Reverend J.M. Gates

The Baptist preacher J.M. Gates was one of the most prolifically recorded black artists of the early 20th century, with over 200 sides on wax between the mid-'20s and his death in 1940 (he once recorded 23 titles in a week, at just two sessions). His sermons and musical numbers appeared on a variety of labels (Victor, Bluebird, Okeh, Gennett), though Gates often re-recorded his most popular sermons -- "Death's Black Train Is Coming," "Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting," "Goin' to Die with the Staff in My Hands" -- for multiple labels. Born in 1885, Gates ministerd at Atlanta's Calvary Church and first recorded in 1926. Beginning in April, he recorded almost 100 sides by the end of the year. Understandably, his output slowed slightly during the rest of the late '20s, and the advent of the Great Depression resulted in a four-year period off records. He returned in 1934, and recorded about 20 more sides until his death in 1941. Experts estimate that Gates recorded at least a quarter of all the sermons that appeared before 1943. ~ John Bush

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