If you think quartet, you'll quickly think of The Mighty Clouds of Joy. How could you not, when the group is still going strong after 50 years? Adept at mixing the The Mighty Clouds of Joy relevant sounds of their contemporary peers with their impeccable traditional stylings, the Clouds remain a mainstay on Gospel's quartet circuit, as well as on the Gospel charts.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1950s by Joe Ligon and Johnny Martin, the group began with members Ermant and Elmo Franklin, Leon Polk and Richard Wallace rounding out their ranks. Their debut single, a cover of the spiritual "Steal Away to Jesus", was issued by the famous Peacock Records label in 1960, with their first LP available one year later — Family Circle.
The Mighty Clouds of Joy From there, the Clouds polished their act, bringing in costumes, choreography and an irresistable appeal both to the churched and to those outside. Indeed, with comparisons to mainstream groups such as The Temptations, they became a very hard act to follow. As the first quartet to add contemporary instruments (drums, bass, keyboard) to their sound (and engendering some inevitable controversy in doing so), they began their long road to envelope pushing. Perhaps their most famous moment in that regard was when their single "Mighty High" rocketed to stardom on the disco charts in the 1970's, ushering in an era of contemporary Gospel music that reigns to this day.
From their appearances on Soul Train, to being included in tours from everyone from Paul Simon to The Rolling Stones, The Mighty Clouds of Joy always seemed to relish the limelight, yet never truly strayed from their quartet bread and butter bedrock. The group counts Grammy Awards (3) among its many laurels, and has 48 albums (including compilations) under their belt (including 2010's At The Revival on EMI Gospel).
With no signs of slowing down, it's hard for anyone NOT to pay tribute to five decades of consistent Gospel ministry. Congratulations to The Mighty Clouds of Joy.
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