A synonym for anoint is consecrate. The definition for consecrate is, “dedicated to a sacred purpose.” (Webster). Bertha Jackson, mother of seven children and wife of a pastor was just that: Dedicated to a sacred purpose. Long before her children began to sing, Bertha had determined to consecrate her life to sharing the gospel on a daily basis. She was not a passive Christian either. Bertha Jackson was an evangelist on fire for the gospel spending most weekends on the road singing and preaching even with seven children in the house.
In 1984, she formed a quartet named Evangelist Bertha Jackson and the True Gospel Singers. Daughter Barbara, age twenty also sang with the group. During their first year together, they released a single on a 45 LP, “Heavenly Grocery Store.” Encouraged by the success of this project and the joy she felt singing for the Lord, she pressed on in the work, teaching her children to sing while working out harmonies for songs she was arranging for the group to sing. When group members struggled, seven-year-old Pam would coordinate vocal parts and help out with the harmonies. Maria sang background vocals during rehearsals. The True Gospel Singers began to get bookings out-of-town after the release of their single and it wasn’t long before Mama Jackson realized that members of the group didn’t share her same vision. As members began to drop out of rehearsals and complain about road trips, her daughters filled in the gaps.
In 1989, three weeks before an important event at a local church, Mama Jackson’s six daughters began rehearsing hard to learn the songs they would perform that night. Grandma Jackson put together costumes and Mama and daughters performed with an anointing that truly moved crowd members; the spirit of this night could not go unnoticed and the Jackson family knew they were meant to travel from town-to-town and church-to-church to share their anointing with as many people as would listen. Ranging in age from twelve to twenty-eight, some married, some single, the ladies took to the road under the marquee Evangelist Bertha Jackson and The Jackson Sisters.
Initially, the group performed on a local and regional level. Each of the sisters continued with their jobs, schooling, hobbies, and family activities. Influenced by the quartet sound of the Clark Sisters, the Jackson Sisters continued to sing, practice, work out harmonies, enter contests and win first place. In 1993, Doc McKenzie produced the Jackson Sisters’ first independent project, What Time is It? By this time, their father, Bishop Carlton Jackson, was filling the role of road manager, spiritual adviser, covenant prayer partner and bus driver.
Willie Neal Johnson, a Malaco recording artist and long-time veteran of the gospel industry, saw the group open a concert in Wilson, NC. Impressed by their sound and live performance, he spoke with Mama Jackson and invited them to perform in a New Artist Showcase at the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) in Atlanta, GA, the following year. It was there that the girls heard an impressive performance by a group called the Barrette Sisters- a performance that wowed them with intricate harmonies and tight vocals. Mama admonished them to pray, practice and rehearse in that order and without ceasing. She intended for her girls to sing first for God and knew that He would add whatever was needed to their performance if they remained faithful.
Mama Jackson, suffering from the long-term effects of Type I diabetes, never wavered in her faith. She shared her vision of success with the girls and they started traveling further out and attending conventions and playing at more events, baking and selling pies to raise funds for registration fees and gas money. The sisters met at Mama’s house every night, taking turns cooking dinner for their parents, holding a capella rehearsals afterwards.
Eight years after the release of their first CD with Doc McKenzie, they met Roy Wooten (Mr. Malaco) in New Orleans at the GMWA convention. By now, the sisters had their own independent label, Christbound Records and another full-length project on the streets, 24/7 I’ll Praise Him. Wooten gave the girls a chance to perform for ten minutes on a showcase. Mama was in a wheelchair by this time and before the performance told them that from this point forward God would take them where they needed to go. In front of a crowd of 6,000 they sang the title cut from their new project, “I Got a Blessing.” Many legendary gospel acts were there including Albertina Walker and Dorothy Norwood, shouting and dancing in the front row. From that short performance, they were signed with a booking agent, booked fifteen shows and were invited to Fès, Moracco to become part of the International Fès Festival of World Sacred Music Peace Tour. Thus, their full-time ministry launched and a flurry of bookings followed.
On their journey to signing with a major record label and singing around the world, they changed their name to The Anointed Jackson Sisters, performed at the 2002 Essence Awards, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, many conventions, showcases and regional events, and released three full-length CDs all the while being led by their visionary, prayer partner mother, Mama Jackson. The evening before Mama Jackson passed away, the family was gathered around her hospital bedside and she admonished them to keep God first through the tests and trials that would surely come and to remember all that she had taught them. She asked daughter Barbara to take care of her sisters and she let them know that she would not be going with them to Fès, Morocco. Less than a half an hour later, Mama Jackson was gone.
Now, signed to Malaco Records and preparing for the release of their first CD with the label, God is in the Building, the sisters, joined by cousin Catharina Jones, have been invited to participate in the next annual Fès Festival of World Sacred Music Peace Tour and will be touring across the United States as well as in numerous international venues.