Daptone Recording Artists Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens

“If gospel is a great American art form, Naomi Shelton should be considered a national treasure.” - Washington Post

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens have been added to the Let Freedom Ring! concert January 11, which will take place at Plymouth Church. They join Rock & Roll Hall of Famers the Impressions and members of Brooklyn's own all-star group the Dap-Kings. NPR.org has said, "Naomi Shelton is gruff and she takes no guff."

Sanctified soul sister Naomi Shelton rose to prominence in her late sixties as a member of Daptone records' retro-rooted soul/funk stable, along with her backing group the Gospel Queens, but her pedigree as a performer of both sacred and secular music stretches back much farther than that.

Born Naomi Davis Shelton, in Midway, AL, she began singing in her Baptist church at an early age. After graduating high school in 1958, she moved first to New York, then spent time in Florida, where the greats of the burgeoning soul movement -- including Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Lou Rawls -- inspired her to try her hand at singing secular R&B; she soon became a regular winner at a local talent show. In 1963 she settled back in New York and landed a regular gig playing three sets a night at Brooklyn's Night Cap. There she met pianist Cliff Driver, who would be her musical mentor and co-conspirator, on and off, and eventually, some three decades years later, the musical director of the Gospel Queens.

That group came together in the late '90s, by which point Driver had been off the scene for nearly 20 years, although Shelton never stopped singing, in both clubs (as Naomi Davis) and churches. In 1999, Driver got back in touch and invited her to become the new lead singer in a vocal group he'd been working with, and they began performing around New York, soon catching the attention of Gabriel Roth, then the head of Desco Records. Roth invited the pair to a recording session with the Desco house band, which yielded the "41st Street Breakdown" '45 (credited to Naomi Davis & the Knights of Forty First Street) and a couple of sought-after unreleased tracks.

When Desco folded and Daptone arose in its wake, Davis remained in the fold, appearing live as part of the "Daptone Super-Soul Revue" contributing her vocals to a song by the Sugarman Three that was issued as a single, but it took nearly a decade for before Naomi & Gospel Queens got around to making a recording of their own.

2009 saw the release of What Have You Done, My Brother?, a full-length arranged by Driver, featuring members of the Dap-Tones, and split between versions of gospel classics and soulful originals penned by Roth under his Bosco Mann alias.

Asthmatic Kitty Recording Artists The Welcome Wagon

The Welcome Wagon is a married couple, the Reverend Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, who execute a genre of gospel music that is refreshingly plain. Their hymns are modest and melodic takes on a vast history of sacred song traditions, delivered with the simple desire to know their Maker—and to know each other—more intimately.

Vito was born in Tecumseh, Michigan, and attended Western Michigan University where he developed a love for writing poetry. His first book of poems, Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry, was published by New Issues Press in 2002. A self-described agnostic, Vito experienced a spiritual conversion at the age of 20 and soon after enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary to study theology and prepare for ordained ministry. Currently he is the senior pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church, a church he planted in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, in 2005.

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A Juneteenth Celebration: Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens and The Welcome Wagon

Sunday, June 9 · 7:00 PM at Plymouth Church