Some families figure out their groove together by making music, like the Vallejo-based gospel quartet, The Sons of the Soul Revivers. The Morgan brothers - Dwayne, James and Walter Jr. have been singing together in church since they were kids. Now, together with their nephew Quantae Johnson, they're moving beyond church walls to reach a broader audience with their new album, Live at Rancho Nicasio.
The following is an excerpt from a conversation with Sasha Khokha, host of the California Report Magazine. They joined her in studio to talk religion, family, and what has kept their music full of life after more than 40 years. They also played a little in-studio concert!
On their name:
Walter Morgan, Jr.: "Our fathers were the Soul Revivers, and the year was 1970. I was around the age of eight, and a cousin of mine, we decided we wanted to form a group and we couldn't think of a name. So we said well temporarily we'll call ourselves The Sons of the Soul Revivers and the name just stuck."
On performing with family members:
James Morgan: "It's a joy to be able to get up there and sing with my brothers and nephew. The feeling I get when I hit the stage is just hard to describe. I mean it's just one of the greatest feelings I ever felt. And it's a blessing; it's a privilege for me to be a part of this group."
Quantae Johnson: "Man, it's a dream come true. I was watching these guys since I was a little guy, and so to be able to be on the same level as them, it feels great."
On what inspires them:
Dwayne Morgan: "[Our] belief in Jesus Christ, our Savior. It's a way for us to express the gospel through song. We just love to sing. And it's a joy to watch the audience. Sometimes people are down and out, and sometimes a song can be very uplifting. So that's what we're all about. We like to spread joy through our music, and we love what we do."
Walter Morgan: "Sometimes the words, through the song, can settle the mind. Whatever you're going through, it gives you hope. It's been tough on a lot of folks this year. And when people get so depressed, they don't where to turn to, you need something to fall back on, a kind word, a beautiful song. Anything that can help lift a burden."
On reaching a broader audience outside of church, through their new album produced by the Little Village Foundation:
James Morgan: "It's a thrill. What's cool about it for me is we can be ourselves. We don't have to pretend to be who we're not. Sometimes I feel like a rock star. People will be surrounding me. We're all having a good time. After 47 years of being together as a group, the difference between singing for a traditional church and going to these festivals, it's incredible. We're having the time of our lives."
Dwayne Morgan: "It's wonderful to see people smile. You may not believe it, but there a lot of people that are really searching, looking for that something spiritual. And then you get to be able to share Christ with them, and what we believe in. There's people that might be suicidal and come to you and say, 'You know what, I wanted to end my life. But when I heard you sing, I had a change of mind.'"
On having a day job:
Dwayne Morgan: "I'm a school bus driver, but I'm ready to go on the road . And when people hear me sing at the yards, they ask me 'What are you doing here? Why are you here? Your calling is out there. You know you always talk about faith. You need to have faith and move on and go on the road.'"
James Morgan: "I used to deliver uniforms until I slipped and fell on the job. Unfortunately for me, I'm on disability. It is what it is. I'm learning to deal with the pain I'm in. But it has not replaced who I am. It has not replaced my joy."
Quantae Johnson: "I'm a touring musician. I do this for a living. Music is what I do. I breathe it. I've been a drummer for Fantastic Negrito, out of Oakland. It's the same thing, people in the audience are going crazy. But to know what you're singing about, I can appreciate that more. I like singing with my family."