Reviews – ELDER UTAH SMITH ..I Got Two Wings: Incidents and Anecdotes of The Two-Winged Preacher and Electric Guitar Evangelist.. (CASE104)

ARSC Awards for Excellence
WINNER!  [ Best Research in Recorded Blues, Rhythm & Blues, or Soul Music ]


"Two Wings: It's an absolute stunner! .. Lynn Abbott deserves every accolade for producing such a sterling work. Walk, run, or (even) fly to secure copy." –fRoots (UK)


"[An] extraordinary production, which is a credit to everyone involved. Jaw-dropping music and near-perfect presentation should be enough for anyone. I bought the copy reviewed online here and I'll be lucky to spend $24 ($18 for Americans) more wisely this year." –BLUES & RHYTHM (UK), Howard Rye

"As easy as it might be to describe this as a book that happens to include a CD, that fact is, it's truly a collection of sounds so overwhelming in their intensity, significant in their historic importance, and infectious well beyond the limits of conventional vocabulary or physical expression that they demanded not liner notes but a tome expounding on the subject. + Abbott's book is miracle of research (&) meticulously complete." –THE OLD-TIME HERALD, Bruce Miller

"It's difficult to praise this totally engaging project enough!" –BIG CITY BLUES, Gary von Tersch

"..a molten meld of evangelical ecstasy, wooly fills, and whiplash runs. .. The rafters will shake and your pulse will quicken: Hallelujah, crank the volume! .. A tremendous book fills in all the details with text, photographs, newspaper clippings, and personal interviews galore." –THE BLUESRAG, Dennis Rozanski

"We’re interested now because Smith’s music still has power to transport you to another place, whether you do God or you don’t. The CD is revelatory. Although the basic ingredients never change, the six radically different versions of “Two Wings” find Smith keeping his ear to the outside world. On “Two Wings Flying Home”, cut under the alias of Brother Bill Louis in the early 1950s, Smith ponders the terrifying possibility of The Bomb, and the distinction between Smith’s electricity and the stately acoustic “I Have Good News To Bring” by Sister Rosetta Tharpe (also included on the CD) is equivalent to Pete Seeger’s old-worldly charms put against electric Dylan. Smith’s message has readied itself for a plugged-in world: Hendrix is just on the horizon." –THE WIRE, Philip Clark

ROLLING STONE Fricke’s Picks: God’s Guitar Hero, Elder Utah Smith
The electric riff was still a recent miracle when Elder Utah Smith, a superstar evangelist and guitarist from northwest Louisiana, first recorded his signature ascension song, “I Got Two Wings,” in 1944. He meant what he sang: Smith typically presided at services in giant homemade seraphim wings. But his musical gifts were very much of this earth: a pitted roar as big and deep as Howlin’ Wolf’s; an agile clawing attack on guitar, a rough mix of runaway Robert Johnson and sanctified Charlie Christian. Smith, who died in 1965, cut multiple versions of his hymn for different labels, each a proto–rock & roll train to glory, and they are all on the CD that comes with Lynn Abbott’s brief, energetic biography, I Got Two Wings: Incidents and Anecdotes of the Two–Winged Preacher and Electric Guitar Evangelist. The disc also has related vintage gospel recordings, but Smith’s holy fire shines brightest every time he straps on those “Two Wings.” –David Fricke

“Man alive, every year there's an old-timey collection or two that you just gotta get, and let me tell you this stellar package documenting the life and milieu of traveling evangelist for the Church of God in Christ Elder Utah Smith is just such an essential object. .. He didn't record much, but what he did is incredible and the first 45 seconds of this disc alone oughta knock you out, such imaginative shredding has rarely been heard! This is a spirited and transcendent collection that also features killer cuts from Arizona Dranes, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sister Sarah James, and others. –Michael Klausmann

“..this handsome book/CD package [is] nothing less than essential, not only for its historical value, but for the undeniable energy in the music.”  –Rochester City Newspaper, Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

eMUSIC Feature
“ is here confronted with gospel that rocks harder than 95 percent of any rock and roll ever recorded. Thanks to I Got Two Wings, we can all be aware of the Two Winged Preacher's role in pre-rock and roll pandemonium — wonderful music, the likes of which you've never heard.” –Michael McGonigal

NOW (Toronto)
“A revelatory introduction to the explosive spirit-raising experiments blasted out in the name of Jesus years before the advent of rock ’n’ roll.” –Tim Perlich

“There’s no denying the power and singular importance of Elder Utah Smith’s sanctification of the electric gospel. It’s easy enough to hear his sacred exuberance in the post-war blues, gospel, and soon-to-be rock ‘n roll sound. Yet, despite the charisma and influence Smith wielded – not in just in his own Church of God in Christ but in African-American scared music as a whole – his legacy has not been understood outside of his small community of friends, appreciators, scholars and collectors. What Lynn Abbott’s small but enlightening investigation of the man behind the religious force does is provide a personal and definitive document on Smith’s place in history. The rarities of both song and story present here illuminate a real character worthy of story, and praise, and a whole lot of testifying.” –Evan Hanlon

“While one might be tempted to check out this release based on historical curiosity, Smith's performance style doesn't lend itself to mere academic consideration. The CD consecrates Smith as an essential artist rather than just an important one.”
–Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


“This project is a gift to gospel music scholars, enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the roots of today's African American sacred music. It's the best of both worlds: Lynn Abbott has contributed a fascinating examination of the life and music of Elder Utah Smith, and CaseQuarter has compiled the original soundtrack, with rarities to please even the most rabid collector. Praise be to CaseQuarter for giving wings - "two wings" - to the story of an underappreciated but important figure in gospel music history.”
– Bob Marovich, Host, "Gospel Memories" - WLUW 88.7 Chicago

“I vividly remember the first time I heard Reverend Utah Smith in 1965 on a 78 rpm record on the Two Wing Temple label.  God, what a sound!  Screaming vocals by Rev. Smith, heated responses by a chorus of young women, and manic, distorted electric guitar with the volume knob turned all the way up. Since that time I have longed to know more about this mysterious evangelist and pioneer of the electric guitar but have learned very little.  Now, after more than forty years of waiting, Smith's story is finally here, and we all can read this wonderful and extensive biography by Lynn Abbott, gleaned from press accounts and interviews of family members, friends, fellow musicians and members of the Church of God in Christ.  It turns out that Smith was a major player in the growth of America's largest predominantly black Pentecostal denomination.  This is a remarkable story that opens up a world of music little known outside church circles.”
– Dr. David Evans, The University of Memphis

“Long derided in some pulpits as a tool of the Devil, the electric guitar was nothing short of a sanctified soul-saving device in the clutches of evangelist Elder Utah Smith. He spent a lifetime conjuring ecstatic sounds in the service of Holy Ghost revivals across the nation, but Smith, buried in an unmarked grave in 1965, has largely been forgotten. So all praises to Lynn Abbott for I Got Two Wings, a work of meticulous research and devotion that weaves together eyewitness accounts, personal testimony and dusty documents from the historical record to resurrect the glorious and charismatic life of an unsung hero.”
– Doug Schulkind, host of "Give the Drummer Some" on WFMU-FM (

From the text:
"Utah Smith had that guitar .. and had a big old tent there on Calliope Street. Boy, that’s where all the people came. We sang there every night. And we had a time! That’s where the happenings were. What you talking about! Old Utah would get out there with that guitar, and had him some wings on his legs, wings on his shoulders, and a thing on his cap with two wings up there. And he used to sing .. his theme song, ‘I Want Two Wings.’ Boy, you talk about rocking!" –an interview with quartet singer Paul Exkano by author Lynn Abbott

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