Sister Wynona Carr “Dragnet For Jesus” – Overview
Sister Wynona Carr walked the spectacular line between gospel and blues. This lady’s got pipes. And when she sings, her sermons shake the earth. But what’s really outstanding is her lyrical innovation. Sister Wynona played to a modern world. She got her ideas from newspapers and wrote them on the back of napkins at her local diner.
In “the Ball Game” she belts out the innings of a baseball game with Job at bat and the devil on the mound.
On another song she goes Fifteen Rounds with Satan in the boxing ring.
And on my favorite track, one I think you’ll like too Elwood, she lays down the law in a detective story that would drive any sinner to the Lord.
Sister Wynona Carr died without her due veneration. Let’s give it to her now. Released in 1977, a year after her death, this is Dragnet for Jesus.[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/106699285" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Wynona Carr was born August 23, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her career as a vocalist began when she formed her own five-piece gospel group “The Carr Singers.” Soon the Carr Singers were sharing a bill with the Pilgrim Travelers, and Wynona was discovered by Art Rupe, and signed to Specialty Records. Shortly after her discovery, Rupe dubbed her “Sister” Wynona Carr—modeled after best-selling gospel vocalist Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Sister Wynona was a masterful songwriter with a gift for metaphor and a powerful voice with unfailing delivery. Unfortunately, she never had much success on the charts. Save for 1952’s “The Ball Game” (featured in the recent film about Jackie Robinson, 42) Sister Wynona never received the credit she deserved. Her gospel was too jumping, her soul too aching and Specialty pulled back on releases. Though she attempted to make a cross over onto the R&B circuit in 1955, the switch from spiritual to secular music didn’t make the impact she’d hoped. Despite the fact that her self-penned songs were as good as anything on the charts, a bout with tuberculosis, and increasing friction with Rupe, prevented her from doing necessary promotional work. She was dropped from Specialty in 1959.
Though she signed with Frank Sinatra’s reprise records in ’61, her album was unsuccessful. She moved back to Cleveland, where she suffered from poor health and depression until her death in 1976.
Of course, as per usual, Specialty released her entire catalogue in the years following her death. And though she never lived to see it, she finally got a fraction of the acclaim she deserves.