By Lamont Gridiron
Letter To The Editor
Before there was gospel jazz music, contemporary gospel, gospel music with a blues or reggae theme, and Christian Contemporary Music (CCM), there was traditional/“Old School” gospel.
A traditional gospel sound, the Reverend Curtis Richardson has been singing for decades state-wide and to the community of Bakersfield, with the motive to sing the good news of Jesus Christ, the savior to the world.
“I would like to say traditional gospel music bridges the gap and offers some understanding of the good news of who Jesus is,” Richardson said. “Overall, I love to sing. Sing to the people about a Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
His contralto and inspirational tone of voice vocalizing the lyrics of tradition songs like Amazing Grace, Tis so sweet, Because He Lives, Blessed Assurance, and other song titles, he has given presentations to church congregations, concerts, playright productions, Spiritual Devotion and The Old Ship of Zion Radio stations, and many other community events.
“Just before our Jurisdictional Bishop comes to preach, Emarituts (Curtis) Richardson is coming to bless us with a song,” said Wayne Bynum, Richardson’s current pastor at Holy Temple Church of God In Christ, at a recent church service.
The overall purpose of Traditional Gospel Music, which is also considered the foundation and “Meat and Potatoes” of gospel music, is to have impact, enriches and penetrates to the heart, offering a humble perspective.
Listeners have agreed Richardson’s renditions leave individuals with a feeling of hope, strength to move forward in life, encouragement, joy, inspiration, and a new determination.
“I remember every time we had our California Valley Jurisdictional State Meetings and church services at one of our jurisdictional churches, we (members of the church jurisdiction) would look forward to Eld. Richardson singing,” said Joyce Wills, who has heard Richardson sing for years in churches. “He sounds like Sam Cooke.”
As a retired pastor (Open Door Church of God In Christ 1975-2016), pianist, soloist, lead singer of the renowned Richardson Brothers music group from the 1950’s through the 1980’s, and recording artist (five albums. Including 4 recorded at Bakersfield Recording Studio, Richardson has allowed music to shape him into a minstrel. To the point, his livelihood to others is a song.
“That album of traditional Christmas Carols, is phenomenal,” said Holy Temple
congregation member Karen Robinson.
Hailing from Texarkana, TX, Curtis Richardson, 14th child out of 17 children, began his singing career at age 8 in grade school and with his younger brother and sister at Free Christian Zion Baptist Church where his father was the pastor. It was customary for a song to be sung before the pastor would come to preach.
Richardson and two other siblings provided that service.
A few years later, Curtis Richardson’s maturity and quartet-Sam Cooke singing style, presented him with the opportunity to sing with his older brothers group entitled the Silver Tones Gospel singers, which was renamed to The Richardson Brothers.
“In the late 1980’s, I had the distinct honor of playing the lead guitar for the Richardson Brother’s in Los Angeles,” said Harold Gridiron, former pastor and bassist/guitarist for three of Richardson’s solo albums.
There are only a few recordings of the Richardson Brothers in Curtis Richardson’s vault. However, many have witnessed the brothers singing at various locations in Texas as well as California in the past, and the Bakersfield Singers Association formed by the late John Nichols in 1961.
Curtis Richardson, along with his brothers were one of the first out of three groups to begin singing in the Bakersfield Singers Association building, which also became a venue for singers all over the country.
More importantly, it became a singing platform for Richardson for decades.
“Music has been a part of my life,” Richardson said. “Singing is what I love to do. I don’t do it for show. God gave me this to do.”
In 1979, Richardson and wife Joyce Richardson, became pastor and First Lady of Open Door Church of God In Christ.
Pastoring also became another platform and opportunity for Richardson to flourish as a soloist.
By then, the Richardson Brothers were not singing together as much. A few of the brothers had become clergy and were devoted to a ministry.
“Church is a special place to be,” Richardson said. “Many people appreciate traditional gospel music.
As of today, Richardson is a retired pastor (2016) and retired 40 year disc jockey for Bakersfield Singers Association Spiritual Devotion on Sunday Morning from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on the AM dial.
To this day, he still sings in local venues across Kern County and other venues across the land, and makes his solo albums available for purchase.
“Even in his senior years, people still enjoy listening to him sing those traditional songs,” Wills said.