Marvin O’Landa Draper grew up in Huntsville, Alabama and Washington D.C. listening to gospel music as a child. In 1973 he moved to Memphis, TN where the music he heard as a child inspired him. He began studying music and joined the glee club at Overton High School under choir director Lula Hedgeman in the mid 1970s. O'Landa continued his music education by enrolling at Memphis State University, where he eventually became the director of Memphis State University's gospel choir. In 1986, at the age of 22, with only twelve prospective members, O’Landa envisioned and organized his own gospel choir, O'Landa Draper & the Associates. The choir grew to over 70 members and was known as the Gospel Choir of the 90’s.
Draper and the choir signed with Word Records in 1989 and recorded their first label album, Do It Again, in 1990. Their second album, Above and Beyond, released in 1991, was their first of five Grammy nominated albums. In 1994, Draper recorded Live: A Celebration of Praise, his second Grammy nominated album, featuring the album's well known song My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord. In 1994 he joined Warner Bros. Records and released his third Grammy nominated album, Gotta Feelin’. The song, Gotta Feelin', was featured in the first Gospel album of the WOW series (1998). In 1998, Draper released his last album before his passing, Reflections, which won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album in 1999.
The choir toured across the United States, performing for presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The choir also sang back up for Billy Joel during the 1994 Grammy Awards, and shared the stage with: Patti Austin, Shirley Caesar, The Winans, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Richard Smallwood, The Mississippi Mass Choir, The San Francisco Symphony, the Memphis Symphony, and a host of others. He recorded with: Jennifer Holiday, Yolanda Adams, Albertina Walker, Carman and Russ Taff. Their various awards include a Grammy Award (five nominations), a Stellar, a Dove and, Vision awards.
O’Landa’s God-given talent was equaled by his benevolent spirit. He annually conducted the Gospel Music Lovers’ Conference, which was designed to teach, nurture and showcase aspiring young gospel enthusiasts. He established the O’Landa Draper’s Dream Come True Scholarship Fund to further the education of potential gospel artists, and in addition, he founded the O’Landa Draper’s Humanitarian Award and made numerous charitable appearances.
On July 21, 1998, only weeks after recording the album, Reflections, O’Landa died of renal failure. In 2000, the Associates choir, led by Draper's fiancée, Patrina Smith, recorded their last album, All About Him (J-E-S-U-S), in Memphis, Tennessee. The album introduced new songs such as All about Him, featuring a rap performed by O’Landa’s nephew, Kenon Walker, and Clean Me Up. The song, I'll See You Again, was dedicated to Draper and his legacy. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album in 2002.
Biographical Sketch of Dr. Marabeth Elaine Gentry
†Native of Saint Louis, MO, the daughter of Joshua (deceased) & Geneva Gentry (deceased)
†Graduate of Vashon High School and a member of the Vashon Hall of Fame
†Graduate of Harris-Stowe State University and a Distinguished Alumnus of the University
†Received a Masters Degree in Music from Webster University and took graduate courses at Washington University of Saint Louis
†Retired Educator of the Saint Louis Public School System with thirty-two (32) years of service
†Lifetime member of the Christ’s Southern Mission Baptist Church where she currently serves as Minister of Music
†Program Coordinator for When Singers Meet, Inc.® founded by Joshua & Geneva Gentry
†Has served since 1968 with When Singers Meet, Inc.® at the Salvation Army (Harbor Light)
†Honorary Member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
†Has received many awards and recognitions from civic, community, education and religious national organizations for her involvement and work
†She has appeared on radio and television programs locally, nationally and internationally
†Has traveled extensively throughout the United States and abroad singing
†Has recorded one (1) album and appeared on many others
†She is a lifetime member of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, Inc. (founded by Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey, Composer of the beloved hymn, Take My Hand, Precious Lord) and currently serves as President. The National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, Inc. is the oldest African-American Gospel singing organization in the United States
Troy, Alabama native, Willie Joe Ligon is the Founder and Lead Singer of the three-time Grammy Award winning group - The Mighty Clouds of Joy who are the world's best-selling gospel Quartet of all-time. They were organized in 1955 in Los Angeles, California by Joe Ligon along with his High School friends Johnny Martin, Elmo Franklin, Ermant Franklin, Leon Polk, David Walker, and Richard Wallace who is the only other surviving Original Member.
Joe Ligon & The Mighty Clouds of Joy started out in a traditional-based style with their 1960 recording debut of "Steal Away to Jesus" on Peacock Records. Eventually they added Soul, R&B, Disco, Country, Pop, and Rock influences into their musical mix without diluting the essential religious essence of their material. They are even recognized as being early pioneers of today's Contemporary Gospel sound because of their songs such as "Time" which reached the top of the R&B charts in 1974, while their tune "Ride the Mighty High" became a major chart-topping disco hit earning them the honor of being the first Gospel Group to perform live on "Soul Train".
Joe Ligon and his long-lived group has flourished throughout the 20th century and the new millennium, scoring three Grammy Awards, plus numerous Stellar Awards, Hall of Fame Inductions, Lifetime Achievement Awards, nominations and countless top selling hit albums along the way.
Joe Ligon and The Mighty Clouds of Joy have been blessed to headline and minister in song to sold out audiences on all seven continents, in numerous countries, for Presidents, Kings and Queens, and in every major venue in the United States and abroad. They have won countless awards and accolades. But, out of all of their accomplishments, Joe Ligon counts "winning souls to Christ" through their music ministry as their greatest accomplishment.
Over the years, the group has experienced many challenges, ups and downs, and many changes along the way. But, through it all, they are still here and they are still one of the most sought after groups in Gospel Music.
Since the group's inception in 1955, there is only one voice and only one face that has never changed in this iconic group; and that would be the face and voice of the Legendary Joe Ligon as the sixty plus year Lead Singer of The Mighty Clouds of Joy.
Joe Ligon's voice is also one of the most sought after voices of our time. He has recorded as a Special Guest Artist on projects with Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Shirley Caesar, Bobby Jones, Kirk Franklin, Bill Gaither, Candi Staton, John P. Kee, Kelly Price, The Williams Brothers, Smokie Norful, The Starlights, and countless others…
Joe Ligon & The Mighty Clouds of Joy are celebrating more than 60 years of ministry with their 78th recording project entitled "Down Memory Lane: Chapter 2" on MCG Records which was recorded live in Atlanta, Georgia and it features new songs as well as some of their classic Grammy Award winning hits.
You can find this project on CD and DVD and all music by Joe Ligon and The Mighty Clouds of Joy wherever music is sold and at all digital outlets.
For bookings and more information,
visit Joe Ligon and The Mighty Clouds of Joy on-line at
www.mightycloudsofjoy.org or www.themightycloudsofjoy.org