Rev. J M GATES
When the ‘race music‘ industry was getting into its stride in the mid-20s, a surprising number of records were not secular Blues or vaudeville songs, but religious recordings. While the ‘Blues Divas’ and country songsters provided the secular output, the sacred side was dominated by Gospel singers, ‘hell-fire preachers’ and ‘guitar evangelists’. Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Joe Taggart are the best known ‘evangelists’ of this period, although Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charley Patton both issued records of religious songs while hiding behind false names. However, the Rev. JM Gates was the undoubtedly the King of the ‘Straining Preachers’.
‘Mother Heart Breakers’ is pretty strong meat!
By the end of 1926, the Rev. Gates began to take a more measured approach and for the next few years his output was only(!) about 20 tracks per year. In 1930, record sales ‘fell off a cliff’, and Rev. Gates did not go back into the studio for four years. He started recording again when record sales began to improve in the mid-30s, but Gospel Choirs and religious harmony groups were giving the public a more mellifluous and less scary sacred music. Rev. Gates’s last session in October 1941, just before the USA joined WWII, included the portentous ‘Hitler and Hell’. The Rev. Gates then retired back to his pulpit in Atlanta and he went to meet his maker just as the War was won.