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Mighty Clouds of Joy

To be a Legend is to live beyond Life

Hall of Legends

The Mighty Clouds Of Joy was founded by a 14-year old lead singer from Alabama named Willie Joe Ligon. Willie's biggest inspiration was Rev. Julius Cheeks of the Sensational Nightingales, and his rural gospel voice gave a nice contrast to Clouds' another lead singer, Californian cityboy Johnny Martin. The group started performing at small church events around the L.A. ghetto area. By 1957 the group consisted of Joe Ligon, Johnny Martin, Freddie Johnson, Johnny Wesley and Johnny Gibson. During the same year they also signed with the local Proverb label owned by Brother Henderson. The Mighty Clouds' first recording session took place in a church at Will Rogers Park in Los Angeles. Proverb issued one poor quality single from the group ("Christian Plea" / "Lord, You Woke Me Up This Morning", #100) c. 1958-59, and in 1968, rest of the recording material was released by Hob Records on LP "Sing 'Zion' Songs", however overdubbed with organ, piano and drums. The line-up on this record included Ligon, Martin, Hollis Johnson, Johnny Gibson and Freddie Johnson.

In 1959, the group united with another Los Angeles gospel group The Sensational Wonders. Mighty CLouds had made a reel-to-reel demo which was sent to Don Robey of Duke-Peacock Records in Houston, Texas. Robey was interested in collaboration but most of the Mighty Clouds didn't want to move to Texas. Ligon along with Johnny Martin then went to the Sensational Wonders (with whom Ligon had already recorded a single called "Somebody Touched Me" for Fable Records in 1958) who accepted the deal. From now on, the new Mighty Clouds Of Joy consisted of Ligon and Martin completed with Elmeo Franklin (baritone), Elmeo's brother Ermont "Junior" Franklin, Leon Polk, and our man - David Walker. The regular bass singer Richard Wallace joined the line-up around 1960.

After a couple of months' training period the guys traveled to Goldstar studios in Houston, Texas. Walker, Franklin brothers and Polk thought they were going to record as The Sensational Wonders, but Joe Ligon had already signed them as The Mighty Clouds Of Joy - the name they were going to use also in the future.

The company owner Don Robey had recorded succesfully several gospel acts like The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Nightingales and The Dixie Hummingbirds, but now he was in need for something fresh. In September 28th, 1960, Robey's studio was captured by the Mighty Clouds of Joy, who definitely had that new sound. The recorded tracks "Jesus Lead Us Safely" and "Ain't Got Long Here" were to be the Clouds' debut single on Peacock label, appearing also on their first album "Family Circle" a couple of years later. That LP contained also one song written by David Walker, "You'll Never Know", which featured him also as a lead vocalist - probably only time in the Mighty Clouds' whole recording history. "You'll Never Know" was also issued on a Peacock single (#1896) in 1963. This was confirmed by Joe Ligon who mentions Walker in a recent interview by Heikki Suosalo (published in Soul Express Magazine 3/2005): "On 'Jesus Lead Us Safely' the lead singer is David Walker. He was an ex-boxer. When I would go on those trips with the Sansational Wonders, David Walker was one of the lead singers. He was an original Sensational Wonder."

The next ten years the Mighty Clouds of Joy continued recording and doing over 200 gigs a year, getting a reputation of the hardest-workin', best-dressin' and most earth-shakin' male gospel group on the road - sharing stages with pop stars like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones or Earth, Wind and Fire. Over the years, Clouds have also performed on almost every important television show in America (including "The Grammy Awards", "The Stellar Awards", "CBS Special", "Prime Time Country", "PBS Special", "The Johnny Cash Show", "Michael Douglas Show", "Merve Griffin Show", "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars", and the "Arsenio Hall Show"). Afterall, they still had - or at least David Walker had - enough time for some side-projects

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