James Bullard returns to Atmore area in style with concert
By By James Crawford
On Saturday night, James Bullard returned to Atmore in grand fashion, bringing with him some of the best talent his record label MCG has to offer in homage to his 99-year-old mother and in spirit to help celebrate Black History Month in the town that raised him with a gospel singing bonanza at the Escambia County High School.
The two-hour plus concert featured performances by The Knight Family, The Gospel Four and a live performance by Gospel recording artist Slim and the Supreme Angels. During a break between performances, a surprised Bullard was called to the stage for a presentation by city councilman Louie Turner, on behalf of the city of Atmore and Mayor Shell, of a proclamation in his name and a key to the city.
"When a man will reach out to extend his hand to help someone else, that man is in God's hands," said Mary Fox, of the Gospel 900 radio station in Mobile.
With over 20 Grammy's to his credit, Bullard is a seasoned 40-year-plus veteran of the Gospel music business who freely acknowledges that, at its core, his strategy has always been very straightforward.
"I think my greatest capability has been just formulating a plan and making it a reality," said Bullard. "We have to have a big picture of who we are, where we are and where we want to go. There's an explosion of Gospel coming. There's a torch being passed now from some of the pioneers of this music to the young people they've trained and raised up. We're going to continue polishing and refining things, and contemporizing our approach without losing touch with the music that is so dear to people around the world."
Bullard spent 13 years at Word Records, from 1980 to 1993, where he assembled one of the most creatively and commercially successful rosters of Gospel artists in history.
In November of 1993, he was appointed vice president of Atlanta-based music organization, InterSound, and helped develop a host of Gospel's hottest acts including Grammy winners William Becton &Friends, DeLeon Richards and Vickie Winans, among others.
Bullard departed InterSound in 1996 to co-found Majestic Communications Group, known now as simply MCG. Based in Nashville's famed Music Square, with offices as well in Los Angeles, MCG released it first album in November of 1997.
In 1999, the label helped reinvigorate the career of Slim &the Supreme Angels, catapulting them again to the Top Ten with both their first MCG releases, Over Yonder, and it's hit follow-up, Blind Man. But it was the discovery and nurturing of a little-known quartet from Tupelo, Mississippi, called Lee Williams &The Spiritual QC'S, that helped establish the label as a predominate player in the Gospel music industry.
One of the acts from Saturday's lineup, The Gospel Four, debuted on the MCG label with their sixth album, The Only Way Left Is Up. Group co-founder and leader George Dean wrote ten of the album's songs. Dean attended Memphis Lemoyne-Own College on a musical and athletic scholarship.
After college, Dean joined forces with G4 co-founder and only remaining original member, singer John Whitmore, and two other musicians to form the Gospel Four, otherwise known as G4.
"Gospel music must reach beyond the doors of the church," said Dean. "I want to further the Gospel, to gather people from the streets and highways. If that means that I need to make the drums hot and rockin' to get their attention, then that's just fine with me."
The current G4 lineup includes Dean and his brother Littleton Dean on lead vocals, supporting singers Whitmore, James Harris and Tony Mason, and Kendrick Blair, Jay Jorgen and Elroy Jones on drums, keyboards, and guitar.
"Music is our joy, and we take and give great pleasure in what we do. But at the end of the day, we are committed to listen out of the Lord, and when He speaks, to follow Him. He'll take us in the right direction," said Dean.
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