Brother Bill

Born in 1935, William Sawyer began preaching the gospel in the early 1960s and founded his own institution, the Christian Tabernacle Evangelical Church, in 1969. The parish, located a few miles east of the Boddie Recording Company, was still gathering steam when Brother Bill booked Boddie time to lay down his hipster-gospel rap “Wha’s Happ’nin.” Its tough blues-funk, slang-laden sermon, a cautionary tour through a variety of “drugs=bad” clichés: “Oh baby, but I’m a pusher. I got the good stuff. What you say?” But Sawyer’s 1972 plea fell on numbed ears, and his Brother Bill persona and accompanying lingo were dropped in favor of the more straightforward moniker Bill Sawyer & the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir. Bill kept pace with the contemporary secular music world, his late 70s/early 80s releases on Indianapolis’s Tyscot label sporting a modern R&B awareness. Hits by gospel standards, these albums allowed Sawyer and his choir to perform around the country. After Sawyer’s 1990 passing, the church stumbled and dissolved entirely, its building sold to the Kingdom International Fellowship Center. Painted in bold block letters high up on its west wall is an exhortation to “Take The Limit Off God!” Brother Bill would’ve asked no less.

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