Everyone has dreams of “making it” when they are young, but very few actually manage to turn those dreams into reality. The Como Mamas are watching their dreams unfold right before their eyes. The Mamas, a gospel group comprised of Ester Mae Wilbourn, 62, Angela Taylor, 44, and Della Daniels, 61, keep it all in the family. Daniels and Taylor are sisters, and Wilbourn is their first cousin. Wilbourn and Daniels are close in age, but there is about a 20-year gap between themselves and Taylor. The sisters grew up singing together in church and everywhere else that they could. When Wilbourn and Daniels were in their 40s and Taylor was in her 20s, the ladies formed a gospel group with several other female friends. They had no formal training, but they grew up singing gospel music in church, and did not really have a desire to sing anything else. The group sang wherever they could, mainly at different churches across the region. Over the years the group disassembled, leaving just Daniels, Taylor and Wilbourn.While the trio never sought out fame, the opportunity came knocking in 2007. Daniels had called many different companies lend an ear to Taylor’s son’s music group. Finally, a music scout by the name of Michael Riley, found through a mutual friend in Nashville, called to say he was coming to town. However, when he got there the boys were not prepared to sing. So Daniels, Taylor, and Wilbourn sang for him instead. After he heard a single song, Riley knew he had found something amazing.
Riley told the three women that he just might come back and record them. “He said, ‘All of your voices are different, but when y’all sing together, it blends,’” Daniels says. He did listen to Angela’s son’s group sing that night (and helped them make a music video), but he already had his eye on Taylor, Wilbourn and Daniels. Several months later, he returned to make a recording. They recorded 20 songs that day in Wilbourn and Daniels’ Sunday morning stomping grounds, Mount Mariah Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. After that trip, Riley called them and said the people at Daptone Records, based out of Brooklyn, New York, wanted to hear even more voices from the Como area. Riley asked Daniels to round up singers for his next visit. Daniels did as she was told, and when Riley returned, he recorded Wilbourn, Daniels, Taylor, and the 14 other singers that showed up. Those 14 consisted of Tricia Edwards, Sandra Edwards, Georgia Edwards, George Edwards, Raymond and Joella Walker, Tambra Jones, Tara Jones, Tawana Jones, Dorothy Jones, Brittany Jones, Irene Stevenson, Robert Walker, and Mary Moore. The recordings from that day were compiled into an album titled Como Now: the Voices of Panola Co., Mississippi.
Daptone Records signed The Como Mamas, and the three women have been living out their dreams ever since. They have performed at events all around the country and sang at a variety of music festivals in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, and most recently performed at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. “It’s exciting how people receive us when we get up on stage to sing. They cheer us on, and it just makes you feel good when you’re doing something that’s filling people’s spirits,” Wilbourn says. When it comes to their own musical influences, all three maintain that they just enjoy music in general. “Music tells a story. It just depends on what mood I’m in,” Taylor says. The ladies name Dottie Peoples, Shirley Caesar, and the gospel tunes of Elvis Presley as favorites, however.
In January of this year, The Como Mamas’ second album, an all-a capella record containing thirteen gospel covers, Get An Understanding was released. Most of the songs that the Mamas perform on the album are songs that they heard growing up in church, and songs that were sung by their parents and grandparents. “What you grow up with sticks with you,” Daniels says. The title of the album came from the women’s favorite book, the Bible. “I told Michael that one thing the Bible says is ‘above all, get an understanding.’ He liked it. We wanted people to get an understanding of what we’re saying,” Daniels says. Understanding is also the reason that Get An Understanding is an all-a capella record. They feel that oftentimes music can drown out the words in songs, and they wanted to make sure that their message was heard. They mentioned that there would probably be music accompanying their vocals on their next album, though.
Samples of the ladies’ music can be found on YouTube, and anyone wanting to purchase either Como Now or Get An Understanding can do so through Amazon, or, as recommended by the Mamas, through the Daptone Records website at daptonerecords.com.
Music | August 2013
The Como Mamas
Small town gospel trio sings their story
Story by Natalie Troutt | Photos by Zack Smith