Woman's late brother still popular abroad
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 1, 2004 1:58 PM
Carolyn Sherard knew her brother had been a singer in New York in the 1960s. She had several of the 45 rpm records he brought home to the family to prove it.
What she didn't know until recently, though, was that he continues to have a large following in England.
Ms. Sherard works in the composing department at the Goldsboro News-Argus. Her desk is a few feet away from David Rouse, Web master for the on-line edition of the paper. Rouse typically handles e-mails with questions from the public.
Last month, he received an e-mail from someone looking for Donald Height. When Rouse inquired in the office if anyone had ever heard of the man, Ms. Sherard happened to be there.
"That was my brother," she replied.
Rouse responded to the inquiry, and soon after, Ms. Sherard received a letter from David Cole of the British magazine "In the Basement" along with the February issue. The magazine featured an interview with singer Freddie Scott, who was asked about fellow singer Height. Scott commented that he believed Height had moved to North Carolina, but had lost touch.
Phil Newton of Oldham, England, is a collector of soul music records and belongs to an Internet soul discussion group. He first became interested in Height's music in 1969 when he heard a song "Talk of the Grapevine."
For the past two years, he has tried to find Height. When he read the interview with Scott, he e-mailed about a dozen papers in North Carolina trying to find him. One of them was the News-Argus.
Ms. Sherard had to respond that her brother had died in 1999.
Cole persisted, calling Height "one of soul music's great unsung artists" and wrote Ms. Sherard that he wanted to pay tribute to him, not only in an obituary but with a feature article. He requested a telephone interview with her.
Ms. Sherard said she spoke with Cole over the weekend and made arrangements for a telephone interview for Saturday. In the meantime, she is sifting through the memories this has stirred.
Her older brother was gone for most of her childhood, she said. He attended Dillard High School in the 1950s, joined the Navy and later went to New York, where he became a singer.
"He'd come home and visit and bring his" records, she said. "My other brother would sometimes take them to school and let his friends listen to them."
Height's music could be described as a cross between Motown soul and beach music. He wrote his own songs and many received play on the radio.
"My mom used to go into stores and if his song was playing on the radio, she'd say, 'That's my son,'" Ms. Sherard said. "People would act like they didn't believe us. Then at the end of the song, they'd announce his name."
She said Height moved back to Goldsboro in the 1970s and lived with her in Seven Springs for a time before he moved to Kinston. He worked in the sheetrock business until his death due to kidney failure at age 59.
She said she does not know how many songs Height wrote and released, but was sent a compilation CD that contained 21 selections and learned that a 43-track double CD is also being put together.
"I'm a flood victim, so I lost a lot of his " records, she said. "This is one of the nicest things someone could have done for me, because I lost a lot of the records."
She said it has been nice growing up knowing her brother was a singer, but admits it has been a big surprise to realize the magnitude of his popularity.
"I didn't know how much he had traveled," she said. "I didn't know that many people were still trying to find him and still love his music."
Despite its being a "total shock" to be notified, she said it had been uplifting for her.
"It made me feel good," she said. "I was glad to know that someone was looking for him; someone was still interested in him and his music."
Ms. Sherard has kept the news low-key at this point. Her mother has since passed away and her siblings are scattered. She said she plans to have copies of Height's music made in time for an upcoming visit and will surprise them with the recording.
"I want to put it on and watch their faces when they hear it," she said.
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