Rev. Louis Overstreet 1962/63
Interviews and Photo Gallery.
In the summer of 1960 Chris Strachwitz came across a gospel musician and his four sons preaching on the streets of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Listen as Mr. Strachwitz describes meeting and recording Rev. Louis Overstreet and then listen to the interview he recorded with Rev. Overstreet in 1962.
Interview by: Tom Diamant
Date: June 8, 2020
Location: On the telephone in San Rafael, California (Strachwitz) and El Cerrito, California (Diamant)
Interviewed by: Chris Strachwitz
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Date: December 16, 1962
Read the transcripts to both interviews below the photos.
This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission. email@example.com
Reverand Louis Overstreet and sons, Alvin Sidney, Robert Lee, Albert Lee, Louis Jr.
All photos by Chris Strachwitz © Arhoolie Foundation
Chris Strachwitz talks about Meeting Reverend Louis Overstreet.
This is in regard to Reverend Louis Overstreet, whom I apparently first encountered, on street in North of Baton Rouge, an area they call Scotlandville. And that was a result of my, I guess, looking for people who might be in touch with blues singers. So I went to the local radio station in Baton Rouge, where a Black disc jockey apparently welcomed me and he actually took me around, and took me to that part of town. Because he said, “Well, if there’s any blues happening, it’ll be in this area, you see.” And I forgot exactly who he was, but apparently I had been listening to him on the radio. And there he was, set up just like you will see in those pictures, outside of a beer joint, and he was plugged in, inside the place. And I was very much impressed by this man because he was absolutely, totally sincere.
And I thought he had a really good voice and he played a interesting guitar, and he had these four sons of his, it was quite a sight. And who would answer him, would act as the congregation. But I have no idea what I could do with him yet, that time I was strictly into blues or jazz.
Of course, I knew that there was an interest in gospel music, especially guitar players, because I was familiar with Blind Willie Johnson and so forth. But anyway, at the time, I was taken by him but I didn’t really pursue it. I think I also recorded a little bit with Harry Oster, we met Butch Cage and Willie Thomas. And anyway, so that stuck in my mind and the next year, I believe in ’61, I must have gone through there again, maybe it was ’62 when I finally met him.
Apparently I came through that same area, and I asked at one or two beer joints. I thought it was the same one that he had been in front of, or maybe it was the second one that I walked into, and asked the proprietor, “Do you remember this man who was preaching the gospel?” I didn’t even know his name at the time. And then she told me, that his name was Reverend Overstreet and he had left the area, and had been on his way to California. But she heard that he may have stopped in Phoenix, Arizona.
So, on my way back to California that year, when I finally met him, it was this way. I looked for the Black section, African-American section of Phoenix, which was South of the river, as I remember. And when people were still pumping gas for you, you pulled up to a service station and this young Black man, he was filling my gas tank and I asked him, “Have you by any chance seen a preacher who has four boys, and who sings?” And he says, “Oh yeah, he’s got a church right around the corner.” I mean, it was just absolutely incredible.
So I went there, and indeed it was a typical, very small, storefront type church. Almost a shack like building, as you can see in the photos, typical of many of the facilities that this kind of thing was happening in. And I guess I must have talked to him, and asked him if I could come back and maybe record him, and spend some time at his church with him. And he was very welcoming and so that’s what I did later that year, in the December of that year, whatever it was. I think Tom, you remember, it was ’62? Yeah, I think-
It says recording were done in December 14th through 16th, 1962.
Correct. So you see, I was on my way back to Berkeley from a trip doing… I guess I was no longer… That’s right, I was no longer teaching by that time, I think I started in ’59 to ’62, that’s right. During that summer, I think is when I was let go, I forgot. Anyway, this is all… So I told him, I would love to spend some time there, I was totally enamored by the whole thing. The small congregation that’s very much like a Holiness church, although the church was called Church of God in Christ, which is of course a major Black denomination. Which is however, musically, very similar to the Holiness churches like later, our encountered the Church of God, where the electric steel guitar was the main instrument.
And so I went back that December, from Berkeley, and drove down to Phoenix, and I think in this second photo, you will see my van. That’s right, I already had a Volkswagen van by that time, and I’m not sure if it had the Arhoolie painted on it or not, because this was six… Yeah, it probably did. Yeah it possibly did
You had a Volkswagen van that had the Arhoolie guitar logo painted on it?
Yeah. Correct. I think you can see it in some photos near Mance Lipscomb, in Navasota, gotten off the singer. And I think there is that van in the background, if I’m not mistaken. And I actually slept in it, during that trip, when I went to Atlanta. I remember finding an area of Atlanta, Georgia, where it seems to be fairly quiet and sort of the rich area. And I parked it there and I slept there that night, although the bugs were just incessant, they would always creep through the air holes. And I had a sleeping bag with me, and because I didn’t have much money to speak of, somehow gas was fairly cheap and I saved all my money I could, during my year of teaching. Well, I think I got $7,000 per year in payment for my services, I forgot exactly.
But anyway, so I think it took me… I think I stayed a week in Phoenix, to make those recordings, because he was not that easy to catch. Maybe it was just a few days, I really don’t know. You’d have to look in the log book, maybe it’ll tell you something more, but because he was usually very short sermons, he was not like Reverend C.L. Franklin, who could make a whole long sermon on one of his Chess recordings, that was by Von Battle, in Detroit, in recording.
He did one on the subject, “You are nothing but a tadpole until you’re born again,” on just that subject, he was able to do this. Reverend Overstreet was much, much shorter, and he would sort of blow his intensity very quickly, so I’ll put it that way. But he was just an amazing guy, who apparently had God tell him how to play the guitar and to get a guitar, and go out and preach the gospel.
You’ll probably find some of those interviews, where he talks about it. I do remember talking to him, at length, about it, how he got to play the guitar. And I think he even talks to me about what kind of work he did before he became a minister, and this was all brand new to me. I was really not that familiar with the whole Black church syndrome and so forth, which is so different from anything I was used to. In the village where I grew up, where it’s basically Protestants and Catholics, and that was it. And they were all very stoic, and again, they were telling me very little music they did, or organs. Anyway, I better not get off the track, and so when I met Bruce Bratton, I had met him already in the ’50s, he was one of the people I got to know besides Justin Pope, and then of course, Wayne Pope.
And there was a whole bunch of people who were into skiffle music and jazz, and so on, you see. And apparently, Bruce Bratton had met this German filmmaker, Dietrich Wawzyn who had approached him, whether he knew somebody in California that might take him around to do a jazz film. And my good friend, Bruce Bratton, who still lives in Santa Cruz, he told him, “Yeah, you ought to get in touch with this guy, Chris Strachwitz, he’s been down South for a couple of years now, and he might be able to help you.”
And so he did that, and when of course, the Wawzyns found out that I spoke German too, that made the whole thing more possible. And so in ’63, when they hired me to accompany them on their trip, to what is now called… I think we called it the video, Down-Home Music 63, if I’m not mistaken. But he had originally produced little short films of what he called jazz, and the one on gospel music, and one on whatever else there was, in blues.
And that was my first experience really, of assisting anyone who was making films. And of course it wasn’t just that, I was also responsible for doing the sound, during pretty much the whole trip, with the Wawzyns. And so when we started out in Los Angeles… I mean, we actually started in the Bay Area, where we filmed some things, and then we went to Los Angeles to do some sea thing. And I started driving towards Tucson, I told him we should really meet in Tucson so that… They were also very much intrigued by the whole Black music scene, especially with very basic stuff. Oh yeah, in the Bay Area, we had already filmed his Highness, Louis H. Narcisse of the Mount Zion Spiritual Temple, in Oakland. And he was totally enamored by that man, who I believe also belonged to the Church of God in Christ.
I’m not sure, but it’s called the Mount Zion Spiritual Temple. Anyway, this gets me into all of this and so we started, as far as I’m concerned, on a lengthy trip across the South. Our first stop was really in Phoenix, and there they filmed Reverend Overstreet, at his church, with some of the nice footage of them doing the holiness dance, as I used to call it, when people get carried away and the spirit get them. And then, we also went to film him that Sunday, when Reverend Overstreet told us that he was going to Tucson. He always goes, on Sunday mornings, to Tucson to preach in the streets, and there again, he went into the most downtrodden area of Tucson, which again, you will see the photos. Those are , the photos I took of him and his four boys in Tucson, in a slum area of that part of town. Anyway, so that is really what took me there.
You got him booked at the Monterey Folk Festival?
Oh yeah. You see, I had met… What’s his name? I had known Ralph Gleason, of course, who was very much involved with all that sort of thing. And there was a man who was in charge of that, and he was interested in presenting some elements of blues and so forth, and related Black music. And when I told him, “We could probably bring out Reverend Overstreet from Arizona,” he got really excited about it. I wish I could think of his name right now but, he was in charge of the Monterey Jazz Festival, in the beginnings.
And they actually paid for him to come out here, and it was almost a tragedy because he almost didn’t make it, that is Reverend Overstreet and his boys, because they had no idea that Highway 1, which they decided was a nice way to drive… I mean, it was a way to get up to the Bay Area, to Monterey, from Los Angeles, would take them forever. Instead of the larger Highway 101. And so they took Highway 1, which is a windiest road, if you ever traveled on it, especially from Carmel, southwards, all the way to… Oh God, anyway.
But they said the Lord sent them and they made it possible, and they arrived just in time to make their appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival. And I think right that after that, we had them booked in the Cabal. And there again, Rolf Cohn, who was in charge, he was intrigued by the key that Reverend Overstreet played. And I think he told me, “Chris, that’s an F sharp or something, he likes to play in.” We asked him later on, how did he come to that? He said, “That’s the one that the Lord told me how to play in.” It was just absolutely amazing and Rolph..
How did he go over at the Folk Festival?
Well, I really don’t remember. I think he went over quite well because nobody had ever heard anything quite like it, and he did do a similar preaching, I think, on one of the numbers on the recordings I made. He said, “Didn’t he say, and we will ask you for a blessing of Phoenix? And I’m blessing the people who are visiting me,” and something like that. He would improvise things and I think they went over quite well, although I don’t know if it got any reviews at all, I’m not sure.
I’m curious if you got a sense of how he felt about, first of all, in Phoenix, there’s this guy driving up in a Volkswagen van, and wanting to record him. I mean, did you get a sense that he’d think that was weird? Or how did he feel about it?
Then later you went to his home and all that.
I think, they all ascribed these things to a blessing. Because, you see, their whole purpose is really to bring the gospel to as many people as possible. And it didn’t really matter if they’re Black and White, even at his church there in Phoenix. One day I was there and there was a White preacher actually, in the church, they were perfectly accepting of him because he was very much in the similar type of vein, he was also a Holiness preacher.
I think he absolutely… And people in general, were really nice to White people, especially since they knew about how even, many of the smaller record companies were recording this music, and were obviously in a way helping to publicize their religions, and their music, and singing and so forth. That was already widely recorded and widely spread.
I’ll never forget when the Wawzyns asked Reverend Overstreet, what he would like for his participation. They paid him something and then he was totally enamored by their 45 player, that they had in their Mercedes. And so they were happy to give that to him, although I have a feeling that never really worked because, in a bouncy car, a 45. Was invented before cassettes were invented. And it was a very brief, I think, existence of 45 players in cars. But you see, gospel music had been recorded widely ever since the ’20s, along with other Black music. And I think they were aware of the fact that, this is one way to reach a larger audience.
So let me ask you about these specific pictures. There’s the one that he is in front of the church, I guess, that’s his church that he’s standing in front of-
… With the four boys. And then the drum that’s directly in front of him, did he play that? With a foot pedal or?
Yeah. Yes. He played that with his foot pedal, correct. And of course, the young boys played other various rhythm instruments, washboard, and the tambourine, and the… I forgot what else. He was a one man band, and I think he started out… That’s right, I interviewed him about that, he started off in singing with quartets, but he said he could never depend on the other members of the quartet, who were just out to have a good time. And so he created his family, and the Lord blessed him with having four boys who… That’s exactly what he told me, that he had these boys who started singing with him. It’s just really, really remarkable, the whole thing.
And then the later pictures, where he’s out in the street, was that then in Tucson?
Yes, that was in Tucson. Mm-hmm (affirmative). He apparently went down there every Sunday, but all the rest of the time, they had small services on the weekdays, even in the evenings, because almost all his… You will see the audience is not big in his church, that they actually have a choir there, where the boys joined in. And there’s a choir master in front, you see him on some of the pictures and it’s very serious. And also from him, I saw the way he learned all his songs, and I believe they went to a… There was an annual convention of the Church of God in Christ, I believe in Memphis or in Nashville, I think it was in Memphis. And he told me that, that’s where they learn all their songs from each other.
Anything else that comes to mind or?
It was just one of those things where, I mean, some people will say it was lady luck who showed me that way, some people say, “Well, you have an amazing angel who watches over you and guides you in the right direction.” I don’t know what to say about all that, but somehow I’ve met all these people by coincidence, or by having known somebody else who took me there. And people were all so forthcoming and, I don’t think you can ever do anything quite like that again, although who knows? The American culture was so amazingly diverse.
Anyway, I just loved every minute of it and meeting these people, but it’s only in my older days now, that I realized that this vernacular music simply never sit still for one minute, it constantly evolves. But that’s why I was so amazed at how much tradition was carried on, especially during those early days, and even before records. Of course, records perpetuated certain sounds, because they all figured, “Well, if this guy makes a hit, I better sound like that.” And that unfortunately has carried totally to the present, it’s a never changing world.
Chris Strachwitz interview with Reverend Louis Overstreet
Chris Strachwitz: Could you give us your first name too? Your whole name, that you…
Rev. Louis Overstreet: Reverend Louis Overstreet.
Strachwitz: Louis Overstreet, and when were you born?
Rev. Overstreet: In 1921, April 1st.
Strachwitz: And you said you were outside of Baton Rouge
Rev. Overstreet: In Lakeland, Louisiana.
Strachwitz: Lakeland, Louisiana. Were your folks up farming down there?
Rev. Overstreet: No, they were living on a farm.
Strachwitz: Living on a farm, mm-hmm (affirmative). Did they play music, or were they church people at all?
Rev. Overstreet: No musician at all in my family. No ministers in my family.
Strachwitz: Is that right? When did you first have this calling from the Lord, that you mentioned?
Rev. Overstreet: The Lord called me back in 1938, but I prolonged the calling and didn’t go. And I went in-
Strachwitz: How did you… This always interests me, how did you feel that you should go out?
Rev. Overstreet: Well, the Lord speaking to me in a vision. Told me to get a Bible and guitar and go into the highways, preach the Gospel. I didn’t know any music. Didn’t know anything about guitars. Didn’t know one string from another. So I just obeyed the Lord, went and bought a guitar, paid $220 for a Gibson.
Strachwitz: This was in 1938? No.
Rev. Overstreet: No, that’s just when the Lord called me, but I didn’t take heed to the minister to back along in 1948.
Rev. Overstreet: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And that’s when I’d taken heed to the ministry. In other words I bought this guitar and did like the Lord said. About 45 days after I bought it, he gifted me with the music. I didn’t know music of any kind and he gifted me with it.
Strachwitz: How did you… What sort of work did you do before you-
Rev. Overstreet: I used to work at a turpentine plant. I worked 15 years on one job.
Strachwitz: Is that right? Where was that?
Rev. Overstreet: This was in DeQuincy, Louisiana.
Strachwitz: In DeQuincy, all right. What sort of work was there involved? I’m always interested in this-
Rev. Overstreet: Well, they make turpentine, pine oil and gloss oil resin and things like that.
Strachwitz: Was that a pretty… I’ve heard lots of stories from blues thing about turpentine camp. It’s pretty hard work?
Rev. Overstreet: Yeah. Well, this was a farm. It wasn’t a camp. It was a big farm, they worked about 395 men’s, 24 hours a day. In other words, they would distill this turpentine and cook this stuff. And-
Strachwitz: Oh, that was until ’48 that you worked there or was it-
Rev. Overstreet: No, no. I went to work for them in ’41.
Strachwitz: In ’41?
Rev. Overstreet: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Strachwitz: And you stayed with them there for 15 years?
Rev. Overstreet: I stayed with them 15 years.
Strachwitz: Oh, I see, you mean after you started preaching you still continued working there for awhile?
Rev. Overstreet: Oh yeah. I was working with them. I was working with them when I got right into the ministry.
Strachwitz: I see.
Rev. Overstreet: I got right into the ministry it’s like I should. See, I fooled around a little bit after the calling. I didn’t go right on out there, that you know.
Strachwitz: It was hard to do. I mean, you have to make a living too, I guess.
Rev. Overstreet: I worked there 15 years, even in the ministry while I were preaching. I worked there 15 years.
Strachwitz: What sort of work did you do before you went to-
Rev. Overstreet: Before I went there?
Strachwitz: To the factory?
Rev. Overstreet: Oh, I worked for the Bell Telephone Company a while. Cutting right of ways, helping them to put down lines. Well, back in there, that was about my first job, public job.
Strachwitz: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rev. Overstreet: When I went to work for them.
Strachwitz: Did you hear… Oh, when did you start singing in quartets?
Rev. Overstreet: Oh, I was singing when I was like my little boy, about 12 years old. When I first got into the church, like my little boy there. I’ve got one that’s 12 years old now. I started like that.
Strachwitz: Where were you living at that time?
Rev. Overstreet: Baton Rouge.
Strachwitz: In Baton Rouge. Were you staying with your family?
Rev. Overstreet: And my mother.
Strachwitz: And your mother.
Rev. Overstreet: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Strachwitz: And do you remember ever hearing any particular groups that you were impressed by or anything?
Rev. Overstreet: Yes, I used to listen to Golden Gates.
Strachwitz: The Golden Gate singers?
Rev. Overstreet: And that time, they were my favorite.
Strachwitz: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rev. Overstreet: At that time, I used to love enjoying them. And in my childhood I desired to be like them.
Strachwitz: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Were there any other artists that you remember as being-
Rev. Overstreet: No, I remember listening to a lot of others, but it seems like they was the one that I was stuck on to them. And I sung quartet all my days, on up until I was called into the ministry. And even after I was called into the ministry. And I had been in about seven different groups of quartets after I growed into my manhood and none would ever stand. Always would, about the time we get to where we couldn’t meet the public, we’d get the broadcast in a while, something would come up and we would have to separate. So, the last quartet I was in, I was in this little town, DeQuincy, Louisiana, and we had some of the boys in there wasn’t living up to what they was singing. You know how some people are, we will have some in the church like that. We had a couple of boys, one would gamble. He was a Catholic. And we had another one, he was a Baptist and he would drink.
Rev. Overstreet: We had a mixed up first domination of churches in our group. So, I told them that wouldn’t do to serve the Lord, and do these things and go out and expect people to get happy and enjoy and shout off the singing. I said, I’m going to quit y’all and I’m not going to sing anymore quartets. And this was a prophecy, but I didn’t know it. I spoke it. And some of the boys are living today, they could say the same thing, I spoke it. But I didn’t really have a meaning to it. It just came to my mind to speak it and I spoke it. I said, “I’m never going to try to sing in another quartet again until I get me four sons of my own.” I said, “The Lord’s going to bless me with four sons and I’ll have a group that will stay together.”
Rev. Overstreet: And I hadn’t met their mother then. I didn’t know. I wasn’t married. But down through the years the Lord blessed me with these four sons and the Lord brought that back to me. But he made me speak that, and just the way I spoke it, that’s the way it happened. And that’s all we got was four sons, and they’re a wonderful group.
Strachwitz: Amazing. Oh, while we’re speaking about your sons, could you give me their names and when they were born?
Rev. Overstreet: Louis Overstreet Junior, he was born in in ’47, January 25th.
Strachwitz: Is he the young-
Rev. Overstreet: He’s the oldest.
Strachwitz: He’s the oldest. He’s the one that has a pretty good voice-
Rev. Overstreet: Yeah, he’s the one that do most of the leading.
Strachwitz: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rev. Overstreet: And Albert Lee Overstreet, he was born in ’48, February… Let’s see, I don’t want to get that date mixed up. I’m lost on his date.
Strachwitz: I’ll ask him.
Rev. Overstreet: I’m lost on his date. But anyway, he was born in February. I can’t remember that date.
Strachwitz: He’s going to be mad at you for forgetting his birthday.
Rev. Overstreet: I can’t remember that date. He was born on February the… 2nd? February 3rd, February 3rd. And Robert Lee, that’s the third oldest boy, he was born March 12th, and Alvin Sidney, he was born in July 10th.
Strachwitz: What year?
Rev. Overstreet: Robert Lee was born in ’49, March 12th. Alvin Sidney was born in ’50.
Strachwitz: Albert Sidney?
Rev. Overstreet: Yeah, Alvin Sidney was born in ’50.
Strachwitz: Is his first name Albert?
Rev. Overstreet: Alvin.
Strachwitz: Oh, Alvin.
Rev. Overstreet: Alvin. See, we have one named Albert, and one named Alvin. The baby named Alvin. And he was born July 10th, in ’50. In ’50, mm-hmm (affirmative). And he’s the baby.
Strachwitz: Yeah. And they all sing, let me try… Well, when I get picked I’ll try to identify them. The oldest, I think I know. The second one, does he usually play the rub board?
Rev. Overstreet: Yes, he plays the rub board.
Strachwitz: And third one, he’s usually the tambourine-
Rev. Overstreet: He’s usually the symbol.
Strachwitz: Oh, the symbol.
Rev. Overstreet: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Strachwitz: And your youngest?
Rev. Overstreet: The youngest one, he used to, when we had one, he used to use the triangle, but we don’t have one no more.
Strachwitz: Oh, you don’t have any.
Rev. Overstreet: We don’t have one now.
Strachwitz: So, that’s the instrument, that’s particular to Louisiana, is that… I mean, in some of the old accordion music, didn’t you use the triangle to play sometimes?
Rev. Overstreet: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.
Strachwitz: I was wondering, do you ever hear much of that-
Rev. Overstreet: Yes, you don’t hear much of that now. No, no. They done got away from a lot of it now.
Strachwitz: Yeah, it’s kind of a shame.
Rev. Overstreet: Yeah.
Strachwitz: Did you ever sing anything like that?
Rev. Overstreet: No.
Rev. Overstreet: No, I’ve always been a spiritual song singer all of my day. The world thinks I don’t know anything but church. I was in it when I was like my kid, 12 years old. I got baptized in the Baptist church and they taught me the best they know. I didn’t have much… In fact, I didn’t have any action of the world. I didn’t have a chance to get out in the world and learn the world like a lot of people do. I’ve been in church all my days.
Strachwitz: Yeah, well it’s… Let me see, did you have any brothers and sisters?
Rev. Overstreet: Yes. I got five sisters, no brothers. I’m the only boy. I’m the only son-
Strachwitz: Are any of them in the church?
Rev. Overstreet: Well, they were as far as I know. I couldn’t say whether they are now or not. And one of the cool accident was I became a minister and then the Church of God in Christ, this church which I’m serving. I was fortunate enough to preach out my five sisters and my mother and baptized them.
Strachwitz: Oh is that right?
Rev. Overstreet: And I pastored my mother until she died.
Strachwitz: Is that right?
Rev. Overstreet: Yeah. She died in 1958, the 15th day of September.
Strachwitz: Oh. Where did you learn your style or did that just come along?
Rev. Overstreet: That’s just a gift. That’s the way the Lord give it. Just like I play, and so many people tell me I’m different, my music is different from most musicians, guitar players in the church. Well, I don’t know too much about it, but all I know, I do what the Lord give me to do and sometimes I tease people, I say, “Well,” I say, “this music is handed down from on high. Didn’t anybody learn it to me. The Holy Ghost give it to me.”
Rev. Overstreet: Well, it’s true. What I mean, didn’t anybody learn me anything because I never tried to learn anything. The Lord just give it to me, just a gift.
Strachwitz: When you got your guitar, you just sat down with it-
Rev. Overstreet: Just sat down with it. I kept it 45 days and one night in church the Lord just anointed my fingers and that’s why I begin to play.
Strachwitz: Is that right?
Rev. Overstreet: Been playing like that ever since.
Strachwitz: That’s amazing.
Rev. Overstreet: Been like that ever since. And these little boys, they’ve been singing. The oldest boy, I had him… I began to train him when he was four years old to sing. And we would broadcast around when he got six years old. He was on broadcast stations, singing.
Strachwitz: Oh, is that right? Is your wife still with now?
Rev. Overstreet: No. No. We separated and divorced. And been separated for five years.
Strachwitz: I see. I guess your travels have taken you, because when I first tried to locate you, I always talk to your people in Quincy. And they told me you went all over the countries.
Rev. Overstreet: Oh yeah, we travel quite a bit.
Strachwitz: Could you tell us where you sometimes went?
Rev. Overstreet: Oh, we went on back down in Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, where we live, we preached out all the main, big cities there. Like you saw us in Baton Rouge in the streets, we preached in ever large city while there authorities would let us. So many cities they don’t allow.
Strachwitz: Oh, is that right? Where? Could you give us any example of where they gave you trouble about singing?
Rev. Overstreet: Well, at some places they just don’t allow it and such as you take like back down in Jonesboro, Louisiana, and a lot of places they didn’t allow it but being cooperated with the spirit of God, the spirit would say, “Ask no authorities anything, just go and have service.” And not knowing those were some of the cities that they didn’t allow it. And the government of the cities, that is their ruling. But we would go and start service without asking anyone and they would come along and see us doing such of a good job.
Rev. Overstreet: They would break that rule and let us go ahead.
Strachwitz: Oh, is that right?
Rev. Overstreet: They would break that rule, even back in Shreveport, where we used to live. They didn’t allow it. But we went in there and the Lord blessed us, and they give us permission after finding out we’re doing a good job, that they didn’t give anybody else.
Rev. Overstreet: Baton Rouge, Louisiana was the same way. It was an audience against loud speakers out in the……. And they’d allow services on the streets, but when someone was doing such a good job, the police man wouldn’t even reported it. And when they did get into the office, to the chief, that police man, he set me down and told me to tell the chief that we was having service and everything was under good control. Was no disturbing. After he got the report and I did like he said, and we carried on service in that town for about four years. And a lot of good was did. A lot of good. So many people go back to church and hearing these outdoor services. When we on these street services we, in fact, I didn’t preach nomination anywhere. I preach as Christ. And so many people go back to their various churches and so many get saved and go to a church when they hear you out like that.
Rev. Overstreet: And after integration got so bad down South, that is one of the things that’s made it so hard on these outdoor services. And so many ministers were in lobbed into these integration problem until so many of the people that it felt like everybody had something to do with it. And it made it kind of hard. And the only way you probably could get in to have these services was to just go ahead and have them. And say, well if they don’t want me to have them, they would stop me. And which they would. And go ahead on and have them, and after having them, and they find out that you’re doing good, they find out that you’re doing good. Then, they don’t bother you. They listen to what you’re saying. After they find out that you’re doing a good job, and that you’re not rousing up integration, they let you alone.
Strachwitz: Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, you mean they thought that you were…….
Rev. Overstreet: Yeah, yeah. They’ll get the police men around by the group and they hear what you’re saying. And when they find out that you’re preaching Jesus and not trying to stir up integration and messing with that, well then they let you alone. So, we went all over the South preaching and out in Texas. Here in Arizona. Out in Nevada, California. We even been all down in the Gulf. Other words, we’ve carried the gospel quite a space in this type way. And we’re really known as far as being known.
Rev. Overstreet: Being known as far as being known.
Strachwitz: You certainly were, like I tried to hunt you down at every place. They immediately knew who you were when I said…
Rev. Overstreet: And most everybody know us by the Father and The Son or the Overstreet Brothers. And they call them the little Overstreet Brothers.
Strachwitz: When did you first come to Phoenix?
Rev. Overstreet: July. I came to Phoenix July 3rd.
Strachwitz: Which year was that?
Rev. Overstreet: That was in ’61.
Strachwitz: Last year?
Rev. Overstreet: So, last year. Last year. Last year.
Strachwitz: And you started out on the street, how did you-
Rev. Overstreet: Right on Broadway. Hooked up to a nightclub called Trotter’s Inn.
Strachwitz: Trotter’s Inn? You mean you just went outside to play?
Rev. Overstreet: On the outside.
Strachwitz: On Broadway?
Rev. Overstreet: On Broadway. It’s where we got started. And wasn’t intended to stay here, just intend to stop. I was scheduled for Los Angeles for the Fourth of July, but this is where I got in. This is where the Lord said stay. This is where we stayed.
Rev. Overstreet: Been here ever since.
Strachwitz: Hmm. And how did you happen to come into the church? Was it vacated by someone?
Rev. Overstreet: No. It was another minister had build this church. And he said the Lord told him to build it, but not to pastor it. So, he was just waiting until God send the right person along. So, he choose me to be the right person, and I suspect I was because the Lord told me to stay after he offered me the church. And the Lord really blessed us. They had a revivial here. About 53 days and in the 53 days we had 135 souls added to the church. We don’t have that many now because Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a man casting out a net. And the good he keep and the bad he throw back. So, so many went back. We had the largest baptizing that had been in this city rather than Reverend A. Allen. It’s what the people told us, that it was the largest baptizing that had been here. We baptized 49 in August last year. And the Lord had give us success in the church, and now, our church with our young people, in all we stand around about 100.
Strachwitz: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rev. Overstreet: Membership. They all didn’t attend. I think we come to the city, we didn’t have a pillow to lay our head on. So, you see the surrounding now.
Rev. Overstreet: The Lord blessed me just little better than a year. I reckon this is where the Lord wanted me to stop traveling.
Strachwitz: Well, when you do your songs, like for example, the one that always keep sticking in my mind is that “Jesus Said It”, where you lead. Where did you hear a song like that?
Rev. Overstreet: Well, that’s one of our songs that we’ve always used in the Church of God in Christ. We’ve always used that church. When I got in it I found them singing that song. And as last I said, so many of the songs that we sing, we rearrange ourselves.
Strachwitz: When did you-
Rev. Overstreet: It’s a lot of songs you hear sing, you don’t hear nobody sing them like we sing them because they’re our own arrangement.
Strachwitz: Yeah. When did you… You say you were baptized in a Baptist church. When did you join ….the Church of Christ?
Rev. Overstreet: The Church of God in Christ? I got into the Church of God in Christ in 1940.
Strachwitz: Oh, that’s when you became a minister also.
Rev. Overstreet: Yeah.
Strachwitz: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, you’re saying most of those songs are traditional songs-
Rev. Overstreet: Yes.
Strachwitz: Being in the Church of Christ-
Rev. Overstreet: Mm-hmm (affirmative), they were singing them when I… Singing that particular song when I got in. It’s an old Bible verse. I mean, he that believe on me, the scripture you said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. And that is what the song contains. Jesus said he that believe on me, out of your belly and out of your belly shall flow river of living water.
Strachwitz: I was just curious, do you draw most of your messages from the Old Testament or from the New Testament?
Rev. Overstreet: Well, no, most of mine comes from the New Testament.
Strachwitz: New Testament.
Rev. Overstreet: New Testament. I preach out of the old Bible, but we living in a news sensation, we’re living in the Holy Ghost sensation, we’re living in the New Testament time. And that’s what we try to teach and preach out of because the Bible says that things were written before time was written…… All of the Bible is good for man, but I feel like we accept the New Testament, you’ve accepted enough to please the Lord. Although we like to go back and get the old Bible and remind people of what the old patriarch went through with, what they had to stand that some of us don’t have to stand and do and go through. And now, things have been so much better and so much easier for folks to please God and lived saved than what it was back in those days. People used to get killed trying to live saved. And get beat up and their head cut off.
Rev. Overstreet: Nowadays, if you’re a person, get just a few hard words say to them and that’s all. And some of them don’t want to live saved. But I’ll be able, if we live in the New Testament, we’ll do a good job. Do a good job, and that’s all it takes for us to live saved is the New Testament, although I preach out the old Bible too, but most of it is in the New Testament. Because the New Testament is we’re living in the covenant of the Lord and it speaks of that, covenant of the Lord.
Strachwitz: I’m curious, this is from a kind of music point of view. I was wondering, do you remember when you first join the Church of God in Christ, did you often find horn players in your church? Like trumpets or trombones?
Rev. Overstreet: Oh yes, yes. They’ve always had all types of music, every types of music that any other orchestra have. You’ll find it one time another in some church. We’re not able to have them all together at one time in one place, one church. But various churches, some have guitars, some have pianos, some have organs, some have saxophone, clarinets, trumpet, trombones. You’ll find somebody maybe in this church that play a …….., somebody in the next one play the trombone.
Rev. Overstreet: Somebody in some other church play the violin. You find every type of music in this church that you’ll find in the world.