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TONY COX, host: In 2006, I had a chance to talk with one of gospel music's most treasured singing groups, the Caravans. The group's members are Albertina Walker, Inez Andrews, Dorothy Norwood and Deloris Washington. The Caravan started out in the early '50s, broke up in the '70s. But when I spoke with the young ladies, they were together again with the reunion CD, "Paved the Way."

(Soundbite of song "Paved the Way")

THE CARAVANS: (Singing) When I get to heaven I'm gonna jump and shout By myself…

Ms. ALBERTINA WALKER (The Caravans): If you look back then and look now how things were, we were - all the Caravans goes - all of the singers that sung with me was from somewhere else that, you know, we were all from different places.

COX: Really?

Ms. WALKER: Alabama, Georgia, Carolina.

COX: The three of you - Dorothy and Inez and Deloris, you joined the group at later times, correct?

Ms. WALKER: Yes.

COX: All right. What was it that made you - starting with you, Dorothy, what it was that made you decide that the Caravan was a good place that was a good fit for you.

Ms. DOROTHY NORWOOD (The Caravans): Well, I decided it when I was in Atlanta, Georgia. But I knew that I couldn't get it in the Caravans staying in Georgia. So I got on the train and when I finished school and I came to Chicago, joined Reverend Clair Evans' church, and I sang in the choir so I could be connected with the church, and always loved Albertina Walker and the Caravans. That was my greatest goal, to do that. And one Sunday night, she came to the broadcast and I was leading a song. And when I saw her walk through that door, I pulled out my best stop. I said uh, oh, this is my shot here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. NORWOOD: And when the service was over, she asked me, do you know, did I want to go on the road to sing with the Caravans? I said, yes ma'am. I started to say, what do you think I'm doing way up here? And the rest is history.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Inez, tell us how you got involved with the Caravans.

Ms. INEZ ANDREWS (The Caravans): I came to the Caravans through Reverend James Cleveland. I lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and I had been singing with the Gospel Harmonettes. Reverend Cleveland went back and told Albertina about me and - and I went up for an audition and I'm still auditioning.

COX: Oh. I think you got the job.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Deloris, what about - what's your story?

Ms. DELORIS WASHINGTON (The Caravans): There was a young lady by the name of Joan Erin Austin(ph) who was the soprano singer and she was leaving. And so they needed another soprano singer. So they came to Robbins, Illinois, and I auditioned for the group, the soprano part. And I've been with them ever since.

COX: Really. What does it feel like to be singing again with the Caravans after all these years?

Ms. WASHINGTON: I just feel like it's one of the greatest things that could happen in my life...

COX: Really?

Ms. WASHINGTON: At this time.

COX: Why do you say that?

Ms. WASHINGTON: Because I've been through the storm and the rain, and it keeps on bringing me back and it keeps on blessing me over and over, with these same young ladies.

COX: Same young, good-looking ladies, too, huh.

THE CARAVANS: (Singing) You ought to clap your hands and tap your feet Even though you're walking along the street If you got it Why don't you...

COX: Inez, does the sound seem different? Does it seem the same? How does is it feel now compared to before?

Ms. ANDREWS: I think sometime we underestimate ourselves because sometime I think we sound a little better. But I'm just so grateful that we have this privilege, to be able to come together after 40 years. That's a long time. And we are highly blessed and we owe it all to the Lord.

COX: Let me ask you, Dorothy, because all of you have been successful individually, and to come back even temporarily in a group setting means there's a little sacrifice that you have to make. You know, it's not just one star on the door, there's four or five now. How much of an adjustment for you was that?

Ms. NORWOOD: Well, it was - is an adjustment now because I handle most of the business, and I have my own career still going strong, thank God. But, you know, it was a dream and a vision that the Lord gave me, was to bring these young ladies back together once again. And what can I say, it's been a good ride so far, and I got my seat belt fastened and ready to go up again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

THE CARAVANS: (Singing) Going where the chilly waters flow No more Going where the chilly waters flow Oh, God, no more They got a place like that somewhere on the other side…

COX: And, Albertina, you know, you started it all, and Dorothy sort of brought you all back together again for the reunion. As you look at the Caravans and the role that you played in its development and the role that you still play, what does it mean to you?

Ms. WALKER: Well, it means that the Lord is and was well-pleased. It was all about him. We came out on the road when we started singing. Our mission was to win souls for Christ, didn't even have a fear of price in our heads to ask people for. And he blessed us. We don't know anything about being hungry because he provided for us. When you working for him and you waiting for him, let him bless you...

COX: Mm-hmm.

Ms. WALKER: You don't have to worry about no man blessing you because man that give you a blessing and take it right back. But God will give it to you and you'll keep it. Look, how long we've been out here.

COX: I know, that's true.

Ms. WALKER: All of us 70 years old and more. Isn't that a blessing?

COX: That is a blessing.

Ms. WALKER: And we still here.

COX: And you feel like God is still giving you voice?

Ms. WALKER: Don't you start me...

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Let me impose upon you; I know that you have to work later on. And I know you have to save those angelical voices for another time, but it would be great if you would just share with us even briefly, just - I don't know, a phrase, a song.

(Soundbite of music)

THE CARAVANS: (Singing) Lord keep me day, by day A perfect day. And perfect way(ph) Lord, Lord, I want to live I want to live Lord, let me live I want to live long Live in a building Not made by hands...

COX: That's my conversation with the Caravans from 2006. Their reunion CD is called "Paved the Way."

That's our show for today. Glad you could join us. To listen to the show or subscribe to the podcast, visit our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org. To join the conversation or sign up for the newsletter, visit out blog at nprnwesandviews.org. News & Notes was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

I'm Tony Cox. This is News & Notes.

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