Guitar great Benny Turner got his start with the Kindly Shepherds on this wonderful gospel tune, “Every Year Carries a Number.”
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The Kindly Shepherds were one of dozens – maybe hundreds! – of groups to come of the West Side of Chicago in the 1950s and ‘60s. They recorded a half-dozen 45s, mostly for the fine Nashboro label in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. Their rendition of “On the Battlefield” is probably their best-known number, but they never really broke through the gospel charts, despite top notch singing and songwriting. My particular favorite track of theirs is “Every Year Carries a Number.” The unknown lead vocalist testifies and exhorts over a close-harmony background for a minute before the sound suddenly bounces into a full-tilt gospel rave up. It’s polished, funky and fun – clearly the Kindly Shepherds knew what they were doing. Do listen to the guitar line – it’s a genuine treat. The story of the Kindly Shepherds would have ended there except for the fact that one of the quartet’s founding members was guitarist Benny Turner – the brother of legendary blues guitarist Freddy King... the pride of Gilmer, Texas! Turner would eventually leave the Shepherds and follow his brother into the blues world, where he recorded a number of LPs, mostly recently Going Back Home, released in 2018. As I record this in late 2020, Benny Turner, now in his 80s, is going strong as band leader for soul singer Marva Wright! MUSIC: “Every Year Carries a Number,” the Kindly Shepherds, 45 I’m Robert Darden … “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” is produced by KWBU, the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University Libraries and is funded by generous support from the Prichard Foundation.