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Recognize the Influence

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VMSoul Radio

Mourns the death of
Clarence Clemons

Clarence Clemons, Springsteen's right-hand man, dies at 69


Church & Brambleton

The southeast corner of Church Street and Brambleton Avenue in 1953.

Church & Brambleton

Businesses at the corner of Church Street and Brambleton Avenue in

The corner of Church * Brambleton in Norfolk marks a landmark area in an era which influenced the culture of music felt around the world.

The Queen Confectionary takes its name from the original name of
Brambleton Avenue, which was Queen Street

Contact us.



Daddy Jack Holmes

"There was a deejay, God love him, called Jack Holmes, and when my daddy would leave in the morning, no sooner had the front door slammed then we had switched the dial on the radio to Jack Homes.  He was playing things like Sonny Til & the Oreos, the Charloteers, Buddy Johnson and Ella Johnson, Arthur Prysock, Billy Eckstine."
--Ruth Brown--

By Dan Aykroyd, Ben Manilla


Do you remember when Daddy Jack Holmes used to wake us up with songs by Flip Flop Stevens, Ida Sands, Gary U.S. Bonds, "Charlie" Charles McClendon & the Magnificents, or Barbara Stant? Or how about The Master Story Teller and Bobby Jay, playing songs by Lenis Guess, Sir Guy, The Soul Duo, or Peace, Justice & Equality?Did you rush down to Birdland, Rings & Things, Waxy Maxy's, Punnie’s, or Frankie's Got It, to pick up hits by the Persuaders, Unifics, Sebastian, or Mass Production? While you were there, you may have run into some of the best record promoters in the world, like Joe Medlin, Leroy Little, or "Red" Forbes.

Later that night you went out to the club and heard Bob Fields, Big Bad Base, or the Soul Ranger setting the dance floor on fire.  Or maybe you wobbled out to Seaview Beach, Sunset Lake Park, or Midway Park, to watch Swamp Dogg work the stage.


All of these names are from Virginia’s rich music history. Long before world renown superstar performers and producers like Missy Elliott, Timbaland, or Pharell and the Neptunes, these were some of the pioneers who paved the way.  Even legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, and Ruth Brown are home grown stars.


 More on Ida Sands

an influential force in Hampton Roads radio

Bishop Levi E. Willis Sr.



Dorothy Maynor

Norfolk’s Dorothy Maynor was the first black artist to perform in Washington’s Constitution Hall, and sang at the presidential inaugurations of Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. She was one of the highest paid and highest praised opera singers in the world. Her recordings were best sellers and she frequently performed on radio programs. She graduated from Hampton Institute and even toured Europe with them.

In 1975, she became the first African-American to serve on the board of the famed Metropolitan Opera.

The Church Street Five

Church Street


The Church Street Five

Norfolk, Virginia’s, Church Street, was once known as “The Harlem of the South.”  Like Harlem, Church Street was a community which produced its own culture and rich history, leaving its imprint on the world through the arts.  

The Church Street Five was a rocking band which backed some of the legendary vocalists which emerged from that environment--artists like Gary US Bond and Jimmy Soul.

Church Street 5

The Church Street Five were the house band for Legrand Records,and various other labels owned by Frankie Guida,  The band also worked and recorded under some other names for Guida, "Baby" Earl & the Trini-Dads, King Coney & the Hot Dogs, and the South Street Six.

The core of The Church Street Five included:

  • Daddy “G”--Gene Barge on sax
  • Leonard Barks on trombone
  • Emmett "Nabs" Shields on drums
The band got its name from the church where Shields played in a band, Bishop Grace House of Prayer, a church at the intersection of Church Street and Princess Anne Road in Norfolk, VA.  But a Rock ‘N Roll/R&B groove didn’t make it sound like gospel, even though the music was often infused with organ and call and response chants.

The Church Street Five had a sound which bands and labels all over the world tried to copy.  They were a major influence on the sound of music.

Jimmy Soul's, #1 hit
"If You Wanna Be Happy"
The Church Street Five




Gordon “Guitar” Banks

Gordon Banks

Norfolk’s own, Gordon “Guitar” Banks was playing guitar for The Showmen at the age of 12.  He went on to become the guitarist, producer, and music director for the Prince of Motown, Marvin Gaye.  Between this time, Banks attended Norfolk State College, moved to California, played for groups like The Gap Band, New Birth, and Mandrill.

Banks has also worked with Stevie Wonder, Eddie Murphy, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Edwin Hawkins, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Barry White, Larry Graham, Eric Sermon, Gene Chandler, Peaches not Herb, L.T.D., Natalie Cole, McFadden and Whitehead, The Temptations and High Energy.
Gordon "Guitar" Banks

 You’ll find Gordon Banks and his artistry on the Midnight Love, and the Sexual Healing, albums by Marvin Gaye.

Here is Gordon doing his thing as guitarist and music director for Marvin live.

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Swamp Dogg

In this day of the celebrated artist/producer, you should recognize one of Virginia's pioneers in the business.
Jerry Williams aka Swamp Dogg, has a long and illustrious career of outstanding music and accomplishments.

  • Vocalist with the Lionel Hampton Band (circa 61,62)
    as temporary replacement for Pinocchio James the permanent vocalist. While
    with Lionel Hampton, was the first vocalist to appear on the nations first
    Black television station's (WOOK-TV, Wash., D.C.) opening broadcast.

  • Wrote and produced television and radio commercials
    for DFS (1965-1975), at that time the #1 ad agency in the world. The commercials
    included Coca Cola's "Bright Lights Big City" (Ray Charles), Braer Rabbit
    Syrup (Little Milton and New York D.J. Jack Walker), River Brand Rice
    and Watermaid Rice (Little Milton), Mahatma Rice (JoJo Benson), International
    T.V. commercial for "OOO What A Tan" sun lotion (filmed in Rio), etc.,

  • First Black in-house staff producer for Atlantic
    Records (1969). Produced Patti Labelle, Commodores, C & Shells, Drifters,
    Precisions, Gary U.S. Bonds, Jerry Williams, etc.

  • First to produce the Commodores and first to convince
    Lionel Ritchie to sing.

  • Third Black Country Songwriter of The Year, "She's
    All I Got" (1971) and Grammy nominee.

  • First Platinum record recipient ("She's A Heartbreaker"
    Gene Pitney, 1968) for writing, producing and vocal arrangements.




Crestwood High in Chesapeake produced football player and musician, Clarence Clemons.  Clemoms is known as the sax player for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. He is also a solo artist and has appeared in numerous videos, TV shows, and movies. 


Clarence had a hit duet with Jackson Browne, "You're a Friend of Mine." 

He has recorded or performed with Great White, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison, Paul Young, Red Bank Rockers, Jerry Garcia Band, Patti Labelle,The Grateful Dead, and Ringo Starr's All Star Band.

A long way from his parent's fish market in Norfolk, VA where Clarence was born.



Big Time


You know you've made the big time when the Muppets back you up and Kermit the Frog introduces you. Pearl Bailey was Big Time, singing--"My Soul Is A Witness."

Beach Music


Chairmen of the Board  Chairmen of the Board

If you like Beach music you know Norman Johnson. But did you know Grammy Award winning, General Norman Johnson, one of the giants of Beach music, has been a recording artist since the age of 12.  The Norfolk native has fronted groups like, Humdingers (who became The Showmen), and Chairmen of the Board.
His songwriting hits include:

  • Patches (Clarence Carter)
  • Want Ads (Honey Cone)
  • Bring the Boys Home (Freda Payne)
  • It Will Stand (Showman)
  • Give Me Just A Little More Time (Chairmen of the Board)
General Norman Johnson

General Norman Johnson

The Showman

Virginia has a glorious gospel history. The Library of Congress notes "the Tidewater gospel sound," which is sung in four-part harmony without musical accompaniment, originated right here in Hampton Roads.



"Though scarcely a handful of African American a cappella quartets sing in Virginia today, black four-part harmony groups were singing in Virginia at least as early as the mid-1800s.  The popularity of quartet singing among black males grew rapidly.  Tidewater alone produced over two hundred such groups in the century following the Civil War- an era when Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Norfolk became a destination point for African Americans.  Offering a combination of government and maritime jobs, Norfolk in particular developed into a vibrant black cultural center.Folklife Recordings

Some of the most famous groups were:


Perhaps you heard some other great Virginia bred gospel groups on WPCE, owned by Bishop Willis, or saw them at a concert at Booker T., or 9th and Granby, hosted by Bill Boykins.

Doo Wop


The Five Keys


Straight out of Newport News, Rudy West & the Five Keys headed to the famed Apollo Theater where they beat out everyone. It led to recording deals with, Aladdin Records, RCA owned Groove Records, and finally Capital Records.

They recorded hits like:

  • Glory of Love
    My Saddest Hour
    Ling Ting Tong
    Close Your Eyes
    The Verdict
    Out of Sight, Out of Mind
    I took Your Love for A Toy

They were one of the most influential and popular R&B groups from the 50s.

Historical Archive


We are currently compiling a book, exploring and explaining, the extended history of Virginia's music history in the heart of Hampton Roads.  We will also be compiling a series of CDs, with some of the songs from the area's artists who made this a goldmine of creativity and incredible talent. 

So contact us if you want to be included, or know someone who needs to be on this list.

"What Have You Heard"  "Clown Suit"


Terry Sinclair D.P.G.

A Tidewater, Virginia construction worker, by the name of Kenneth Deal, had dreams of being a singer and recording artist.  He approached a couple of people he knew and they formed a label, D.P.G..  The three of them wrote a couple of songs which Deal performed.  Kenny Deal's name was changed to Terry Sinclair for the 45 release, and a new artist was born.  Tragically, the singer was killed in a car accident soon after.  Lenis Guess went on to start several labels and record himself.

D.P.G. Records 
(Kenneth Deal, George Perkins, Lenis Guess)


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