When Jay Terrell was named minister of music and director of the Voices of Victory Mass Choir at Salem Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, he was taking on more than a church post—he was inheriting a legacy.
Under the leadership of Lady Doretha Wade-Wilkerson, the Voices of Victory, then known as the Inspirational Choir, recorded the Grammy-nominated double-album, I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired. Released in 1978 as part of Savoy Records’ James Cleveland Presents series, the Billboard-charting album not only introduced the title track into the gospel music lexicon, but it also gave wings to Keith Pringle, who played organ and duetted with the Reverend James Cleveland on the title track. Pringle went on to front his own choirs, record successful albums for Savoy and Onyx and introduce more choir standards such as Call Him Up and When All God’s Children Get Together.
Respectful of, but not daunted by, the choir’s laudable legacy, Terrell learned all he could from his predecessor, Lady Doretha. Armed with this knowledge, he brought the Voices of Victory back into the recording studio in 2001 to record They That Wait. The album’s messages of encouragement couldn’t have come at a better time; the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States happened just weeks before the recording session took place.
This wasn’t Terrell’s first foray into gospel music. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Jason A. “Jay” Terrell began his journey as church music minister at the city’s Tabernacle Baptist Church under the leadership of the Reverend L.D. Hall. He formed the Shekinah Gospel Singers, a choir that in 1987 recorded It’s Time for Shekinah live at Tabernacle Baptist. Terrell’s compositions have also been recorded by national headliners such as Donald Vails and the L.A. Gospel Messengers.
Terrell also fronted Jay Terrell and Higher Praise, a small choir that recorded the 1994 album Cloudless Day for Blackberry Records. The album, which featured lead vocals by former Cleveland Singers member Debbie Austin, spent nine weeks on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart, peaking at No. 27. Blackberry, pleased with Cloudless Day, stepped up to release They That Wait, with Malaco Music Group handling the distribution.
After his tenure in Omaha, Jay Terrell ministered at the Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas, then was named pastor of worship and fine arts ministry at the Beulahland Bible Church in Macon, Georgia. Presently, he is director of magnification ministry at Resurrection Baptist Church in Schertz, Texas. He received an honorary doctorate in sacred music from Interfaith University.
—Robert M. Marovich