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Elder Roma Wilson

Considered among the premier gospel harmonica masters of his era, Elder Roma Wilson was for decades a mystery to folklorists -- unaware his music had ever even been recorded, he did not learn of his international renown until he was well into his seventies, at which time he finally began to pursue a professional performing career to wide acclaim. Born December 22, 1910 in Hickory Flat, MS, Wilson began playing harmonica at the age of 13, honing his skills on old mouth harps discarded by his brothers; in order to get the worn-out instruments to play properly, he was forced to develop a kind of sucking or "choking" style which, over time, resulted in a seemingly endless wind supply. Upon becoming an ordained minister in the Pentecostal Church in 1929, he began traveling the northern Mississippi region alongside another musical minister, the Rev. Leon Pinson; together they garnered a strong following on the church circuit, earning renown for their renditions of "This Train," "Lily of the Valley," and "Better Get Ready."

Wilson relocated to Michigan during the early '40s, working in a steel mill in the Muskegon area before settling in Detroit in 1942. There he resumed his musical career, performing on street corners with his children for spare change; while playing harmonica in a local record shop in 1948, he was secretly recorded by the store's owner, who without Wilson's knowledge or consent, licensed the tracks for release around the world. For years after, folklorists attempted to seek him out, but he remained beyond their reach; after the death of his wife, he moved back to Mississippi during the early '70s, where he again began playing with Pinson. In the years that followed, Wilson slowly began to realize that he was renowned among roots music scholars, finally hearing his decades-old recordings for the first time; he and Pinson were enormously well-received on the festival circuit, winning accolades for their performances at the Chicago Blues Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, among others. In 1993, Wilson was one of 11 folk artists to win a $100,000 National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA. A year later, he issued the LP This Train, which included his first new recordings in decades. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Arhoolie 40th Anniversary Collection 1960 - 2000

Disc 1

1. San Francisco Bay Blues

2. Mercury Blues

3. Shake Shake Mama

4. Cairo Blues

6. One Thin Dime

7. Charmin' Betsy

9. I Am The Black Ace

10. Brother James

15. Bald Headed Woman

19. The Country Blues

20. Crowley Waltz

22. Ay, Ai Ai

23. Write Me A Few Lines

24. Charlie James

25. Louisiana Blues

Disc 2

1. Cindy

2. Little Red Rooster

6. I Wonder Where You Are Tonight

9. Sometimes I Cry

10. Two Bugs And A Roach

11. Dream

12. Things Gonna Get Better

13. Visions

17. Please Settle In Vietnam

18. Shake 'em On Down

20. Creole Belles

21. Finger Lickin' Good

Disc 3

1. Church Point Breakdown

3. Gibson Creek Shuffle

5. You Ain't Got A Chance

7. Satan's Burning Hell

8. Luzita

12. Allons A Grand Coteau

15. Fast Santa Fe (Bear Cat)

16. I'll See You In C-U-B-A

17. El Balaju

21. Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio

22. Mi Problema

Disc 4

1. Gritenme Piedras Del Campo

2. Co-Fe

3. Single Girl

4. Bee De La Manche

6. Negra Ausencia

12. Here To Stay

13. I Know That's Right

19. Hot Chili Mama

21. El Canoero

23. San Francisco Can Be Such A Lonely Town

Disc 5

5. Food Stamp Blues

6. Ain't It A Shame

8. La Mal Sentada

9. Falling For You

14. El Corrido De Esequiel Hernandez

15. What's His Name-Jesus

16. Just A Closer Walk With Thee

x

Track List: Le Gospel (1939-1952)

Disc 1

1. Rock My Soul

2. Downward Road

3. Prodigal Son

5. Give Me That Old Time Religion

8. The Storm Is Passing Over

9. Take Thy Burden To The Lord

10. Down Here, Lord, Waiting On You

11. All God's Chillun Got Shoes

12. Swing Low Sweet Chariot

13. Gospel Train

14. God Moves On The Water

18. I Saw The Light

19. God's Mighty Hand

22. O' Jesus, Let Me Ride

23. The Mighty Number

24. Jesus Is My Only Friend

Disc 2

2. How Far Am I From Canaan

3. Will He Welcome Me Here

4. I Know I've Been Changed

5. Stop Right Now

6. Calvary

7. Well, Well - Don't Worry About Me

8. Jesus Gave Me Water

9. I Love The Lord

10. I Want Jesus On The Road I Travel

11. Step By Step

12. Blood Done Signed My Name

13. Packing Every Burden

14. Get Right With God

15. Before This Time Another Year

18. My Rock

19. Since Jesus Came Into My Heart

20. Something Within Me

21. My Life Is In His Hands

22. Atlanta's Tragic Monday

23. Good Religion

24. Jesus Is Listening

Disc 3

1. Sin Is To Blame

2. Milky White Way

3. The Florida Storm

4. In The Upper Room Part I

5. In The Upper Room Part II

7. Show Me The Way

8. My Soul Is A Witness

10. Stand By Me

11. Don't Want To Go There

12. Building On The Good Shore

13. I'm A Pilgrim Traveler

14. That Great Judgement Day

15. How I Got Over

17. Get Right With God

18. Count Your Blessings

19. Great Day

20. Didn't It Rain

21. Jesus

22. The Tree Of Life

23. I'll Never Turn Back

24. Nobody's Fault But Mine

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