J. M. Gates

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J. M. Gates
Born (1884-07-14)July 14, 1884
Hogansville, Georgia, United States
Died August 18, 1945(1945-08-18) (aged 61)
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Genres Christian, gospel
Labels Victor, Bluebird, Okeh, Paramount, Gennett

J. M. Gates (July 14, 1884 – August 18, 1945) was an American Christian preacher and gospel music singer.


From 1914 to his death, Gates was the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rock Dale Park, Atlanta, Georgia, United States. He had a prolific recording career, recording over 200 sides between 1926 and 1941, including frequent re-recordings. Experts estimate that at least a quarter of all sermons commercially released on record before 1943 were recorded by Gates.[1]

His first best-seller, 1926's "Death's Black Train Is Coming", sold 35,000 copies by the end of its release year. Many of his recordings were strong warnings of the hellish punishments that awaited sinners.[2]

Gates is credited with introducing the gospel music of former blues artist Thomas A. Dorsey into the black gospel market via his crusades. His funeral drew the largest crowd of any memorial service in the city before Martin Luther King, Jr.[3] In addition to a Columbia Records collection and a "complete works" set from Document Records, Gates' work has been frequently featured in gospel and roots music anthologies, including Harry Smith's influential Anthology of American Folk Music.

Gates died of a cerebral hemorrhage in August 1945, aged 61.

Musical influence[edit]

A modified version of his song "Death's Black Train Is Coming" was performed by the band Gob Iron on their debut album, Death Songs for the Living. An uncredited cover can also be heard on the DVD release of the television series Day Break starring Taye Diggs near the end of the 13th and final episode.

His final recording, the 1941 sermon "Getting Ready for Christmas Day", was sampled in and inspired the lyrics to Paul Simon's song of the same name,[4][5] which is featured on Simon's 2011 album, So Beautiful or So What.


  1. ^ John Bush. "Reverend J.M. Gates | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-08-10. 
  2. ^ "Gospel Roots: The influential pre-war preacher from Atlanta, Rev J M Gates.". Cross Rhythms (83). October 2004. 
  3. ^ Carpenter, Bil (2005). Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 149. ISBN 0-87930-841-9. 
  4. ^ "The Colbert Report - Series | Comedy Central Official Site | CC.com". Colbertnation.com. 2016-02-09. Retrieved 2016-08-10. 
  5. ^ "Lyrics for Getting Ready For Christmas Day by Paul Simon : 392". Paul-simon.info. Retrieved 2016-08-10.