By Andre Jones
After months of rumors, BET has confirmed that the longest running original cable series in history, Bobby Jones Gospel, would be ending its 35 year run.
Bobby Jones Gospel, which airs Sunday mornings on BET, premiered in 1980 – a full year before the infamous MTV. The show launched the careers of many who are now considered Gospel music royalty including Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, Smokie Norful, and Yolanda Adams. This show shares a great deal of responsibility for moving Gospel music out of the margins and into the mainstream, “Radio can only do so much,” Jones explained. “BET gave us a platform to bring the music to major markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in a way that hadn’t been done before.”
Jones, an accomplished Gospel artist himself, got his start in 1976 hosting Nashville Gospel for WSM (WSMV today), going on to receive a Grammy in 1983 for Best Soul Gospel Performance by a Duo or Group for the song, “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today,” a duet with country music icon Barbara Mandrell. Besides these stellar accomplishments achieved before many of our readers were born or even teenagers, Jones went on to host Bobby Jones Next Generation for the Gospel Music Channel, which – as the name says – focuses on next generation Gospel talent, as well as Bobby Jones Presents for the Word Network – another showcase for up and coming (and established) Gospel music talent.
When asked how he felt about the show ending after 35 years of being on the air, Jones said in a phone interview, “Oh my goodness, it’s like losing a child, there’s a little sadness that goes along with that, you know. After 35 years, what am I going to do?” after which he proceeded to laugh and acknowledge that though it was impossible not to feel sad, his pride in a job well done outweighed that sadness. When asked if Bobby Jones Gospel turned out to be what he envisioned, Jones continued to laugh, “Are you kidding? Very few people knew what cable television was back then much less what BET was. I just hoped we could do a second season.”
The final season will be one to watch, featuring appearances from artists such as those mentioned above and Gospel icons such as Shirley Caesar and Hezekiah Walker, along with powerhouses such as Tamela Mann, Tye Tribbett, and many other top selling Gospel artists of today. Jones was asked if he had any regrets about the show, to which he admitted that he wished the show could have been in a later time slot, “I think even more people would have appreciated what we do,” Jones explained. “I have widened people’s perspective on gospel; there’s still a lot of work to be done,”
The farewell season of Bobby Jones Gospel starts October 11th, 2015, 9 a.m. on BET.