Johnny Ray Daniels grew up making music with his family in Greenville, North Carolina.
“My mother used to make us sing,” he says. “And when people would come, she’d say, ‘My boys can sing.’ We’d say, ‘Mama, we don’t want to sing.’ Then Mama had a look. She’d look at you to where you’d say, ‘OK we’ll sing.’ ’Cause we knew if we didn’t, when that company left, we were going to get it.”
And his mother’s love of gospel music never left Johnny Ray. For a while early in his life, Daniels made records with a rock and R&B group called the Soul Twisters before deciding to devote himself fully to gospel music in the 1960s.
He comes by it honestly because his roots run deep in the gospel music traditions of his community. The Daniels family grew up in the tradition and as an adult, Johnny Ray married into the Vines family. The “Sacred Soul of North Carolina” compilation album released by Music Maker and Bible & Tire Recording Co. includes generations of both families.
Faith & Harmony’s group of six young women are all members of the Vines and Daniels families. Dedicated Men of Zion are led by Anthony “Amp” Daniels, Johnny Ray’s son.
On the album, Johnny Ray himself appears both as a solo act with his family backing him and as a member of Little Willie and the Fantastic Spiritualaires, an incarnation of the group he’s been singing with for over 50 years.