Don Solomon and Norman B. Wooding Jr., Oral History


Don Solomon and Norman B. Wooding Jr., Oral History


Don Solomon and Norman B Wooding, Jr, two pioneer Jefferson County gospel singers and, most recently, members of the Pillars of Birmingham, reminisce on the days of quartet concerts in Birmingham, including group members. The conversation took place at Don Solomon's Forestdale, Alabama home after a Pillars practice. Both men have separate oral histories in the BBRM as well.


Don Solomon
Norman B. Wooding Jr.
Bob Friedman


Birmingham Black Radio Museum


July 13, 2013


Emily L. Reynolds
Emily Bibb






Bob Friedman


Don Solomon
Norman B. Wooding Jr.


Forestdale, Alabama


Transcript of Audio snippet 01:

BF: So you said you ran into Don at –

NW: Manhattan Cleaners.

BF: At Manhattan Cleaners. What – how’d that happen?

DS: All the groups were meeting then, and Leroy was making records.

BF: Demo records and things?

DS: And that’s where Blue Goose came from.

BF: Where was the studio? In the basement?

DS: Down under the house.

NW: Right, right.

DS: That’s what Leroy did. See Leroy became an engineer for WVOK. He brought the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church on every Sunday, twelve o’clock. And brought the Heavenly Four on every Sunday morning at seven.

BF: So, you guys were the first group to sing on WVOK.

DS: On WVOK. So when Leroy got to know Ms. Lady(?) and all about that station he became – Leroy would be sitting back behind me in that building engineering the program for Sixth Avenue Baptist Church every Sunday. He was already engineering our program, and any other..and that’s how he began engineering all the quartets. See, we were first, and the Four Eagles were the second group to sing on WVOK after us.

BF: Who was in the Four Eagles back then, do you remember?

NW: John Watson…

DS: Yeah.

NW: John Watson and Will Freeman and –

DS: And that baritone singer.

NW: Perry. Perry… I think Perry Gibbons. I think Perry Gibbons was the baritone then and George Watson, John's brother, was a tenor for them. What's Watson.
Joe wasn’t with them then.

DS: Joe... he was a baritone singer.

NW: There was two groups... John was...

DS: a bass singer with a bald head.

NW: Yeah, right. He was with the Four Eagles, and John was with the Four Blue Eagles. There were two groups back then. John was with the Four Blue Eagles.

BF: The Four Blue Eagles? Why did they name themselves the Four Blue Eagles?

NW: They were two different groups, yeah. Brothers and sisters. Brothers and – Four Blue Eagles yeah. And all the fee was, Bob, to come in the church was ten cents and you couldn’t get standing room.
Transcript of Audio snippet 02:

BF: Now, your dad… your dad’s group, Norman – the MacMillians – were taught by one of them.

NW: Charlie Bridges came to our house and taught dad an'em .. and Jimmy Ricks.

BF: Charlie Bridges. Came to the house that you live in now?

NW: In the home now.

BF: Yeah, the home house...

NW: Taught them, at different times they taught. Jimmy Ricks. Jimmy Ricks told us Eismann taught him how to sing bass.

BF: Taught who?

NW: Eismann (sp?)

BF: Eismann? Jimmy Ricks was a teacher who was also a bass?

NW: Uh-huh. Jimmy Ricks, yeah.

DS: He eventually sung bass for the Blue Jays.

BF: For the Blue Jays. Not to be confused with Jimmy Rick of the Ravens.

NW: Lock Key (possibly meaning Leo "Lot" Key, of the early Birmingham Jubilee Singers - referenced in Doug Seroff's "To do this you must know How" P. 135) one of the tenorist man in the South in the country ...Lot Key, with them Blue Jays. He could sing some tenor...Willie James sung baritione.

DS: Every now and then, a guy like Charles (Silas?) Steel. (or Charles Beal?)

NW: Charlie Steele, coming with the Blue Jays, yeah.

BF: Those guys ended up singing? So both Jimmy Ricks and Charlie Bridges ended up singing with groups.

DS: With Blue Jays.

NW: No they didn’t. They didn’t sing with the Blue Jays.

BF: They didn’t? No.

DS: I mean Ricks sung bass for the Blue Jays. Bridges sung baritone or lead.

BF: The Birmingham Jubilees?

NW: I thought Porterfield sung bass for the Blue Jays. Porterfield or Poindexter, one of'em. He was a slim, tall, dark guy.

DS: When I was a little boy coming up, I can remember a program at Bethel Church. Tommy is the tenor singer.

NW: Tommy Walton.

DS: of the Ensley Jubilees

DS: And Marshall (Marshall Johnson), the baritone, eventually of the Ensley Jubilees. I remember their faces at my – all of the Williams brothers at my church (Nar, Rufus) . Brown suits and white carnations. Up in there...I remember that. I remember that.

NW: Yeah..


Full Interview: 54 minutes
Audio Snippet 01: 2 minutes
Audio Snippet 02: 2 minutes


The Heavenly Four, 1945
Kelly Choral Singers - 1949, Norman front middle.jpg
Don and Norman on Leroy Garrett  snippet 1.mp3
Don and NB on Charlie Bridges-Jimmy Ricks and Ensley Jub - snippet 2.mp3
Solomon and Wooding - 2013.pages.pdf


Don Solomon, Norman B. Wooding Jr., and Bob Friedman, “Don Solomon and Norman B. Wooding Jr., Oral History,” The Birmingham Black Radio Museum, accessed July 24, 2024,

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Item Relations

This Item dcterms:relation Item: Heavenly Four Gospel Singers
This Item dcterms:relation Item: Don Solomon, 2007 Oral History
This Item dcterms:relation Item: Don Solomon, Oral History
This Item dcterms:relation Item: WENN Staff, Gaston Lounge
This Item dcterms:relation Item: The Heavenly Four, Gospel Singers