On Friday evening, December 14th, long-time KPFA gospel music programmer Emmit Powell passed away. Born in Tallahassee, Florida, Powell came to the San Francisco Bay Area after serving in the United States Air Force. His radio career began at KPOO-FM in San Francisco in 1973. By 1975, Powell had became the gospel music programmer on KPFA 94.1 FM.
Over the years, Emmit Powell became one of America’s leading gospel radio and television broadcasters, and formed the Gospel Elites in 1977. Emmitt set out to provide regular back-up vocal talent for special guests on his television shows and to create opportunities for new gospel talent. The group’s sudden success soon put them in the public eye. Today, they are considered to present the finest in blues-based inspirational gospel music in Northern California.
The Gospel Elites recorded extensively. Their first nationally released album was “Jesus Above All Others” in 1980 on Savoy Records. Since then, they released a continuous succession of well-received albums. The following were nominated for Grammy’s: “Stay With The Lord” (1982, Birthright Records) earned the group a 1982 Grammy nomination for “Gospel Group of the Year”, “Don’t Look Back” (1991, Gospel Train Records) was nominated for a 1991 Grammy Award as “Gospel Album of the Year”, ” Taking Gospel Music Higher” (1994, Elite Royal Records) was nominated for a 1994 Grammy Award as “Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album of the Year.”
Emmit Powell’s philosophy was to take gospel music out of the church and into the community for all people to hear. Powell once stated, “My purpose has always been to bring this beautifully performed music out from the churches and into the lives of all types of people, not just to uplift spiritually, but also to entertain and inspire.”