Albertina Walker was a protégé of famed singer Mahalia Jackson, founder of The Caravans, arguably The Greatest Gospel Group Of All Time and heralded as an unparalleled launching pad for gospel superstars: Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews, Bessie Griffin, Dorothy Norwood, Cassietta George, and The King Of Gospel, James Cleveland were but just a few of the ensemble’s alumni who later went on to solo fame.
“When we started out, money was the last thing on our mind; we just wanted to lift up the name of Jesus, we wanted to praise Him,” Walker was quoted as saying. “We were Christian women and men who wanted to praise the name of the Lord, to lift him up, not ourselves. I knew this is what the Lord wanted me to do – to recruit singers: take them across the country; let the world hear Gospel music; let the people enjoy Gospel music; let people be saved through Gospel music. It took a long time but I appreciate all of the good, nice things that the Lord has given me.”
Always giving the Lord credit for her success, Walker has said, “The Lord is my keeper, He is my all in all and whatever good that happens to me – God did it.”
In 1955, The Caravans were signed to Savoy Records. By 1956, the Caravans were among the most popular acts on the gospel music circuit due in part to their ethereal, amazing vocal interplay and strong alternating leads.
The Caravans disbanded in the mid-’70s, though there were occasional reunion tours. The ’70s saw Walker re-signed with Savoy Records releasing such LPs as “Please Be Patient With Me” (her first Grammy-nominated album), “I Can Go to God In Prayer,” “Spread the Word,” “I Wont Last a Day Without You.”
In 2005, Walker, the “Queen of Gospel Music;” Dorothy Norwood, “The World’s Greatest Gospel Storyteller;” Inez Andrews, “The High Priestess;” Deloris Washington, “The Sweet Songbird;” and “The First Lady Of Gospel,” Pastor Shirley Caesar were reunited for an exclusive “live” performance and in-depth behind the scenes interview in the taping of “Gospel Legends,” Malaco’s widely successful three CD and three DVD television package that united all of the Gospel pioneers of the last 80 years with current Gospel superstars, in which all five of the remaining Caravans appeared on one of the covers.
In 2006, Walker was reunited once again with her royal court to record the Grammy, Soul Train, Stellar and Dove nominated release “Paved The Way” for Malaco Records with three of the four other anointed, living legends from The Caravans.
The CD was recorded at Chicago’s West Point Baptist Church, which brings things full circle … at least for Albertina Walker. West Point Baptist Church is Albertina Walker’s home church, where she first sang in the children’s choir at the age of 4, with the support and instruction of giants of the genre such as Thomas A. Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland (who was a childhood friend).
The Savoy Records / Malaco Music Group relationship with The Queen, Albertina Walker has spanned over 55 years.
A memorial service and a concert have been planned for the “Queen of Gospel” Albertina Walker, who died last week in Chicago.
The Rev. L. Bernard Jakes says a public viewing of Walker’s body will take place Thursday at West Point Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. A concert in her honor will be held late Thursday at Apostolic Church of God in Chicago.
Walker’s memorial service will be held Friday at West Point Missionary Baptist Church. Burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery.