Monday, March 15, 2010

Mattie Moss Clark, Elma Hendrix, and Lucylle Lemon: Detroit's Big Three

During Women's History Month, we salute three powerful women in Detroit's gospel music history known throughout the 1960s and 1970s as The Big Three: Mattie Moss Clark, Elma Hendrix, and Lucylle Lemon.

Dr. Mattie Moss Clark found initial fame as a director and songwriter with the Southwest Michigan State Choir, reportedly the first Church of God in Christ state choir to be organized (1959). Later, she influenced hundreds of artists, including her daughters, the famed Clark Sisters, in her role as recording artist, record producer, and head of the music department for the entire Church of God in Christ.

Elma Lois Hendrix Parham founded the Community Youth Ensemble, established her own music publishing company, and owned Elma and Carl's House of Music on Owen Street in Detroit, a record and music store that became a meeting place for gospel fans and artists. Among those whose music she published was Mattie Moss Clark.

Lucylle Lemon served as a choir director at the New Bethel Baptist Church and founded the Lucylle Lemon Gospel Chorus, reportedly the first gospel community choir organized in Detroit (1943). Within the chorus were smaller groups with unique names like the Lemonaires and the Lemon Specials. Among her most famous members were Delores and David Winans, AKA Mom and Pop Winans, who met each other as teenagers while members of the Lemon Gospel Chorus.

And you thought "The Big Three" only referred to the auto giants!


  1. Hi, Deborah -- is Elma Hendrix related to James Hendrix of the Hendrix Singers?

  2. Hi Bob,

    I don't know. I'll ask some of those who worked with her for years to see if they know...

  3. Elma Lois Hendrix Parham was my mom's god-mother. She remembers being going to Today's Fashion in Hamtramck with her to shop and being in her shop and seeing all of the choirs and singers (i.e. Marvin Gaye). She was piano teacher as well.

  4. Six years later it is still a great tribute to three notable musical personalities. I was Dr Clark's first organ/piano student in the early 60's.