After more than 40 years, the ministry of 75-year old Bishop F.C. Barnes shows no sign of slowing down. His total commitment to serving the Master and lifelong love of gospel music continue to be the driving forces in the life of this quietly amazing man.
As a teenager in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Bishop Barnes spent most of his time playing piano, singing and directing the choir at the Marks Chapel Baptist Church. After answering his call to the ministry in 1955, Bishop Barnes went on to found the Red Budd Holy Church in 1959 and later, lead the flock at the St. Paul Holy Church in Maple Hill, NC the latter of which he still serves as pastor. It was also during this period that Bishop Barnes received his Doctorate of Divinity degree from the Goldsboro, NC - based United Christian College.
Although pastoring is of great importance to Bishop Barnes, it would be music which would catapult him to national prominence. Around 1979, Bishop Barnes was doing a radio broadcast at WSRV in Rocky Mount, NC, which is where he met Rev. Janice Brown. They recorded "It's Me Again Lord" at home on a reel-to-reel tape recorder just to play on their broadcast. Whenever the song aired, people would call in to the station asking them to play it again. They called so often that the station's manager encouraged them to make a record of it so that he could legally play it. Bishop Barnes and Rev. Brown went into the studio and recorded that song along with "Come On In The Room". The single eventually caught the ear of Wendell Parker who at the time worked at AIR Records. He then played it for Ron Freeman, the owner of the label. Mr. Freeman loved it and he offered them a recording contract. The rest, as it is said, is history.
They eventually would record eight albums together, highlighted by the smash hit song "Rough Side Of The Mountain". The album of the same name remained number 1 on the gospel charts for over a year, selling over 500,000 copies. It continues to sell strongly to this day. Rev. Brown parted in 1988 to get married and Bishop Barnes formed a group he named Company, which presently consists of his nieces Deborah Barnes, Wanda Barnes, and Lisa Barnes.
During his more than 20 years and 14 releases with AIR, Bishop Barnes has been featured on projects with is son Luther Barnes and the Red Budd Combined Choir. The Bishop also originally organized the Sunset Jubilaires, today one of AIR's most popular artists. "I was their first musician and lead singer", Bishop Barnes remembers. "After I was called into the ministry and began pastoring, it took me away from the group, so my brother Haywood took over as lead singer". The Sunsets now feature Luther as their primary lead singer.
Bishop Barnes and Company's latest collection, "Come On In The Room", harkens back to gospel's 'Golden Era', incorporating some of the songs and sound Bishop Barnes grew up with. "My mind took me back to the way we used to sing". says Bishop Barnes. "This project features many of the songs that have been a part of my life down through the years. We took those songs and did our best to sing them the way I remember they used to be sung, and to bring the pure sound of gospel music back to the people.
Bishop Barnes received The North Carolina Folk Heritage Award September 12th, 2000.