The Supreme Jubilees

Kingsby brothers Joe and David made up half of the original Supreme Jubilees, a traditional gospel quartet that operated on the fringes of California’s Central Valley church circuit before cutting a 45 for Peacock’s Song Bird subsidiary in 1973. A series of line-up changes found them tapping younger cousins as vocalists and as backing bandmembers. Drummer Philip, bassist Tim, keyboardist Leonard, and second tenor Melvin—each a child of pious pastor Marion Sanders—spent their formative years on the bandstand and choir steps of Witness Jesus Christ Church at 2519 South Elm in Fresno. Lacking a suitable in-family guitarist, they brought in Larry Price; when David’s son Davis came of age, he too was added to the vocal section. Chief songwriter Leonard Sanders was especially drawn to the sounds emanating from his radio. A self-described “Donny Hathaway freak,” Sanders noted that singer’s influence on the title track for the Jubilees’ It’ll All Be Over. Recorded at Sierra Recording Studio in Visalia, the self-produced 1980 debut was issued on S&K (Sanders & Kingsby) Records. With the entire 500-LP run in tow, the Supreme Jubilees set out for Texas, supporting the Mighty Clouds of Joy. With their van leaking oil, and the promoter shorting them on their guarantee, half of the group revolted when more dates became available in the Southeast. Back in Fresno, Sanders connected with uncle Nathaniel Sanders and entered the studio to record 1981’s overtly secular “Choice Of A Million Girls,” alongside an album’s worth of equally suggestive tracks. Word spread that Leonard was moonlighting as an R&B ringer, and soon his parents were front row at the Topics show to see for themselves. “I tried to hide myself—I had a big hat on and shades and tried to be in the back.” After that close call, Sanders returned to the fold, cutting Only A Matter Of Time as Sanders & Co. later in ’81, before deciding to compartmentalize his business and family interests.

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