Book Review: Mighty Lot of Singin’ (Gerald Williams)
Gerald Williams, bass singer for the Melody Boys Quartet and other Southern Gospel groups for the last sixty years, had no particular desire to write an autobiography. But his daughter, Judy Cox, persuaded him that it would be a shame not to preserve the heritage for his children and grandchildren. Judy Cox is listed as the book’s co-writer; she collected his stories on tape and assembled them into a book.
Since oral recollections are frequently more episodic (i.e., retelling a specific story) than chronological, a co-author working from oral recollections can easily lose continuity. But Cox did an admirably good job of telling his life in chronological fashion and weaving stories in at the appropriate points.
Obviously, the main reason most readers would purchase this autobiography is that they are a fan of the Melody Boys’ music and want to know more about Williams’ life story. But this book is also the most frank and detailed description of the challenges of life on the Southern Gospel circuit during the 1940s and 1950s that I have read. Williams frankly states what his weekly salary was in different groups—and why, on several occasions, financial issues led him to leave groups. He even frankly discusses the one time he was fired from a group. (It had to do with doctrinal differences with the group’s leader.)
The one area where the book could be improved would be by adding several appendices that would be difficult to compile without Williams’ input. It would be helpful to historians years down the road to have a complete Melody Boys discography, listing of group personnel, and a complete listing of the recordings Williams has been on with the Melody Boys and other group. Perhaps this could be added in a second edition.
This fascinating first-hand account of our genre’s early days is must reading for any Melody Boys Quartet fan and worth reading for any fan of the genre.