By Sheilah Belle
Exclusive — Chicago, IL – The Gospel Music Industry mourns the loss of the Legendary Lady Inez Andrews of the Caravans. Andrews passed away in the afternoon of Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at her home in Chicago.
She was slated to receive the Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award during the upcoming Stellar Awards Show in Nashville, TN in January 2013.
During an earlier interview with Gospel legend Dr. Jones, he said, “Inez was really excited about the award. I told Don Jackson (Executive producer of the Stellar Awards), we will make sure she’s in attendance at the Awards Show.” Dr. Jones was being comforted by his sister and other family members while visiting his sister’s home.
Dorothy Norwood, another original member of the Caravans, told us exclusively here at The Belle Report that she was in the studio in Atlanta when the news came in. “I was told of Inez’s passing when I walked out of the studio and got into the car. I actually talked with Inez two days ago. She was very week, but God knows best. She suffered so much, but she put up a good fight,” says Norwood. “She had been sick since June of this year.”
Norwood said, “I just had Inez, Deloris (Washington) and Faith Howard, here (Atlanta, GA ) for my scholarship dinner. I took them to Macon and Savannah GA.” She continued, “That was Inez last appearance. After that they got on the plane and went back to Chicago. Two weeks later she was in the hospital and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It wasn’t long after that I called Eric ( Albertina Walkers god-son) and flew to Chicago for a tribute for Inez. Before the concert, I went to the hospital to see her. A short time later and to my surprise, Inez sons had gotten her dressed and were pushing her in a wheelchair down the center aisle of the church. She started singing Mary like never before.”
Norwood continued, “Inez was actually up for one more Chemotherapy treatment and doctors said she would be in remission for a year, but she remained weak.”
Norwood said that family members told her that it wasn’t the cancer that took Andrew’s life, but instead it was her kidney’s that shut down. She said that Andrews had just about stopped eating and had low fluids in her body.
Andrews was at home during her passing with her grand-daughters and two daughters.
We ask everyone to keep Lady Inez Andrew’s family and the remaining Caravans in your prayers.
Homegoing services are pending and will become available as soon as arraignments are made.
About Inez Andrews
In 1957, Andrews became a member of the gospel group The Caravans; she auditioned for Albertina Walker (Queen Of Gospel Music) and Dorothy Norwood, and they sent for her in Chicago. She has resided there, and used Chicago as a base for her performing career, to this day.
Along with Albertina Walker, Dorothy Norwood James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Cassietta George, Josephine Howard, Eddie Williams, James Herndon, and Delores Washington, she became one of the major stars of gospel’s golden age. The Caravans produced songs such as “Lord Keep Me Day By Day”, “Remember Me” “I Won’t Be Back” and several other hits in which Andrews was lead vocalist, including “Mary Don’t You Weep”, “I’m Not Tired Yet”, “Make It In”, “He Won’t Deny Me” and “I’m Willing”.
She released a reunion album with The Caravans, Albertina Walker, Dorothy Norwood, and original soprano Delores Washington, entitled Paved the Way.
In 1961 Inez shook the gospel world by leaving the Caravans and formed her own group, the Andrewettes (Elaine Davis, Mildred Span, Elizabeth Dargan). In 1963 Songbird Records (a subsidiary of Houston’s Duke/Peacock company) released Inez Andrews And The Andrewettes’ ‘The Need Of Prayer’ album and the following year ‘Letter To Jesus’. The albums were excellent yet times were hard for the group. Said another one-time Andrewette, Josephine Howard, “Inez and me liked sausages. We were so poor we’d have to split halves; she’d like hers boiled, I’d like mine fried.” After the group’s tour of Europe in 1965 the Andrewettes struggled on for a period before disintegrating.
Inez briefly returned to the Caravans before going solo in 1967. Her 1968 album for Songbird, ‘Close To Thee’, didn’t attract much interest but in 1970 Inez enjoyed an unexpected smash hit. Her producer, Gene Barge (who pop historians remember best as “Daddy G”, the sax-playing contributor to Gary US Bonds million-sellers), was producing Inez for Songbird/ABC when he told Inez that she needed another song to complete the album she was working on. She later recounted to Black Stars magazine, “I said, ‘I don’t have time to learn anything new, so we’ll sing what I know.’ After we went over, I don’t think he particularly liked it, but I did, and I was the artist so I took advantage of it.” The song that she came up with was a gospel oldie penned by Doris Akers, “Lord, Don’t Move That Mountain”. After its release as a single, the song topped gospel playlists everywhere and crossed over to the R&B singles charts where it peaked at number 48 in 1973. Reportedly the song eventually sold a million copies and temporarily made Andrews the hottest gospel singer in the country. Throughout the 1970s Andrews turned out well received gospel albums, ‘More Church In The Home’ (’71), ‘The Munich Gospel Festival’ (’74), ‘This Is Not The First Time I’ve Been Last’ (’75), ‘War On Sin’ (’76) and ‘Chapter Five’ (’78).
Gradually though Inez’ popularity was waning. As Bil Carpenter wrote, “For several years Andrews continued to perform off her name until the mid ’80s when she began to record for Jewel Records. She also recorded for Savoy Records without much success. The LP ‘If Jesus Came To Your Town Today’ on Miracle Records finally put Andrews back in the groove when it reached number 31 on the gospel chart in 1988. A one-off CD with Word Records in 1992 resulted in the fine ‘Raise Up A Nation’ (backed by the Thompson Community Choir) album, which reached number 30 on the gospel chart. She then recorded a stunning grassroots album for Shanachie Records, ‘Two Sides Of Inez Andrews’ (1996), which reunited her with Eddie Williams, her pianist from the Caravans.”
The 2006 Caravans album ‘Paved The Way’ for Malaco Records was very much coming full circle for Inez. Recorded at Chicago’s West Point Baptist Church, where Albertina Walker had made her debut at age four, the album featured six new songs and seven Caravans classics including a searing new version of “Mary Don’t You Weep”. Speaking at the time of the album’s release, Albertina Walker told Billboard about the Caravans’ years on the Gospel Highway. “On the road, we couldn’t go into white hotels or white restaurants. We couldn’t do none of that then. We had to go to the back door to get food. That’s why [we recorded] that song ‘Paved The Way’. We paved the way for these young folks to be eating and going to the front door of these restaurants and staying in these white hotels and being able to fly. We drove in cars during that time, six of us going all across the country. The Lord has really blessed us, and this is harvest time.”
Aside from the occasional Caravans concert, Inez started to deal with health issues and started staying closer to home while assisting her third husband Wendell Idingburg, a mortician, along with running a flower shop until his death in the summer of 2004.
Now passing on Wednesday, October 19, 2012, Inez Andrews will truly be missed as her contribution to the development of gospel music has been vast.