Local music group standing test of timeBy Drew Granthum Published 12:30pm Thursday, April 4, 2013
Many musical groups don’t last for long.
Personalities conflict, artists decide to pursue other careers, and fans decide they want to hear something new.
Not so with the Christian Harmonizers of Jemison gospel group. The Harmonizers have been going strong for more than 40 years, and don’t look to slow down anytime soon.
Formed in 1972, the Harmonizers have been through several different members, countless shows and numerous towns sharing their music. Jackie Atchison, the last of the original members of the group, said the Harmonizers started out on almost a whim.
“We got started in April,” he said. “I had just gotten back from New York, singing with a group up there for a few years. It was just in the blood. We wanted to do something, so we said ‘Let’s get something started!’”
So Atchison, along with Jim Davis and the Rev. Willie Smith, started the group. They later added Ike Oliver, Robert King and Dennis Mitchell Sr., and commenced playing around the area.
As the Harmonizers started to gain notoriety, the list of places they played increased.
“We’ve been all over,” Atchison said. “We’ve been to Florida, Chicago, Mississippi, all around. All of the local churches around, we’ve just about been to. White and black.”
Atchison also added that the group was about the music, not the money.
“You name it, we play it,” he said. “As long as it’s church related, gospel, we’ll go. We don’t pick and choose. And most of it is done on a free-will basis. We’ll go for donations or for nothing.”
In addition to playing at various venues around the country and the county, the group also hosted a show on WKLF-WEZZ 97.7 FM (now “The Peach”) on Sunday mornings.
As the years passed, the group members have changed. Davis, Smith, Oliver, King and Mitchell have given way to the current members of Tony Mitchell (lead singer, bass guitar), Albert Sims (tenor), Talmadge Merritte (lead vocals), Linwood Perkins (lead guitar), William Richardson (drums) and of course, Atchison (baritone).
While the Harmonizers have been around for a long time, that doesn’t stop them from pursuing new frontiers. For example, they released their first recorded album.
“We did our first CD [titled “Getting Closer”], going on two years now,” he said. “It’s doing real well. We’re in the process of doing another one now. It should be out at the end of the year.”
Forty-one years, and they show no signs of slowing up anytime soon, including a celebration weekend May 4-5. The Harmonizers will play at Disciples Temple Apostolic Church in Jemison, Saturday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m. and then May 5 at 2:30 p.m. at Jemison City Complex.
Atchison said the group hopes to keep going long after he and the other members are no longer playing.
“Well, three of us are getting a little old,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve been doing it for a while, but we’re going to continue to do what we’ve been doing as long as we can. We want to train some younger guys up after we decide not to do it anymore, so they can go on with it.”
For more information on the Harmonizers, call Tony Mitchell 334-366-5832.