Clarence Williams and the Rising Sons

Gospel Quartet, Waterloo

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Clarence WilliamsAs a six-year-old child in Tennessee, Clarence Williams started singing gospel music with his sisters. He advanced to church choir and as an adult sang with the divine Inspiration and the Consolation. As he puts it, “I loved quartet singing most of all.” 

Waterloo’s Clarence Williams and the Rising Sons is a Holy Spirit-filled Gospel Quartet that brings a uniquely spiritual experience to all.  The group has the profound ministry of crossing all barriers – be it religion, race, creed, or color; doing all that brings together lovers of God and music. The Rising Son’s mixture of blues, jazz, rhythm and gospel lyrics is truly inspiring.

Rising SonsIn traditional gospel, a lead singer lines out or sings the first line of the song and the group joins in to repeat that line, sometimes in unison but more commonly with voices on three to four parts. This style follows from a time when not every one could read words much less music and is known as "call and response" singing, a method also found in traditional slave and other work songs. Quartet singing includes lead, top, middle, and bottom voices.

Although traditional, popular, and classical rhythms, harmonies, and melodies from the British Isles and Western Africa influenced gospel music, it was the Southern Protestant United States that truly nurtured it - in small churches, camp meetings, and revivals. In African American gospel, the listener can easily detect the strains of early spirituals, jubilee songs, and blues as well as later urban and northern influences such as jazz, soul, Motown, rhythm and blues, and rap. 

Gospel music attained widespread popularity in the 1930s, when Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the father of gospel, coined the term "gospel music." As radio and records increasingly dominated popular entertainment, the groups that were once heard only by the faithful could now spread the word and the sound around the country. Once exclusively church and community-based music, gospel has become a popular American musical form.

Clarence Williams and the Rising Sons got started when Rev. Willie Rocket approached bass player, Percy Thomas, in the late 1990s about starting a group. Both men are pastors’ sons and had already played together often in their community. Their music blended well, and the two thought having a group would be a good opportunity to explore their musical and spiritual gifts. Most of the members of the original group were from Mt. Carmel Church and included current members Robert Thomas, John Campbell, Clarence Williams, Willie Rocket, and Percy Thomas. The original drummer, Curtis Williams, has been replaced by Trevor King. 

Willie Rocket and Curtis Williams came up with the group’s name, which pays homage to both their oldest member and their spiritual inspiration. Rocket also serves as the group’s trainer (musical leader) and writes some of their songs.

The group has shared the stage with well-known gospel quartets such as Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs, the Pilgrim Jubilees, The Canton Spirituals, Willie Mill Johnson and the Gospel Key Notes, and Doc McKenzie and the Highlights as well as the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Clarence Thomas and the Rising Sons has also opened for B.B. King. 

Contact: Clarence Williams and the Rising Sons, Percy Thomas, Cell (319) 231-6597, Home (319) 234-5015,