The Northern California State Youth Choir was formed in May, 1967, by soprano Betty Watson and
pianist Edwin Hawkins, who was also the director of the choir and arranged the numbers. That the choir
was church-based is obvious by listening to their gospel music arrangements, but their first album states
this even more boldly: "The choir was organized to inspire youth everywhere to live and do a greater
work for God."
The choir was an assembly of 46 black men and women in their late teens and early twenties, including leading soloists from other choirs in the Northern California area. Hawkins entered them in the singing competition at a youth convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in June, 1968, where they won first place. In order to raise money for the trip, they pressed a thousand copies of an eight song album (Let Us Go into the House of the Lord) on their own private label and sold it at the youth convention. Most of the copies sold, and the story might have ended there.
But Abe Keshishian, a deejay at San Francisco's KSAN-FM, started programming "Oh Happy Day" in February, 1969, from a copy of the fund raising album a friend had given him. San Franciscoan Jack Barry recalls it spilled over to AM airplay and really caught the public's attention: "To most in San Francisco, it was the inimitable Dan Sorkin, the morning deejay on KSFO-560 who spread the word on all this. His audience was all of northern California. He played those songs daily and made the Northern California State Youth Choir into the legends they deserved to be."
Buddah won the bidding for rights to the album and started the Pavilion label to sell the record commercially, giving the group a $70,000 advance and changing the name of the choir to the Edwin Hawkins Singers. They reissued the album straight from Hawkins' master tape for the fund raiser, which had been recorded on a two-track machine in the Ephesian Church of God in Christ, where Hawkins was choirmaster.
The Pavilion label was apparently a short-term deal, with only two albums and a couple of singles released under its logo. Subsequent albums by the Edwin Hawkins Singers appeared on Buddah. Pavilion PBS 10001 was later reissued on Buddah BDS-5070, with sides 1 and 2 reversed. The Edwin Hawkins Singers continued making albums, mostly on Gospel/Christian labels like Birthright and Myrrh, well into the 1980s.
The early Pavilion label was blue with plain silver print, but this was quickly upgraded to a medium blue label with the Pavilion logo and a notation about distribution by Buddah on the bottom of the label. This label is not related to the CBS/Pavillion label of the 1980s (note that Buddah label is spelled the usual way with a single "l", while the CBS label has a double "l").
We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with Pavilion or Buddah Records, which are currently owned by BMG Special Products. Should you be interested in acquiring albums listed in this discography (which are all out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This story and discography are copyright 2000, 2005 by Mike Callahan.