47,48,49 “Judgement” by Rev. Sister Mary Nelson, “He Got Better Things For You” by Memphis Sanctified Singers, “Since I Laid My Burden Down” by Elders McIntorsh & Edwards


January 3, 2011 by gadaya

After the old sounds of Rev. Gates’s  “lining hymns” and the shape-note singers, the Anthology moves on to some black religious singing by diverse Memphis artists who recorded at the end of the 1920’s. “Judgement” by Rev. Sister Mary Nelson is a unaccompanied vocal trio performance with the big roaring masculine voice of Sister Nelson  with her son (or grandson) Clarence Nelson and John Davis joining her on the chorus. A member of the Pentecostal Church, owning possibly her own store-front church, she recorded 4 sides for Vocalion in 1927.


The B-side of “Judgement” was called “The Royal Telephone”, a then new trend in Gospel music: using contemporary images to speak of the Holy. On this track, the contrast between Sister Mary Nelson rough voice and the delicate and youthful voice of Clarence Nelson is particulary striking.

“The Royal Telephone”

The other record by Sister Mary Nelson coupled a powerful sermon (Isaiah LV) with another fine Gospel song (The Seal of God) sung in the same style as the two previous one.

“Isaiah LV”

“The Seal of God”

The Memphis Sanctified Singers were a Pentacostal church group led by mississippian Bessie Johnson, with Melinda Taylor and Sally Sumler on vocal and Will Shade on guitar. Shade was the leading member of The Memphis Jug Band, one of the finest Jug band of these years. Apparently, the sound of secular bands like Will Shade’s Memphis Jug Band could very well be mixed with Sanctified singing as many recordings from these years testified.

“He Got Better Things For You”

Here’s a nice quote from writer Grail Marcus concerning this side by Bessie Johnson’s Memphis Sanctified Singers:

“I went home and put the Anthology on. I had read somewhere that, in the Fifties, the photographer and film-maker Robert Frank used to listen to the twentieth song on the ‘Social Music’ discs, the Memphis Sanctified Singers’ 1929 ‘He Got Better Things for You’, over and over, as if there didn’t need to be any other music in the world. I’d tried to hear something of what he must have heard; I never could. But this day it was all there-as if, again, it had all been obvious.

Smith hadn’t credited the singers individually, no doubt because he couldn’t find their names. In the supplemental notes to the 1997 reissue by the folklorist Jeff Place, you find them: Bessie Johnson, leading, followed by Melinda Taylor and Sally Sumner, with Will Shade, of the Memphis Jug Band, on guitar. Johnson starts out deliberately, with small, measured steps. ‘Kind friends, I want to tell you,’ she says in a friendly way. Then her almost mannish vibrato deepens; it’s getting rougher, harder, with every pace. When she says ‘Jesus Christ, my saviour,’ he’s hers, not yours. Her throat seems to shred. With that roughness, and the roughness of the words that follow-‘He got the Holy Ghost and the fire’-right away it’s an angry God that’s staring you in the face. Uncle Dave Macon, agent of Satan? This is much scarier. But then, as the first verse is ending, the whole performance, the whole world, seems to drop back, to drop down, to almost take it all back, the threat, the rebuke, the condemnation. Every word is made to stand out starkly, right up to the point of the title phrase. ‘He got better things for you’-the phrase seems to slide off Bessie Johnson’s tongue, to disappear in the air, leaving only the suggestion that if you listened all the way into this song your life would be completely transformed.”

Will Shade playing the washtube bass

-Here are two other recordings by Bessie Johnson’s Memphis Sanctified Singers:

“No Room at the Hotel”

“The Whole World in His Hands”

The next selection is “Since I Laid my Burden Down” by Elders McIntorsh & Edwards, two musicians also from the Memphis area, who were members of The Church of God In Christ and recorded six sides at the end of the 1920’s. Bessie Johnson would participate also in this recordings. Lonnie Mc Intorsh would record also a few sides on his own, still with songs in a religious vein.

“Since I Laid My Burden Down”

Another recording by McIntorsh & Edwards (and Bessie Johnson) was about  the Great Mississippi flood of 1927.

On all this recordings by Memphis artists, the exuberant and joyful atmosphere of the black church is greatly felt by the listener, with a spontaneous and vibrant quality usually heard only in field recordings.

On his solo recordings Lonnie McIntorsh sound almost like a primitive african minstrel, with his unique phrasing and monochord guitar:

“Sleep on Mother Sleep on”

“The Lion and the tribes of Judah”

-All the recorded works of these Memphis artists were compiled on a Document CD called “Memphis Gospel 1927-1929). It includes all the sides by Rev. Sister Mary Nelson, Bessie Johnson and The Memphis Sanctified Singers, Elders McIntorsh & Edwards, Lonnie McIntorsh and Rev. Johnny Blakey.

Track list:

Rev. Sister Mary Nelson
01 – The royal telephone
02 – Judgment
03 – The seal of God
04 – Isaiah-LV
Lonnie McIntorsh
05 – Sleep on, mother sleep on
06 – The lion and the tribes of Judah
07 – Arise and shine
08 – How much I owe
Elders McIntorsh & Edwards
09 – What kind of man Jesus is
10 – Since I laid my burden down
11 – The 1927 flood
12 – The latter rain is fall
13 – Take a stand
14 – Behold! the king shall reign
Rev. Johnnie Blakey
15 – King of kings
16 – Jesus was here on business
17 – Warming by the devil`s fire
18 – The devil is loose in the world
Bessie Johnson
19 – No room at the hotel
20 – Key to the kingdom
21 – One day
22 – The whole world in his hand
23 – The great reaping day
24 – He got better things for you

Download here

“Since I Laid My Burden Down”

The Variations

I “collected” some versions I love of this song, known as “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” or “When I Lay My Burden Down” a very popular spiritual found in the repertoire of many Bluesmen and  African-American songsters, usually played with a bottleneck/slide guitar arrangement. It was of course heard a lot in the repertoire of Gospel singers of all kind and entered also the New-Orleans Jazz canon. I included some versions by white Country and Western Swing musicians and a great version by Bahamas guitar player Joseph Spence. One may notice that some sing the song as “When I lay my burden down” and others as “Since I laid my burden down” giving to the performances a rather  sad or a joyful feeling. Anyway,all great Gospel songs are usually a combination of both melancholy and joy!

Track list:

  1. Glory Glory Hallelujah Plantation Singers (Black Vocal Groups Vol. 9 1929-1942)
  2. Glory, Glory Hallelujah Since I Laid My Burden Down Blue Spring Mississippi Baptist Delegation (Wade in the Water, Vol. 2)
  3. When I Lay My Burden Down Roy Acuff (King Of The Hillbillies, Vol. I, CD C)
  4. When I Lay My Burden Down The Lapsey Band (Music from the South, Vol. 1: Country Brass Bands)
  5. When I Lay My Burden Down Cat Iron (Cat-Iron Sings Blues and Hymns)
  6. Since I Laid My Burden Down  The Golden Echoes (Golden Age Gospel Quartets: Volume One (1947 – 1954)
  7. When I Lay My Burden Down Turner Junior Johnson (The Land Where the Blues Began – Alan Lomax Collection)
  8. When I Lay My Burden Down Annie and Mississippi Fred McDowell (You Gotta Move)
  9. Glory, Glory When I Lay My Burden Down Joseph Spence (The Complete Folkways Recordings, 1958)
  10. When I Lay My Burden Down Robert Wilkins (When I Lay My Burden Down)
  11. When I Lay My Burden Down Furry Lewis (When I Lay My Burden Down)
  12. When I Lay My Burden Down Mississippi Fred McDowell (When I Lay My Burden Down)
  13. When I Lay My Burdens Down The Stanley Brothers (True Bluegrass Gospel)
  14. Since I’ve Laid My Burden Down Mississippi John Hurt (Immortal)
  15. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Mother McCollum (The Guitar Evangelists, Vol. 2, [Disc 4])
  16. Wake Service: As I Lay My Burden Down Magnificent Sevenths (Authentic New Orleans Jazz Funeral)
  17. When I Lay My Burden Down The Maddox Brothers and Rose (America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band – Vol. 1)
  18. When I lay my burden down Rev Edward Clayborn (The Guitar Evangelist)
  19. Since I Layed My Burden Down Buge Cage & Willie B. Thomas (Old Time Black Southern String Band Music)
  20. When I Lay My Burden Down Robert Pete Williams (Angola Prison Spirituals)
  21. Glory Glory Hallelujah Soul Stirrers (The Soul Stirrers)
  22. Glory, Glory Odetta (Let My People Go)

Download here

I hope that you’ll enjoy

all this “soul-lifting” music…

A great way to start a new year!

Best wishes to all,



8 thoughts on “47,48,49 “Judgement” by Rev. Sister Mary Nelson, “He Got Better Things For You” by Memphis Sanctified Singers, “Since I Laid My Burden Down” by Elders McIntorsh & Edwards

  1. Tres Seaver says:

    Really nice variety in the variations! I think you might like the spare fife-and-drum version done by the late Otha Turner, linked from:


    Otha (and his surviving family) are the last known practicioners of the black fife-and-drum tradition.

  2. Brian says:

    Hello Gadaya – Happy New Year!!!

    I don’t know if anyone else has had this, but I have tried downloading here a lot and, every time it fails and I get the following message:

    “Too many redirects occurred trying to open “http://www.mediafire.com/?cs65lh6r1lg5olc”. This might occur if you open a page that is redirected to open another page which then is redirected to open the original page.”

    I hope there is something that can be done about this – Better Things to do is just about my favourite track!!!

    • gadaya says:

      Hi Brian, I’m sorry you have problems downloading here but from my side Mediafire works fine and I don’t know how to solve this problem. Maybe someone can help? Does anyone had the same problem downloading from Mediafire?

  3. Neil Jenkin says:

    More fascinating stuff. Thank you!

  4. Brian says:

    Hello again Gadaya,

    I tried again today, and everything works ….. thanks for looking.


  5. Chris Barry says:

    My comment is lengthy, so I apologize in advance if it needs to spread over several posts.

    Dear Gadaya,
    Thank you again for this great work! I only discovered this site within the past few weeks and have been immersed in it ever since. I am 48 years old and have been an avid music collector since my teens. I became a lifelong fan of Bob Dylan at a very young age and discovered the Anthology shortly thereafter. I have explored virtually every genre of music in the years since. I recorded every episode of the Theme Time Radio Hour broadcasts and have been using those as a source of inspiration to learn about the various interesting artists that Bob played on those magnificent 100 shows.
    I now have a new obsession – Old Weird America! As others have said more eloquently than I, the idea was an inspired one, and the commitment required is obviously huge. You have done an excellent job of providing the rest of us with a fantastic resource. The entire presentation, from the writing to the images and the well-tagged files (no minor issue, that), I have been diligently downloading and cataloguing the music so that I can then go back to the beginning and re-read each post thoroughly while listening to the tracks on my iPod. In the process of downloading the tracks I did come across some broken links and a few missing tracks. Since you obviously have spent a considerable amount of time and trouble compiling all of this great music, I am sure you would want to know where these broken links are and don’t have the time to go back over every post to find them.
    I saw in the old posts that you had briefly considered stopping the project, and then decided to soldier on. I am deeply grateful and would like to suggest that you may again find more joy in the process when you get to the “Songs”. While the “Social Music” is wonderful, the songs don’t lend themselves to the type of in depth study that the “Ballads” and “Songs” do, at least in my humble opinion. I suspect that your enthusiasm for the project will be renewed when you get to “The Coo Coo Bird” by Clarence Ashley, which I’m sure you will agree is one of the great Old Weird songs of all time.

    Dead Album Links on OWA:
    02 Nelstone’s Hawaiians’s World – http://www.mediafire.com/?jaivyyzndj2
    18 The John Henry Variations, Part 5 – http://www.mediafire.com/?yhmxgywtcmd
    19 The Stackalee Variations, Part 4 – http://www.mediafire.com/?znlzzlgijnv
    24 The Casey Jones Variations, Part 1 – http://www.mediafire.com/?zdytiyjefgz
    26 The Boll Weevil Variations, Part 2 – http://www.mediafire.com/?yjjtkyrnynz
    32 Andrew & Jim Baxter’s World – http://www.mediafire.com/?0ia2xfzjuwd

    The following tracks do not unzip successfully:

    32 The Stomp Variations, Part 1 –
    · track# 15. Walkin’ Cane Stomp Kentucky Jug Band Ruckus Juice & Chittlins, Vol. 2
    · track# 18. Memphis Highway Stomp Charlie Burse & His Memphis Mudcats Memphis Shakedown Disc D

    33 Eck Robertson’s World –
    track# 10. The Island Unknown Part 1

    See below for error message received when using “WinRAR” to unzip the above three files:
    ! C:\Documents and Settings\Chris\My Documents\Downloads\The Stomp Variations part 1.zip: CRC failed in The Stomp Variations part 15 Walkin’ Cane Stomp – Kentucky Jug Band.mp3. The file is corrupt
    ! C:\Documents and Settings\Chris\My Documents\Downloads\The Stomp Variations part 1.zip: CRC failed in The Stomp Variations part 1\19 Memphis Highway Stomp – Charlie Burse & His Memphis Mudcats.mp3. The file is corrupt
    ! C:\Documents and Settings\Chris\My Documents\Downloads\’s World.zip: CRC failed in Eck Robertson’s World\10 The Island Unknown Part 1.mp3. The file is corrupt

    Thank you once again for all of your excellent work!

    • gadaya says:

      Thank you Chris for this. I’ll try my best to upload again the dead or broken links, just give me some time…. You’re right, with the “Social music” set, the variations are more difficult to find but i always manage to find some interesting stuff to post each time. For now i’m really happy to discover some great and forgotten Black religious music through the process…

      • Chris Barry says:

        I’m in no hurry. I’ll be here as long as the site is active. I am really enjoying the cuts from this post by Sister Mary Nelson. I agree with your observation on the contrast between her voice and that of the young Clarence. Though I am not a believer myself, I have always enjoyed gospel music because of the enthusiasm and sincerity with which it is delivered. The feeling put into it by the performers is transformational for the listener, regardless of their own beliefs. Thanks again.

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