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Praise 104.1

Clay Evans was once known as Jessie Jackson‘s personal pastor through a popular television commercial promoting music in the 1970’s, but gospel fans have long known him as a great traditional gospel artist who has created gospel gems such as “Room At The Cross”.  Born on June 23, 1925, Brownsville, Tennessee, Evans was three years old before he began to talk.  When he finally uttered his first words, his grateful mother, Estanualy, prayed that his voice would be used for God’s service.  As a child, Evans often sang with the family gospel group that his mother sang and played keyboard for.  After graduating from Carver High School in Brownsville, Evans family moved to Chicago.  There he briefly sang with the Lux Singers before he joined an acapella group, the Soul Revivers, who often shared local bills with the Highway QC’s during gospel’s Golden Age.  In 1950, at the age of 25, Evans founded the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church with three siblings and two friends as his first members.  Over the years, the church’s name would change to Mount Carmel before Evans re Christened it Fellowship Baptist Church.  His sister, LeDella Reid, formed the 200-voice choir that has backed Evans on most of his albums.

Evans’s local fame grew quickly through his “What a Fellowship” radio broadcast, and his church’s growing congregation brought it political clout.  Sometimes that clout worked against him. For instance, in 1965 when Evans was building a new church and invited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to speak, he felt the sting.  The bank loaning the church money for construction withdrew the loan because the white bank executive viewed King as a racial troublemaker.  As a consequence, the building would not be completed until eight years later, when it was affectionately nicknamed “The Ship”.

Evans began recording his choir back in the 1960’s but really didn’t hit his commercial stride until the 1980’s when Savoy Records LPs such as Im Blessed, I’m Going Through, and What He’s Done for Me all hit the Top Ten on the gospel charts.  As contemporary gospel artist such as Andrae Crouch were embraced by youth, the traditional choir setting and impassioned vocals of Evan’s choir connected with the elders of the black church, who often felt that gospel music was getting away from God.

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