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Praise 104.1
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When Vanessa Bell Armstrong hit the music scene with “Peace Be Still” (with its sweeping notes and jazzy phrasing) in the 1980’s the black gospel world greeted her with awestruck wonder.  Born October 2, 1953, in Detroit, she says her mother had a dream that Armstrong would sing for the Lord when she was still in the womb.  So, early in life, Armstrong sang at church and became known in local church circles.  Star maker Mattie Moss Clark recruited her at the age of 13 and had Armstrong singing with her various choirs.

Around  the age of 18, she recorded “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” with a local choir.  Her first husband, Samuel Armstrong, suggested that she stop singing around the house and sing for the public like God intended.  He packed her off to GMWA Convention in Los Angeles and arranged for her to sing “He Looked Beyond My Faults” before pivotal gospel industry executives and radio announcers.  The bit won her a recording contract with Muscle Shoals Records.

Eventually, Samuel Armstrong left his job at an auto plant and began managing his wife’s career.  Her first LP, Peace Be Still, was a traditional gospel album  heavy on vocal dynamics and simple musical arrangements.  The album shot to No. 3 on the Billboard gospel charts in 1984 and a star was born.  Her next project, Chosen went No. 1 and the last Muscle Shoals project, Following Jesus, also sold well.  During this period, Andrae Crouch chose Armstrong to sing the theme song for the NBC sitcom Amen and she co-starred with the Winans in the touring stage play Don’t Get God Started.  The buzz led R&B label Jive Records to sign Armstrong to a long term contract.  From the beginning, they intended to cross Armstrong over to the urban charts while maintaining her gospel following.

Jive gave Armstrong a beauty makeover and paired her with top R&B producers such as Loris Holland.  Peace Be Still took her from her churchy roots to slick urban styled ballads and dance songs with inspirational messages.  The album feature the pleasant minor R&B radio hits “Pressing On” and You Bring Out the Best in Me”, which stalled at No. 80 on the R&B singles chart in 1987.

Today she’s found a home and Music World Entertainment, a label owned by Industry powerhouse, Matthew Knowles.

All information was found in “Uncloudy Days, The Gospel Music Encyclopdia by Bil Carpenter on Backbeat Books.  To purchase log on to www.uncloudydays.com.

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