Friends of Jerry Lee “Duff” Dorrough have compiled a CD of rare recordings of Duff’s band, The Revelators. The Revelators were primarily a gospel band formed in the later years of Duff’s very celebrated and diverse musical career. The band consisted of Duff, Jim Ellis, Bobby Harris along with collaborators Carl Massengale, Burt French, David “Groovy” Parker, Earl Lowe, Michael Bole, Jamie Isonhood, and Ed Dye. The songs found on the CD are the result of two recording sessions.
The first disc was recorded at Sounds Unreel Studios in Memphis, TN on August 14, 2001. The second disc was recorded at Route One Recording in Montecello, MS in 2002. All together, the CD consists of twenty-six mostly gospel tunes vamped up with a Delta rockabilly groove. Many of the tunes are old favorite gospel numbers by greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Al Green, Bob Dylan, and The Staple Singers to which The Revelators have added their own unique twist of Delta blues. In addition, there are several previously unreleased songs written by band members Dorrough, Jim Ellis, “Groovy” Parker, and longtime musical collaborator Gerald Deloach. This CD is an exciting find that any lover of music from the Mississippi Delta must add to their collection. Following are some of the reviews found inside the CD.
Jim Dees (Host, The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour): I remember Duff saying, “Got something new for you,” and when he showed up at our radio show in Oxford, The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, in the fall of 2001, he certainly did. There he was, red cap in place, playing acoustic rather than his venerable Stratocaster. Instead of his usual R & B – rockabilly mix, he was belting full-blown gospel harmonies with Bobby Harris and Him Ellis. They were “The Revelators” and their music had swung and even rocked while rooted in the word.
Our producer (now novelists) Jamie Kornegay and I thought it was genius. Gospel swing, righteous rock, Lord and roll – whatever you called it, we believed the public would go nuts for it. Our Thacker Mountain audience did.
Jim Ellis: It all started with an invite to play the American Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., in 1997.
Tom Rankin (Professor of Documentary Studies, Duke University): When Charlie Jacobs died in 1997, a group of his musician friends gathered to sing at his graveside, simply standing under a tent at the cemetery at Clark Mound in Bolivar County. I was there along with a host of Charley’s friends and family. I don’t recall all the songs that were sung, but the last was a stirring version of The Stanley Brothers’ Who Will Sing For Me. I was trying to photograph, but could hardly see through the tears.
Some weeks later, a colleague at the Smithsonian asked me in my role as curator of the Mississippi Delta program for the Festival for American Folklife if I had any suggestions for white gospel groups that might be of the highest quality and able to perform in Washington, D.C. My mind went straight back to Duff Dorrough, Carl Massengale, and Jim Ellis, and all the powerful music from Clark Mound that sad day. There was a pure and perfect emotional raw quality to the music the friends made that day, so personal and deeply felt. Little did I know that the spiritual well of music was so much deeper, so many more tunes, all woven together with an ineffable originality.
Jim “Fish” Michie: In my association with Duff, I noticed long ago his infatuation with harmony. I think his love of harmony that was found in gospel music was there long before he found his way spiritually. In any type of music Duff played, the vocals were all about harmonies. The Tangents didn’t offer too much in the way of vocal harmonies but he made it happen when he could. When The Revelators began, he was so excited about the full part harmony. “It’s there, Cat, it’s THERE!” He told me when we discussed The Revelators tunes.
All proceeds from the sale of The Revelators: Memphis to Monticello are being donated to either the Jerry Lee “Duff” Dorrough Memorial DMI Scholarship at Delta State or the Jerry Lee “Duff” Dorrough Memorial Art Scholarship.
To obtain your copy of the cd, simply go to deltastategiving.org/revelators. You will receive one copy of the CD for every $20 donation made to the scholarship of your choice. I’m sure Ole Son himself is smiling down on the Delta right now knowing that people are getting a chance to enjoy some of his never before heard tunes while giving to his art and music scholarship funds.