Ellerslie’s Central Baptist Church will kick off its 125th anniversary celebration next weekend with headliner Dottie Peoples, an award-winning singer and recording artist who’s been called “the songbird of the South.”
Peoples performs a concert at 7 p.m. Friday in the church sanctuary, 576 Central Church Road. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
The arrangement came between the Rev. Joseph McKelton of Central Baptist and his pastor in the Atlanta area, the Rev. William Sheals of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross.
“We were planning for the 125th and the idea came up, ‘Could we get a gospel artist?’ and I said, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ ” McKelton said. The Ellerslie pastor is a recording artist himself and also knows a number of people in the Atlanta music scene.
His one CD to date is called “Holy and Blessed,” recorded independently on JLM (Jesus Loves Me) Records. It was released in 2003.
Peoples confirmed the concert three months ago.
Tickets are a suggested donation of $20.
Peoples’ home state is Ohio, where her father worked for General Motors. One of 10 children, Peoples spent summers in Alabama with her grandmother, “Big Mama,” and a sister, and they frequently heard their grandmother sing in church. Dottie Peoples also sang in high school. An early break came through Dorothy Norwood and her group, the Caravans, who discovered the teen and invited her on the road.
The Caravans opened for acts including the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder.
After this experience, Peoples experimented with other careers — including GM — but in 1990 developed her own radio show. “The Dottie Peoples Showcase” debuted in the early ‘90s on Atlanta’s WAOK.
Another break for Peoples came with the release of her first cut, “Live at Salem Baptist Church,” with the label Atlantic International Records. Her 1994 hit, “On Time With God,” reached No. 1 on gospel charts. Her latest release, “Do It,” came in 2008 on her own label — DP Musik Group Inc.
After more than 55 awards and accolades, Peoples has consistently given credit to those who helped her succeed. The Central Baptist Church anniversary program is 2:30 p.m. Nov. 15, with the Rev. James Harris of Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus as the guest preacher.
McKelton, Central’s pastor for nearly five years, has seen Peoples in concert. “She’ll probably do at least eight songs. She’s great with the audience and mixing it up with people,” said McKelton, whose sanctuary seats about 600.
Allison Kennedy can be reached at 706-576-6237.