I was born on a farm in Garysburg, NC 57 years ago, the
3rd sibling of 5 -2 older brothers and a sister and baby brother.
Dad worked in a factory, farmed, and did yard work to provide for the family.
Mom took care of the family doing all the things a mother does and still bent over all day long picking as much as 200 lbs.of cotton a day.
My brothers, sister and cousins often worked all day in the fields picking cotton, pulling corn, cultivating crops with a hoe and plowing with the mules.
When I became a teenager, my cousins, friends and I would often go away to a work camp to work the tobacco fields for weeks at a time. I was always happy to return home and proud to take the money that I earned and give it to mom as part of my contribution to the family.
During the harvest season in the fall we would often miss time from school to harvest the crops. It did not stop us from completing high school and going on to institutions of higher learning.
A typical day for us included getting up at 5:30 a.m., feeding the hogs, mule, chicken, dogs, bringing in fire wood, bringing in water from the outdoors pump and taking out the night pot as we did not have indoor plumbing. We worked hard on the farm and and in school but nothing took the place of going to church on Sunday and through the week. We participated in Sunday school and sang on the junior choir at several churches. Most rural churches during this time only held Sunday services once a month. On the other Sundays we always attended another church.
We often sang in the fields as we worked. My brothers, cousins and I learned to harmonize quite well while picking cotton and pulling corn.
We formed several singing groups, the Rook Family Singers, the Faithfulteers, and the Gospel Travelers of Garysburg, NC of which I am still a member. The Gospel Travelers will celebrate 43 years of singing in September 2008.
I was about 16, the summer of 1967, after cutting grass all summer for the Northampton County school system I bought my first guitar which I still own but rarely play. Of course i didn't know how to play but I knew how to hang around somebody that did and by God I did learn to play, I think.
I learned to play piano by numbers and by ear by occasionally watching our church organist and sneaking a peek while our church organist visited to give lessons to my sister. I learned to play and today I play keyboards with with the Gospel Travelers of Garysburg, NC and fills in at my church for the church organist. God blessed me with the talent to learn to play several instruments and to put that talent to good use on this recording. I could not afford to pay musicians so I played all of the instruments myself.
I graduated from high school in 1969 and attended St. Augustine's College graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Government in 1973. While at St. Augustine's, I had the privilege to sing and become a soloist with the St. Autgustine College Concert Choir, a founding member of the St.Augustine's College Gospel Choir, and sang with an acappella group on campus called the Tones Of Joy. The great Luther Barnes was a member of these groups as well. I co-wrote my first song with Thomas Wilkins "Save Me' recorded by The St. Augustine's College Gospel Choir in 1972. Luther appeared on this album as well singing a part on "Save Me' and a rendition of "Somebody Bigger Than You and I". We were privileged to sing with The St. Augustine's College Concert Choir and recorded an album "The Divine Service" in 1973 at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia. Singing with these groups of talented people was a dream for me as we traveled all over the east coast every spring on choir tour.
In 1973, after graduating and moving to Baltimore to teach social studies I began singing with the Morgan State University Choir with whom I had the opportunity to tour Finland, Denmark, England and the Soviet Union for two weeks. For me this was another dream come true. During my tenure at Morgan State I participated in several recordings with them and had the opportunity to meet a number of renowned musicians to include Count Basie, Bobby Short, and MeHenry Boatwright. I graduated from Morgan in 1981 with a Master of Science Degree in Social Science and Political Science.
Over the years I have sung at many many weddings, anniversaries, retirement celebrations, graduations, and social activities.
I helped to organize and direct the Northern High School Gospel Choir in Baltimore and the formation of the Northern High School Drum Corp. Both groups lasted for about ten years. While serving in the United States Army reserves and the Maryland National Guard, I had the opportunity to sing at several functions and to form a chorus that often made visits to nursing and convalescent homes. I truly enjoyed seeing the excitement and joy brought to people who were shut in and not able to do for themselves.
My greatest joys in singing and playing comes when I am with the Gospel Travelers of Garysburg, NC, the Pleasant Zion Baptist Church Male Chorus in Baltimore, and with my Aunt Mattie Wood and her daughter my cousin Loretta Wood-Harrell. The Gospel Travelers have been at it for 43 years. This group is special to me for in it are my cousins, my brother, my father, and some very dear friends who are like brothers. I have had the pleasure of writing several songs that have been recorded by the Travelers, "Remember-1977", "I Must Go On and I'll Never Forget-1995", "Jesus Lifted Me and I'm Getting Ready-2005". I can be heard singing lead on I'm Getting Ready-track 10 from the recording "Going All The Way" , which is also available on CDBABY. I produced several recordings for my Aunt Mattie Wood "God Cares" and her daughter my cousin Loretta Wood-Harrell "Trouble In Jerusalem" and "Lets Go To Church" and several for other artist and musicians. Both of Loretta Wood-Harrel recordings can also be found on CDBABY.
My dream has really come true with the recent release of my own recording "Pray A Prayer For Me". I have written lots of songs but most had gone unheard. While working on a project that I produced for a cousin of wife's, I decided that I would share some of these songs with the world. I listened and came to the realization that I have a message to share in the songs that God has blessed me with and so I decided that I would select 12 songs and put them on a recording for the world to hear. Not able to afford musicians I decided that I would do the music to keep the cost down. I grabbed my wife, daughter, friends and cousins whenever I could to help with the background vocals. I did the background vocals on some of the songs. I was determined to not let anything get in the way of this project.
It is by no means a perfect project, but it is filled with meaning and substance. I hope all who hears and visit this site will consider adding this recording to your collection.
I have been working in the Baltimore City Public School System as a high school teacher and administrator for 35 years, married to a beautiful christian wife, and have two wonderful children and a grand son, all of whom I love very much.
I am looking forward to my next project and anxious to get started. I am praying for a blessing to all who visits this site and ask that you please 'Pray A Prayer For Me" and my family
May God bless you all.
To Be Continued.....
contact Grover at 410-905-0407