Carolyn Traylor’s story began in Greenville Texas. Born to Malissa Jane Key and Cranford Traylor were: Elmer, Helen, Evelyn, Annie, Earnestine, Melvin, Rubye, Curtis, J.T., Roy, C.T. and the baby of the family Carolyn who was born July 30, 1960. Her mother was a homemaker and her father ran a cemetery service.
A vivacious and charismatic personality, Carolyn Traylor is one of the new breed of young singers keeping traditional gospel music alive; Bil Carpenter author of *Uncloudy Days The Gospel Music Encyclopedia © 2005, noted.
Carolyn’s story almost took a turn that would have stopped her music career cold, she recalled in her conversation with Bill Carpenter. *She sang in church until she sang a bad note on Sunday and a church elder smirked, "I thought that Traylor girl could sing." Her confidence was so wounded that Traylor stopped singing and attending church altogether. After graduating from Greenville High School, she enrolled at Texas Southern University as a criminal justice major. A classmate named Cynthia heard Traylor sing under her breath when R&B music was playing on the radio. She kept prodding Traylor to come to church with her until Traylor finally gave in. "So, I went to the choir rehearsal with her and didn't know it was a divine set-up," she laughs.
The rehearsal took place across the street from the University at the Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church. There Traylor met the music minister, Olivia Branch Walker, who was well-known in the Houston gospel community. It turns out that Cynthia had been telling Walker about Traylor's vocal ability. "I was so embarrassed and at that age," she recalls. "The only church song I could remember was "Trouble in My Way" and I didn't know most of that. But I sat there by the steps while she was at the piano and I sang enough of it for her to say that I had potential. She was a student at Texas, Southern in the music department, so everything she learned in class, she came back and taught us in rehearsal. Everything that I know, I learned from her."
Traylor joined the church and Walker became her mentor. Traylor even had her first recording experience under Walker's guidance. She backed Walker on her 1986 LP New Life and led the song "Tell it." However, Traylor's music career was cut short. One morning she received two calls from two doctors. "One said that my mother had six months to live," she recalls. "The other said my father had a year to live" She returned home to Greenville and nursed her parents though the balance of their lives. Her mother died of a heart attack in December 1987 and her father died of cancer a year later. Traylor was working a 9-5 job when Bessie Armstrong staged a big concert with Willie Neal Johnson & the Gospel Keynotes and the Canton Spirituals in 1991. Traylor opened the concert and Johnson took a liking to her.
Traylor spent two years on the road with Johnson and he introduced her to his record label, Malaco. At the same time, she was going through marital problem and eventually divorced. "Thank God for deliverance," she laughs;" it did make me work harder. With a divorce comes a sense of failure that pushes you to a degree. If nothing else you want the ministry to work; it also left a lot of free time so I could do ministry."
Although she was signed to Malaco, it was a long time before Traylor's CD would be released. She was extremely discouraged when she ran into Dr. Bobby Jones on the road. "I told him everything, I felt that with the new young up and coming singers on the rise that maybe my time had passed. Dr. Jones didn't say a word," she recalls. "Five months went by when Dr. Jones’ music director Derrick Lee invite me to accompany “New Life” to Italy for their Annual Easter concert.
“God imparted some trailblazers like Dr. Jones to encourage me to keep moving on.” Carolyn met gospel legend Dorothy Norwood when she was recording an album in Texas. “The singer who was to sing a solo cancelled at the last minute.” Norwood and Lee tried to think of who could replace the singer. Lee suggested Carolyn Traylor. "God has allowed me to get a lot of leftovers," she laughs. "But they are good when you're hungry.
Later, Malaco in preparation for Traylor’s CD debut, “Don't Wanna Be Left Behind“, called in Evangelist Dorothy Norwood and Derrick Lee to produce the album. Released in 2000 to positive reviews, the project spun hits such as “Nobody Can Beat God Being God”, “Jesus is Real” and “Just Don’t Trust Him” featuring Dorothy Norwood.
Carolyn’s sophomore project was appropriately entitled “There’s A Story Behind My Praise” she joined forces with producers, David Blakely and Marquis Egerton and such writers as V. Michael McKay, Derrick Stark and Renitha Macklin, giving us hits such as its title track, “There’s A Story Behind My Praise”, “It’s Already Yours” “Deep Down In My Heart.”
In April 2011 in anticipation of the release of her 3rd CD, Carolyn, her record label and label mates experienced the unbelievable. Malaco Records “a piece of music and Mississippi” was hit by a tornado. Malaco’s Historic Marker was almost the only thing left standing. A powerful tornado shredded two of the three buildings in the compound and Malaco was literally reduced to rubble! I was devastated to find out that Malaco had been so severely damaged. You can imagine how I felt when I found out my work did not escape the storms destruction. So you can also imagine how thankful I was that some of the project was saved including the single “Good To Me”, released in 2013. “I’m thrilled that Malaco is being rebuilt and equally excited about the progress we are now making in getting the full project completed.”
Carolyn has shared the stage both nationally and internationally with such artists as Dr. Bobby Jones, (the late) Ms. Albertina Walker, Pastor Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin, The Williams Brothers, Myron Butler, Paul Porter and Vicki Winans to name a few.
Carolyn was nominated for GMWA’s (Gospel Music Workshop of America) Traditional Artist Award and has won numerous awards including two in 2008, The Texas Excellence “Trailblazer Award” and the “National Female Gospel Soloist of the Year” Award at the Mississippi Gospel Music Awards.
Now Carolyn says, “When I look back over my life to times when I was so weak from crying I could hardly raise my head; God gave me the strength to raise a hymn. Now I thank him all over again because I know that no matter how things may seem, He is continuing to write my”
*Uncloudy Days The Gospel Music Encyclopedia by Bil Carpenter
Joy Comes Magazine
Excerpt from article “Storm Destroys Malaco Records” by Howard Ballou