The Mighty Gospel Warriors

Gospel Group, Pontotoc

The Mighty Gospel Warriors are a group in the quartet tradition based out of Bruce, Mississippi. The Warriors were founded in Bruce in 1987 when brothers Homer and Sammy Judon decided to create a new group together with David Welch and C.W. Vance. Homer, the group’s leader and booking manager, plays guitar and sings background vocals, while Sammy sings background vocals from behind his drum kit. Vance and Welch both sing lead vocals.

At the time of the group’s founding, Vance and Welch were members of a group out of Bruce called the Heavenly Voices, while the Judons were members of the Spiritual Harmoneers, who were managed by their father, Hulet Judon.

A native of the Ecru/New Albany area, Hulet Judon began working with gospel quartets before his sons were born. He was a member of the Chosen Wonders before founding the Spiritual Harmoneers in the 1960s and rehearsed the group at the family home. Homer and Sammy both began playing instruments as young boys and have been singing gospel for as long as they can remember.

Within a year of the Warriors’ founding, the group was more popular than both of the groups out of which it emerged. Hulet Judon left the Spiritual Harmoneers to manage his sons’ new group, and also began singing background vocals. He currently drives and repairs the band’s bus and is affectionately known as “the handyman.”

Rhythm guitarist Russell “Tom Pete” Herrod joined the group in 1988; his son Robert “Duke” Tillman is the group’s keyboard player, having joined in 2000. The group’s bassist, Ben Reel, who is Homer’s brother-in-law, joined the group in 1989. Donnie Standifer joined the group as a lead singer in 1999, and Homer’s son Terence, still in his teens, plays keyboards.

The group performs in a traditional gospel quartet style whose roots stretch back to the 1930s. According to Homer Judon, the group doesn’t have any specific role models, although he points to the general influence on the group from the legendary quartet the Pilgrim Jubilees. The Chicago-based group returns to Houston for their homecoming celebration each year, and the Warriors often perform on the program.

The Warriors consider themselves to be “semi-professional” in the sense that all of the adult members (save Hulet, who is retired) have full-time jobs. The group performs most weekends throughout the year and uses their vacation days to allow extended travels. They maintain a busy schedule on the regional circuit, where they often top the bill and travel widely across the country. Cities in which they have played programs include Chicago, Milwaukee, Austin, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta.

The group recorded their first album, the self-released Holdin’ On, in 1992, and since then have released four more CDs. Their most recent CD, What A Reunion, is also available as similarly titled video on Mars Records. In February of 2005, the group received the “overall winner” award in the prestigious Doc McKenzie New Artist Showcase in Sumter, South Carolina.

-Scott Barretta

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