Before televangelists flooded television screens across the nation in the 80s, Sundays were owned by BET and the long-running program, Bobby Jones Gospel. The series was a hit for the network after it’s 1980 debut, so it’s cancellation in 2015 came as shock to viewers.
Dr. Bobby Jones, the man who brought forth the gospel version of American Bandstand, explained how the show came to an end. “I’m the one that retired from it after 35 years,” Jones told NPR Monday (Mar. 19). “I told them, ‘Well, I’m getting older now and I want to give somebody else a chance to do that. I’ve had it for 35 years.’ And it was just as simple as that.” Jones was handpicked by BET founder Robert L. Johnson to host the series after seeing Jones’ local gospel series in Nashville. “I just thought I could do it,” Jones added. “I always wanted to … growing up watching Johnny Carson and all those guys.”
While Bobby Jones Gospel never scored an Emmy or Golden Globe during it’s run, it did make history in others ways. The series is the fifth longest-running series in television history with 33 seasons. It’s also BET’s longest running series to date. The program introduced the world to acts like Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams but also paid homage to staples in gospel music like Albertina Walker.
“She left this earth knowing that she was important and she had a legacy,” gospel singer Regina McCrary said. Adams also shared her appreciation for Dr. Jones and her inventive breakthrough.
“He didn’t just, I guess, give me the platform. He also validated what I was doing,” Adams told the outlet. “He never said, ‘You need to change your look.’ He never said, ‘You need to calm your jazz stuff down,’ because no one was doing that at the time.”
Jones might be away from the cameras, but it hasn’t stopped his love pushing the genre forward. He’s currently the host of a countdown-style weekly radio show and host of several gospel live shows. On Sunday (Mar. 18) Jones hosted a music matinee with guests V. Michael McKay and Issac Carree.
Jones called his new life a “full circle” moment. “I kind of welcome it, because it gives me a chance to go back over what started it,” he said.