Friday, February 24, 2012


In 1982 the duo took a job performing with the PTL Singers in Charlotte, North Carolina. With PTL, BeBe and CeCe were able to hone their stage skills, and also to gain national exposure through frequent television appearances and tours. They scored their first radio hit, a cover version of the pop song "Up Where We Belong," while still performing with PTL. As their audience grew, BeBe and CeCe began receiving calls from churches all over the country, and soon they were being noticed by record companies as well.

The duo signed with the Christian label Sparrow--which up to then did not have a single black artist on its roster--and produced its debut album, BeBe & CeCe Winans, in 1987. When executives at Sparrow heard the results, they were convinced that the recording had commercial potential beyond the Christian market. They took the recording to Capitol Records, and Capitol agreed to assist with distribution. The album was a hit with mainstream and gospel audiences alike. With several family members singing background parts, the recording sold well on both the R&B and Inspirational charts, and it earned the duo several Grammy nominations and a handful of Dove awards for Christian music. Two singles, "I.O.U. Me" and "For Always" received loads of radio airplay.

The pair's follow-up album, Heaven, released in 1988, faired even better. Heaven became the first gospel recording since Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace (1972) to reach the top ten on Billboard's R&B charts and to go gold (100,000 copies sold). The album featured a guest performance by superstar and close friend Whitney Houston. For Heaven BeBe and CeCe received four Grammy Awards, an NAACP Image Award, scads of other honors, and a level of mainstream acclaim that had probably never before been lavished on a performing entity working so clearly within the Gospel idiom.

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