholeheartedly endorsed by Ms. Jackson herself.
In 1949, Brother Joe signed for Specialty Records, and his early recording of ‘Search Me Lord’ was said to have sold a million copies. Resplendent in white robes, Brother Joe toured constantly, often with a full choir but equally at home with a simple organ accompaniment. He continued to record and sell millions of records without troubling the charts or crossing over into the ‘white’ market. Switching to the Nashboro label in 1958, Brother Joe recorded many of his own compositions. Brother Joe was always popular in Gospel circles and he was given a higher profile when he starred with Marion Williams in the musical ‘Black Nativity’ in 1961. Written by Langston Hughes, this was a huge off-Broadway hit and Brother Joe toured The States with the show. He returned to his Southern homeland and continued to record and tour, despite his failing health, throughout the 60s. Unfortunately, Brother Joe suffered a massive stroke and for him Judgement Day arrived on July 14th 1972.