Juanita Arizona Dranes was one of the earliest gospel performers to bring sanctified music to a wide audience, both through her recordings for Okeh, and through her performances during the 1920's. There is some doubt concerning the accuracy of her birth surname, Drane, Drain or even Doran have been suggested as her actual name. Nevertheless she was recorded as Dranes and she has been credited for introducing musical accompaniment to gospel singing, it having previously been considered that singing a cappella was more appropriate to sanctified music. Dranes accompanied herself on piano playing in popular ragtime and barrelhouse styles.


She was born in Sherman, Texas in 1891, of both African-American and Mexican descent, although some doubt has been cast recently on her possible Mexican heritage. Born blind, she attended an institution in Austin for deaf, dumb and blind children from 1897 to 1912. After leaving the institute, she moved backed to Sherman where she lived for several years. When she was in her early thirties she moved first to the Dallas area and then on to Wichita Falls, where she began playing the piano for The Church of God in Christ. She had been there about a year when the local minister suggested to Okeh talent scout Richard M. Jones that she be given a recording test. This eventually led to Okeh sending their very successful artist Sara Martin  to Texas to help the blind Dranes make the journey to Chicago for her recording test in June 1926. It was so successful that the six records resulting from it were all issued. Arizona Dranes was used to working with a chorus, and on two titles Sara Martin helped to fulfil this role. The last two sides she recorded that day were virtually sanctified barrelhouse piano solos, practically unique in the 1920s.

Dranes returned to Chicago later in 1926 and this time she was supported by the Rev. Ford Washington McGee and His Jubilee Choir. Rev. McGee himself went on to become a popular recording artist for Victor and he had Dranes to thank for this. Dranes last recordings in her own right were made in July 1928 when she led a chorus of her own on six sides, two of which were not issued. At some point after this she moved to Chicago, and there, and on tour, she remained a very popular artist amongst gospel circles. She was known to still be performing in Cleveland in 1947 but this is last known reference to her. She is believed to have died in the early 1960's, possibly in 1963. Although virtually unknown to the today's music public, the gospel style she pioneered continued to influence gospel music and later gospel artists such as Roberta Martin, Clara Ward and Sister Rosetta Tharpe were heavily influenced by both her piano playing and singing style.



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