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Entry Category: Gospel - Starting with J

Jeffress/Phillips Music Company

The Jeffress/Phillips Music Company, located in Crossett (Ashley County), is one of the five remaining seven-shape gospel publishing companies in the United States and is the sole seven-shape gospel publisher in the state of Arkansas. While known best as a rural tradition, shape notes, sometimes referred to as character or patent notes, are visual cues that act as points of reference, creating a unique notational style composed of geometric figures. This teaching mechanism led to the development of a rich and varied canon of American folk hymnody notated and practiced in shape notes, of which seven-shape gospel music comprises one specific tradition. Successor to the Jeffress Music Company, Jeffress/Phillips Music is a family-run operation. William Nolin Jeffress, founder of the …

Jones, Celesta Fern

Celesta Fern Jones was an American gospel singer, songwriter, and musician. Compared by some music writers to Patsy Cline, she is best known for her song “I Was There When It Happened,” which was recorded by Jimmie Davis, Johnny Cash, and others. Despite her talents as a singer and a flare for rockabilly, she recorded only one full album (under the name Fern Jones) and retired from the music business at a relatively young age. Fern Salisbury was born on April 6, 1923, in Oil City, Louisiana. She was the daughter of Tennessee native Charles W. Salisbury, whose father was from England. Charles Salisbury served in the army during World War I as a private. Her mother was Zula Annie …

Jones, Willa Saunders

Willa Saunders Jones grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the first decades of the twentieth century before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where she became a prominent religious and cultural leader. Her crowning achievement was a passion play (a dramatization of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), which she wrote in the 1920s and produced for more than five decades in churches and eventually prestigious civic theaters. The play featured top musical talent, including Dinah Washington and Jones’s close friend Mahalia Jackson, and drew support from such prominent figures as the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Her success in music as a soloist, accompanist, and choral director and in drama stemmed from early experiences in …