Dr. Teresa Hairston is the publisher of Gospel Today magazine and the founder of the Gospel Heritage Praise & Worship Conference. Richard Smallwood andByron Cage are both internationally acclaimed, award-winning recording artists. Kevin Bond is a multiple award-winning mega producer. The impact of the legendary Clark Sisters has been felt for nearly half a century. From their childhood days in the Motor City to their current international status as ministers of music, The Clark Sisters have been faithfully delivering the Gospel through song to millions. Today, we introduce to you a few of The Clarks Sisters’ friends and supporters from the Gospel music industry who can recall that defining moment when The Clark Sisters’ sound and style changed their lives.
Dr. Bobby Cartwright is the founder and producer of the annual TV syndicated Gospel Superfest. Bill Carpenter is a publicist and author of Uncloudy Days, The Gospel Music Encyclopedia and Donald Lawrence is the multiple award-winning artist, producer and concept director for Live: One Last Time. Jeff Cross is the founder and host for the official website for The Clark Sisters atwww.theclarksisters.com.
Christopher Heron: What was the most memorable performance you can recall, featuring The Clark Sisters and what made it so special?
Donald Lawrence: One of the most memorable performances was at Bailey Cathedral at one
the musical Dr. Clark presented. She had them sing the 1st verse of “Cast Your Cares” it was Twinkie, Karen and Dorinda with organ only AMAZING!!! I later recorded that song with Tri-City.
Teresa Hairston: One night in Memphis, TN, during the COGIC Holy Convocation I recall the Clark Sisters coming to the stage after what seemed like 100 groups and soloists…These ladies came up and “rocked” the house! I don’t recall WHAT they sang…i DO recall HOW they sang…with finesse and fervor…!
Byron Cage: I first heard The Clark Sisters when Karen was the drummer for a group in the late 60’s, early 70’s (sorry Karen, LOL). They did a song called, It’s Not Gonna Be Easy. This was my first sight of this legendary dynamo group that would later go on to influence not just Gospel music, but secular as well. My most memorable moment was at a concert where the Clark Sisters were being featured (You just had to sit at Bailey Cathedral and wait until 4am to hear them) and Karen sang an arrangement that Twinkie did of Jesus Is All The World To Me. I have not to this day remembered a more awesome display of God’s anointing and talent. They are my favorites. I’m a huge fan…I really am.
Richard Smallwood: The most memorable concert for me has to be the very first Clark Sister’s reunion in Washington, D. C several years ago. I believe that they are undoubtedly some of the most anointed, gifted and awesome singers ever. Just to be there to experience that “Clark Sister” sound again and to hear those songs after so many years was amazing. It’s a night I’ll never forget.
Kevin Bond: First impressions are the most lasting ones!! I was made aware of the Clark Sisters when I heard a UNAC LP, years ago. That big Hammond organ sound and rich vocals, replete with all the vocal tricks one can imagine, leaped from the record into my ears. It was then that I ran to the store to find out who it was and to my surprise, I was informed it was Mattie Moss’s daughters, The Clark Sisters.
Jeff Cross: My most memorable Clark Sisters performances was in the summer of 2001 in Lansing, MI. It was their first group performance after Karen recovered from her near death experience. The spirit was already high in the place but when the sisters took the stage, you could almost tell that something special was about to happen. I can remember Twinkie talking about how hard it was to get her there because she had a previous engagement and it was evident that that is exactly where she was supposed to be.
She ministered on the organ under the true anointing that night. Karen’s testimony was very fresh and she began to fervently render it in the middle of a song, thus causing a spiritual uproar in the building. Dorinda came out to the audience and began to preach and lay hands. The fire was so high that night that I can remember the people running all over the place. I was taking pictures that night and almost got ran over several times. To top everything off, after the concert, the sisters were each prayed for and laid out under the anointing. It is a spiritual night that I will never forget.
Dr. Bobby Cartwright: The first time I saw the Clark Sisters in Concert was in the early 90’s during an outdoor concert in Cincinnati. I was totally impressed with the level of professionalism, energy and anointing that came forth during their presentation. I still remember Dorinda’s signature step move. It was a version of the “Ali shuffle” for lack of a better term that she does when the spirit gets really high.
Bill Carpenter: I was either too young or not into gospel when the Clark Sisters made their initial impact in the 1970s and 1980s. So, I never really saw them perform during that period that so many people rave about. Even when I worked with them on the “Miracle” CD in 1994, they really
were not doing a lot of performing, so I still did not get to see them perform much. So for me, when they sang on The BET Celebration of Gospel in 2005, it was one of their first TV appearances since Twinkie re-joined the group and it was sort of a very nostalgic moment and of course, they sang their faces off. No matter how long they are a part, when they get back together, the Clark Sisters are always incredible performers and ministers of the Gospel.
Christopher Heron: And how did their unique style and anointed gift to sing the Gospel impact you as an artist, music minister or industry professional in the Gospel industry?
Richard Smallwood: The Clarks have inspired me on many levels. But I think the most influential for me has to be Twinkie’s writing skills. I remember starting in the 80’s, just being blown away by her creativity in crafting a song. Listening to her has inspired me to write on a number of occasions. Down through the years, I’ve been blessed by their ministry as a group. Hands down, they’ve got to be my favorite.
Byron Cage: I was one of the fortunate ones to grow up in perhaps one of the most thriving musical cities for Gospel music. The Motor City was most notably known for the Motown sound but the true singers came right out of the church. And I was blessed to grow up in the Golden Era of Gospel music in Detroit. Lucille Lemons, Rance Allen, Donald Vails, Thomas Whitfield, Rudolf Stanfield, Charles Nicks, All of the Winans, Lydia Wright Brice, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Commissioned, Fred Hammond, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark (too many artists to name) and the legendary Clark Sisters.
Twinkie, Dorinda, Karen, Jacky and Denise have carried the torch of Gospel music for so long, and have been inspirations and examples by which to follow a mode of incredible vocal prowess to achieve to. I love all the girl groups of the Gospel music industry today, and someway somehow, they always point back to who inspired them the most, and they’re answer always is…the phenomenal Clark Sisters…I’m honored to call you homies, sisters and friends. I love you infinity Clarks…y’all and the Winans will always be the ones to me!
Kevin Bond: The Clark Sisters have impacted the Gospel music community in a very significant way. They were some of the first to take what I call risks on records. They were unafraid to use the full range of their gifts and try things with their voice’s that others could only dream of. As a
producer I’ve encountered many an artist and admirer attempting to duplicate their rifts, tricks and turns, but they were born with an innate ability that only God can give. Congratulations Ladies, take your curtain call for service and ministry well rendered, as well as living examples of family, and the fact that if we train up our children they will never depart from the training. You’ve made your mother proud!!! We love and appreciate you!!!!!
Teresa Hairston: The Clark Sisters singing seems totally uninhibited! They were always one of the classiest, most gifted and anointed groups out there. Another aspect of the sisters is consistency. They’re never just average, they ALWAYS deliver top quality performances.
Donald Lawrence: My experience with The Clark Sisters let me know there were no boundaries as it relates to how to approach Gospel music, especially from a songwriter’s point of view.
Bobby Cartwright: The Clark Sisters were one of the first gospel acts that I saw live that had the same level and caliber of any secular touring act. It assured me that my departure from R&B music was well worth it and that Gospel Music had a very bright future. This concert I first saw was in 1991 or 1992. I was just a few years saved and working in Cincinnati radio as a Gospel announcer. I never dreamed that I would get the opportunity to produce a TV program that included many of them. They were then and are now Superstars!
Bill Carpenter: I suppose that what impacted me about the Clark Sisters style is that they created music that I personally just love to listen to. Almost any time of day, they have some song that can fit whatever mood I am in. When I’m driving in the summertime, I love to roll the windows down and play their song No Doubt About It that features Jackie on leads. When I’m more pensive, I love to listen to “Never Mind” that features their mom – Mattie Moss Clark’s thick alto. Then, when I just want to have a good ole time, I put on “You Brought the Sunshine.” Aside from that, I think the fact that the Clarks give 100% every time they hit a stage is a testament to their character and the training their mom gave them. I think that serves as a lesson for every other artist in this business.
Jeff Cross: The Clark Sisters unique style of gospel music had a great impact on my life. I was a little boy the very first time that I heard The Clark Sisters and it was the song Everything Is Gonna Be Alright. I grew up in a house where only traditional gospel music was played, so I was mesmerized by what I was hearing. I had never heard gospel music sung with that much power and the accompanying music sounding so close to what I wasn’t allowed to listen to. This was the late 70′s and the music was way ahead of its time. That was what initially drew me to the Clark Sisters.
As I began to listen to more, they were just different from the other gospel music that I listened to. The vocal acrobats, harmonies, the arrangements, the use of everything from jazz to disco in their music captured me, but it was the lyrics in their songs that got me through a lot of tough times throughout my life. I must add that I have been blessed to work with them for the last seven years. When I first started I was a fan of their music. Spending time with them and getting to know them personally these past years, my adoration and respect has quadrupled for these ladies because of the passion and seriousness that they have for ministry and souls. I can truly say that they live the life that they sing about.
Donald Lawrence: A family that prays together stays together.Christopher Heron: Donald, I have a couple of closing questions for you as the producer of Live: One Last Time. As a scholar of the music genre, what do you foresee being the enduring legacy of the Clark Sisters?
Christopher Heron: You had the opportunity to produce their farewell album. What did you want to achieve both artistically and sentimentally with this final release from The Clark Sisters?
Donald Lawrence: I want the young demographic to experience what I experienced back in
the day. So I decided to make the CD feel vintage as in the days of UNAC & Convocation :-) But at the same time I knew I had to polish it a little for the 21st Century. I’d love to see them walk away with a LONG deserved Grammy.