The Wades: London-based pioneers of R&B gospel

Wednesday 1st December 1993

10 years is a long time to wait before plunging into the recording pond. But at long last THE WADES have product out there. Karl Allison reports.

The Wades
The Wades

When Cross Rhythms discovers a happening gospel band who are concurrently getting airplay on Kiss FM and pastoring a growing inner city church, you just know that we're going to follow the story. And so, not long after meeting with them to discuss their outstanding contribution to the 'Soul Stirrings' album, I returned to Camberwell, London to find out more about The Wades.

Dennis, Derek, David and Lloyd are four streetwise brothers who became Christians about 10 years ago. Nowadays, the elder two run the church, Derek is training to be a social worker and Lloyd teaches other people how to sing. In between getting saved and getting their own church they got together to make some top-notch gospel music. Since 1985 they've routinely won awards as Britain's best male gospel group and yet released absolutely no records whatsoever.

Until recently, that is. Right now, their debut single "Get Off That" is being played in the clubs all over the UK. And on many of the radio stations too. It's an infections dance groove with a strong anti-drugs message and it gives the boys a vehicle to bring their quite brilliant vocal talents to the wider audience they deserve.

I was privileged to witness a stormin' live version of the song at one of their monthly home church gigs. I also witnessed an extraordinary support bill that was nothing less than a procession of testimonies presented in ragga and rap, mostly from new Christians and mostly from people who got saved in The Wades own church.

The brothers themselves got saved in reverse order, the youngest first, and that means Lloyd. "I was going to church about a year before any of the others," said Lloyd, "and they didn't like it. They used to lock our front door so I couldn't get out to church. There was a lot of persecution going on! It was like Joseph and his brothers. But I prayed and the Lord answered my prayers and they're all here with me now!"

The family background was Adventist, but none of the brothers went to church. Lloyd was gigging on the pub circuit with the band that eventually became Roachford (remember "Cuddly Toy"?). "I started attending church and gave my life to Jesus just as the band were becoming fashionable," said Lloyd. "I left because we were singing about things which I felt compromised my faith. Obviously, without me on board they were able to sail onto better things!"

Derek was next to find Christ, after initially going to church one day just to please his mum. "I used to enjoy being one of the lads and went out clubbing. I just wanted to do my own thing," remembered Derek. At school he was in the same class as Chris Eubank and, according to his brothers, used to have 'regular scuffles' with him. And win. "He was a very violent kinda guy," explained David somewhat needlessly.

The conversions of the youngest two were enough to convince the older two. David recalled, "I just saw that there was a change in their lives and felt there was an emptiness in myself. Before these guys knew anything was happening to me, I would hide myself in my bedroom and read the Bible under the bedclothes. I never dreamed that I would be co-pastoring a church as I am now!" Once all four were together at church, they began singing as a group and started out on a career that very quickly saw them gig all over this country and in Germany and the US too. They opened for The Clark Sisters and Andrae Crouch and even picked up the songwriting award at the Chicago Gospel Festival in 1988. Their philosophy was, and still is, remarkably simple, as Lloyd explained: "Gospel is the message, not the music. You can't call a G sharp or a C major gospel, can you? We mostly write from experience and try to get a positive message over to people. It's a contemporary R&B gospel sound and a lot of it is stuff that people can dance to."

In 1989 they decided to leave the church they'd attended since conversion. "We left initially to go full time into music, but that wasn't God's plan," explained David. "We met in a home, prayed and fasted and got a vision and prophecy. God led us into a hall in Dulwich and we started the church there and about 20 people came along. Then, after four months, we moved the church here to Camberwell." Four years later the church is over 200 strong and still growing. Why?

"We can relate to what the average Joe Bloggs on the street is going through," stated Lloyd, "and he's gonna want to be with people who are positive, not only about matters concerning faith, but also in matters like getting a job and how to get on well with your family."

"A church is a place where you should experience abundant life which encompasses righteousness, peace and joy," added David. "That's what the kingdom of God is, and it must be reflected in the worship, the sermon, the testimonies. Everything that's done must be positive and motivate people."

Lloyd points out that the music might have something to do with the church's growth. "We mix the mainstream praise and worship stuff with our own contemporary sound and feel. We use our own influences within the worship and we often sing as a group within the service."

And now, and only now, are they writing tracks for an album. It's a set of priorities few CCM artists aspire to: set up a church first and record the album afterwards!

"There's no deal as yet," said David. "We're open to any company, secular or gospel, but we will not compromise what we believe in just to get a deal. It could happen in America. We are four brothers whose name begins with W -the similarity might work. God knows what he's doing!"

He certainly does. And so do The Wades. According to David, "Something really significant can happen to gospel and CCM in this decade. There is a fusion that's going on at the moment where black artists are crossing into the white Christian scene and vice versa. We encourage that. We invite artists from the white Christian music scene to play at our concerts and nightspots here. I would encourage people to start broadening their horizons to all different styles of Christian music. We want to play all the big festivals next year, including Cross Rhythms. We are going to be one of the groups from the black gospel scene to bring dialogue and communication."

The final words came from Lloyd, the man with the most incredible live voice I've heard since Keith Staten sung with Commissioned: "Hold onto your gospel roots. This is the kind of music that's gonna be hitting the secular field in the 90s. Gospel is gonna hit the secular world so big that there's gonna be an influx of secular musicians changing over to a gospel path. No-one's gonna have to sell out because they'll all be coming the other way!" CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Karl Allison
Karl Allison runs the Last Daze sanctified dance praise events and fronts the band The Big Picture


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