Music

By A Record Collector's Curiosity, The Relatives Return

NPR | March 2, 2013 10:29 a.m.

Contributed By:

NPR Staff

The Relatives teamed with members of members of Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears to record the new album The Electric Word. Left to right: Matt Strmiska, Earnest Tarkington, Zach Ernst, Rev. Tommie West, Dale Burns, Rev. Gean West, Tyron Edwards.

The Relatives teamed with members of members of Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears to record the new album The Electric Word. Left to right: Matt Strmiska, Earnest Tarkington, Zach Ernst, Rev. Tommie West, Dale Burns, Rev. Gean West, Tyron Edwards.

Courtesy of the artist, Andrew Shapter

In 1970, brothers Gean and Tommie West, both reverends, started a gospel group together in Dallas. They called themselves The Relatives, pressed a few singles and amassed a good following; big names like Sam Cooke even dropped by their home on occasion. Their sound wasn’t just straight gospel — true to their times, they had a psychedelic side.

By 1980, The Relatives had gone their separate ways, and for three decades that was that. But a few years ago, a Texas DJ and record collector who’d heard their music came knocking, and brought up the idea of a reunion. Now, they’re releasing their first album of original work in 30 years, The Electric Word.

“It’s hard to just determine that it’s real, it’s so beautiful,” Gean West says. “Something that we was waiting on during the time we were singing back in the ‘70s, but it never happened. And it’s coming to pass with God’s help.”

“I was born for this,” Tommie adds. I grew up around music, grew up around entertainers and my whole family is musically inclined. Different famous artists, I grew up around them. They stopped at my mom’s house. They lived there when they come to town, before they go to they concerts. My home is the stage.”

The brothers spoke with NPR’s Scott Simon; click the audio link on this page to hear more of their conversation.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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