Distinguished Artist Recipient, 2015 Governor’s Arts Awards
Dr. Bobby Jones is a torchbearer for gospel music in Tennessee and the world. He is an acclaimed singer who has released 14 albums, toured internationally and won many honors, including Stellar Awards, Dove Awards and a Grammy Award for his single with Barbara Mandrell, “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today.” He also wrote and produced the first black gospel opera, Make a Joyful Noise, which won a Gabriel Award. In addition, he founded and continues to lead the premier gospel group, the Nashville Super Choir.
Dr. Jones has also attained legendary status as a television icon and can be credited with giving gospel music its first national stage. Started in 1980, Bobby Jones Gospel is the longest continuously running show on cable and a Sunday morning staple of Black Entertainment Television. At a time when gospel music was not seen as marketable and few black artists were visible on television, Dr. Jones revolutionized the music world by bringing an African American music tradition to the mainstream.
He currently hosts the show, as well as a daily show called Visions at Mt. Zion on the Impact Network and two radio programs on the Sheridan Gospel Network. Always one to share the spotlight, Dr. Jones gives popular and upcoming gospel singers a platform to perform on his show and has opened the door to success for artists such as Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary. In addition, for 22 years he held a biannual gospel music industry retreat to provide professional development opportunities for artists in the field, as well as create a forum for fellowship and career support. He continues to serve as a mentor in the field and an outspoken advocate for gospel music.
Despite his national profile, Dr. Jones has never forgotten his roots growing up in rural Henry County. He excelled academically throughout school, graduating from high school at 15 and Tennessee State University at 19 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. His family did not have the means to support his education, so he taught himself piano to secure a gig playing music for the church. His persistence and talent paid off and he eventually became director for the biggest choir in Nashville, although he had never received any formal music lessons. His drive and dedication further secured what would soon become apparent, his destiny in music. This passion and ambition continues to manifests itself as a desire to give back.
Now a current resident of Nashville, Dr. Jones strives to bring acclaim to Tennessee through his music. He gave his alma mater, Tennessee State University, the largest in-kind gift it has ever received—the donation of 30 years’ worth of recordings and exclusive rights to his performances. In addition, Dr. Jones has organized several ‘Gospel Explosion’ events in Tennessee and brought the first Black Expo to Nashville in the ‘90s. As a second career, he has been an educator with the Nashville Metropolitan Schools and Tennessee State University. Along with his credits in the gospel music industry, Dr. Jones was named Dominica Ambassador At-Large in 2006.
Dr. Jones is truly a trailblazer and shows no signs of slowing down. Commended by President George Bush in 2001 for “revolutionizing gospel,” he continues to broadcast, perform and share his love of gospel music with the world. His musical talent and influence in the gospel industry will surely reverberate for generations.