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MITTY COLLIER

PART II - I OWE IT ALL TO THE WORD

(1969 – 2013)


Photo by Toshiya Suzuki

  In spite of many excellent records, Mitty’s eight-year stint with Chess in the 60s produced only four singles that appeared on Billboard’s charts - I’m Your Part Time Love, I Had a Talk with My Man, No Faith No Love and Sharing You.  Here Mitty’s blaming finger points at Chess’ inadequate promotion.  Actually those four singles were the only charted records in Mitty’s career, which on the other hand is logical, because during the next forty-five years her material with six different companies for the most part wasn’t aimed at the mainstream pop/r&b market.  It was still good and uplifting music, though.  Prior to devoting herself to gospel music entirely, Mitty still worked in the secular field for about three years after Chess.

PEACHTREE

  William Bell: “Peachtree was my and Henry Wynn’s label, and after Henry’s death it reverted to me.”  Henry was a famous Atlanta entrepreneur, who had worked with numerous artists either as a manager, or in organizing venues and tours - Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Jimi Hendrix... just about everybody had worked with Henry at some point.  Besides Mitty, Peachtree had in its roster such artists as Johnny Jones, Big Leg Moffett, Eddie Billups, Gorgeous George, Susie Rainey, James Fountain and the Four Dynamics.  William: “Most of those artists came to me during performing on some of Henry’s shows.  Henry also found a couple of acts, too.  Both of us would acquire acts, and I did the writing and producing for them.”

The label existed from 1968 till ’72 and released twenty plus singles.  Grapevine Records has released in 2006 an illustrative 20-track compilation titled Atlanta Soul: Peachtree Records Story (GVCD 3009), which contains four songs from Mitty, a northern soul favourite called Seven Day Lover by James Fountain and the first recording of You Hurt So Good by Susie Rainey.  You can read more comments from Mr. Bell on Peachtree at http://www.soulexpress.net/williambell_part2.htm

  Mitty Collier: “William was working with Henry Wynn, and Henry was my manager at that particular time.  He was responsible for the Supersonic Attractions Tours that we went on at least twice yearly.  I had left Chess and Rick Hall, so it was inevitable that he’d bring me on board at that particular company.  Working with William was real good.  William was not Riley Hampton or Monk Higgins - not even a Billy Davis to me – but he could put things together.  At that time we were concentrating on his own thing and I think it would have been better, if they had gotten an outside arranger to come in and do all of this.”

  The A-side of Mitty’s first single on Peachtree in 1969 was a William Bell composition called You Hurt So Good, which Susie Rainey had cut a year earlier on Peachtree 106.  Mitty: “William just put it up there, I liked it and said ‘I’ll sing it’.  The song is a blues ballad, a remote reminiscent of Your Good Thing Is about to End by Mable John.  Produced and arranged by William Bell, the flip side, a driving scorcher with heavy brass orchestration, was written by William and Harold Beane, a composer, arranger and guitarist.

  The plug side of Mitty’s second Peachtree single was a fully orchestrated, heavily swaying big and deep ballad named Share What You Got, which William had first cut for Stax (191) in 1966.  It was written by William alongside Steve Cropper and David Porter, produced and arranged by William and Harold and flipped with a driving scorcher called I’d like to Change Places, written by Mitty and Alan Spector.

Mitty: “I never liked uptempo songs.  I liked ballads the most.”  William: “Mitty was working on a lot of Henry Wynn’s tours.  In concert she needed some uptempo stuff, so we just decided to record some uptempo stuff of her own to let her have uptempo songs to open and close the shows with.”


TRUE LOVE NEVER COMES EASY

Mitty’s third single in 1969 coupled True Love Never Comes Easy with the standard Fly Me to the Moon.  A Bell-Beane composition and production, True Love Never Comes Easy is a mellow and melodic mid-pacer, which has a certain lasting, haunting quality.  The flip, Fly Me to the Moon, starts like a cabaret song but grows more stirring towards the end.  Bobby Womack had scored with the song just one year earlier on Minit (# 16-r&b / # 52-Hot).  William: “Actually the A-side was True Love Never Comes Easy, because that was an original song, but Fly Me to the Moon was the song that the DJs played a lot.”

  William co-wrote Lovin’ on Borrowed Time with Homer Banks and Joe Shamwell, and cut it on himself later on Stax (0157), in 1973.  Produced and arranged by William, this triangle ballad is melodic and soulful and builds up into a fine crescendo.  It’s simply a brilliant performance from Mitty.  However, she prefers the flip side, the self-written ballad titled One Heck of a Lover, which also is an intense, slightly bluesy song.  Mitty: “I think it should have been the A-side.”  No matter what, the single makes one “heck of a” double-sider.

   A deep ballad with a dramatic structure named Your Sign Is a Good Sign was written by Mitty and Doris Benion.  Mitty: “Everybody was into zodiac horoscopes and all of that, and that’s why I wrote that song.  Doris was a friend of mine.  In Chicago we sat down and she helped me with different signs and such.”  According to Mr. Bell, the A-side of the fifth single was the “Ruth Brown romp” (# 1 in 1953), Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean.  William: “We were trying to get as many uptempo songs recorded on her as we could, and we hadn’t written a lot of uptempo stuff on her.  So when we started recording sessions, some of the songs that she was doing live on tours we just recorded them.”

  There shouldn’t be any unreleased material on Mitty on Peachtree, except one song, What Do You Want, which was released later in Japan.  William: “’What do you want, good loving or good times.’  It’s a ballad.  It’s one of the last recordings that we did on her.  I think during the time Mr. Wynn fell ill and everything, so we never did really release it on her.”

  In spite of having enough material, Peachtree didn’t release an album on Mitty either.  William: “During the time Henry had about five or six acts that were like opening acts and acts that contributed to his tours and stuff, and he was trying to get as much product down on all of those acts, so we were just releasing singles.”

  There is, however, one Japanese Vivid Sound compilation entitled William Bell Presents: Atlanta Session (VS-1020; 1980), which contains 9 tracks from Mitty, including the shelved What Do You Want.  The only two missing songs are I Can’t Lose and Fly Me to the Moon.  The album also features two songs from Jimmy Church (Shadow of Another Man’s Love, Thinkin’ about the Good Times) and three from Emory and the Dynamics (Things That a Lady Ain’t Suppose to Do, Let’s Take a Look at Our Life, It Sure Would Be Nice). 


  These days concerts, movie project and CD releases keep Mr. Bell very busy.  William: “I’m working on two projects as we speak.  I just finished a movie that’s soon going to be released called Take Me to the River, which is about music business.  I’m working on a new CD and talking to the Concord/Stax people.  Also I’m working on another project for my Wilbe label.”

  “We have released CDs on Jeff Floyd and the Total Package Band, which is actually my band that travels with me on the road.  Then we got a jazz project with Wizard Jones, and, of course, we’ve got this new Lola project, and it’s doing very well here in the States.  My own CD will be released round June.  I’m doing a lot of writing right now on it and we’re cutting some demos on it and then we start the actual recording, round the first of year” (www.williambell.com). (One the pic above: William Bell at Curtis Mayfield tribute)

ENTRANCE

  Mitty’s last secular single was cut in 1971 and it came out the next year on Entrance.  It paired a new Alan Spector-Mitty Collier song called I’d like to Change Places with His Part Time Lover with a country-soul ballad named If This Is Our Last Time.  The latter song was written by Dallas Frazier, and it’s been recorded by Brenda Lee, Tammy Wynette, Tina Turner, Percy Sledge and Ruby Winters, among others.  Mitty: “I did four songs there and during that time I was losing my voice, and on those songs you could hear the tones.”

  Entrance Records, distributed by CBS, was Chips Moman’s label, which in 1972 moved from the original American Recording Studio location to Atlanta.  Besides Mitty, they had Cymarron, Steve Alaimo, Billy Lee Riley, Billy Burnette and a few others in their roster.


Mitty Collier in Porretta, Italy, 2013

THE LAST SECULAR CONCERT

  In late 1971 Mitty’s voice became more and more raspy on a tour.  “By the time I arrived home, I couldn’t talk and could barely whisper.”  She went to the Chicago ENT Hospital and they found a polyp on her vocal cords.  Surgery was performed and there was a long recovery period ahead.  Mitty, in fact, told about this episode in her testimony on stage at the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy this July.  You can watch this extract at www.youtube.com/user/lepidatv/videos (-> please choose: July 19, 2013 – Day 2 of 4 – Part 2 of 2 -> at about 37 min).  “After the surgery, I waited six weeks, and returned to the doctor.  They couldn’t understand why I couldn’t sing, because everything looked clear.  I was advised to come back in another week and get checked out again.  During this time, I began to pray for my voice to return and it was restored approximately three months later.  I knew that God had given me back voice.  I found out that when God gets ready to heal you – a doctor can’t do you any good.”

  There was still one secular show scheduled in Atlanta, GA.  “I had given my life to the Lord and I didn’t want to go, but my manager, Henry Wynn, had booked it a year before, and the only reason I could do it was because it was a benefit performance for the Butler YMCA there in Atlanta.  My plane was late.  When I arrived for rehearsal, it was over and nobody wanted to come back to rehearse with me.  ‘Otis Redding’s band’ was playing for this particular show.  His organist, lead guitarist and drummer agreed to play for me.  My cousin, Joseph Franklin, who is a fantastic trumpet player, happened to be there with his trumpet in the trunk of his car, agreed to play.  Here are four people that would play for me and I have this big band arrangement!”

  “I sang I Had a Talk with My Man, which was arranged in the key of A-flat.  Because of all the instruments missing, the song ended up in B-flat.  When I started to sing, I was shaking and I knew then that even though I was singing ‘I had a talk with my man’, I was no longer singing with soul but with the spirit of God.  When I finished, the place sounded like the wild horses had been loosed in a stampede.  I took my bow and wanted to leave the stage, but the crowd was screaming my name and ‘more, more, more’!  They were so excited – I just wanted to leave.  Henry came running down the aisle to the backstage shouting ‘Mitty, you’re back, you’re back’, and I said ‘no, Henry, this is it.’  My cousin took me immediately to the airport and that is where I stayed until the next morning, when my plane was scheduled to leave.  God had let me go out on a big note and I was thankful.”

  “Before the loss of my voice, I enjoyed those times - travelling the highways with my friends in the industry,  performing in different cities each night for 30-35 days at a time, travelling on a bus, until I was able to purchase my own automobile.  It was fun and nice, especially being with my best friend in the business, Gladys Knight.  One thing we had in common was that both of our husbands were named Jimmy.  I was a bit older than she, so I could comfort her in her experiences.  She’s a sweetie.  I don’t miss any of the other things that went on during that time.  My life has been filled with my ministries and hopefully I’ll be able to record again in the near future.”


Photo by Toshiya Suzuki

THE WARNING

  Mitty’s first gospel album, The Warning, was released in 1975 on the III A.M. label.  It was produced by David Peay and Charles Pikes, who also was the arranger and pianist.  “David Peay was just a friend, who loved music and was interested in recording.  He knew me, because he and my mother-in-law attended the same church.  When he found out that I was now singing gospel music, he decided to try me as his first artist.  III A.M. was David’s label.  Charles Pikes was my musician during that particular time.”

  This recording was done at the Universal Studio in Chicago.  Among the ten tracks on display is Mitty’s first recorded version of I Had a Talk with My God Last Night.  Mitty tells about the title track, The Warning/Get Right Church: “It was written from an experience I had before I was born again.  A prominent preacher was having an affair with my best friend.  I knew all of the things that he was doing.  When I got saved, I couldn’t understand how he could do the things he was doing – and neither could I understand my friend.  So I wrote the song about the church getting right, starting with the preacher first.”

  “Swing down Your Chariot is an updated version that I wrote regarding the old Negro Spiritual, Swing Low, Sweet ChariotIn the Garden is a standard hymn.  I wrote the lyrics to You’re Gonna Need Jesus - Charles Pikes did the music – to tell how important it is for us to follow Jesus, because we all need Him.  There are lines such as ‘you don’t need mink coats - which I had - the best of shoes, good job, you can’t lose, if you have Jesus’.  He’s My Light is another standard by the Roberta Martin Singers.  This was actually the first song that I sang, when I was a young girl in the First Baptist Church choir in Pratt City, Birmingham, Alabama.  It was meaningful to me that it be included on this first project.”  This slow and beautiful spiritual was recorded in May 1952 with the velvety-voiced Norsalus McKissick on lead.  The writer of the song, Lucy Smith Collier, had done it already a year earlier.

  Mitty and Charles also wrote the mid-tempo I Can See Clearly Right Now, but - besides Talk...- the highlight for me is the very slow and even bluesy You Cannot Serve Two Masters, also written by the two of them.  “Charles Pikes wrote Grandma Recognized the Signs from listening to his grandma tell about the things that will happen in the last days, such as you can’t tell the wintertime from the springtime, violence, etc.”

  “The album was promoted in the Chicago area, but it just didn’t catch on, because I don’t think David had the finances to really push it.  It was a very good project, though.”


HOLD THE LIGHT

  Mitty’s second gospel LP, Hold the Light, was released two years later and this time the producer-arranger and writer of three songs out of eight was Kevin Yancy, Marvin Yancy’s brother.  Together with another musician from Chicago, Chuck Jackson, Marvin Yancy, Jr. formed a successful and musically impeccable group called the Independents.  Later the twosome wrote and produced number one hits for Natalie Cole, and eventually Marvin married Natalie in 1976, but the marriage lasted only 3 ˝ years.  Reverend Marvin Yancy, Jr. had a stroke and passed away in 1985 at the age of thirty-four.  “Marvin was a very gifted musician and singer.  I enjoyed working with him.  He co-wrote with Kevin and actually played synthesizer on He Brought Joy into My Life.”  It’s a very slow song and in style and interpretation it’s closer to soul than traditional gospel.

  Distributed by T.K., the album was recorded at P.S. Recording Studio, and Ralph Bass, who discovered Mitty at the Regal Theatre for Chess Records, was credited as the album coordinator.  “The original Chess studio had moved from its original location, 2120 South Michigan Avenue, to 21st Street.  Paul Serrano (= P.S.) took over the studio.  He was formerly one of the trumpet players in the band at Chess.”

  Backed with a rhythm section and a loud background choir, Mitty kicks off with the title tune, Hold the Light, a pounding and mid-tempo beater, which was arranged by Ralph Bass.  Other uptempo tracks include the driving On the Other Side (by Mitty and Charles Pikes) and Kevin’s Love in the World, a gospel-disco number á la the Mighty Clouds of Joy, with a social message. 

  Lord, You Blessed and I’m Glad are both self-written, intense deliveries, and together with Kevin’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine they make up three strong downtempo songs on the record, but even more convincing is the closing track, Dottie Rambo’s (1934 – 2008) composition from 1970 called He Looked Beyond My Faults.  Mitty’s passionate performance carries her almost into a trance towards the end of this 6-minute singing sermon.  “When God gave me back my voice, that was the song that I began to sing in my home.”

  The album was released on the Gospel Roots label.  “The company filed bankruptcy.  I loved the album.  I wish they had turned it over to somebody else to really put it out there, but it just wasn’t meant to be, and I don’t know why.”

MOVIN’ ON UP

  Gerald Sims is a noted figure in Chicago music circles.  Born in 1940, he started playing and singing in the Daylighters in the late 50s.  He cut solo singles in the early 60s, but shortly started concentrating only on producing and writing at Okeh, Brunswick and Chess.  As an extra outlet for his creative work, Gerald formed a label of his own, Gerim, in the late 60s and revived it in the early 80s with releases on such artists as Tony Gideon, Encore, Jimmi, M2 and 7 Miles High.  He and Mitty knew each other from way back, since the early 60s, as he had been the lead guitar player on most of her recordings at Chess, such as I’m Your Part Time Love

  In 1981 Gerald recorded an album entitled Movin’ on up with Mitty for his Gerim label, but it was never released.  “It was recorded at the former Chess studio after Gerald Sims took over that building.  That was actually the best album that I did before this last one.  Gerald was responsible for that.  I asked him to give the masters to somebody that could put it out there and promote it, but it never happened.  Gerald still has the masters.  I recorded my version of Mahalia Jackson’s Move on up a Little Higher – thus the title, Movin’ on up.  I also recorded Ordinary People and Ask It, Believe It, Claim It.”  This song also appears on the I Am Love album and on the latest CD.  “I think Gerald had some people backing him, and they must have let him down.  But I’m thankful that I am the first gospel artist he thought about to record.”


Photo by Toshiya Suzuki

FEED-A-NEIGHBOR (FAN)

  Since 1978, for twenty-five years, Mitty worked as an editorial assistant for the Journal of Chemical Physics in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago.  She retired in 2003.  In 1983 she launched a ministry called the Bible Study Telephone Prayer Line, a ministry that allows its participants to study the bible daily and pray via the telephone.  “We started by using the three-way lines with six people on each line, and each line having a line leader.  Now most of the lines have advanced to using the Conference Lines, which begin at 4:30 am and the last line is on at 9 am.  People are on according to their work schedules.  There are presently a total of 150 people of every denomination on the phone everyday that are involved in this ministry.  It helps a lot of people, who are invalids or sick that can’t get out to go to their own churches.  We use a book for the Line called 365 Devotions that keeps us away from anybody’s denomination, because it focuses on God and Jesus and just helps us to live better lives, to learn how to pray and really how to study the bible for better understanding.  Many people have been changed because of this ministry – many others have been healed because of the prayers of the ministry.”

  That same year Mitty received an online degree in Evangelism from the Bold Christian University in Bedford, Texas, and two years later she received Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from the Gospel Ministry Outreach Theological Institute of Houston, Texas.  “The FAN Ministry drew attention of many.  It was birthed from the Bible Study Telephone Prayer Line (BSTPL).  We were having lessons back-to-back, from the Old and New Testament on the subjects ‘Who is your neighbour’, ‘Do you love your neighbour’ and ‘Your neighbour is anyone who has a need’.  We learned this lesson and God spoke to me and directed me to take messages from the pages and put shoe leather on them.” 

  “This is when we began to go out to the streets with food, clothing and the Word of God.  We started on the coldest day in February 1985 in Chicago with all kinds of cooked food in the trunk of our cars. It was so cold out that you couldn’t find a lot of people out on the streets.  So we went to several parking lots distributing the food.  They were glad to get hot soup and chilli and the other items of food that we had.  Finally, after two hours, one of the members on the BSTPL, Mary Tarver, said ‘I know a place that we can go and get rid of all this food’.  She told us to go to 47th and Vincennes Avenue, which was one of the high crime areas in the City at the time.  She was right.  People came from everywhere to get the food and it was gone in less than an hour.  The superintendent of police at that time, Leroy Martin, later told me that on the days we were there on 47th Street, during those hours the community was quiet.  I stayed there until 2003 and then we moved over by my church.  In the winter we distribute coats and boots for warmth.  In July we have a big picnic on the lot with music, good food and prayer.  In August we distribute backpacks filled with school supplies and in December we distribute Bags-of-Blessings with fruit, nuts, candy, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, toiletries for all ages.”

  In 1987 Mitty received a key to the city of Birmingham, Alabama.  “My home is Birmingham, Alabama, and the Mayor at that time, Richard Arrington, who taught me at Miles College, heard about FAN and decided to do something for ‘the home-town girl’.  He initiated at Mitty Collier Day on July 26th.  A picnic was held and that is when I received the key to the city.”

  Besides this particular award, Mitty had received numerous awards including The Dorcas Fellowship Award, Kizzy Award, Connexions Award, Woman of Excellence Award, the First Humanitarian Award from the African-American Religious Connection (AARC) Award from Rev. Clay Evans in honour of the late humanitarian Mother Consuella York, the Hannah & Elkahan Award, the Midwest Christian Men’s Humanitarian Award, The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) Woman of Wonder Award and many, many others.


I AM LOVE

  Mitty’s third released gospel album, I Am Love, was her own undertaking.  She introduced her daughter, Elisha.  “I did Just the Two of Us with us.  I wrote the song for the two of us, because it was important to me because of the life that I tried to bring her up in after my conversion and also to display her beautiful soprano voice, which is more seasoned now than it was then.”  Just the Two of Us is a nice and melodic, even poppy, mid-tempo song.  Elisha Joseph-Harris is a vocalist in a gospel mass choir called Ricky Dillard & New G(eneration), which has since 1990 released records on such labels as Muscle Shoals, Crystal Rose Records and Animated Ent./EMI Gospel (http://website.rickydillard.net).  Elisha is a soloist on some of the recordings.

  “I Am Love was recorded in Chicago and released on William Henderson’s New Sound label in 1987.  William heard about me doing gospel, and this was his first label.  He Brought Joy into My Life is the same song that was on the Hold the Light album, with different musicians and background singers.  Count Every Experience a Blessing is a message to let us know that whatever we’re going through, if you look at it with a positive attitude, it can be a blessing.  Ask It, Believe It, Claim It (ABC) is the same as on the latest CD, with different musicians and singers, and I wrote Teach Me How to Follow Thee for Elisha.  Would You is an old song with a country flavour.”  Among the eight songs there’s still What He’s Done for Me, a big-voiced mid-pacer with some powerful preaching from Mitty.


MORE LIKE CHRIST

  “I got the call to the Ministry in 1987 and was ordained in 1989.”  In 2003 Mitty Collier became Pastor of the More Like Christ (MLC) Christian Fellowship Ministries, located at 8201 South Dobson Avenue, Chicago, Il (www.morelikechristministries.org). “The Church is sometimes up, sometimes down.  People come, people go.  I say this reluctantly: ‘Lord, why did you have me pastor a church, where I have to deal with people...’ (smiling).  When I was just evangelizing, going all over the country singing and preaching, it was so much better.  Sometimes I go to MLC and there is nobody there!  But I love the ministry, because I have some faithful members there,  I really appreciate them, and they are the ones that keep me going.  I pray that God will add to the flock more faithful members like the ones I have.”

  Besides her church, Mitty has been featured on TV shows.  “I go, if they call.  In the past I have been on the Bobby Jones Show and Taft Harris’ Saturday Night Sings, which is now defunct.  I do periodic interviews with Jho Rhoney on CAN-TV, Chicago Channel 25.  I have been featured on Rev. Harold Bailey’s Internet Talk Show, Probation Challenge (www.probationchallenge.org), and also Inspirations from the Altar with Brenda White on her Internet Show.


FROM MAN TO GOD

  Alongside all her other activities, our industrious lady has written and produced two plays as well.  “Who Else but God was written about the establishment of my Bible Study Telephone Prayer Line ministry.  I was performed by members of the group.”

  The Mitty Collier Story/From Man to God is a dramatic musical production that has been staged on and off since the mid-80s, primarily in the Chicago area.  “Gerald Wiggins from the Christian Library on Demand heard about the play.  I only had it on VHS, so they asked me to redo it so it could be on DVD.  I did it again in November 2012, and the DVD is out.  Victoria Brady, who is a minister in my church and also an actress, plays me when I was young.  Initially my daughter Elisha played the young Mitty Lene, but she was unable to come into the city for rehearsals because of the commitment of a new job.  Christian TV wanted the DVD like yesterday.  Now I see that we could have waited so that we could have turned out a better version, without the rush.”

  From Man to God was directed by Minister Victoria Brady and Pastor Collier, with the total running time of 2 h 14 min.  It features some of the most significant turns in Mitty’s life in seven main scenes.  Frank Menzies is the musical director.  The first scene shows the young Mitty singing in a gospel choir in the First Missionary Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and from there we move to 401 Club, where Mitty got her start in nightclubs and then on to Chicago to appear on the Al Benson Talent Show at the Regal Theater, where she won first place.  Blues and R&B songs that were recorded by Mitty, such as Hallelujah, I Love Him So, My Babe, Let Them Talk, Fever, Someday You’ll Want Me to Want You and I Had a Talk with My Man are featured.  Episodes with “Top Cat”, a “pimping, low-scale manager”, and the violent, drinking and gambling husband and common marijuana scenes are sonically illustrated by her singing her recordings of I Gotta Get Away From It All, Free Girl, Drown in My Own Tears and Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean

  The concluding music consists of songs from Mitty’s latest CD/DVD, I Owe It All to the Word -   Amazing Grace, If You Understood My Past and I Had a Talk With My God Last Night.  Among acting and singing there are four intervals, where Mitty shows old photographs.  In the last one she lovingly tells about all the members of her family, whose characters appear in the play, or are mentioned.  From Man to God is an illuminating DVD on Pastor Mitty Collier’s colourful life and chequered career.  Although the acting at times is amateurish – because there are amateurs performing - the story itself is fascinating.  Also the sound level requires more balancing.  You can watch Mitty herself telling the story more briefly also at http://vimeo.com/64864693.  However, the DVD will air and be placed for sale on all the Christian Library on Demand, worldwide apps starting in early December.


TOKYO in 2010

  “I was sitting at my computer one day and a promoter from East St. Louis, Missouri, emailed me saying ‘I hope you are THE Mitty Collier, because I’m trying to find you for some promoters in Tokyo, Japan.  They want you to come over and do five nights of concerts.  The concert will feature gospel, jazz and blues.  And they want you to come to do the gospel portion.  They know what you are doing now and they really want you to come’.  I said that I would come.  I went over and people from my ministries went there with me.  They had already hired Johnny Rawls’ band.  Most of the band lives in California, and Johnny lives in Wisconsin.  He came to Chicago to rehearse with Arthur Sutton and his band.  They were playing for me at that time.  Then Johnny flew to California to get the music together with his band, before we went to Tokyo.  Of course, they were professionals and had the music down pat, but the gospel feel was missing, which made me sing harder.  I will never do that again without my own musicians or at least with one who knows my music, such as Minister Calvin Bridges, who can get the band together.”

  “When I finished on stage in Tokyo the second night, I went out to sign the CDs that I had with me and these precious people came with stacks of my r&b 45s for me to autograph.  Preachers from all over had brought busloads of their congregations to hear me sing.  I was too surprised but quite delighted.  The Flamingos were also on the show along with some Japanese artists.  I was the only one singing gospel, as I was at the Porretta Festival.  The next night the same thing happened.  It was amazing.  When I returned home, I told everybody about the great time I had.  The people from Tokyo began to email me to tell me how the people were yet talking about me and my performances and how they enjoyed me.  A couple of months later they asked if they could record a new CD/DVD on me.  Of course I said ‘yes’.”


I OWE IT ALL TO THE WORD

  In August 2010 we recorded the CD/DVD at the Greater Walters AME Zion Church in Chicago.  It was supposed to be released in February 2011, but the tsunami occurred and delayed it until July 2011.  The CD contains six tracks that were recorded at Rax Trax Recording Studio in Chicago, and four live tracks were recorded on August 27th at the church.  Produced and arranged by Calvin Bridges and Mitty Collier, she’s backed by a 7-piece rhythm section and seven background vocalists.  Calvin Bridges wrote or co-wrote five of the songs with Mitty out of the ten songs on display. 

  I Owe It All to the Word offers one hour’s worth of great gospel music, and P-Vine released the set first (PCD-18655), but, to make the purchase easier for Westerners, Dialtone (www.dialtonerecords.com) released just the CD in 2012.  “That’s Mr. Eddie Stout.  He’s out of Austin, Texas, and he’s got a lot of blues singers.”  Indeed, Dialtone has released material on Barbara Lynn, Bells of Joy, Bobby Rush, Chip Taylor, Cornell Dupree, Lavelle White, Mel Davis, Willie Nelson and many others.

  Mr. Eddie Stout noted that “it’s a very special market for this type of music, but I love Pastor Mitty’s gospel, especially her recordings in the 70s.  Pastor Mitty gets respect for being a legend as one of the artists who shaped our roots music.  We just hired a radio promoter, who will also help with a video we placed on VOD to help Pastor Mitty spread the word” (www.ChristianLibraryonDemand.com).

  Eddie also mentioned that his latest signing is a blues harmonica player by the name of Birdlegg.  By typing “Birdlegg Interview” on YouTube you’ll get more information on him.  There’s also a good recent interview with Mr. Stout at http://bluesjunctionproductions.com/eddie_stout_the_blues_junction_interview.

  Calvin wrote two uptempo “camp” songs, a fast scorcher called He’ll Make It Happen and a “praise party” stormer titled If You Understood My Past.  Among the rest mid- and downtempo songs there are many highlights.  Mitty’s own tune, Ask It, Believe It, Claim It (ABC), is a melodic and big-voiced mid-beater, which appeared already on the I Am Love CD.  The title tune, I Owe It All to the Word, is a slow song with a social message, “which proclaims how important it is for everybody to stand on the Word of God for everything we need.”  This over 8-minute opus gradually grows into powerful crescendo.

  There are also majestic deliveries of both Rev. James Cleveland songs, No Cross, No Crown, and I Had a Talk with God Last Night, with the latter clocking at 8:35 and deriving from the Warning album, with a slightly different arrangement here.  Hometown could be described as nursery rhyme gospel music in ragtime tempo, and the devout Amazing Grace closes this marvellous set.  I Owe It All to the Word is one of the most impressive gospel albums in recent times, and I strongly recommend it.  If not in your local store, you can purchase it at Dialtone directly.

  P-Vine released also a deluxe version with a DVD (PCD-18656; 10 tracks, 94 min.) of Pastor Mitty Collier singing these songs live at the Greater Walters AME Zion Church.  The non-CD songs here include a brisk and inspirational cover of For Once in My Life and Calvin’s joyous toe-tapper named Higher Ground.  The DVD closes with a 23:30-long Pastor Mitty’s Sermon; half-talking, half-singing.


Mitty Collier together with Heikki Suosalo, photo by Juhani Laikkoja

PASTORING ON...

  “I’m really hoping that I Owe It All to the Word will take off, because it’s such a good project.  After this, we hope to do something else with the P-Vine label.  A new promotion has begun with the project for Dialtone and P-Vine by Donnie Mack, Radio and Video Promotions (mackdonnie1@gmail.com).

  “I still want to thank all the readers and my fans for keeping my name alive.  Most people still know me from secular music, and that’s what keeps my name alive.  Here in Porretta, Italy, where we are now (21.7.2013), it’s been a joy to perform.  There are plans being set up now for me to go to Australia in June of next year for a festival.”

© Heikki Suosalo

DISCOGRAPHY

SINGLES

PEACHTREE

121)  You Hurt So Good / I Can’t Lose (1969)

122)  Share What You Got / I’d Like To Change Places

123)  True Love Never Comes Easy / Fly Me To The Moon

125)  Lovin’ On Borrowed Time / One Heck Of A Lover (1970)

128)  Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean / Your Sign Is A Good Sign

ENTRANCE

7512)  I’d Like To Change Places With His Part Time Lover / If This Is Our Last Time (1972)

ALBUMS

THE WARNING (III A.M. 1022) 1975

The Warning (Get Right Church) / Love Affair With Jesus / Swing Down Your Chariot / You Cannot Serve Two Masters / Grandma Recognized The Signs // I Had A Talk With My God Last Night / I Can See Clearly Right Now / In The Garden / You’re Gonna Need Jesus / He’s My Light

HOLD THE LIGHT (Gospel Roots, GR-5020) 1977

Hold The Light / He Brought Joy Into My Life / On The Other Side / Lord, You Blessed / Love In The World // Nobody’s Fault But Mine / I’m Glad / He Looked Beyond My Faults

I AM LOVE (New Sound, LP-8214827)

I Am Love / Just The Two Of Us / He Brought Joy Into My Life / What He’s Done For Me // Count Every Experience A Blessing / Ask It, Believe It, Claim It (ABC) / Teach Me How To Follow Thee / Would You

I OWE IT ALL TO THE WORD (P-Vine, PCD-18655 – 2011; Dialtone 25 – 2012)

He’ll Make It Happen / The Rainbow / Ask It, Believe It, Claim It (ABC) / I Owe It All To The Word / If You Understood My Past / No Cross, No Crown / Hometown / At Calvary / I Had A Talk With God Last Night / Amazing Grace

....................

ADDITIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

William Bell (the interview was conducted on November 20, 2013), Larry Eaglin, Eddie Stout

© Heikki Suosalo





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