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Toledo Sacred Steel History
The Church of the Living God, was founded in Greenville, Alabama in the year 1903, by Mary Lena Lewis Tate. It was within the walls of her church organization that this unique music tradition began. The Toledo Church of the Living God, was founded in the 1940’s under the administration of Bishop M.L. Jewell. In the beginning, meetings were held in brush arbors, tents, and house churches. The first three house church locations were Ironwood Ave in East Toledo, 342 John R Street, and finally relocating to its most popular location, 415 Indiana avenue. 

This house was converted to a brick church building where the membership remained for over thirty years. The Toledo church, affectionately known as 415, gave birth to many Hawaiian steel guitar players such as Jack Coleman, Calvin Shaw, Morris Wortham, Clifford Warren, Clifford Buddy Warren, Mordecia Brownlee, Stanley Galloway, Eloise Galloway Fletcher, Yolando Ramsey, Ronald Warren, Eric Russell, Del Grace, Fran Grace, Nicole Brown, and Henry Tyson. 

Clifford L. Warren Jr.

Clifford Warren was born in Widner, Arkansas February 11, 1935, to Clifford L. Warren Sr. and Doretha (Corbitt) Warren. For a short time, his family moved to Mississippi and then to Toledo, Ohio in 1938 when Clifford was about three years old. 
Clifford started playing guitar at the age of eight and later learned the Hawaiian steel guitar at age eleven. His favorite guitar was the Gibson 335, his influences were brother Henry Wortham, Reverend Jack Coleman and Fred Neal. 

About the age of fourteen, Clifford enjoyed the honorable distinction of being an assembly musician traveling and playing guitar with Bishop Lorenzo L. Harrison, from 1968 to 1978.

Bishop Clifford L. Warren is senior pastor of the Jewell Dominion Church of the Living God located in Toledo, Ohio. Clifford received the 2009 Sacred Steel Legends Award in Toledo, Ohio. In 2010, he was inducted into the Sacred Steel Hall of Fame as a legendary rhythm guitarist.

Angela Grace-Russell

Angela Grace-Russell was born in Toledo, Ohio, April 18, 1963, to the union of Curtis and Loretta (Brownlee) Grace. Her musical journey began at an early age starting with singing in the Stateline Church of the Living God choir where her grandmother, Bishop Ella Mae Dupree, was pastor. Angela watched her mother, Loretta Grace, play piano during church services and was always fascinated with it.

It was very uncommon in the 1970’s to see females playing string instruments in church, but during a national church assembly in Indianapolis, Indiana, a young lady by the name of Kim Postel, played a musical selection on the Hawaiian steel guitar and that inspired Angela to play.  

She began playing the Hawaiian steel guitar as her first instrument and later moved on to the rhythm guitar, and drums. As time went on, Angela started playing the piano for the group she formed with her sisters and friends and every now and again for the church choirs in the Toledo/Michigan areas. In 2019, Angela Grace Russell was inducted into the Queens Sacred Steel Hall of Fame.

Bishop James R. Sherman

James Sherman was born to Elder Rusher and Elder Luzenia Sherman. He is married to Ella Sherman and is father of three children in Toledo, Ohio. He began playing the steel guitar in the mid 1950’s at the age of fifteen years old. He learned his craft under the tutelage of Felton Williams Jr., Lorenzo Harrison, Calvin Shaw and many others.

James later joined the Church of the Living God Band #2, where his mother, Elder Luzenia Sherman was pastor. It was here that James began to advance as a steel guitar player. 

He is currently Bishop over Trinity Central West Diocese under the Bishop Archibald Henry White diocese. In 2009 James R. Sherman was presented with the Sacred Steel Legends Award. He was inducted into the Sacred Steel Hall of Fame in 2010 in Toledo, Ohio. 

Yolando Ramsey

Yolando Ramsey, affectionately known as “Yoyo,” was born into the Jewell Dominion Sacred Steel Tradition in Toledo, Ohio. He was born to the union of Sumrow and Doris (Shaw) Ramsey March 3, 1959. 

He began playing the Hawaiian guitar at the age of seven years old. Yoyo was about nine years of age when he began playing in actual church services. His influences were Lorenzo Harrison, Wayne White, Felton Williams Jr., and Mordecai Brownlee. Clifford L. Warren taught Yoyo his first two or three tunes on the steel guitar, and he caught on from there.

Around 1973, his parents split off from the Jewell Dominion church to follow Bishop Henry H. Brownlee, founder of the Soul City House of God International. Yoyo began to flourish as a gifted and innovative steel player as he traveled the country with Bishop Brownlee, setting up churches across the United States. Yolando Ramsey was inducted into the 2017 Sacred Steel Hall of Fame. 

Eric Russell

Eric Lee Russell is a native of Toledo, Ohio and has lived there all of his life. He is the eldest of seven siblings born in Toledo, Ohio to Clinton and Sedaleyer (Houston) Russell, August 2, 1959. Eric’s parents attended and raised their family in the Jewell Dominion Church of the Living God, located at 415 Indiana avenue. Eric first became acquainted with the church’s Hawaiian steel guitar music tradition, by watching his father, Clinton Russell, as he played it around the house when Eric was around eight years old.

At around the age of sixteen, Eric began to seriously pursue the instrument and purchased a Fender eight string double neck lap steel from Ronald Warren, another steel player within the local church. In 1977, Eric became the official steel player for the Toledo church and has remained faithful there for over forty years.

His main influences were the late Ronald Warren, Lorenzo L. Harrison, and Felton W. Williams Jr. In 1991, Eric began taking pedal steel guitar lessons at Valley Music in Maumee, Ohio, making him one of the few proficient pedal steel players in the Jewell Dominion church. In 2023, Eric was inducted into the Sacred Steel Hall of Fame. 

Fran E. Grace

My parents Curtis Grace and the late Evangelist Loretta O’Bryant all credit goes to them for who I am. Fran Ella Grace is my name born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. Fran is the mother of two wonderful children, DelMar Christopher and Danielle Pope. She is the grandmother of three. Fran is a 12 year employee of First Solar, building solar panels for the future.

Fran served at the Stateline church of the living God under her grandmother, the late Bishop Ella Mae Dupree. She began playing music at the age of nine years old and became an as needed musician. Whatever instrument was missing out of the band she filled in. God blessed me with the gift of playing by ear. She plays steel guitar, bass, rhythm guitar, and drums. 

Fran would also sing in the choir and with her sisters Angela Grace Russell and Tressa Boles. Her sound is old school, and her brother Del Grace, gave her the opportunity to play full church services giving her the confidence to play. Her role models are Bishop Harrison, Ronnie Mozee, Wayne White, Tubby Golden, and my brother Del Ray Grace. Fran was inducted into the 2019 Queens Sacred Steel Hall of Fame in Toledo, Ohio. 

The Amazing Grace Praise Band

The Amazing Grace Praise Band was officially formed in 2002 and is based out of Toledo, Ohio, with its musical roots in Jewell Dominion Church of the Living God. Our music is an extension of the African American steel guitar tradition, dating back to the late 1930’s. Their goal is to continue playing sacred steel music while preserving the legacy that our pioneers established and passed down to us.

The AGPB is the house band, playing behind many of the guest steel players that participate in our annual Sacred Steel Showcase Concerts. Members are Del Ray Grace Sr., (Lap Steel), Jay (Fingertips) Caver, (Rhythm Guitar), Del Ray Grace Jr., (Bass Guitar), Chris Pope, (Drummer), and Kelli L. Grace, (Spoken Word & Tambourine). 

The band’s first studio recording entitled “Glorious Triumph,” took place at Shabach Production Recording Studio, with Louis Newsom, in Toledo, Ohio 2003. In 2005 their sophomore cd followed, entitled “Let the Praise Begin” @ Zeta Studios in Holland, Ohio. The Amazing Grace Praise Band was inducted into the Sacred Steel Hall of Fame in 2016. 

Odis Hychs

Odis was born in Calhoun City, Mississippi to Hosie and Louise Hych. He moved to Toledo, Ohio at a young age with other family members. He was the first official guitar player at the Jewell Dominion Stateline Church of the Living God, where his aunt, Ella Mae Dupree was pastor.

Odis has played rhythm guitar for over 50 years in the service of the Lord in many local quartet groups and churches. His guitar mentors are Bishop Clifford Warren and Andrew Sonny Gaines.

In the 1970’s, Odis moved his church membership to the Soul City House of God International, also located in Toledo, Ohio. Under the leadership of Bishop Henry H. Brownlee, he was appointed chief musician of the band. 

Del Ray Grace Sr.

Del was born in Toledo, Ohio September 28, 1960 to Curtis and Loretta (Brownlee) Grace, and raised up in the Jewell Dominion Church organization for the first 35 years of his life. Like many impressionable youths in the church, Del was encouraged by older musicians to learn the church’s music tradition. He played multiple instruments such as steel guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums. 

Del grew very fond of the steel guitar and began to follow in the footsteps of some of the great pioneers of the tradition such as Henry Wayne White (Detroit, Michigan), James Tubby Golden (Cleveland, Ohio), and Lorenzo L. Harrison (Indianapolis, Indiana). 

In 2009, Del and wife, Kelli L. Grace, founded Sacred Strings Records Inc., an independent record label and began building the largest audio and video catalog of African American Sacred Steel players in the world. Del R. Grace Sr., was inducted into the Sacred Steel Hall of Fame in 2015. 

 Jay (Fingertips) Caver Jr.

Johnell “Jay” Caver Jr. was born January 30, 1967, in Detroit, Michigan to the union of Johnell Sr., and Sharon (Kirkwood) Caver. Jay has been a member of the Detroit Jewell Dominion Church of the Living God, all of his life. He began playing guitar in 1985, after being inspired and taught by his Uncle Derrick Kirkwood, also of Detroit, Michigan. 

Jay was influenced greatly by several other guitarists in the church such as Ronnie Mozee, Angela Grace, etc. Over the years Jay has received many awards, accolades, and honorable mentions for performing and recording with groups such as Sonnie Day, Robert Randolph, the Calvin Cooke Ensemble and the Amazing Grace Praise Band, of which he is a group member. 

Jay was given the title of “Traveling Evangelist Musician,” by Bishop N.A. Manning, leader of the Jewell Dominion Church of the Living God. He is one of the most sought out musicians of the Jewell and Keith Dominion churches and was inducted into the 2016 Sacred Steel Hall of Fame.