Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

SHOUT! Black Gospel Music Moments - The Rev. June Cheeks

The Rev. June Cheeks possessed one of gospel music’s greatest voices, a full-throated, raspy roar that could elevate any song.

The Rev. Julius Cheeks – better known as June Cheeks – is one of gospel music’s greatest voices, on par with Archie Brownlee – a ferocious, raspy soulful roar that even Wilson Pickett acknowledged was the best. One of 13 kids of a widowed mother, Cheeks never finished second grade and was raised on the brutal cotton fields of South Carolina. But his magnificent baritone shot him straight up the gospel ranks, mainly with the Sensational Nightingales at their best.

The Nightingales were an all-star aggregation in the late ‘50s, with Joe Wallace, Paul Owens and others – but Cheeks was the star. With Peacock records, they had hit after hit – and June was everywhere, singing “To the End,” “New Burying Ground,” and “Standing at the Judgment.

June left the ‘Gales in 1960 and formed several groups of his own, including the Sensational Knights, but mainly he kept singing, kept preaching until dying way too young in 1981. Recorded Live in 1962, “Tomorrow’s Sun” is just a taste of Cheeks -- singing and holy dancing in the congregation, shouting from the balcony, getting the spirit and giving those great full-throated howls of joy and pain on the closing vamp.

MUSIC: “Tomorrow’s Sun” by the Rev. June Cheeks, 45.

I’m Robert Darden … “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” is produced by KWBU, the Black Gospel Music Preservation Program at Baylor University Libraries and is funded by generous support from the Prichard Foundation.