Southern Exposure
The Legacy of Reverend Cleavant Derricks
When reviewing gospel music's illustrious (though relatively brief) history, some composers are in a class all to themselves. For example, the greatness of Thomas A. Dorsey, the "Father of Gospel Music," is undisputed. The contemporary songs of Andraé Crouch have made an indelible impact on generations. And the extraordinary songwriting gifts of Bill and Gloria Gaither are known the world over. With standouts like Dorsey, Crouch or the Gaithers, it is easy to overlook a multitude of great writers whose lives were adversely affected and whose careers were significantly limited by the eras in which they lived. Perhaps many songwriters could have ascended to higher levels of prominence had they been able to execute their craft at different junctures in history. One can only speculate. Nonetheless, the memory of some writers might never fade, thanks in part to the younger artists who emerge every generation or so to revive their best-known works. One important songwriter, whose songs remain vibrant and enthusiastically received, was the Reverend Cleavant Derricks.

Born on May 13, 1910 in Chattanooga, Rev. Derricks neither became a household name in gospel music circles nor did he ever become wealthy from his songwriting. Rather, he spent a lifetime devoted to the Lord's work, composing and performing some wonderful songs, directing choirs and ministering from the pulpit. Receiving formal music training at the Cadek Conservatory in Knoxville, Derricks would later study at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College (now Tennessee State University) and the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville. Beyond his songwriting prowess, Derricks was noted for capably directing choirs, including Washington, D.C.'s Vermont Avenue Baptist Church Choir, which was comprised of more than one hundred voices. His ministry would also take him to churches throughout Tennessee (in Dayton, Knoxville and Jackson) and to Beloit, Wisconsin. For more than a decade, Derricks pastored the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., before returning to Tennessee where he built Knoxville's Ebenezer Baptist Church in the late 1940s.

Don Butler, who chartered the Nashville-based Gospel Music Association with James Blackwood, J. D. Sumner, Cecil Blackwood and Dorothy Pate in 1964 and served for a number of years as its Executive Director, says of Derricks, "He was a very mild, meek-mannered, humble man and a very likable person to be around and to talk to . . . a very talented man." In Turn Your Radio On, author Ace Collins writes, "Although eloquent in speech and wise in his understanding of the Scripture, [Derricks] never held himself above those who turned to him for help and guidance." Characterized by a self-effacing, unostentatious nature, Rev. Derricks was able to minister to the beleaguered with genuine love and empathy. His songs acknowledged tough times and called on believers to lean not on their own understanding but to trust in God.

His Music Transcended Race

Though an African American, Rev. Derricks distinguished himself as a songwriter most notably in the singing conventions of the white churches throughout the American South. His songs would find their way into some of the most popular singing convention songbooks of the day, joining the ranks of southern gospel's greatest composers, including Albert E. Brumley ("I'll Fly Away" and "Jesus, Hold My Hand"), G. T. "Dad" Speer ("Heaven's Jubilee" and "O The Glory Did Roll"), V. B. "Vep" Ellis ("Heaven's Joy Awaits" and "I'm Free Again") and Lee Roy Abernathy ("Take a Moment and Live" and "I Want to Know More About My Lord").

White publishers such as Stamps-Baxter and R.E. Winsett were among the top publishers of singing convention songbooks, and songs by black writers like Dorsey, Charles A. Tindley and Kenneth Morris would wind up in these widely distributed books. The same songs that ministered to impoverished blacks enduring discrimination in the Jim Crow South spoke to the hearts of disadvantaged whites whose lot seemed similarly dismal due to hardships spurned on by the Great Depression and the World War II years. Like Dorsey, Tindley and Morris, Derricks would write songs that addressed daily hardships, praised a loving, sustaining God and spoke of the heavenly reward believers would gain following their labour on earth. Butler adds, "And, too, his songs were sung in the Pentecostal churches back in those days. Those people were considered the poor class---you know, the common man. They were struggling, and so his songs were accepted very rapidly because they did have that hope."

Butler points out that "most people didn't know [Derricks] was a black man when his songs first started being published by Stamps-Baxter." James R. Goff Jr. concurs in his book, Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel, stating, "With an unmistakable influence from the shape-note convention arrangements and a style that often featured the bass part on the chorus, Derricks's songs found their way into Southern shape-note hymnbooks, though few in the South would probably have guessed the author's racial origins."

Taking into account the atmosphere of the South in the first half of the twentieth century, Butler says, "A lot of the groups would not even have sung [Derricks's] songs if they had known he was black . . . that's just the way it was." Nonetheless, some prominent white gospel artists took steps to tear down the walls of racial division. "Later in the late '40s and the '50s, [white quartets] started singing songs that they knew were written by black artists, and they started inviting some of them to be in their concerts," Butler states.

Crediting Hovie Lister & The Statesmen for being among the first to embrace their black counterparts, Butler recalls the Golden Gate Quartet joining the Statesmen onstage, though the audiences---as was the norm---remained segregated. Bold moves by such esteemed performers as Lister helped bridge the gap between the races and aided black artists by expanding their fan base beyond the confines of African American churches. Not surprisingly, as black concert goers became increasingly familiar with the white groups and the black groups grew in popularity among white fans, sharing the same billing often proved beneficial to all involved.

Gospel quartets were essential in marketing songbooks prior to the demise of the singing convention book publishing industry and the advent of sheet music printing. Arguably, the racial tolerance of a few groups ensured that the songs of talented black writers could rise to unprecedented prominence. As white quartets performed popular material composed by blacks, fans and churches would seek to purchase convention songbooks containing their favorite songs. No doubt, some of Rev. Derricks's best known songs would not have become timeless classics if not for the singing conventions and early gospel quartets.

'Sugar Sticks'

Rev. Derricks is most noted for writing "Just a Little Talk With Jesus," "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials," "When God Dips His Love in My Heart," "When He Blest My Soul" and the lesser known but equally good "I Want the Light From the Lighthouse to Shine on Me"---songs Butler says "were what they used to call sugar sticks." According to Butler, a great song "became a sugar stick for a certain person or a certain group . . . and that was their hit song."

Published in 1937 in Harbor Bells No. 6 by Stamps-Baxter Music Company, "Just a Little Talk With Jesus," Butler insists "has probably been sung more than any convention song, by more quartets and trios than any song other than 'Hide Me, Rock of Ages' which was written by Brantley George . . . and all the quartets sang that."

Following their crossover into country and pop, Butler says the Oak Ridge Boys ". . . used to sing ['Just a Little Talk'] on every one of their programs, and I guess they still do." In addition to the Oak Ridge Boys (who won a Grammy in 1977 for their performance of the song), "Just a Little Talk With Jesus" has been recorded by Elvis Presley; country legends George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Tennessee Ernie Ford; platinum-selling gospel singer Donnie McClurkin; and a host of southern gospel artists including the Blackwood Brothers and the all-star Masters V.  Though not commercially successful, the 1952 recording of the song by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the biggest gospel star of the late 1940s, and country sensation Red Foley, was perhaps the first important gospel collaboration between a black artist and a white artist.

"We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials," first appearing in Stamps-Baxter's Pearls of Paradise in 1936, was dedicated to Derricks's parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Derricks. Written amid the Depression, the uplifting lyrics undoubtedly brought comfort to all who heard the song, particularly the struggling, downtrodden members of the small, rural congregation Derricks pastored in Alabama. Sharing the infectious song's message with diverse audiences and subsequent generations, recording artists---including J. D. Sumner & The Stamps, the Happy Goodmans and Bill & Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming Friends---have opted to record "We'll Soon Be Done."

"Another of his great songs," Butler agrees, "was 'When God Dips His Love in My Heart'." He says, "That song was an all-time big hit. It was the signature song of Otis McCoy, who was the music editor of the Tennessee Music and Printing Company which was owned by the Church of God . . . the Pentecostal Church of God down in Cleveland, Tennessee. Otis McCoy was known for singing that song, and he edited it when it was first published." The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Albertina Walker, Red Foley, Jim Reeves and Alison Krauss are just a few of the artists who have recorded the song. Additionally, "When God Dips His Love in My Heart" has been included on two different Gaither Homecoming projects: Singin' With the Saints (1998) and South African Homecoming (2007).

The third important Derricks song published by Stamps-Baxter, "When He Blest My Soul," has been recorded by prominent southern gospel performers ranging from Gold City to the Gaither Vocal Band. Like the aforementioned "Just a Little Talk With Jesus, " "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials" and "When God Dips His Love in My Heart," this song features some wonderful bass lines, and is a fun quartet song. More importantly, it proclaims the joy of salvation and hope of eternal life that only Jesus Christ can give.

In its 1958 songbook, Echoes of Calvary, the Tennessee Music and Printing Company published "I Want the Light From the Lighthouse to Shine on Me," a beautifully written Derricks tune that attests to God's unwavering leadership. Though lesser known and sparsely recorded compared to other Derricks songs, "I Want the Light From the Lighthouse" did make an appearance in the Singing News Top 80 in the 1990s for First Corinthians, a North Georgia mixed gospel group.

Don Elrod, music director at Gainesville, Georgia radio station WGTJ-1330 (where he hosts Good News from the World of Southern Gospel Music with Don Elrod), was a member of First Corinthians until the group disbanded in 1999 and he subsequently joined the southern gospel group, GEORGIA. Recounting how the ensemble came to record "I Want the Light From the Lighthouse," Elrod says, "Our pianist, Brent Cochran, found the song in an old singing convention book and brought it to us. We sang through it, liked the message and the melody, and decided to record it."

Reiterating the points made by Butler and author James R. Goff Jr., Elrod expresses, "We knew Derricks was a prolific songwriter . . . but we did not know he was black. I found out about his background some time later while reading an article about famous gospel songwriters!" Elrod indicates that First Corinthians included "I Want the Light From the Lighthouse" on its independent release Chapter 1, a project produced by acclaimed southern gospel vocalist Karen Peck.

Bill Gaither Shares His Thoughts on Rev. Cleavant Derricks

Unequivocally the most influential person in all of Christian music today, Bill Gaither is more than a music mogul. His songwriting credits include the classic, "He Touched Me," and with his wife, Gloria, Gaither has penned numerous other gospel standards, including "Because He Lives" and "The King Is Coming." Gaither has sold millions of records, secured numerous Grammy and Dove awards and has published a number of books. His business interests include major record labels, music publishing companies, a copyright management firm and a nationally known recording studio. Instrumental in launching or advancing the careers of a number of contemporary Christian and southern gospel recording artists, Gaither is world-renowned particularly because of his Homecoming music series and concert tours. In recent years, his efforts have even prompted a resurgence in the careers of several southern gospel legends. Gaither continues to take Christian music to new heights, and his award-winning Gaither Vocal Band remains one of the most celebrated quartets in the field of southern gospel music.

When I set out to pen a retrospective on Cleavant Derricks, I had no idea that someone of Bill Gaither's stature would be so eager to discuss this incredible songwriter. Just two hours before he was to catch a plane on January 14, 2008, Mr. Gaither telephoned me. I am truly grateful for his taking time out of a demanding schedule to talk with me and express his thoughts for the enlightenment of Southern Edition readers. While Mr. Gaither was apologetic that he had not contacted me prior to my publishing "The Legacy of Rev. Cleavant Derricks" on December 22, 2007, I assured him that his comments were still very much relevant in telling the Derricks story and would be published as an addendum. I am pleased to offer the following partial transcript of our conversation:

Bill Gaither: The white and black church have borrowed from each other's culture for I don't know how long. Certainly, it would go back to slave days, I would suppose, and then on into the twentieth century. Early in the twentieth century, there was a lot of exchange of music and cultural approaches to worship. Now it's interesting as it has grown from the twentieth century into the twenty-first century. In many cases, it's hard to tell a black church worship from a white church worship. In some cases, there are still obviously some distinctives, but that's been true from the beginning.

I think Cleavant Derricks was important because he was one of the first blacks to cross over into the white area in a very, very strong way with especially the two big songs, "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials" and "Just a Little Talk With Jesus." And then there were several more.

I suppose it took the white church a long time to know that ["Just a Little Talk With Jesus"] was composed by a black person. They just sang it like it was one of theirs. And I've said many times that the black church and the white church have exchanged down through the years and I'm not so sure that the white church has not benefited more from that than the black church has benefited from our exchange.

But I say all of that to say that Cleavant Derricks was a very important part of gospel music history for that reason. 'Cause when you can branch musical genres, then it can also spill into cultural exchanges, spiritual exchanges and community, which I think the Lord was more concerned about than anything when He prayed in His prayer, 'Father, may they be one.' And I think the music exchange has made us more one than probably any other part of the church experience.

Greg: Sure. And I would agree with that. I think the exchange of music has certainly fostered the unity that otherwise wouldn't have even existed in some cases.

Bill: 'Cause I think we can sing together when we can't do other things together.

Greg: (Laughing) Of course, nowadays we argue over what to sing!

Bill: Yeah, yeah, and it's interesting. I have as many older black people come to me---as I did the other day in a mall with an older black pastor of a very prestigious church in Indianapolis---and say to me, "With the Homecoming videos, thanks for preserving our music." (Laughing) And I get a big chuckle out of that because here's this white kid from Indiana, preserving [black gospel music]. I do feel as though I am [preserving] a very important part of the black culture. And it's interesting that the older black generation probably has just as difficult of a time with the contemporary music---black or white---as the older white generation does. (Laughing).

Greg: You bring up a point there because I've also been commissioned to do an article on Roberta Martin for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. And, in doing some research, I read where---back in the '60s---Jessy Dixon was, of course, really big in the world of black gospel, and he wanted to gather some younger friends to pay homage to Roberta Martin. And they replied, 'We don't feel like supporting Medicare.' And I'm thinking, "Wow! Roberta Martin was . . . I mean, that's like . . . huge, and they looked down as though she were beneath them. So, you're right. I see how different generations share different points of view today where church and music are concerned.

But I really appreciate your taking the time to call me and talk with me. I think the Derricks story is certainly worth telling because . . .

Bill: Because he was one of the first ones to make that jump . . . he did it in the '30s or '40s. Thomas Dorsey did it in the late '40s and the '50s.

Greg: Right. Even the Charles Tindley stuff didn't really---I can't say this with utmost assurance---but I think the Tindley stuff didn't really take on until the '40s, am I correct?

Bill: Yeah, I think so.

Greg: Like "Stand By Me," "Leave It There" and "We'll Understand It Better By and By" and all of that.

Bill: But the Cleavant Derricks thing was important because he was published by a white publisher, the Stamps-Baxter Music Company, and the whole white Southern gospel field. And he was first published by an established white music publisher.

Greg: Well, it's a great story, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I have spent a lot of time getting myself immersed in all of these old songwriters and singers. It's really a joy to dig up the stories and retell them.

Bill: Show me a man who doesn't know where he's been and I'll show you one who doesn't know where he's going.

Dedicated to his parents, Derricks's song, "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials," was first published by Stamps-Baxter Music Company in 1936 in its Pearls of Paradise. The song has been recorded by artists ranging from J. D. Sumner & The Stamps and the Happy Goodmans to Bill & Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming Friends.

"I Want the Light From the Lighthouse to Shine on Me" was first published in Echoes of Calvary (Cleveland, Tennessee: Tennessee Music and Printing Company, 1958).

Author's Note: My introduction to this song came courtesy of Don Elrod in the early 1990s. Here in upstate South Carolina, I used to tune into his North Georgia Gospel every Saturday evening. Aired on WNGM-TV 34 in Athens, Georgia at the time, the show featured videos of national and local southern gospel acts. One of the videos Elrod played on occasion was the performance of "I Want the Light From the Lighthouse to Shine on Me" by First Corinithians, a gospel ensemble of which he was a member. I fell in love with the song and haven't forgotten it even though it has probably been more than a decade since I have heard it!

This copy of Echoes of Calvary, in spite of its worn condition, is a cherished item in my songbook collection. It was among a number of hymnals and songbooks given to me by my friend, Roman White, just months before cancer claimed his life on January 14, 2001. G.F.

Sold for a Song

When Rev. Derricks first approached the Stamps-Baxter Music Company with his songs, there were no discussions of royalty payments or negotiations for an advance. In exchange for destined classics like "Just a Little Talk With Jesus," "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials" and "When He Blest My Soul," Derricks received songbooks---assets to his congregation's worship experience, nonetheless, but hardly the just compensation he could have generated had Derricks shopped his songs today. "He was not even interested in money," Butler says. "He was just a songwriter wanting to get his songs published. They would accept them and pay him off in songbooks."

Butler elaborates, ". . . in those days there were no contracts like there are now, you know. It was a handshake deal or a guy would sign a little bitty piece of paper, saying he turned his song over to such-and-such publishing company. And that was it." When asked whether Stamps-Baxter's decidedly one-sided arrangement with Derricks was racially motivated, Butler says, "White men got the same."

Certainly a different atmosphere in comparison to today's world of complex publishing contracts, performance rights and collection/payment of royalties, Butler explains, "Of course, back in those days, people just wanted their songs to be sung and to be heard. The songbooks didn't cost that much---about 50¢ or 60¢ or whatever---and [publishers] would give [writers] five or ten songbooks for their songs."

The Derricks Singers on Tennessee Records

In the early 1950s, several relatives and church members joined Rev. Derricks to form the Derricks Singers, recording for Tennessee Records---a short-lived Nashville label owned by brothers, Alan and Reynolds Bubis. Sides recorded included arrangements of "Stand By Me," a gospel standard penned by another famous black writer, Charles A. Tindley, and "Do You Know Him?," a song composed by southern gospel pioneers Charles W. and James D. Vaughan of Vaughan Publishing Company fame. Half a century later, these 78 rpm records by the Derricks Singers are rare finds.

The Canaan Records Sessions

Most songwriters with a string of hits to their credit would feel insulted if a publisher viewed them skeptically. However, Rev. Derricks, by then a veteran in the gospel firmament, didn't seem to mind as he answered questions confirming his identity in the offices of Canaanland Music in Nashville in the mid-1970s.

Having shown up unannounced on a bitterly cold day in January, Derricks inquired of Canaanland's Sylvia Mays if the publishing company, a division of Word, Inc., might be interested in some of his new material. Caught off guard as a black sexagenarian stood before her---claiming he had written "Just a Little Talk With Jesus"---Mays called her boss who was in the middle of a recording session. Subsequent meetings with an astonished Aaron Brown resulted in Derricks being signed to a recording contract with Word's southern gospel label, Canaan Records.

For Canaan, Rev. Derricks and his family recorded two LPs, both of which were produced by Brown.

The first, Reverend Cleavant Derricks and Family Singing His Own "Just a Little Talk With Jesus," marked the first time Derricks had ever recorded his famous tune, a song Stamps-Baxter had published almost 40 years earlier. Derricks's Canaan Records debut also included "When God Dips His Love in My Heart," "When He Blest My Soul" and "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials" as well as newly published compositions "My Soul Has Been Set Free" (which has since been recorded by southern gospel's Dove Brothers), "Prescription for Salvation" and "Let Your Heart Do the Walkin'." The project featured the vocals of Derricks; one of his twin sons, Cleavant Jr.; his daughter, Lovie Gwendolyn; Ricky Holmes; and Ronnie Holmes. Carrie Derricks, the reverend's wife, also contributed to the record on keyboards.

Released the following year, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Rev. Derricks's second and final album, featured seven self-penned songs including the title cut as well as "Get On the Glory Bus," "Preach On, Pray On," and "The Precious Love of Jesus." Additionally, the album included Gordon Jensen's "Redemption Draweth Nigh," Elmer Cole's "What a Day, Our First Day in Heaven" and "Don't Ever Let Go of My Hand," a song written by Aaron Brown and Lynda Faye. Satisfaction Guaranteed garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Performance in 1977.

With his unassuming manner, Rev. Derricks could not have envisioned the impending vicissitude that would result from his relationship with Brown. Upon hearing of how Derricks had signed away his earliest works for little of consequence in return, Brown telephoned Frances Preston at the Nashville offices of Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), one of three major organizations responsible for paying performance rights royalties. Preston persuaded BMI to pay Derricks back royalties for the past six years, reportedly resulting in a single payment of $14,000---a far cry from the 50 or so songbooks he had been given in the 1930s!

Too Little, Too Late?

At first glance, the recording opportunites, recognition by peers and financial dividends afforded the songwriter late in life might appear to have arrived too little, too late, but Rev. Derricks, who passed away on April 14, 1977, had spent a lifetime laying up treasures in Heaven. Undeniably, his ministry and career cannot be assessed solely in terms of hit songs or commercial recording successes. One must delve deeper and acknowledge that Derricks's music inevitably touched millions of lives, and it continues to do so today.

The year 2007 marks 30 years since the passing of Derricks. While he was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association's Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1984 for his outstanding contributions, sadly, to many, Derricks is little more than a name attached to a few songs in traditional hymnals. With the passing of time, many of Derricks's friends and admirers in the gospel music field have gone on, too---significantly reducing the number of individuals who are privileged to have made his acquaintance. Butler fondly recalls the occasions he had to talk with Derricks, adding, "In fact, I talked with him just a few days before he died." He feels especially blessed to have met the man whose classic songs will resonate in perpetuity, sentiments also expressed by a number of notable gospel music personalities, including the late bass singing legend George Younce.

Indeed, the legacy of Rev. Cleavant Derricks is one of faith, hope and love . . . a most admirable bequest to his children. But when you catch yourself singing the lines, "Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right" or "It makes me laugh and it makes me cry . . . When God dips His love in my heart," think of Rev. Derricks. His legacy is for you, too.

This album, Derricks's 1975 Canaan Records release, was significant because it marked the first time Rev. Derricks had ever recorded his classic, "Just a Little Talk With Jesus."

Garnering a Grammy nomination, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Derricks's second and final project with Canaan Records, was released in 1976. He passed away the following year on April 14.

Derricks's Famous Twin Sons

Rev. Derricks's twin sons, Cleavant Jr. and Clinton, were born on May 15, 1953 in Knoxville. Musically gifted, the boys made their way to New York where they studied acting with Vinnette Carroll at the Urban Arts Theatre. In fact, Ms. Carroll thought so highly of Clinton that she reportedly regarded him as a son. Subsequently, he changed his last name to Derricks-Carroll. The twins' association with Carroll would lead to roles in Broadway musicals, solidifying their acting career foundations.

Cleavant Derricks, 1982 Tony Award winner

Originally aspiring to follow in his father's footsteps and pursue songwriting, Cleavant was inspired to enter the world of acting after seeing his brother, Clinton, perform onstage. Getting a chance to audition for a Broadway revival of Hair (1977) after another obligation rendered his brother unavailable, Cleavant won the role. His subsequent Broadway credits include But Never Jam Today (1979); Your Arms Too Short to Box with God (1980); Dreamgirls (1981-1985) for which he won a 1982 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical; Big Deal (1986); and Brooklyn (2004-2005).

Performing alongside Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal in his first television series, CBS's Good Sports (1991), Cleavant also starred in Fox's Drexell's Class (1991-1992) and Woops! (1992); ABC's Thea (1993-1994); and NBC's Something Wilder (1994-1995). Cleavant is particularly known for playing the part of Rembrandt "Crying Man" Brown in Fox's science fiction series, Sliders (1995-1997). His résumé is further enhanced by guest starring roles in Miami Vice (1985), The Equalizer (1986), Spenser: For Hire (1987), Moonlighting (1987), Roseanne (1989), A Different World (1991), L. A. Law (1991), Touched by an Angel (1999), The Practice (2001), The Bernie Mac Show (2002), The Wedding Bells (2007) and Cold Case (2007).

In addition to Broadway and television roles, Cleavant starred in several films including PBS's televised play When Hell Freezes Over, I'll Skate (1979), a Vinnette Carroll production for which he and his brother created and directed the music. In Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Cleavant played the role of Lionel Witherspoon, a Bloomingdales's department store security guard who befriends Russian immigrant Vladimir Ivanoff (Robin Williams). Cleavant's other film credits include Neil Simon's The Slugger's Wife (1985) and Wes Craven's Carnival of Souls (1998).

In 1999, Derricks released Beginnings, a pop/R&B CD containing mostly self-penned numbers.

Clinton Derricks-Carroll

Clinton's first important Broadway role was as a singer/actor in I Have a Dream (1976), a musical synopsized as "an evening of theatre and music based on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." He also appeared in Your Arms Too Short to Box with God (1976-1978).

Noted for his collaborative work with Cleavant in When Hell Freezes Over, I'll Skate, Clinton also starred as Wally Brown in the 1979 television series by the same name. Other credits include Sanford (1981), Hill Street Blues (1983), Highway to Heaven (1985), The Steve Harvey Show (1997), Any Day Now (1999) and Play On! (2000). For Sliders, the Fox sci-fi series in which his brother starred, Clinton played the double of his brother's character, Rembrandt, in several episodes.

In recent years, Clinton's theatrical work has included roles in August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Polk County at Washington, D. C.'s Arena Stage in 2002 and 2003 respectively. His role in Polk County secured him a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Resident Musical. Additionally, Clinton performed in the Jeff Calhoun-directed Sleeping Beauty Wakes at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California, in 2007.


Ace Collins,  Turn Your Radio On  (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1999).

Cleavant Derricks, 
Pearls of Paradise  (Dallas and Chattanooga:  Stamps-Baxter Music Company, 1936).

James R. Goff Jr.,
  Close Harmony:  A History of Southern Gospel (Chapel Hill and London:  University of North Carolina, 2002).

W. K. McNeil, Ed.,
Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music (New York:  Routledge/Taylor & Friends Group, 2005).

Gayle F. Wald,
Shout, Sister, Shout!:  The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Boston:  Beacon Press, 2007).

"Tennessee State University," 
Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.  Retrieved December 21, 2007:


Telephone conversation with Don Butler, Brentwood, Tennessee, on October 26, 2007

Electronic mail communication with Don Elrod, Oakwood, Georgia, on December 19, 2007

Internet Broadway Database/The League of American Theatres and Producers,

Internet Move Database, an company,

Telephone conversation with Bill Gaither, Alexandria, Indiana, on January 14, 2008

Author: Greg Freeman.  Published December 22, 2007.  Addendum (Bill Gaither conversation) published January 16, 2008.  Amended March 12, 2011.

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