‘A little talk with Jesus’ Chocowinity man sticks to his musical rootsPublished 9:01pm Friday, February 22, 2013
Chocowinity resident Luther Harvey gave up blues music cold turkey.
The genre was his favorite growing up, but secular music became a thing of the past once he was saved.
“I will never go back to secular music. I won’t do that,” Harvey said. “I was a heavy blues singer. I grew away from that.”
He did not grow away from music. Harvey started recording his favorite tunes and has released two albums.
Harvey grew up singing. His mom told him he was singing as a toddler. Because there wasn’t much black gospel music on the radio at the timed, Harvey latched on to the blues and absolutely anything he heard on the radio.
“I think what actually happened is I got a little bit of everyone I heard,” he said.
Harvey joined the glee club at Chocowinity Elementary School and was under the instruction of Ms. Irma Owens.
He was also in glee at P.S. Jones High School. He has fond memories of his teacher, Ms. Mary Randolph.
“They (Randolph and Owens) were good singers, real good teachers,” he said. “After I got out of school I kept on singing.”
Harvey started singing gospel at local churches with his group, the Kings of Harmony. The group was formed at Little Grove Holiness Church.
Harvey joined another gospel group in 1976, the Original Eastern Travelers.
“I loved singing I couldn’t hardly wait to go to practice. It was just good to get together and harmonize,” he said.
He also sang at his church, Maple Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
“I loved it,” Harvey said.
Harvey sang for all sorts of occasions, especially funerals. His first solo was for his mom’s best friend, Mary Eliza Gay. He sang, “Walk with me Lord.”
Harvey’s love for gospel music is tied to his mom, Annie Ruth Harvey, and his dad, Reverend Jessie Harvey. His father had two churches in Hyde County, Old Richmond Missionary Baptist Church and Snow Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
“I started singing with my mom and she was leader of the choir,” he said. “Mom is 94 and she still sings, too.”
Harvey still gets asked to sing a lot. If he is not singing at Maple Grove, he is singing at a church or memorial service. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like singing in church settings more than auditoriums,” he said.
He likes being able to see his audience.
His voice has broken down a few racial barriers, too. Harvey was asked to sing at the funeral services of Mrs. Mildred Taylor, but was afraid to sing before a white audience.
Because he could not lie and tell the family he was not available, he told them he would have to see if his grandson was available to accompany him. Harvey assumed his grandson would decline and was in a jam when he didn’t.
“I just knew he was going to say ‘no,’” Harvey laughed. “I was scared to do it, but I made up my mind to go and started singing at First Baptist Church in Chocowinity and they accepted me really good and it helped me a lot. Now, I would like to sing for anybody who would like to hear me.”
Harvey also enjoys the recording process. He recorded the first one at Maple Grove. Having his grandsons involved made it that much more special.
His grandson, Dontez Harvey, 21, played lead guitar. His grandson, Ka’Shaun Harvey, 16, played drums on the recording. The bass player was James Jones.
“He was a cousin but I call him my adopted grandson,” Harvey said.
Harvey introduced the boys to the instruments. He started teaching Dontez at around 9 years old. Ka’Shaun got an earlier start, sitting down to the drums at about 6.
Harvey sometimes let them accompany him at church performances.
“They weren’t doing that good, but they were mine and I was proud to go out (and play) with them,” Harvey said. “I never thought they would get where they are now. But you never know.”
Harvey always wanted to hear what his baritone voice would sound like if recorded by a professional. He found out on his second album. Barney Conway of Williamston helped him with the project.
The album went back to his traditional roots. He recorded “When the Saints go Marching in” and “Amazing Grace.”
At Conway’s suggestion, Harvey also recorded “What a Wonderful World.” He had his reservations because it was a secular song.
“I wouldn’t do ‘Wonderful World’ until I talked with several preachers. I don’t do any secular music,” Harvey said.
He agreed to sing the song after reading all of its words.
“It’s really talking about what a wonderful world it is that God has created for us,” he said.
Harvey and Conway started a Christmas CD last fall. Their first recorded songs were “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas.”
Harvey hopes to sneak one more secular song onto the album, “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”
“I could listen to it and really truly bring tears to my eyes. It touched my heart,” he said of the song.
Harvey’s music is available on his website, www.Lutherharvey.com or by calling him at 947-0824 or 975-3314. If you see him on the street, chances are you will find a CD on him, too.
“I always have some with me,” he said with a chuckle.