Driving Us to Gospel: The Caravans


Originally known as the background singers for Robert Anderson in 1947, the Caravans grew to become the nation’s most notable female gospel group by the late 1950’s. The member of the group fluctuated throughout the course of the groups career. This group launched many great solo singers including Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews, Bessie Griffin, and James Cleveland. The main group include lifelong member Albertina Walker, Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey, and Nancy Daniels. 

Elements of The Caravans

Although gospel performers the group used many elements of Jubilee Quartets. These elements include but are not limited to polyrhythms, hockets  and strophic songs. One of the many singers of the group, James Cleveland, not only played the piano to accompany the groups vocals but also narrating hymns over the vocals of the group.

Albums and Success on the Charts

Though the peak of the Caravan success only lasted a decade the group still managed to produce 28 albums and 44 EP’s and singles. Including hit songs “Blessed Assurance”  and “Tell Him What You Want” sung by soloist Albertina Walker accompanied by the caravan singers. 

Many of the artist went on as soloist but some of their best songs were produced while they were members of the caravan. For example Shirley Caesar singing in the chorus of “Lord Do Something For Me”  and “Jesus, I’ll Never Forget”. These songs are still sung in the church today just with a different rhythm, they introduced soul into gospel music, making it more inviting for all and a joyous tune to sing.

As of today most of the singers of the group has passed on to glory, However, those who are left still meet up and perform reunion concerts. One of their most recent live performances was in the memory of group member Inez Andrews who passed in 2012. They could be seen in many live television shows including Gospel Time and Jubilee Showcase.


Future Influences

With so many members leaving and becoming solo artist the group inspired more solo gospel artist. The songs that these artists created are still sung faithfully on the church, just to a different tune influencing the change of praise and gospel music over time. The Caravans music transitioned African American Gospel music from the traditional hymnals to the gospel music we know and enjoy today. 


Ankeny, Jason. “The Caravans | Biography & History.” AllMusic, www.allmusic.com/artist/the-caravans-mn0000640338/biography.

Jackson, Cheryl. “Gospel Pioneers: The Caravans, Shares The Story Of How The Group Was Birthed.” Praise 104.1, 3 Aug. 2017, praisedc.com/1840010/gospel-pioneers-the-caravans-shares-the-story-of-how-the-group-was-birthed/.

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