In recent years, the term living legend has been tossed around a lot without much thought as to whether the said artist really is legendary, but the Evereadys are true living legends. For almost 40 years, their sound and style has been a hallowed tune on the quartet/black gospel circuit. Although, “Learning to Lean” is their signature song, they are also known for the evergreen songs “So Real”, “If I Had A Chance” and “I’ll Go.” After several personnel changes, broken promises and industry politics caused the group to lay dormant for more than a decade, New Orleans Saints wide receiver, Joe Horn, has brought the Evereadys back into the public forum. On August 9, 2005, the Evereadys will release their first CD in 13 years, Just For My Friends, on Horn’s For Life Miracle Records, Sontag, Mississippi.
With the new project, the Evereadys will open a new chapter in a history book that dates back to 1950 when future Rhythm & Blues icon Jackie Wilson (“Lonely Teardrops”, “Your Love is Lifting Me Higher”), Lorenzo Jordan, Emmanuel Jordan and bass singer Jack Johns formed the Evereadys in Detroit, Michigan as an a cappella quartet. They performed regularly in the Midwest but disbanded when Wilson left to join the R&B outfits, The Thrillers and then the Royals before hitting it big with Billy Ward & the Dominoes.
Almost two decades later, the Jordans’ sister started pushing her sons, Jerome and Marvin Williams, to start singing but he was primarily interested in playing drums and football. “I didn’t want to sing unless I did big band music,” Williams recalls. “I listened to Buddy Rich, Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis Jr. and those types of people. But my mom persuaded us to sing.” His grandmother then suggested that they pick up the Evereadys’ name but Jerome was against that. “I wanted something else,” he laughs. “But Grandma won out.” With that, the Williams brothers and their cousins, Lorenzo & Gregory Jordan, relaunched the Evereadys in 1967.
On many Sunday mornings, the group could be found at Detroit’s WCHB Radio station where the gospel announcer Bertha Harris would allow them to sing live. Through this contact, they began to get concert gigs with artists such as the Sensational Nightingales and the Consolers. Both groups took them under their wings and kept them working. Still, Williams remembers that “A lot of groups would say, `we’re not singing if the Evereadys are gonna be on the bill.’ We would still the show but because they were the headliners and people were paying to see them, sometimes the promoters would take us off the show.” They would perform out of town on the weekends and then rush back home in time for school on Monday morning.
As much as they loved singing, it wasn’t always fun for the Evereadys. “I can recall being on the side of the road and hungry with all the tires blown out the van and not knowing where we were gonna go or how we were gonna get there,” Williams says. “But God always made a way. Every time we’d call home, we’d say `we’re doing really good.’ But, we wanted to say, `Mama, please send us some money because I’m so hungry’ but if I had said that she would have made us come home.” But, they had a few angels watching over them such as William C. Hall, who managed Robert Blair & the Fantastic Violinaires. “He was like a father to us,” Williams says. “He booked us across this country with no record [in the stores], He just sold everybody on the idea that we could sing. He would bogart programs like when Shirley Caesar and all of them were performing and he’d get us on the programs and they’d take a collection for us.”
Jerome Williams was such a fan of the Fantastic Violinaires that many fans thought the Evereadys sounded like them. “They were doing an appreciation concert for the Harmonizing Four,” Williams reminisces. “Their whole group had quit except for the three original members and someone suggested to them `why don’t you get the Evereadys to play with you.’” Violinaires leader, Robert Blair came to them and asked if they knew his group’s material. “I said not only can I play it but I can play all the mistakes you made on the record and he laughed,” Williams says. The Evereadys became the Violinaires for the next two years and recorded the album Presenting the New Violinaires “But it was the Evereadys. We would do the programs with them during the day but at night we’d come together and rehearse the Evereadys material,” says Williams.
Circa 1972, the group started to itch to make it in the R&B world. They were out in Los Angeles pondering their next move when they met a woman who arranged a meeting with the Jackson 5’s producer, Hal Davis, at Motown Records. “I took my acoustic guitar and sang all original stuff and he was so impressed he was like `wow, I really like you guys.’” Williams says. “I want to fly you down to Vegas and let you see the Supremes’ show, I’m going to get you a house and groom you and blah blah blah.” Then, Williams recalled a preacher prophesying to his mother when he was a child that he had a vocal gift and that if ever used it for anything other than to glorify God that God might take his voice. “I never forgot that,” he says. “So I started to get the jitters and backed out of the Motown deal.”
The other members of the group blamed Williams for them missing their golden chance at stardom with Motown and the group eventually broke-up. Williams got married and left the business for a while. Then, he started to miss singing and re-organized the Evereadys circa 1980 with four sets of brothers including his own brother Marvin, Aaron Beasley, Marvin Reed and Charles and Kenny Porter. While the group was performing on a bill with the Jackson Southernaires and the Mighty Clouds of Joy in Saginaw, Michigan, opportunity knocked. Frank and Huey Williams of the Southernaires “Came to us and asked us if we were on a record label,” Williams recalls. Frank Williams, who was also an executive with Malaco Records, persuaded them to join the label’s roster in 1981. “They kept us down there for a week,” Jerome Williams says. “We signed a contract that Monday, started recording that Tuesday and were out of there by the weekend.”
The recording process was informal and relaxed. “Frank Williams wrote the `Outlaw’s Prayer’ song while we were sitting there in the studio basically, Marvin Reed recalls. “As a matter of fact, Jerome did it in one take. The Jackson Southernaires had a song called `Teddy Bear’ that was really popular at that time, so Frank said, `we got to get you a Teddy Bear type of song’, so he just sat down and wrote it on the spot. Jerome went in the studio with it, read it and adlibbed a little with it and that was it.” That song, “If I Had A Chance” and a new arrangement of the Blackwood Brothers’ “Learning to Lean” were the radio highlights of the quartet’s debut Malaco Records Lp Learning to Lean. “It didn’t get any kind of airplay at all until this DJ named Little John that used to be in Rochester, NY came home one evening and his daughter was playing this record. He said, `who is that?’ She said, `that’s the Evereadys.’ So everywhere he put the [record player] needle, he liked what he heard, so he started playing the music on his show. Then, it started to spread and it was getting played all over the place.”
The group then toured with artists such as Rev. F.C. Barnes & Janice Brown (who were enjoying rousing success with “Rough Side of the Mountain” at the time) and became superstars on the quartet circuit. They followed up with the Lps Revived (1984) and Just Think of His Goodness (1985) which both charted on Billboard magazine’s gospel albums chart.
In 1987, the Evereadys began to collaborate with a former Motown recording engineer, John Lewis. They recorded an album with him at Detroit’s prestigious Sound Suite recording studio but the project, A Message for You, sat on the shelf until Great Joy Records released it in 1992. The collection was the group’s biggest chart success thus far. It spent 37 weeks on the Billboard gospel album sales chart and peaked at #14 on the survey. In spite of the album’s success, the group disbanded thereafter.
Williams then worked with the music ministry at Pastor Marvin Winans’ Perfecting Church in Detroit and also served as musical accompaniment on many of Winans’ speaking engagements. But, by 2000, Williams began to hunger to sing again. He prayed to God that if it was meant for him to sing again that “something so incredible will happen that I can’t deny it.” It took five years, but the incredible something that happened was that Joe Horn, a wide receiver with the New Orleans Saints, was a big fan.
When Horn was a child, his mother took him to see a concert featuring the Evereadys. His mother bought him a cassette tape of the group that he has kept since that time. When Horn found out that the group was alive and well, he invited them to be the first artist on his For Life Miracle Records label. Horn felt the group had never gotten their just rewards in the music business and gave them free range to record the kind of album they wanted to make. The new project features a dozen songs ranging from country to urban contemporary stylings. “There’s a lot of people who are still in our corner, who still play our music,” says Williams. “A lot of them are still playing `Learning to Lean.’ So, I said this CD is gonna be for my friends. Everybody that liked anything about the Evereadys, this is for you.”
THE EVEREADYS DISCOGRAPHY (ALBUMS)
For Life Miracle This is for My Friends 2005
Great Joy A Message for You 1992 (Billboard #14)
Malaco Just Think of His Goodness 1984 (Billboard #20)
Malaco Revived 1983 (Billboard #23)
Malaco Learning to Lean 1981
THE EVEREADYS DISCOGRAPHY (45 RPMS)
Way Out One of These Mornings (45 rpm)
Way Out Don’t Let the Devil Fool You (45 rpm)
Jewel Teenager’s Testimony (45 rpm)
Jewel Glory Glory (45 rpm)
EVEREADYS GROUP FACTS
Jerome Williams (born September 25, 1953)
Freddie Williams (born September 29, 1951)
Marvin Reed (born October 4, 1962)
Aaron Beasley (born March 17, 1958)
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