New Documentary on PBS Follows Williams’ Journey from Mississippi Cotton Fields through Five-Decade Career in Music and Entertainment
Gospel Music legend Melvin Williams, a member of the award-winning Williams Brothers, has received a 2018 Southeast EMMY Award nomination for Special Event Coverage of his new documentary, “Melvin Williams: Down Home Gospel.” The film, which examines Williams’ journey from his roots in Smithdale, Mississippi, to a stellar, five-decade career in music and entertainment, will premiere nationally on PBS during Gospel Heritage Month 2018 (September) in more than 200 markets. The film initially aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting on March 4, 2017, and January 26, 2018.
The 44th Annual Southeast Emmy Awards will be held on Saturday, June 16, 2018, at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia. Hosted by CNN’s Anchor Fredricka Whitfield, the Southeast EMMY Awards categories honor journalists, television producers, photographers, documentary filmmakers, and others making a positive difference by connecting audiences with new ideas and trusted information.
“I am honored to receive my first Emmy nomination for ‘Down Home Gospel,’” says Williams, a 19-time Stellar Gospel Music Award winner who has been singing since the age of 6. “I feel blessed to share my story and my family’s story with the world. I love gospel music, and I am on a mission to preserve its roots and culture globally.”
In “Down Home Gospel,” Williams’ acoustic band performs a stirring set, ranging from freedom songs to his own Gospel hits, including “Cooling Water.” He also talks about his humble beginnings in Mississippi, his parents, three sisters, and seven brothers (one brother died a few months after birth, and his brother Frank, who founded the Mississippi Mass Choir, passed away in 1993). He also shares stories about the family’s musical legacy, from the Little Williams Brothers to the Sensational Williams Brothers to the Williams Brothers to Melvin’s solo career, and how his brothers Frank and Huey of the famed Jackson Southernaires influenced his career. The 60-minute documentary features music from Williams’ ninth solo album, “Melvin Williams: Down Home Gospel,” which will be released this fall.
The documentary also features Melvin’s version of the classic “Go Down Moses,” which was described as “a Santana-esque Spanish guitar and Mavis Staples performance all rolled into one” by Don Allan Mitchell, Chair of Language & Literature at Delta State University, at two recent GRAMMY Museum concerts in Los Angeles and Mississippi.
“Growing up, we lived in a four-bedroom house built from the ground up by my dad, Leon ‘Pop’ Williams—a carpenter and brick mason—on more than 100 acres of farmland,” says Williams, a seven-time Grammy Award nominee. “I still reside on ten acres of that land. My dad had a farm and a garden. We grew and ate all of our food from our farm including Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, string beans, okra, tomatoes, peanuts and more. We also raised cows, hogs, chickens, mules, and horses.
“The one thing I wasn’t too fond of as a young kid was picking cotton,” Melvin continues. “After we reached a certain age and size, my father expected us to pick one hundred pounds of cotton each day. Though it was not my favorite thing to do, it taught me discipline and how to make ends meet. It also taught me how to connect and get along with people.”
“Down Home Gospel” is executive produced by Williams, Bridget Fleury, Ronnie Agnew and John Gibson; and produced by Fleury and Taiwo Gaynor. The Melvin Williams band is led by Music Director Stan Jones with a special performance by the Jubilee Performing Arts Chamber Choir, a multicultural youth choir of McComb, Mississippi, led by Music Directors Terrance Alexander and Elliott Johnson.
In 2015, Williams launched his two-hour nationally syndicated weekly radio show “Down Home Gospel,” which airs Sundays from 4 to 6 p.m. EST in more than 70 markets on the Rejoice Musical Soul Food Network.
Williams has shared the stage with gospel and soul greats Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Clarence Fountain and the Blind Boys of Alabama, Smokey Robinson, Aaron Neville, and Aretha Franklin, with whom he has made numerous special concert appearances, including performances at the White House for President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Williams’ global multi-media platform also includes the initiative Preserve Traditional Gospel Music, which he co-founded with Bridget Fleury, his manager and business partner. “Documenting Gospel music history and having the artists share their own stories is imperative for future generations,” says Fleury. “I am grateful to be nominated for an EMMY Award as a producer on this project.”
In 2011, Williams was appointed as the United States Music Ambassador to the U.S. Department of State global initiative The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad, in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center.
For more information, or to order tickets for the Southeast EMMY Awards, please visit, www.SoutheastEmmy.com.