Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Old Time Handclapping & Foot Stomping In African American Religious Singing

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases seven selected videos/sound files of various handclapping and foot stomping styles that have been performed by African Americans as accompaniment for religious singing.

Many of these featured videos are of "Dr. Watts" songs. My sense is that that singing style is less frequently found in African American churches since the mid 20th century.

The content of this post is presented for historical, religious, folkloric, educational, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to the singers, musicians, and videographers of these featured videos. Thanks also to the uploaders of these videos.

Video #1: Go Down Moses - Mt Do Well

Hymn Choir Channel, Uploaded on Aug 8, 2009

Recorded by RAM and KB in March 2001 at Mt. Do Well Baptist Church in McConnells, SC. Go to
This way of singing hymns are called "Dr.Watts" , named after the 18th century composer of English hymns, "Dr Isaac Watts. These songs are also called "long meter", the "Old One Hundreds" , and "surge singing".

Example #2: Mt. Do Well Baptist Church in McConnells, SC -"He Set Me Free"

Uploaded by Hymnchoir on May 3, 2007

Recorded by RAM in 1991 at Mt. Do Well Baptist Church in McConnells, SC

Video #3: Mt Calvary Baptist Church in Gastonia, North Carolina-"I Want Jesus To Rock Me To Sleep"

Hymnchoir | October 17, 2008

Recorded in 2008 by RAM at Mt Calvary Baptist Church in Gastonia, NC

Video #4: Yonder Come Day

Uploaded by mediageneration on Dec 12, 2009

Georgia Sea Island Singers from the DVD- The Films of Bess Lomax Hawes- available from

Video #5:"You Better Run"- Dr. C.J. Johnson

Uploaded by Rowoches on Jan 2, 2009

More singing in the old time way!!

Here's some information about Dr. C.J. Johnson from
"In March of 1965, Dr. C.J. Johnson recorded an original song, “I Want to Go Where Jesus Is,” for Savoy Records....A succession of singles and albums established Dr. C.J. Johnson as one of the country’s foremost hymnologists. His recordings were at once anachronistic and refreshing at a time when gospel music focused squarely on hard-singing leads and heavy instrumental backing. Dr. Johnson’s commitment to the old time sound – straight congregational singing with occasional slaps of the tambourine – earned him an invitation to sing at the White House on three separate occasions."...
Click for the lyrics to "You Better Run (To The City Of Refuge)"

Video #6: Janie Hunter and the Moving Star Hall Singers: Jonah (1983)

Published on Apr 24, 2012 by AlanLomaxArchive

Janie Hunter and the Moving Star Hall Singers (including Ruth Bligen, Esau Jenkins, Bertha Smith, Benjy Bligen, Mary Pinckney, and others unidentified) sing a brief "Jonah." Shot by Alan Lomax and crew at Moving Star Hall, Johns Island, South Carolina, August 1983. For more information about the American Patchwork filmwork, Alan Lomax, and his collections, visit

Video #7: Vintage" Pilgrim Jubilees- An AGQC 2001 Hall of Fame Inductee

Uploaded by AGQCGospel on Aug 11, 2008

In 2001 The legedary Pilgrim Jubilees American Gospel Quartet Convention Hall of Fame Inductees recognizing their music ministry for Jesus Christ.

Click for information about the Pilgrim Jubilees (the Jubes).

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, joe glenn.

      Yes, these old time hand clapping and foot stomping religious songs are a wonderful legacy.

      It's really a shame that so few people are familiar with these songs.