As part of the holiday weekend, the popular MLK Jr. Gospel Festival is Sunday, Jan. 15 – on what would have been civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday.
Among the four featured performers is Roy & Revelation, a group with roots in Hopkins that combines new and old gospel traditions, are Roy Ladson, Hopkins (Lower Richland High); Stephen Raynard “Steve Ray” Ladson, Hopkins (Dreher High); Joseph Leath, Columbia (Blythewood High); Jarred Rufus, Sumter (Crestwood High); Justin Rufus, Sumter (Crestwood High); Derrick Lowman, Hopkins (Lower Richland); Antwain Taylor, Timmonsville (High); Vishawn Stephens, Loris (High); and T’Darius Gregg, Bishopville (Lee Central High).
Roy & Revelation has released two albums – “Thank You” and “Blest by the Best” – and tours nationally. Lead singer Roy Ladson, who has been singing with the group for 17 years, talked with Go Columbia about how the group got its start and the joys of singing at home.
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Q: How did a group founded in Hopkins become a nationally known group?
A: In the year 2011, that June, we were blessed to put out a CD, titled “Thank You.” It was with Malaco Records, a great company that’s not just known for gospel music.
Q: How did the group get its start?
A: We started as a family group. My cousin, James Adams, who started the group, was the lead singer for about a year. The Lord gave him another direction to pursue. That’s when I became the lead singer. I was the bass player, and just wanted to play my role, play the bass guitar and sing backup. That was 16 years ago. We have been singing around home (in Hopkins) for a long time. We were raised in a church (Ladson’s Chapel Baptist in Hopkins), raised knowing right from wrong. Singing was a way to stay out of trouble. We were preacher’s kids. Others were the kids of deacons or other preachers. We would practice, sing, from sun-up to sundown. Mom and dad would have to run us out of the church. We were running up the light bill!
Q: How did you come up with the name of the group?
A: Our founder, James Adams, named the group Revelation. My mother told us many people are afraid to read the book of Revelation because it talks about the mark of the beast, the fire and last days. ... with the name Revelation you can talk about the book and people may not be afraid because it’s a different approach, but it can still lead people to Christ and make them want to change their ways.
Q: Why gospel music?
A: Dad was a pastor and Mom was his organist. I was the drummer, until Steve Ray got older and he started playing the drums and I went to bass guitar. Dad would have 13-14 revivals in the summer, one about every week. We were allowed to sing at those revivals. I think that got us comfortable performing in front of large crowds. Gospel … I’ve been through too much in my life to detour away from my upbringing. I will never turn my back on what I love the most.
Q: The front of your website says, “When futuristic and vintage collides with Quartet Gospel Music, there you will hear the immensely applauded sound of Roy and Revelation.” Can you talk about what this means?
A: We call it VF – vintage futuristic. We’re young men in old school bodies. I’m a young man but I can’t really tell you about young musicians. We like to dress the way The Temptations did in the day, with a twist.
Q: The MLK Jr. Gospel Festival in Columbia is an event designed to celebrate African-American culture and honor the memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. How does it feel to be a part of that?
A: It’s very important to me, to us as a group. I never thought we would be good enough to grace a stage for an event as important as this. There is nothing like singing at home for something as big as this. It makes me feel good to be a part of it. I’m very excited about it.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
A: There have been several: Singing on the Bobby Jones Gospel Show, being one of the few groups from South Carolina to do so; in 2016 we won the Jackson Music Award; we’ve been nominated for the 2017 Stellar Awards held in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 25.
Q: What do you hope the future holds for Roy & Revelation?
A: Whatever God allows to happen…We want to stay humble and stay in the realm of God.
If you go
USC’s MLK Jr. Gospel Festival
WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15
WHERE: Koger Center for the Arts, 1051 Greene St.
COST: Tickets for the MLK Jr. Gospel Festival $8 for students, $12 for faculty, staff and the public.
PARKING: Free parking will be available in the Discovery Garage, across from the Koger Center.
PERFORMERS: The Williams Brothers, a nationally known traditional gospel group from Jackson, Mississippi; Roy & Revelation; Voices, a gospel choir from New Light Baptist Church of Hopkins; and Beverly Taylor, a local gospel artist from Batesville-Leesville.