Odell Clayton Bailey, 85, singer with gospel groups


Odell Clayton Bailey, a retired welder and Baltimore singer who was known for his spirited renditions of old gospel favorites, died of emphysema Saturday at Sinai Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 85.

Mr. Bailey, who was born and raised in Laurens, S.C., became acquainted with gospel music as a child attending the local Baptist church with his grandmother.

"He started singing in church when he was a child and, by the time he was 16, was saved," said a daughter, Lillie M. Bailey of Baltimore.

Mr. Bailey married Louise McClintock in 1941 and moved to Baltimore a year later, when he went to work as a welder at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point plant. He retired in 1984, and his wife died four years later.

A lead tenor, Mr. Bailey sang for years with the Mount Hope Baptist Church male choir and the male choirs of Sweet Hope Free Will Baptist Church and Simmons Memorial Baptist Church.

He was the founder and lead singer of Bailey's Special, a gospel group he established in the 1950s and performed with through the 1960s. In 1970, he founded the Two Tone's Gospel Singers. He continued singing with the group until he stepped down because of failing health in 1995.

"We sang together for many a day, and he was wonderful to sing with. We always had a shouting good time, and he was very popular with church members," said Ethel Rogers, the surviving member of the Two Tone's.

Favorites in Mr. Bailey's gospel repertoire included "The Green Tree," "I Won't Complain," "Get Away Jordan I Want to Cross Over and See My Lord" and "The Old Account Was Settled a Long Time Ago."

"He had quite a voice, and when he was in church, everyone knew he was there. He loved telling people how blessed he was," the daughter said. "He'd kick his feet and shout, and the spirit was there when he was present. If you came to church without it, after listening to him, you left with it."

Mr. Bailey was an exceptional cook who enjoyed preparing meals for family and friends.

"He could cook like any woman. He made pies and cakes and baked rolls and bread. He also prepared wonderful fried chicken, pig's feet and roast turkey," his daughter said. "And whenever he was cleaning or cooking, he was singing `The Green Tree.'"

Mr. Bailey, who had lived on Seven Mile Lane since 1998, was an avid flower gardener and liked raising tropical fish.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at Triumph Missionary Baptist Church, 2200 E. Oliver St.

Survivors also include a son, William E. Bailey of Pikesville; another daughter, Sharon D. Bailey of Baltimore; a sister, Ella Mae McBeth of Laurens; 19 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; and three great-great grandchildren.


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