Gloria Ann Taylor: Be Worthy

My mother was a singer and an Evangelist. She took me everywhere she went. My mother had a lot of kids, but I was kind of special. The doctors said I wouldn’t live to be sixteen years old. I had something called rheumatic fever. Every time my mother would go to church she would make sure to send me in the prayer lines. I didn’t realize I was supposed to have been sick. The Lord healed me. After that, I lost my mother five days after my thirteenth birthday. My little sisters under me, and my little brother, and one sister over me, we went to a foster home and all that.

I was singing in the church first. I was in a group called the Emerald Gospel Singers, then a group called the Cordett Gospel Singers. Then I got a little older and I started singing at this club called the Green Light here in Toledo. A lot of people started coming. They started having two shows in one night and all that. I didn’t know how that worked. Anyway, I was singing in the Green Light, and my husband came, Walter Whisenhunt, from Detroit. He was James Brown’s production manager and he was the number seven promotion man in the United States. He got me! You know. So that’s how I ended up in the record business. Somebody told him about me over in Detroit, he came over to Toledo to see me, and I ended up with him. I was 23.

My husband wanted a great singer, and he felt I was. I was with CBS, Mercury Records; he got me with big record companies. But then we had a record that came out… he did his own production, you know, and he wanted his own record label. So I got off of CBS. And I wouldn’t have done that this day and time! I didn’t know anything about no record business. We got off of CBS and got on our own label, and then we went broke.

Did I feel like I was ahead of my time? No, I didn’t, honestly. I was just being myself. Just being my voice. I love my records. I love all those songs. I still listen to them. What kind of feeling did I want the music to have? I can’t answer that. Whatever came out of me.

 

 

My favorite song was “What’s Your World.”  Yeah, that meant a lot to me. “What’s Your World” was a message type song. Sharing. Yeah, sharing. It was more like a gospel to me. I had been in church all my life. Getting out, meeting my husband… I still had a lot that I needed to sing about or feel. A lot of feelings. Music was a release. I had it hard, you know. Did I tell you I had to raise two kids? When I was eighteen I had a daughter, and then I had two sisters. So I had three kids.

The best moment was when I saw my name going around on the Hollywood Palladium. Ooh! I thought, I made myself real big! I didn’t realize, you know, a lot of stuff. I was just going with whatever my husband wanted. But I didn’t feel like I was along for the ride. I felt like he was riding on me. [Laughs] I felt like the One.

The pressure got so heavy. When we got out in California we did a lot of recording. I started to get tired of it. I know what happened, it was when I got back into the church and I got pregnant again. In my religion, I couldn’t sing those type of songs. You know? Those love songs, and stuff like that. I didn’t know no better.

 

Now I go to River of Life in Upton. My pastor is my nephew. I can sing anytime I get ready; any time I want to sing a song, they let me. Going back to the church was very easy. I had a hit record, and my husband wanted to work, but I felt it was time for me to get myself back closer to the Lord. When it comes down to God, and your spiritual life, can’t nobody do nothing. But I was back and forth, because then later I went back to singing again with him. We had a lot of ups and downs on that road. I never really, really got out of God, though, you know. He carries a whole lot of weight.

I got some stuff that I’m doing now that’s very, very interesting. Would you like to hear something? You would? Ok… the Lord gave me this. Something took my hand and just started writing this song. This is just a practice, ok?

[Gloria sings her unreleased song, “Be Worthy,” accompanying herself on piano.]

That’s what I’m working on now. I was sitting on the steps one day, and my record had died down, and I said, I need another hit. I need another record. And something just took my hand and just started — ch ch ch ch ch ch — writing it. “Be Worthy.” Mhmm. I’m working on recording it now. But it’s not finished yet. Oh yes, honey. The music, I’ve gotta add some things. I’ve got ideas.

 

 

I’m a messenger. I’m a praying woman, I pray a lot. I have the gift of healing. When I was a little girl, first time it happened, my mother had a headache. I was about two or three. And she says, “Gloria Ann, come here and put your hands on my head and pray for mama. My head has been hurting, it won’t go away.” And I put my hands on her head. And she jumped up, and she ran down the steps— I remember so plain— and she started telling everybody in the neighborhood what had happened. She was— oh, so excited. Then after that, people that she knew that were sick, they would take me to their house and I would pray for those people. And they would get healed. I see things before they happen sometimes. That’s a spiritual thing the Lord has given me.

“World That’s Not Real” was about a man that wasn’t for me. “I don’t feel, I can’t feel it. Much like falling down for your love.” It’s sad? Maybe I had some sadness back then, I don’t know. There was a lot of pressure. and then money problems and all that. Now I’m way away from that. I’m not happy with how everything turned about, because I’ve got no money. But I just turned the music over to Ubiquity. So maybe things will change. I’m waiting on the royalty check now. [Laughs] I’m serious! It’ll be here sometime soon.

I know it would have worked out differently if we had stayed with a major label. But Walter wanted his own, and I didn’t know no better. That was my husband, and he knew about the business, so there was nothing much I could do but just go along with what he was doing. Just do the singing. But he never made any moves without my permission, so I can’t say I was angry or disappointed. Because I agreed.

My husband was kind of a brilliant man. You’ve seen the design on “Deep Inside of You”? He did that. And you know the symbol on my CD? He did all that. The music business took a lot of out him. That was his whole heart and soul. It was probably hard on him when I quit, but that was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was tired. I had put all this music out, and no income with it? How are you going to entertain people broke? You know what I mean? That’s not comfortable.

So we moved to Silver Springs and I left him. When I quit him, I quit the music. I felt like I was free. He was a very serious man, you know. I really can’t explain that, what that was like. I’m just now getting back into the music, within the last year. So you like my song, huh? “Be Worthy”? Well, I gotta finish it. You have my CD, right? I’m glad. But i’m not finished. I’m not finished at all. No. I’ve got a book I want to write as soon as I can get comfortable. I’ve got to get relaxed in my mind to do that. I would have gone all the way back to the beginning of my life… When I got away from my husband, phew! I went wild out in California. I wasn’t in the church and I just went wild. I could do what I wanted to do, I could go where I wanted to go. Well, I got on drugs, a drug, and I just stayed into it for some years. I asked the Lord to deliver me. I got tired, and I wanted deliverance. I’m free now. I’m not on anything. But it was hard.

Honey, there’s a whole lot. And this scares people. I remember when there was no Earth. It was— I don’t remember a sky, but there was a sky. The women were in the sky. And they had real long hair. And real big deep eyes. And real high, high cheekbones. They— some of them you would pass their face— it’s hard to explain. Some of them, tears would drop. Not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy, I believe. And I was one of them. And when I got older, I woke up, and I said, “Ooh! Look what I’ve been dreaming!” And I never had it again. I was dreaming that until I got old enough to realize what I had been dreaming. That was deep. There was no Earth. They were angels. And they all looked just alike, and I was one of them. I hardly ever tell this story. I don’t know why I’m telling you. They all looked just alike. I never talked about it, to nobody. I couldn’t explain it. What a vision.

 

This is something I’ve never told nobody. I don’t know why I’m telling you everything. I was born in the mountains in West Virginia. I was told that the night I was born, my mother and father used to have a rocking chair on the side of their bed. Something came and rocked in the chair. And my mother said they called him Judge. My mother said, “Judge, are you here?” And he said, “Yeah.” And he got up and moved the chair. That was the night I was born. That was an angel. What else would it be? Remember, I came from that. From those women. They were ladies, they weren’t women. They had real deep eyes, and very high cheekbones, and long hair. I don’t remember no clothes. And I don’t remember the bottom. I don’t think they had that.

I still have people call me and ask me to pray. You know those sisters I told you I had? They’re gone. I had three little sisters die before me. I got through that only through the grace of God. Only through His grace.

I’ve told you some things I’ve never told! And I don’t know why! Everything I told you is real. You can’t make up some of the things I could tell you! Oh honey, I’m glad. Will I ever talk to you again?

 

Gloria Ann Taylor in conversation with Elspeth K. Walker

Photography Jesse James Johnson

Styling Mitch McGuire

Special thanks to Larry Meyer and Leonard Taylor

keep reading