Fifty years is cause for reflection


DUNNSVILLE — The Soul Seekers of Mechanicsville will give a concert at Angel Visit Baptist Church, 29566 Tidewater Trail, Dunnsville, on Sunday, October 27 at 3:30 p.m. The Soul Seekers sing old fashioned African-American gospel music in the early 20th century male quartet tradition that originated in Eastern Virginia. The group celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year with a gala celebration, featuring nationally known artists, The Sensational Nightingales. Several members of The Soul Seekers recently stopped to reflect upon fifty years of making music.

Jesse Howard, one of four remaining original members of the group, remembers the group's very first performance, and notes that it was at a church youth talent show that took place on March 29, 1963, which was his birthday. Howard came up with the group's name, having been inspired by The Soul Stirrers, the gospel group that was led by the legendary Sam Cooke. Howard also remembers that several of the first songs sung by The Soul Seekers were songs that had been made famous by Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers.

When asked why The Soul Seekers continue to perform and have had the longevity that they have, Howard said that they see their music as a ministry and as a labor of love. He said that they are inspired not by the prospect of money or fame, but by the belief that their music might help someone else to "understand that God is a God of love."

Avon White, another original member of the group, says that The Soul Seekers are driven by the fact that people love good gospel music, that music can strengthen faith, and by the fact that music can motivate people to do meaningful things. He says that among the most moving aspects of their work are the testimonies of persons who credit The Soul Seekers music with bringing about positive changes in their lives. White says that The Soul Seekers are most proud of their extensive community work, which includes raising thousands of dollars to benefit those in need as well as advocacy work with cancer prevention.

The newest member of The Soul Seekers, Bill Craighead, has been with the group for less than a year. Craighead, who designed the group's website, has extensive musical experience having worked with Richmonder Stu Gardner during Gardner's stint as musical director for The Cosby Show. Craighead says that he was looking for a musical outlet at the same time that The Soul Seekers were looking for a guitarist, and that he was impressed with the group's musicianship as well as their commitment to give back to the community and to each other. He is delighted to have been a part of the group for its 50th anniversary. He is inspired by their extensive catalogue of music and looks forward to "adding his two cents to the pot."

The Soul Seekers concert at Angel Visit is part of an event called "100 Men in Ties: Dressed to Praise the Lord." This will be a celebration of the tradition of men dressed in their finest for worship, and will feature a parade of ties with a competition. Prizes will be given for categories such as the largest tie, the most colorful tie, and the most unusual tie. Women are encouraged to support the program by wearing a tie, creatively including a tie in their attire, or just attending. Refreshments will be served. The public is invited to attend. For further information, call Patricia Holmes at 804-443-9390.