Eloise Gaffney, Oral History


Eloise Gaffney, Oral History


Gospel Music
Alabama Christian Movement for Civil Rights


Eloise Gaffney (b.Sept 21, 1948). A marvelous singer and choir director, Eloise Gaffney joined Fred Shuttlesworth's movement - the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in the early 1960's at 14 years of age - and, over time became the Choir Director for what would become "The Movement Choir." As a teen, she became active in both Birmingham and Gadsden organizing for civil rights and was arrested in Gadsden. Bob Friedman met her when she began working at WJLD AM 1400 Birmingham in 2000, as a Traffic Manager, translating the daily commercial logs to the digilink which controlled the breaks when the station was on automation. Eloise never gave up her choir directorships, becoming as well, the Choir Director for the church she was baptized in, Lily Grove Missionary Baptist Church, in the Fountain Heights section of Birmingham. Bob and Eloise discussed early gospel music and early Birmingham radio.

To view Ms. Gaffney leading the Birmingham Movement Choir, please click this link to youtube


Eloise Gaffney
Bob Friedman


Birmingham Black Radio Museum


November 9, 2022


Daniel Martin
Emily Bibb






Bob Friedman


Eloise Gaffney


Eloise Gaffney: And uhm, let me back up a little bit, about the age of twelve, we organized a... a quartet, you know called women quartet...

Bob Friedman: I was waiting for that.

EG: We uh, we called ourselves “the youth voices of hope...” We sang a cappella.

BF: Of course, and, and...

EG: And this had to be maybe... sixty... probably early six- maybe, before the movement.

BF: Mhmm.

EG: You know...

BF: Mhmm.

EG: So, we sang, we went around with all of the quartet singers, my uncles sang with the group called “the gospel-” no the um... oh gosh I can’t say it right now, but it was uh, artist McKins- Kinney, Julius Geist, my uncle was Willy Board, um... Robert Jones, those guys “Gospel Spirituals,” that was their name.

BF: Mhmm.

EG: Uh, a guy named Ben Braxton. Uh, we thought they could sing better than, and they were a cappella too, so I think that influenced us, you know.

BF: Do, do, do you remember the Ensley Jubilees?

EG: I do remember the Ensley, the Jubilees, and Mr., what’s the guy’s name that used to come over here? Light skinned guy.

BF: Um... Nims Gaye?

EG: No, not Nims Gaye.

BF: Oh, Auguster Maul.

EG: Yes...

BF: From the “Delta Aires.”

EG: I remember them, the “Delta Aires.”

BF: Mhmm.

EG: I remember, and used to remember when they were on, I’m jumping all over the place...

BF: That’s okay.

EG: When they were on uh, radio on Sunday mornin.’

BF: Mhmm.

EG: And I didn’t, didn’t know what they were saying, but I remember, “ I like to be...” we thought they were saying “I like TV.”

BF: (laughs)

EG: (laughs)

BF: And what were they actually saying?

EG: And I remember...

BF: What was the actual lyric?

EG: “I like to be.”

BF: Oh.

EG: You know...

BF: Okay.

EG: We thought they were saying “I like TV.”

BF: “I like TV.” (laughs)

EG: But I remember that, and uh, my mom, like I said, she was in the Holiness Church, so we weren’t able to listen to... uh anything but gospel music...

BF: Mhmm.

EG: You know...

BF: Mhmm.

EG: We would get up on Sunday mornin,’ and oh lord the quartets would come to the radio stations...

BF: Mhmm.

EG: And that, I guess that was then WENN radio.

BF: Yeah, WENN radio. Mhmm.

EG: And then we were able, some, to get our little group to go to WENN radio and sing
on Sunday mornin’s...

BF: Mhmm.

EG: Sometimes, so that was, that was uh, that molded me into, really the gospel music.

BF: Do, do you remember where WENN was when you went?

EG: Oh, 5th Avenue.

BF: 5th Avenue North.

EG: 5th Avenue...

BF: And, and 15th Street.

EG: 15th Street, that’s right.

BF: Down on the corner.


Full audio interview: 56:33 minutes
Audio snippet: 2 minutes


Eloise Gaffney at the Carver Theatre.jpg
Gaffney 2 min snippet.mp3
Eloise Gaffney.pdf
Ms. Eloise Gaffney, leading the Birmingham Movement Choir


Eloise Gaffney and Bob Friedman, “Eloise Gaffney, Oral History,” The Birmingham Black Radio Museum, accessed July 24, 2024, https://thebbrm.org/item/549.

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