The two volumes that make up the recently released D-Vine Spirituals Record Story feature 28 tracks in total, recorded for the Memphis based D-Vine Spirituals label started by Pastor Juan D. Shipp in the late '60s. Shipp, who at the time was a gospel DJ on KWAM (and can still be heard on the radio show Gospel Talk, Back In The Dayon Memphis station WYXR), started the label because he wanted to help local groups produce higher-quality recordings than the ones he was playing on the radio.
The new collection came about when musician, music historian, researcher and record collector Michael Hurtt reached out to Shipp about his work back then. They then uncovered records and the master tapes at the home of Clyde Leoppard, and now these remarkable gospel recordings have been released on the Memphis-based imprint Bible & Tire Recording Co.
Stumbling upon Tempo Studios in Memphis, Shipp befriended Clyde Leoppard, the owner of Tempo and a former Sun Records drummer. With Leoppard as the engineer, the two set up shop and began recording various local and regional groups from the South. For a decade-and-a-half afterwards, Tempo Studios was an epicenter for gospel — groups like The Southern Sons, Elder Ward & The Gospel Four, The Joy Of Memphis, and The D-Vine Spiritualettes all cut their first songs there.
Drawing from singers, choirs and musicians from the churches in and around Memphis, Shipp and Leoppard recorded numerous gospel quartets, some featuring harmonies that sounded very similar to doo-wop. Some included the electric guitar of 16-year-old Wendell "Wah Wah" Moore — which, to some soul performers, was unacceptable. But Moore's modern sound made these recordings at the time, bringing them in-step with the musicality of more secular soul and R&B.
Divine Intervention – The D-Vine Spirituals Story, premiering above, is an insightful documentary companion to this historic compilation. It tells the fascinating story of how the label started through the words of Pastor Juan D. Shipp and interviews with Elizabeth King, The Vaughn Sisters, Elder Ward, Bruce Watson (owner of Bible & Tire Recording Co.) and Hurtt, and includes vintage film footage and photos from the original recording sessions. What could have been a footnote in the annals of gospel music history has now, deservedly, been elevated.