(Digital Collections) Hat Ladies, Miss Gospel Queens and All-You-Can-Eat Dinners for $? – Gospel Concert Posters of the Late 1970s

We focus a lot – for obvious reasons – on the audio found in the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, but sometimes the associated ephemera can sing a song that’s just as evocative of black gospel culture as any cover of “Old Ship of Zion.” This week, we added eight new posters advertising gospel concerts in and around Durham, N.C. to the collection, all of which date to the late 1970s. They were pulled off of telephone poles after the concerts had come and gone by Kerrill Rubman, a collector and scholar of black gospel music currently living in Canada. She graciously donated the posters – along with numerous albums, cassette tapes, 45s and assorted materials – to the project and we are excited to give our readers a closer look at these technicolor wonders.


All You Can Eat $? and Adv[anced] Tickets at usual places

These two posters are similar enough in both layout and content – with several acts like the Swanee Quartet, Hi-Way QC’s of Chicago and the Brooklyn All-Stars reusing the exact same photo in each poster – that it’s likely they came from the same summer tour of North Carolina. We’re undecided if the lack of a specific price for the All You Can Eat dinner is due to a.) organizers really not knowing how much they plan to charge or b.) organizers trying to encourage more attendance by keeping it a mystery. Either way, $? is a great piece of typography and should be used at every possible opportunity as far as I’m concerned.


Miss Gospel Queen and A Money Tree

These posters appear to be from the same tour as well: the general proximity of dates in the fall of 1977 along with the use of the same color treatment for the posters’ background would seem to bear that out. But the major differences in tour personnel and the presence of a sponsoring institution on the Durham poster – the Bell Yeager Baptist Church – lead me to believe the only things tying these two posters together are a place in time and a surfeit of tri-colored paper stock. The fact that both posters were produced by the Benton Card Co. of Benson, N.C. certainly has something to do with that.

Two major elements of southern society – not necessarily exclusive to African American culture – shown here are the crowning of a Miss Gospel Queen and the awarding of a “money tree” to one lucky concertgoer. Southerners love crowning queens at public events, be they football games, parades, carnivals, festivals or itinerant gospel concerts. The tradition of a money tree, which is most frequently seen at weddings in modern times, consists of a bouquet or other floral-themed display of paper money, usually in small denominations, that is presented to someone celebrating a major event.


Shirley Caesar’s Crusade Convention and The Gospel “Mr. Clean”

While we only know the exact date of the concert advertised by the poster on the right, it is reasonable to assume that the poster on the left – which features a similar paper stock, is also from Durham and also highlights a performance by Shirley Caesar – advertised a concert in 1977. (A quick check of what years in the late 70’s had October 10th on a Monday via this site confirms this.) Another point of interest is the inclusion of Reverend Richard “Mr. Clean” White on three nights.

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Lady With Largest Hat and A Glaring Punctuation Problem

This one is arguably my favorite of the bunch. Not only do we get a pretty heinous punctuation error in the title of the headliner’s new album, but we take up a pretty significant portion of the poster’s real estate to advertise a prize for the Lady With [the] Largest Hat. (Incidentally, “Lady With Largest Hat” would make an excellent band name.) The title’s pretty great, too – “Look Who’s Coming to Greensboro!” – and the overall balance of the typography over the striated background is really well done.


We hope to add more items like this to our Black Gospel Music Restoration Project in the future, so stay tuned. And if you have anything to contribute to the project – including materials, monetary support or simply background info on an artist found in the collection – email us at digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu.


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