Thelma and I have known each other since Jr. High School. Our first musical collaboration was in the form of a recorded album by the Franklin Jr. High Jazz Band featuring Thelma’s solo on “Someone to Watch Over Me” and a vibe solo by me on the same song. A multitude of television shows, world-wide performances and a Grammy Award for her rendition of “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, makes her one of music’s most recorded artists as well as one of its best. She has always given The Art Reynolds Singers credit for her start in the recording business. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a Smithsonian Institution museum, honors her contribution to music and it is the reason my name made it into the museum. Thanks Thelma for the love and respect all of these years.
Alfreda James has sung with the group ever since she was 14 years old. She has traveled extensively with Art and the group and most memorably to South Africa for a historic trip to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban as part of the Della Reese Review. For many years she was a staple on the Los Angeles nightclub circuit including Memory Lane, the Page Four and Mavericks Flat. She is one of the lead singers with the group and her rendition of “Long Dusty Road” is a favorite among our listeners. Alfreda has been a champion for all children and has worked in early childhood education for many years. Alfreda will perform on a new single by The Art Reynolds Singers entitled “Walk With Me”. Stay tuned.
Alexis Donadelle (Newjhar) (Deceased)
As an original member, Alexis was the heart and soul of the group. Besides being the historian, she always insisted the group be the best they could be. She was so funny and full of life. She had a rich family life with her husband (Dennis Newjhar), their children and grandchildren and carried herself with great dignity and poise. She was well educated and well lived. I loved her spirit and a smile that lit up the world. She is truly missed.
Lillie Mae Brown (Deceased)
Lillie was an original singer with the group. She had the most crystal clear soprano voice imaginable. It was the voice of an angel. She was always the group’s realist. That meant she would tell you the hard core truth about everything. Her smile and vocal abilities were always apparent. She continued working in the Long Beach community as the head of the Long Beach Community Improvement League. She is responsible for the “sound” of the Art Reynolds Singers. She is still having fun. Much love!
Glenna Session (Honey) (Deceased)
Honey was full of life and a great lead singer. She was a songwriter, pianist of the first order, vocalist extraordinaire with the personality of a star and a well-versed, fully lived adult woman. She was a choir director for several choirs and an active member of the COGIC (Church of God In Christ). She toured with Barbara Streisand as a background singer and recorded a solo album of her own. We miss her laughter and powerful personality. Her great vocals continue to live on!
Arlene Le Boef
Arlene is the nicest, quietest, and the most no-nonsense kind of person I have ever met. She, like Lillie, has a voice like an angel. She was always on time, on key and ready to work. She was the light and life of the group. She had a very good sense of what she wanted her life to be. Her love of family, friends and a good time is always apparent and she is devout about her faith and is a real jewel of a person with substance and love!
George “Ghee” Brown
George joined the group with the release of the “It’s a Wonderful World” album. He had previously worked with the “Friends of Distinction” and “War” before joining the group and played a mean saxophone. His debonair style and smooth vocals became an essential part of the “new” sound of the group. He traveled to South Africa with the group and became one of the lead singers thereafter.
Vern Williamson (Deceased)
Vern was a gifted soprano. She could make a building shake with the strength of her voice. Every time she opened her mouth we got a standing ovation. Her love of the church and her family was second to none. I remember her funny personality and her ability to care and feel for others. She was a good mother and always put her best abilities up front. Vern formerly performed with “The Edwin Hawkins Singers” There will never be another Vern. Listen to “I Want to See the Other Side” on the “Work of Art” album and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Dora was Glenna Session’s sister and she joined the group with the live “Work of Art” album. Her alto smokey voice was so prominent, she practically carried all of her ad-libs with the ease of a solo performance. Her energy in performance was contagious and she was so distinctive that you would never forget her or her voice. Much love to you Ms. Taylor for your love and talent.
Thanks to my brothers, Sonny Reynolds and Renne Reynolds; children, Byron and Brooke Reynolds; and, grandson, Justin Reynolds.
Thanks to Michael Gebhard, my soul mate, best friend, business partner and everything else.
Art Reynolds is an African-American songwriter, producer and singer that has put music at the forefront of his life for over seven decades. His love for music was harvested by his grandmother “Doll” buying him a piano when he was age 10 in Long Beach, California. She told him to play, and play he did. From that simple start, he has used music to say what’s on his mind, heart and soul. He listened to the Doo-Wop groups of the mid-1950’s well into the 1960’s and found a simple set of chords that allowed him to play the most current interaction of R&B/Rock and Roll/Gospel and other forms of music that made it’s way into the fabric of our America.
Art was popular in junior high and high school because of his involvement with music. He also was a pretty good dancer and loved to wear cool clothes. Early on around age 14 Art began shinning shoes on the ocean front near the Long Beach City Hall. He shinned shoes for US Navy personnel stationed in the city. Art’s mother knew the man that owned the shoe shine booth and inquired if he could give Art a job. He told him to come down and learn the craft of “shinning”. He excelled making over $100 dollars on a great day back in the 1950’s. Of course he was the best dressed student because he had the money to buy his own clothing. Independence runs deep within Art. He became President of the Teen Tavern, a community multipurpose building frequented by local black teens. He then became President of the California Youth Association. Started working in the community programs fostered by the Long Beach Community Improvement League. He directed programs including early childhood education, a tutorial program, neighbor to neighbor integration and assorted social services offering job training and placement for disadvantaged youth. He was part of a small group of people that created the Miss Black Long Beach Pageant which was a rousing success. He was Executive Director of the Long Beach Opportunities Industrialization Center, a manpower training program and worked for the City of Long Beach as a Community Development Analyst assisting businesses to relocate in the Central Area.
Art’s love for gospel music got him attention when he started learning the newest gospel music as soon as it was released. Memorable music by The Caravans, Shirley Caesar, James Cleveland and various other pioneers in the evolution of gospel music. After conducting choirs for 3 Long Beach churches, Art started concentrating on the five best singers from the choir at St. Vestal CME Church and called them the “Art Reynolds Singers”.
The Art Reynolds Singers were one of the first black gospel groups ever to record for Capitol Records from 1966 to 1972. Their four albums are collector items and their original recording of “Jesus Is Just Alright” has been covered by countless artists. DC Talk won a 1994 Dove Award for “Best Rock Recorded Song”.
Art Reynolds and Bunny Hull wrote original music for the movie “Leap of Faith” starring Steve Martin which featured the song, “Ready for a Miracle” recorded by Patti LaBelle and later by LeAnn Rimes for the film, “Evan Almighty”. LeAnn’s version won the DOVE Award for “Traditional Gospel Recording Artist of the Year”.
One of the crown jewels is the use of “Ready for a Miracle” in the Tyler Perry trailer for the film “A Madea Family Funeral”.