The fulfilled smile would be a good place to start. Glaring charm and personality are both great first-impression traits. A voice filled with spirit, a wardrobe symbolic of a gentleman, a warm heart pulsating with love: any of these make excellent lead-offs. Usually descriptions about Music World Gospel recording artist Elder Goldwire McLendon begin with pointing out his age. But is the Sunday Best Season 3 first runner-up tired of people mentioning him being in his 80s? “I’m excited about it, to tell you the truth,” says the Philadelphia native singer and pastor. “And there’s gotta be some more people my age that’s still singing in America!”
The oldest American contemporary solo artist signed to a major recording deal, McLendon’s generous nature and experience-swollen stature supersedes the fruit of his signature or his more than 29,500 calendar days of history. Listening to his album The Best of Elder Goldwire McLendon, one should learn fairly quickly McLendon is not living because of his past. Clearly, it’s his future he’s living for.
Soul Train: Elder McLendon, is there an age limit on blessings?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: Now you’re really getting deep… Is there an age limit??! When you go back to The Old Testament there was no age limit then! God said he’ll give you threescore and ten, and the rest by the reason of strength. What does that say? Strength will take you on for more years.
Soul Train: Have you received a blessing that you felt more receptive of than others?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: No… I don’t think so… Hmm… [Pause] I’ve always felt like that song says, “What’s for you is for you, and what’s for me is for me”. I just receive what I receive and glorify God for what he gave me.
Soul Train: You’ve been married 60 years. Among those blessings you’ve received where does your wife rank?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: Oh boy… I don’t know how to express that about my wife. Yes, we’ve been together 60 years. My wife is just beautiful, even with her condition. She was declared Alzheimer’s.We worked together a long time pastoring in Georgia. She has been my inspiration, taught me a lot of things when we got married. She finished college and she blessed her husband. She has been a tremendous asset to my life!
Soul Train: Alzheimer’s surely creates a number of emotional challenges. So how often do you sing to her just to express your love?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: Oh my goodness… Just about everyday! [Laughs] I sing to her because we used to sing together. Before we got married we used to sing together around Philadelphia. I try to sing to her all the time – and she just smiles.
Soul Train: How has your family handled dealing with her condition?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: My family is just awesome–my immediate children and my grandchildren! When I came home that night…in March of 2010… [Sighs] when I stepped in the door of my apartment in West Philly my daughter just fell to floor. And I thank God for her because she’s been a big help to me. They all feel like she felt.
Soul Train: Do you explain to your grandchildren how your life has changed?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: I just enjoy the looks on their faces. They come to me like they’ve never done before, and they just express their love to me. I appreciate what they give me. And I guess it’s a tribute to my being such a…can I say this: a well-known singer? [Laughs]
Soul Train: I think you’ve earned the right to say that!
Elder Goldwire McLendon: I don’t feel like it. People tell me I’m a star. I say, C’mon y’all. [Laughs]
Soul Train: How was gospel music different in the south from the way you experienced it on the east coast?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: Well I used to sing in quartets, so it took me awhile to adapt. I was told I had to stop chewing up my words. That’s when I began to revert from the quartet style to choir singing and leading a song.
Soul Train: Are those southern elements still present in how you sing now?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: No… Maybe a little bit. On faster songs I think about it when I’m doing those, when my words are going fast I think about the quartet style. But the rest of my singing? No.
Soul Train: Elder McLendon, who does the singing style dubbed “Old Time Gospel” sound so much like blues?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: Blues??! Oh my goodness… If it sounds like blues, that’s not gospel. That’s my terminology. Gospel is gospel; it has a touch in it just like the hymns do! You get a feeling from it, and not to be entertained! I don’t sing to entertain nobody. I sing to minister. I sing to stir them up!
Soul Train: Any type of singing can take its toll, so do you pray for your voice to have strength?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: I pray every night, in the morning, and sometimes in between that the Lord will keep me active and my voice to sing unto him. I ask him to use me, to touch my voice that I may help somebody, that I my touch hearts. That’s in my daily prayer. That’s my desire: Not to entertain, but to sing for the glory and honor of Him! Bless the hearer.
Soul Train: Which blessing has been the most beneficial to you – all your years of life you’ve been given or this voice to use throughout all your years?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: I’ve got so many blessings in my mind right now, looking back as you say that…Oh my goodness… Oh Lord… I’ve been singing so long I don’t know how to determine that. God sings through me to touch people’s hearts, the anointing flows through our midst, I’m excited when God does that. Getting married to my wife was exciting, and we sang together. So it’s been exciting through the years to sing to the Lord.
Soul Train: A lot of things about life can be so exciting they’re addicting. So has there ever been something on earth you’ve struggled with detaching yourself from?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: I’ll crack you up talking about this: Since Sunday Best I’ve been approached in “such a way”, I had to let one person know I could not do anything “like that”. I am Holy Ghost-filled and baptized, and I don’t want to be involved with anything that is not of God. So I detached myself from that. I refuse to be a part of what the world is projecting! We’re in the world but be not of it. I am not of the world; the world has gone crazy! Some of that stuff the world has brought into the churches.
Soul Train: After 80-plus years of life, living through 8 vastly different decades and all they’ve thrown at you, what are you most looking forward to about your time in heaven?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: Oh my goodness… [sings] “I know if I live right Heaven belongs to me!” I look forward to living so God will not condemn me to the lower parts, but to welcome him. I’m looking forward to that day, when it comes, to enter into the joys of the Lord.
Soul Train: How do you encourage others to want to get to heaven, too?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: It is wonderful when you obey God. His word is there to lead you and to guide you. If you go against his commands you suffer the consequences, but if you follow him you’ll be blessed immensely in this world. Not only to walk into glory and be headed into the gates, but he wants to bless you here on this earth!
Soul Train: Is there anything you’re afraid to leave behind?
Elder Goldwire McLendon: I hate to leave behind the person professing to be a Christian but not living the life. I’m afraid to leave them behind. And I’ll be praying that they will begin to see the purpose and the plan for their lives by God.
For more on Elder Goldwire McLendon visit MusicWorldGospel.com and follow him on Twitter @ELDERGOLDWIRE.
–Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, is an acclaimed entertainment and news journalist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Former Editor In Chief of both XPOZ Magazine and The Underwire Interactive Magazine, his work has graced the pages and covers of Hear/Say Now Magazine, Notion Magazine, Kalamazoo Gazette Newspaper, MLive.com, and AllHipHop.com. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker. Also visit TheGrooveSpt.com and ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.