Tobi Lark and Toronto

Bessie Grace Gupton was born in Alabama and grew up in Detroit singing gospel music with the Emma Washington Gospel Singers starting at age nine. Her first recording was “Deed I Do” in 1963 as Bessie Watson, backed by the Cannonball Adderly Quintet. She also recorded a number of singles under the name Tobi Lark.

In the mid-60s she moved to Montreal Canada and played at Expo ‘67, then moved to Toronto and worked with Ronnie Hawkins. In 1970, she recorded “We’re All In This Together“ live at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church with a gospel choir of about 80 singers and local musicians (including lead guitar by Kim Mitchell). The song made it to 38 on the RPM charts in 1970 - it’s a stunning performance:

In 1968 she recorded ‘Time Will Pass You By‘ in Detroit which was released under the name Tobi Legend - it didn’t do much until it got picked up by the Northern Soul scene in the UK (in particular as one of the “3 Before 8” closing songs after all-nighters at the Wigan Casino club). As a result, it features on a number of Northern Soul compilations - here is the great Time Will Pass You By:

Images courtesy of Toronto Public Library - you should go!