Missed will be the high-energy, trend-setting
style that had endeared OLanda Draper & The Associates to gospel music fans far
and wide. "This is a big loss to the gospel world," says ATF Records artist and
OLandas cousin, Ann McCrary. "OLanda was on the cutting edge of
contemporary gospel music. He was a prolific writer and arranger. It will be years from
now before people look back on his work and realize what a talent he really was."
realized that music would be his way of life after moving to Memphis, Tennessee at the age
of 13. Soon after settling in his new surroundings, he joined the glee club at Graceland
Jr. High School. He later headed his first gospel choir at Overton High School.
Although his family was concerned about the direction he was moving in, Draper started
and continued to write and sing gospel songs. "I just knew there was something
there," said Draper. "I was so mesmerized by the effect of gospel (music) on me.
I would sit in my room and shed tears, feeling the importance of what the words were
saying and the life that they could bring."
Draper eventually went on to attend Memphis State University, where he directed the
schools gospel choir. This later inspired Draper to form The Associates in 1986
after leaving school. The choir went from its original 12 members to the 60 members they
Draper & The Associates first big break came when they backed Shirley Ceasar
on her popular recording. "I Remember Mama." The union worked so well together,
they were asked to back Caesar once more on her "Stand Still" project.
The gospel music industry recognized the talents of OLanda Draper & The
Associates by bestowing upon them a Dove and Stellar Award, five Grammy nominations, two
Dove nominations and six Stellar Award nominations.
Draper and the choir has shared the stage with pop music superstar Billy Joel at the
1994 Grammy Awards, appeared on his hit single and video River Of Dreams, as well as
having performed with Patti Austin and the San Francisco Symphony, Jennifer Holliday,
Yolanda Adams, Albertina Walker, Carman and Russ Taff.
Although OLanda Draper may have left us, the gift he left behind was his current
Warner Alliance release, "Reflections." The album speaks of faith, repentance,
living for God and Gods life-changing love for people. It artistically reflects how
meticulous Draper was about his presentation.
"Hed bring the best out of you without being harsh," says McCrary.
"A lot of people dont like working under that kind of perfection, but the end
result was a good sounding choir. And he would be so humorous in the way that he would
point out what you needed to work on that you wanted to give him your best. Thats
just the way he was with others and his own choir."
OLanda Draper was vibrant and youthful and "Reflections" represents
just that. "Give It Up has more of an urbanized beat for the youth," said
Draper. "But message-wise, both Give It Up and our arrangement of the hymn Yield Not
To Temptation bring the same message to the table, but for different generations.
Were encouraging people all over the land to hang on to the positive things in life
and let the things that are not wholesome fall by the wayside. In other words, Let
not the things that separate us from God hold us back."
"Reflections" includes other songs which exemplify the joy, the excitement in
knowing Jesus, which was OLanda Draper. Theres the rousing, upbeat Come On
Lift Him Up; the Latin flavor flowing through Make A Joyful Noise and the jubilant,
churchy feel oozing from God Will Provide and In The Name Of Jesus.
Although OLanda Draper will be best remembered for his music, he was much more
than that. "He was a free spirit and hed keep you in stitches," remembers
McCrary. "He always had a smile and something funny to say. If you were feeling down,
he was the best medicine you could take."
OLanda Draper, the man and his humor will be missed, but his music shall live on.