2000 N.C. Heritage Award Recipient
"I tell people, when we're off somewhere singing, 'Well, I sing like I look,'" joked the Bishop Faircloth Barnes. "They say, 'How's that?' And I say, 'Old timey.' That's how I define my style--more or less the old original gospel, like back when we were singing without music."
Faircloth C. Barnes was born in 1929 in Dortches, a Nash County community about four miles west of Rocky Mount. One of twelve children, he grew up on a cotton farm sharecropped by his parents and aunts and uncles. His mother and grandmother, he said, were "songsters" who always filled their houses with song. His grandfather was a Missionary Baptist preacher, as were five of his uncles. All of these uncles also earned local reputations as singers. "I loved what they were doing," he explained, "and I tried to do what they done."
"We just had a singing family," he recalled, "and the family is still going in that direction. I have four sons, and all of them sing, and their children sing, and all my brothers sing, and their children sing. And I'm the pastor of all of them." When he sang at gospel programs and in the recording studio, he shared vocal duties with three of his nieces and sang to the accompaniment provided by a grandson, a nephew, and three of his four sons. The fourth son, Luther Barnes, is a nationally renowned gospel artist in his own right.
When he founded the Red Budd Holy Church in Rocky Mount, Bishop "F.C." Barnes immediately organized a choir. "I had to be the musician, the preacher, the choir leader, and everything," he laughed. "I had to sit at the piano and play for the choir, and lead songs for them, and then go back to the pulpit and preach. And then I'd have to leave the pulpit and go to the piano and play!" Not surprisingly, Red Budd Holy Church became known throughout Nash County as a "singing church."
The commercial success of Bishop Barnes's old-time singing made him an anomaly in today's gospel marketplace. He had more than a hundred songs to his credit, including "Rough Side of the Mountain," which claimed the number one spot on the gospel charts for months in 1983. These songs, clearly growing from the hymns and spirituals of an earlier era, continue to inspire contemporary listeners while remaining firmly rooted in an old style of African American congregational singing. "A lot of times, people ask if they can sing one of my songs," he said. "I say, 'Sing them! I enjoy people singing my music. After all, it's not just for me."
The Reverend Barnes passed away in 2011.