R&B Crooner Gerald Alston returns to his gospel roots with his first inspirational CD, Back To The Basics, slated for release July 2014.
Alston is the lead singer of Grammy Award winning R&B group, The Manhattans. Their biggest hits were “Kiss and Say Good-Bye,” “I Kinda Miss YOu,” and “Shining Star.” Alston was a preacher’s kid with a passion for music singing his his father’s Henderson, North Carolina church before the fame.
He said, “I was born into a musical family…And one of my big inspirations, other than my father, was the late Johnny Fields. He was my uncle and he was one of the founding members of The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. And I had the opportunity to meet, or be around quite a few gospel singers back in the day…The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Staple Singers, The Five Blind Boys of course…The Soul Stirrers, The Davis Sisters, and Oh my God, Albertina Walker.”
Alston has been with The Manhattans, for forty-three years. But it wasn’t the first group he sang with. He said, “And being in a family of Gospel singers…Dwight, my uncle Johnny’s oldest son, we started singing together as kids. And the first time that we ever performed together, we sang gospel. All our lives, that’s what we did. And when we got in high school, we started singing secular music. We put a band together called Gerald Alston and the New Imperials. And Dwight and I performed with three or four gentlemen. And we travelled all over North Carolina.”
Alston said the group performed secular music in clubs on Friday and Saturday nights, but were always in church on Sunday. Alston remembers, “No matter what time we got in, we were dressed and at somebody’s church waiting to sing…on Sunday…And that’s what we wanted to do. And in all actuality, gospel music is and always will be my first love.”
His professional break came an unexpected way. “I went to a junior college in (Henderson), North Carolina…class started in August…in October they had a concert there. And my professor asked me could they use my sound system…and I set the sound system up. While testing it out…I was singing. In walked these guys, and it was The Manhattans.
God work’s in mysterious ways…and…I was able to replace their lead singer…he was very ill…his illness took a turn for the worst when they left there, said Alston”
Alston said one of his career highlights was when The Manhattan’s 1976 hit, “Kiss and Say Good-bye” was certified gold. He said, “We just couldn’t believe it because we had struggled so long…singing for pennies basically on the chitterling circuit.
The second was when we won a Grammy for the 1980 chart topper “Shining Star.” We were up against The Spinners, The Jacksons…Gladys Knight and The Pips…and The Commodores…and we won that!”
Alston recorded three solo releases in the1990s, Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke in 2008, and he anxiously awaits his forthcoming independent gospel CD, Back To The Basics.
Arthur Mitchell, President of Urban Network Digital, a popular urban music entertainment website, said, “I think it’s great that Gerald is still doing his thing and I think gospel is a genre of music that is much more receptive to R&B and old school artists with new music than today’s radio and consumer.”
According to Alston, Back To The Basics was produced by Gospel Jazz musician/songwriter, Mel Holder, Travis Milner and Alston.
He said, “Back To The Basics, which is back to singing gospel the way it used to be sung, not necessarily an album…full of traditional songs, (plus new contemporary tunes), but it’s going back to the old time way.
If you look at a lot of the songs that we sang back in the 70’s and the 50’s…and traditional gospel period, even the new songs that were written back then, they were scriptures or stories that were taken from the Bible. And they related to the gospel singers…or…somebody that had been in that situation.
And that’s what I would like to identify with, bringing back the back to basics, the old-time way, with new production…I want to send a good message, then tell the people about how good God is…how he’s blessed me…and he’s blessed my family.”
For more information visit: www.geraldalstonmusic.com