A new gospel

UP FRONT

August 05, 2007

Where do you go to find out about the history of gospel music?

You can try the Internet. However, Bil Carpenter, who has done promotions work for such artists as Baltimore's Jonathan Nelson, the Staple Singers and Shirley Ceaser, has put together Uncloudy Days (Backbeat), a gospel music encyclopedia about more than 650 artists and personalities from 1900 to the present.

Carpenter, a Washington resident, says he began the project because of his interest in history.

He got into gospel music as a youth and started to collect information about the artists.

"My parents forced me to go to church, and after a while, I did act like I liked it," says Carpenter. "One day I was cleaning out my closet. I saw this stuff and said, `Maybe I should use this for something.'

"I've been working with gospel artists for 15 years. Riding in limos with people, you learn about them. No one saw the side of them I was seeing," he says.

The book includes information he compiled about little-known artists such as the Rev. Willie Morganfield of Memphis, Tenn., who died three weeks after the interview in 2003.

"I wanted to even the playing field for those who aren't thought of," Carpenter says.

The book, nominated this year for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, also includes top gospel acts such as Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams, among many more.

There are even youthful pictures of Bobby Jones of the Bobby Jones Gospel show on BET and of R&B's Patti LaBelle, who recently returned to her gospel roots with her album, The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle.

The encyclopedia includes a 14-song CD. The $24.95 book can be found on Amazon.com, at many Barnes & Noble stores and on uncloudydays.com.

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