Barrett Sisters, the [Delois Barrett and the Barrett Sisters]
- Roxanne R. Reed
Gospel trio. Its members were Delores [Delois] (soprano), Billie (alto), and Rhodessa (high soprano) Barrett. Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, they grew up with seven other siblings and were members of the Morning Star Baptist Church where they sang in a choir directed by their aunt. As the Barrett–Hudson Singers, Delores and Billie had performed in a group with a cousin, whom Rhodessa later replaced to form the Barrett Sisters. Delores, the eldest and the group’s leader, started singing at the age of six. Her professional career began in earnest after graduating from Englewood High School, when she became the first female to join the Roberta Martin Singers (1944; see martin, Roberta ). Billie and Rhodessa received some formal training, but it was through the Roberta Martin Singers that Delores learned technique and honed her individual style, along with the unique ensemble quality known as the Roberta Martin sound. Delores continued to sing with Martin from time to time, even as the Barrett Sisters took shape. Getting their start as an African American gospel trio, the Barrett Sisters first recorded with the label Savoy (1964). Their debut album, Delores Barrett and her Sisters, contains such songs as “You’ll never walk alone” and “Somebody Bigger than you and I.” The concertized nature of the Barrett’s sound established a repertoire that included renditions of hymns and popular standards, including “What a Wonderful World” and “Count your Blessings.” The Barrett Sisters appear in the documentary film Say Amen, Somebody (1984). In addition to making several European tours, they continued to perform in and around Chicago into the late 1990s. They have appeared on television and in concert with numerous popular and gospel artists and have received substantial recognition for their contributions to gospel.
- H.C. Boyer: How Sweet the Sound: the Golden Age of Gospel (Washington DC, 1995)
- A. Heilbut: The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (New York, 1971, 6/2002)