Agency Rep
Jon Prine


There are currently no tour dates scheduled for this artist.


It’s not hard to divide the world of Gospel quartet music into categories.  In fact, there are really only two.  There’s the Mighty Clouds of Joy, and then there’s everybody else. After 49 years and 39 albums,  three Grammys and  trophy-case  full of almost every award imaginable; shows that have run a gamut from the church-house to the White House, and top-billings with a dazzling roster of superstar artists from nearly every genre of popular music  (the  Rolling  Stones,  Aretha  Franklin,  James  Brown,  Earth,  Wind  &  Fire,  Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, and Paul Simon are but a few), The Mighty Clouds of Joy are more than a Gospel legend.  They are nothing less than a national treasure.

Still,  one must  choose  his  words  carefully  when  describing  the  Clouds.    “Icons?” Absolutely.   “Pioneers?” Without a doubt.   “Venerable?” Most certainly.   “Forefathers” of modern Gospel, R&B,  rock  and  pop?  It’s  just  the  straight  fact  of  the matter;  but  don’t  let founding member  and  lead vocalist,  Joe Ligon, or any of  the other  seven Clouds hear  you referring to them with any synonym that even hints at greatness in the past tense. At a career point where any act would be honored and happy to simply kick back and ride on  its reputation,  the Mighty Clouds of Joy  today find  themselves not only back  in  the recording studio, but signed  to  the hottest  label  in contemporary Gospel, produced by some of the hippest hit-makers on the charts today, and delivering one of the strongest collections
of new material in their already immense catalogue of classic songs.

So  give  their  preeminent  past  it’s  due,  but  get  ready  for  a  new  and  potent  shot  of classic  and  contemporary  Clouds  in  the  spring  of  2009.    The  label  is  EMI  Gospel.  The producer is Raphael Saadiq; and the sound is pure Mighty Clouds of Joy, as mighty as ever. “Raphael  told me going  in  that he  intends  this  to be  the greatest Clouds  recordings yet,” says Joe. “There are a  lot of different styles  that have come  together over  the years  to create what people know  as  the  `trademark’ Clouds  sound,  and we want  to hit on  a  lot of those high spots on this project.  Saadiq, myself and the entire group, as well as EMI…we are all absolutely intent on making this the definitive Mighty Clouds of Joy recordings to date.”

Born and raised in rural Alabama, the musically gifted but still stage-shy Joe moved to Los Angeles to live with his uncle in his early teens.  He teamed with a couple of singing classmates, one of whom was  Johnny Martin, Clouds’ co-founder and career member until his untimely death in 1987.  As that core group drew singers from several other popular local groups,  including Richard Wallace, still a member of  the Clouds  today,  the first  incarnation of The Mighty Clouds of  Joy was  formed. By 1960,  they had a major Gospel  record deal, with a hit single and album flying up the charts, portending from the start what would be far greater things to come.

Adding  bass,  drums,  and  keyboards  to  the  previously  sparse  traditional  quartet accompaniment of a  lone electric guitar, as well a colorful, matching outfits and a  smooth, choreographed stage presence, the Clouds were major Gospel innovators from the start. 

Moving to then-giant ABC Records in 1974 brought the first of a decade-long string of  big R&B-flavored Gospel  hits  records  for  the Clouds,  featuring  “Mighty High,” which peaked at No.2 on  the Billboard dance charts  in  ‘75.   Even as  they began  to work a steady rotation of major secular venues—including Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Carter White House, and the Apollo Theater—the Clouds never dodged their roles as believers, nor shied away from their identity as a devoutly Gospel group.  Still, it was a fairly radical, even daring, move for a Gospel act  to make at  the time, and one  that Joe  now  is  not  afraid  to  admit  he  sometimes  worried  over.  However,  in  retrospect,  The Mighty Clouds of Joy,  like no act before  them, had  in fact carried  the Gospel message  into the age of modern R&B and urban music that is today a cornerstone of the genre. “Looking  back,”  Joe  reflects,  “I  can  see  that  we  were  able  to  take  Gospel music through a lot of doors, and to a lot of places and people it had never been before.  And there’s no way that could ever be anything but good.” 

As one of  the Clouds  longtime  lead vocalists, 2008, Michael Cook met his untimely death  in July of 2008. Today, Joe  is still  joined by his early partner Wallace, and  longtime members  and  vocalists  Ron  Staples  and Mike McCowin,  with  Johnny  Valentine,  Ronald Clark, Jason Britt and Ervin “Big Man” Williams making up the band, Joe—who was and is the  living,  breathing  definition  of  a  true  “soul”  singer—says  the word  “retirement”  is  not even a part of his vocabulary.

“Gospel singers never retire,” Joes says,  laughing. “They’ll sing until  they can’t  talk anymore.   And  if  they  can’t walk,  they might  just get  in a wheelchair and  roll out on  that stage and sing.  The Clouds have had their share of tough times, especially playing the South back  in  the  ‘60s,  when  a  black  person  couldn’t  even  count  on  getting  a motel  room,  or service in a restaurant.  I’ve had many a meal served on a greasy paper plate out of the back  door of the kitchen. But we made it through all that, and we’re still here and singing better than ever.  I have no complaints.  How could I? Even if I was given the chance, I wouldn’t change a bit of it.

“We’ve  achieved  every  dream  I  ever  held  in my  life,  and  far more,  just  to  inspire people  to want  to go on  living,” he concludes.    “Folks  find  something  in Gospel  that  they don’t find in any other kind of music, and it changes their lives.  They know Christ is real—even  though  they’ve never seen Him—because  they can feel His presence  in Gospel music.  Just to used by Him like that, even in a small way…who could ever ask for anything greater than that?”

Indeed.  And who could ask for 49-years-and-counting of the passionate and stirring, still sweet and soulful sound of the once and ever Mighty Clouds of Joy?

Mighty Clouds Of Joy - I've Been In The Storm Too Long by PGAmusic


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