When the story of gospel music is written, at least a chapter will be about Willie Banks and The Messengers. Born in Raymond, Mississippi, more than a half century ago, Willie started singing gospel with his mother at the age of five. Since then, he has gone on to sing with The Flying Clouds, The S. C. Violionaires, The Trumpets of Joy, Sister Edna Gallmon Cook, and The Jackson Southernaires.
In 1968, he formed his own group, Willie Banks and The Southernaires. They were signed to the Peacock-Songbird label. Shortly after signing, the group released Heaven Must Be A Beautiful Place. Willie left the Peacock label and formed Willie Banks and The Messengers in 1972. The HSE Record label out of Nashville, Tennessee signed them. With the label, the group released four albums entitled God's Goodness, For The Wrong I've Done, Mother Why, and Still In Charge. In 1979, they received a Grammy nomination for Traditional Male Group of The Year. All of the aforementioned albums were mainstays on the Billboard Magazine Top Forty Spiritual Charts.
Willie looked forward to the day that he could take time off and spend time with his family in Raymond. But those plans dramatically changed when on July 6, 1981, 19 miles west of Atlanta, Georgia, the van that carried Willie and his group left the road and plunged fifty feet down an embankment. This tragic accident took the life of one of his musicians, and nearly took Willie's. After having been thrown from the van, he laid in the high bushes for what seemed like days, praying for someone to find him. He couldn't call out for help because he was drifting in and out of consciousness. The only thing that he could do was pray to the Lord for assistance. Willie made a vow that if his life was spared, he would sing God's praises as long as his tongue would move. Thank God, for He heard Willie's prayer.
In 1988, Willie and The Messengers signed with Malaco Records and released their first album shortly thereafter. Their debut album received extensive airplay throughout the country. The blessings did not stop there, for in 1990, Malaco released their second album, which immediately picked up where the other left off.
Willie Banks died on February 1, 1993. The Messengers continue to sing praises unto God, for they know that "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not God's Word". They have decided not to dwell "on those things which are behind, but to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ".
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