The Caravans: Gospel Pioneers

Throughout history, many gospel groups and singers have created music with lyrics that fuel our souls.

Thesis Statement: The Caravans, a gospel group formed in the late 1940s birthed some of the most well known gospel singers today and paved the way for other groups and solo artist in the gospel community.

The Caravans, originally know as Robert Anderson and his Gospel Caravans, were a group formed by Robert Anderson in 1947. The Chicago based group was formed as back up vocalist for Anderson. The original members consisted of Irma Gwynn, Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancy, Edward Robinson, the pianist, Louise Overall Weaver, the organist, and of course Robert Anderson. They recorded their first records between 1949 and 1951 under the names Robert Anderson and Choir as well as Anderson singers and their original name. In 1952 slight changes were made with the add of Albertina Walker and Nellie Grace Daniels. They would record their first and only song as Robert Anderson and The Caravans on April 18th, 1952. A number of issues were presented during this recording session causing Anderson to part ways with The Caravans.

After the drop of Robert Anderson, Albertina Walker became the lead vocalist for The Caravans. With the changes made the group now had the opportunity to have anyone as a lead vocalist. In the 1950s The Caravans hit their stride recording songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” with the altos of Shirley Caesar and the contralto from Inez Andrews on “Mary Don’t you weep”.

As The Caravans went on members like Shirley Caesar and Cassietta George left to pursue solo careers leaving the group with little popularity. members began to come and go, old members returning and current ones pursuing careers on their own.

With Some of the Original members rejoining the group, The Caravans began recording for HBO records (1971) as well as recording some songs composed by the great Donny Hathaway. with a short rebirth, the group disbanded in 1972 to only regroup in 1976 for Birthright records.

Occasionally the group would do reunion concerts featuring members from all years. In 2008 the group went on their official reunion tour after their concerts in 1994 and 2004. The tour brought the birth of Albertina Walker’s reunion Album which was dubbed by billboard Magazine as “One of the most memorable releases of 2006. The Album would go on to be in the Billboard top 10 and stay in the top 40 for 16 weeks straight.

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