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Singer-songwriter Fred Hammond brings praise party to GospelFest

Courtesy photo

Singer-songwriter and music producer Fred Hammond headlines this year's GospelFest alongside Bishop Cortez Vaughn.

Singer-songwriter and music producer Fred Hammond is the headliner for this year's GospelFest on Monday night as part of the Wichita Riverfest.

For 40 years Hammond has been a staple in the gospel music industry...known more for contemporary gospel music.

He's also collaborated with hip-hop artists like Snoop Dog and Kanye West.

KMUW's Carla Eckels recently spoke with him about his work and life during COVID.

Interview Highlights

Fred Hammond, what was life like for you during the height of the pandemic?

COVID hit and I went into my garage space at my warehouse and started doing a series of concerts just to bless the country. I didn't charge, just got a very big response for that almost 10 million to 15 million views on it, just wanted to bless people. And then, started doing some more of my pandemic theater stuff. I wrote a couple of plays, we just kept going. I actually did a record called "Sunday Morning Fred," where the newest single, one that's been out for a few months, is called "Hallelujah," and I just kept busy, you know. At 61, I'm still trying to keep it going.

You grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Tell us about your musical roots.

Oh, it was a very active music life. We grew up in Motown and had all the sights and sounds of Motown. My mom was very ... she was liberal with music. She allowed me to listen to everything from Hawkins and James Cleveland, Andrae Crouch and all of those folks to Billy Preston and Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Dramatics — you know a very healthy library of music that I still pull from today. Growing up in the streets of Detroit, growing up at Mumford High School, I was active in the choir scene there, which was more concert choir, which taught you how to read music. We sang the classics, like Vivaldi and Bach and they taught us how to read those, you know, the Mozart Gloria Requiem, you the whole spectrum. And it gave me a whole nother sense of music that taught me very well, how to read and to understand the theory of music.

How did your collaboration with Snoop Dogg come about?

You know Snoop's mother, was an evangelist. So, he was always getting the word. And if you notice Snoop started making a change, you know, from the gangster side to the more positive love side, there was a reason for that, because those seeds of the word were getting inside of him, and he had a heart for it. He told me one day, about years and years ago, he said, "Man, I'm going to do a gospel album." And I said, "Okay, cool." Then he came back. He said, "Man, remember I told you I was going to do the gospel album?" I said, yeah. He said, "I'm doing it, man. I want you on it." I said, "Okay, cool. Let me hear you because I want to make sure that it sounds, whatever." I'm about to sing, not only sounds good, but it's sound doctrine…and when he went on and put that sample in there — Milton Brunson — and they sang, I believe they said "Jesus" 78 times in that song. My other folks were like, well, you know people are going be…"Man, I don't care!" I have common sense. I have spiritual awareness and wisdom. The Bible, says let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. I will stand with people and praise the Lord. I won't stand with people talking about some other foolishness. I won't stand with that. But if you say the name Jesus, and you proclaim him as Lord and king, I'll stand. And sure enough, they came. It was alright. But I stood with this brother and said, "Man, I'll worship God with you. I'm cool with that."

The fact that Fred, that you collaborated with him, the masses learn of you and your music, and that's an incredible influence.

And that's why when people were tripping about Kanye dominating the church, the gospel church. I was like, "What are y'all mad at? Do you know that he is now bringing an army of people that wouldn't listen? Now is your time to make yourself aware so people can know who you are."

He's bringing a whole new group of people over here; an army of a hundred million people are now going to start listening to gospel music. The harvest is now plentiful. Now get yourself in a position to say "here we are."

You've got to talk about the incredibly popular song, "No Weapon." How did that come about? Because people put that on repeat, they love that song.

We were in a church service and the pastor was Wayne T. Jackson and he was professing and my job was simple, I was the psalmist. I would profess in music. One day he was walking up down the aisles and he stopped at this young lady and said, "I hear God saying he's going to restore the years that the moth the cankerworm has eaten, and that the thief have stolen, your latter years will be better…" and then people started shouting and he looked at me and said, "What have you got psalmist?" And one of the guys was playing that tune. We sang that song for a year before I recorded it — before anybody knew that it was available. That was a song of the Lord. And when I went to go put verses on it, I heard the Holy Ghost say, "Don't touch it. I gave it to you the way I wanted you to do it, don't touch it." And I said, "Well, let's do at least a bridge." He said, "Okay, go ahead and do a bridge."

Are there certain songs that you cannot get off the stage without singing them like "We're Blessed"?

Yes, "No Weapon" is one, "Blessed is One" and "Glory to Glory" is one. There are a few songs that, you know, man, you better not get off here without singing. They [would say], "Oh man, I wish you just sang this one." I would say well, "I didn't have that much time." But as long as you get to "We're Blessed," that's the praise party song.

Fred, what can people expect when you come to Gospelfest?

We're gonna get all the way down with it. We not playing, not one game. You know, we're gonna have such an amazing time! We just got off the tour with my good friends. Hezekiah Walker and Israel Houghton and we're coming. We're coming to just have an amazing praise party. Let's just have a great time!

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.