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Houston County Black  Heritage

"Thei​r DNA is BURIED in your SOUL"   ~  "WE are the HOPE and the DREAM of the SLAVE"

~~ Music is Good for the Soul ~~

         Black people played an enormous part in moving forward the history of American folk music, from the slave spirituals to early field recordings, songs of the civil rights movements, story songs, gospel songs, protest songs, chain-gang songs, and beyond. Black musicians and artists have influenced and inspired generations. In the spirit of celebrating Black Music, here’s a look at some of Houston County’s notable musicians and artists.

Ulysses Davis 1904-1978

           

         ULYSSES DAVIS, was a drum beater and played for 50 years, he played the kettle drum. He would play the drum every weekend and people would gather and dance all night long. His oldest brother played blues on the guitar. His brother, Clint Davis, played the bass drum. They played all around at picnics, school closings, etc.

          It was just drums to begin with and then James, son of Ulysses,  came on and played guitar with the drums.  James started playing the guitar as a child and soon began playing with his father and uncle.  They called it "Saturday Night Drumbeat", they played all over middle Georgia.  James became known as the "Drum Beat Man"



James "Drum Beat Man" Davis 1931-2007

James

 “DRUM BEAT MAN” Davis

“The people around here call it the old country drumbeat. They like that old country-style playing. A lot of them say they'd rather hear my playing than hear them piccolos. I don't know what the drum do to people but look like people just enjoy drums."

James Davis

                  JAMES DAVIS was a renowned musician known by many as the "Drum Beat Man". He was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame and also was highlighted in The Living Blues Magazine. He recorded numerous lp's and cd's.   

 

 “I played the same type of beat my father used to play but I just put the blues to it”.

James Davis

ESSIE MAE DAVIS BROOKS

         There have been musicians in this Davis family for generations. James’ sister, ESSIE MAE BROOKS is one of the great gospel singers. She began singing and writing gospel songs as a girl and has never stopped. Their grandfather, BUTLER DAVIS, played the harmonica and Essie started singing and accompanying him. 


           Essie  recorded two CDs, she graced the stage of the Apollo Theatre,  and toured throughout Europe. Essie is also featured in the book Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America (2004). 

JOHN LEE ZEIGLER

            John Lee Zeigler of Kathleen, Georgia played the guitar left-handed, with the strings upside down, striking the bass strings with his index finger and the treble strings with his thumb. John was the most unique and pure Georgia blues artists. Music Maker issued recordings for Zeigler on several compilation CDs and an unreleased solo CD. He was also featured in the book Music Makers. His mother raised eighteen children in Peach County.

ALBERTINA WALKER

      Albertina’s roots run deep in Houston County.   Between 1917-1920, her parents  Ruben and Camilla Coleman Walker left Georgia for Chicago, like several others who left the county, in search of a better way of life.  Albertina was born on August 29, 1929 in Chicago. 

         In 1951 at just twenty two years of age Ms. Walker organized her own group, the world famous CARAVANS.   She recorded over 60 albums, including gold selling hits. She sung for President George Bush and also performed for President Bill Clinton, and President Nelson Mandela of South Africa. The City of Chicago paid tribute to Albertina by renaming 35th and Cottage Grove "Albertina Walker and The Caravans Drive". The "Queen of Gospel" stated… “believe me when I say it, it's been a wonderful life serving the Lord and His people through song”. Albertina died on October 8, 2010 in Chicago.

Winfred Lorenzo “BLUE” LOVETT

            Though born in Macon, Georgia and raised in Jersey City, NJ,  Blue Lovett's roots are embedded in Houston County Georgia.

          Blue had a passion and love for music. He learned to play piano by ear. In the early 1960s, Blue reconnected with childhood friends and formed a group called The Manhattans. Blue was the songwriter and bass singer extraordinaire of the legendary group. Known for his silky smooth base voice, and all of the sultry spoken sections of the Manhattan recordings; Lovett's songwriting and singing were integral parts of one of the most popular R&B groups in the world. 

           In 1964, after performing at the Apollo, they signed with carnival records and released their first single titled “For the Very First Time”. In 1974 blue wrote “Kiss and Say Goodbye” and it became the first single in the history of Columbia Records to be double platinum. In 1977, the Manhattans performed at the inaugural ball of President Jimmy Carter; in 1980 they received a Grammy Award for the hit “Shining Star”. His last performance was Sept. 25, 2014 at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. Following the performance he said “I have been blessed, this has been a good run”… He died on December 9, 2014. 


 The Co-founder of the group, Edward “Sonny” Bivins born in Macon, Ga, died a week prior on December 3, 2014.



Blue Lovett and Sonny Bivins

George, Sonny, Blue, Kenny and Ricky

         Edward "Sonny" Bivins, founding member of the Manhattans, died on December 3, 2014, at the age of 78. He sang on every Manhattans hit since the group's inception, and wrote many of their hit songs. He led the Manhattans up until his death.


The Original member of the Manhattans were:

  •  George "Smitty" Smith - 1939- 1970
  •  Edward   Jessie "Sonny" Bivins, Jr. - 1936-2014
  •  Winfred "Blue" Lovett - 1936 -  2014
  •  Kenny "Wally" Kelley - 1941 -  2015
  • Richard "Ricky" Taylor - 1940 - 1987

LEON COLLINS

         Leon was born and raised in Perry, Georgia where his roots run deep. He was signed by Elf Records, and also had recordings with Audio Forty and Checker Records. Leon started singing in church and school choirs at the age of 5 and continued to sing while in high school. 

        By the mid-60’s Leon had become a front man and sang lead vocals with the Vanguards and the Ambitions. He broke out on his own and performed at Georgia Southwestern, Fort Valley State College, as well as, other colleges and universities.  

       In the late 60’s after a short military stay, Leon moved to Boston and recorded his first 2 songs, “Somebody Help Me” and “Sad Day Tonight”. His single 'I Just Wanna Say I Love You' has been popular on the UK Northern and Modern Soul scenes over the years.

Leon Collins

 A small band named "The Ambitions" emerged from the Houston County Training/High School. The members were Lawrence Goss, Jr., Horace Ragin, Billy Grace, Robert Lumpkin, Luther Vance, Billy Brown, James O'Neal, Melvin Ragin, and Albert Solomon.

JOHN A. SIMPSON, III

         The humble beginnings of the infamous S.O.S. Band can be traced back to 1977, when this gifted Atlanta born musical group stepped onto the music scene as "Santa Monica"; consisting of six skilled musicians (Jason Bryant Billy Ellis, Willie “Sonny” Killebrew, Bruno Speight, James Earl Jones III, Houston county’s own, John A. Simpson III, bass player, and lead vocalist, Mary Davis. They developed a strong following at the renowned Regal Room nightclub in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1980 the name was changed to the S.O.S. Band (Sounds of Success) and their debut album turned gold. Writers for his group included the likes of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. 


         John A. Simpson III, is the founder & senior pastor of The Temple of Miracles Global Worship Center.