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Formed in the year 1967 by its president, the Reverend John W. Howard. The group was founded when John, not then a minister, had the vision to reform people from all walks of life amid the streets of Atlantic City and outlying communities.
His plan was to take small groups of already known singers in the area such as the Gospel Personalities, Goodwill Gospelairs, Trapp Singers, and the COGIC Ensemble and ban them together to form one large group, thus giving birth to the Caravan. They would eventually attract new converts from the street.
The group had a powerful sound and an overwhelming effect on people wherever they traveled. In the early stages, they lost their musician, Harvey Dawson, to upward mobility – but fate would have it that (then) sixteen-year-old Charles Rayfield Lyles would take hold of the reins. Young, energetic, and gifted Lyles took the group to its next level. He has been the musical genius and inspiration behind the group since his transition into the group.
In 1977, under the ministry of the late Evangelist Annie Pearl Hairston, significant members of the group gave over their “lukewarm” lifestyles unto total submission. Hence, the group amended its name to the “New John Howard Gospel Caravan. Like anything else, the group’s pilgrimage was not easy. They lost many to death and to other unforeseen circumstances. Holding on to God and keeping the faith, the Lord saw the group through every situation.
To their credit, they proudly boast of having many members who have escalated further into the ministry as deacons, missionaries, ministers, elders, evangelists, and pastors. The group has appeared on Bobby Jones’ gospel and there are some members who took their gifts and performed in the off-Broadway hit musicals, “Yes, God is Real” and “Count Your Blessings.”
Other achievements include the 1990 recipient of the Gospel Music Workshop of America’s Award of Excellence in the category of Best New Artist – Traditional; the only gospel unit ever to be featured in the Miss America Pageant Parade; the first winners of the McDonald’s/United Negro Scholarship Fund’s “Let the Spirit Move You” Gospel Competition; appearances at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia with the late Rev. James Cleveland and the late Rev. Isaac Douglas and later opening for The Winans, and Vanessa Bell Armstrong; and as background singers from Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole, and the Colors of Christmas Tours featuring Peabo Bryson, Patti Austin, Sheena Easton, James Ingram, Melissa Manchester, Christopher Cross and Oleta Adams when they appeared in Atlantic City and at Carnegie Hall in New York City. They also traveled to Kingston, Jamaica where they were the featured gospel choir.
In addition, the group has five recordings: “If You Need a Blessing” recorded in New York in 1981 on Savoy Records; “He That Endureth” with the late Rev. Isaac Douglas, 1985 on Savoy Records; “I Want To Be Holy” in 1990 on Sweet Rain Records. In April of 1998, the group recorded a live video entitled, “Lift Him Up” in London, England. In November 2013, on BF Sounds, the group recorded “Payday” in Atlantic City, NJ
Officers & Members
Rev. Dr. John W. Howard, Sr. Founder/CEO
Bishop Charles R. Lyles, Director of Music
Juanita Steele(Director of Management) Dea. Sharon E. Woodard (Dir. of Records) Marionette Todd, Susan Johnson, L. Kay Wright, Charlotte Golden, Denise Green, Myrtle Bowe, Cserelyn Peterson
Louella Rose (Treasurer) Joyce Howard (Financial Secretary) Donielle Graves, Evangelist Deborah Oatman, Pastor Wendy Mason-Harris
John Wilkes, Thomas Jennings, Min. James Knox, Anthony Langford, Elder Stephen Peterson, Shirley Everett, Clifford Walker, Dea. Sauntina Cunningham
Stephen Hackley, Musician
Marcus Graham, Drummer
Get in Touch
Sharon E. Woodard
231 Thompson Avenue
Chesilhurst, NJ 08089
If you would like to have us perform at your special event, we can be reached at the above telephone number.