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Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson “The guy from 60 Minutes was the first guy to callEd Bradley:’ Darden says. “He goes, ‘I’m having the same trouble. I can’t find the damn music.” Like Bradley, Darden was raised on black gospel. Unlike Bradley, Darden came to it secondhand. The only way a white kid could fall under the spell of powerhouse songstress Mahalia Jackson was to spend time in the houses of black families like Bradley’s, where church music was prevalent on the radio and turntable. That’s what growing up a military brat in an integrated Air Force allowed Darden to do. “When my father got promoted to lieutenant [in the late 1950s], he got a $25-a-month raise says Darden, 53, and he went out and bought the first hifi our family ever bought. And he bought three LPs at, like, $2.95 eachPerry Como, a ‘movie themes, and Mahalia Jackson, who was very big at the time and was the first gospel artist to sell a million copies. And my parents said I played the Mahalia Jackson over and over, which is to my credit, ’cause I could have been listening to Perry Coma” Another call in response to Darden’s essay came from investment banker Charles Roycealso white, but with no real affinity for black gospel music. “What do we do to preserve this?” Royce asked. “I don’t know,” Darden replied. “Figure it out, and I’ll fund it,” Royce said. Darden’s research led him to the Arhoolie Foundation, a nonprofit offshoot of roots label Arhoolie Productions Inc. The California-based foundation presides over the Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and MexicanAmerican vernacular recordings, which it had been digitizing and putting online through the UCLA library’s Web site. Darden’s proposal drew from the best of Arhoolie’s technology and practices, and Royce rewarded him with a $347,175 grant. The money supports an audio engineer, a cataloger, equipment, and acquisitions. Meanwhile, Baylor provides a modest studio space and archival area on the lower level of Moody Libraryan apropos locale given Baylor’s Christian affiliation. To date, Darden and crew have digitized roughly 750 recordings, as well as accompanying ephemera like photos, liner notes, and record jackets. A chunk of this can be accessed via the Digital Collections section of Baylor’s library Web site. So far, collectors have been generous with donations and loaners. “We’re going to just exhaust the collectorswhatever they will let us use,” Darden says. ‘And then we’re going to go on the rabbit trails to try to track Courtesy of Gni . Pictures down the rest. If we exhaust them, we’ll go to the eBay auctions. Whatever we gotta do.” Thanks to Thomas Dorsey and the Great Migration, Chicago is often considered the birthplace of gospel, but Texas and several native sons and daughters can also lay claim to being the first to infuse the blues with the Father, the Song, and the Holy Ghost. One is Blind Willie Johnson, a fierce slide-guitarist whose voice sounds like a bullfrog with a three-pack-a-day habit. Between 1927 and 1930, the Marlin native recorded 30 known songs, including “It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” “Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time,” and “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed,” which were later covered by Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. Talk about universal appeal: Johnson’s slow burn of moans, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” was included on a record of essential sounds that astronomer Carl Sagan planted on Voyager 1 30 years ago for curious extraterrestrials. Two other Texas gospel pioneers are Sherman’s Arizona Dranes and Simsboro’s Washington Phillips. Dranes was a blind female pianist in the barrelhouse style of Dorsey who recorded between 1926 and 1929. Phillips, who played zither \(or dolceola, depending on whose story NOVEMBER 16, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21