And still more good things are coming their way with the recent
hiring of superstar promoter Selwyn Miller as their manager.
Discussions are underway for more touring dates including the
possibilities of performing in South Africa and South Korea.
Specializing in classics from the 1950s through the Motown,
Soul, Disco and other eras, right up to the present, the group has
opened shows for such stellar acts as the O’Jays and Maze featuring
Frankie Beverly. They have sung privately for world-renowned
producer Quincy Jones and the eight-time Grammy-winning a
cappella group, Take Six. And these are just a few of the musical
greats they’ve rubbed shoulders with over their long career, both
internationally and locally.
“The uniqueness of this group is that there are four lead singers
with distinctly different voices that have managed to create a
unique harmonic blend,” Baptiste said. “Because the voices are
uniquely different, it gives us a vast variation in how we present
the material that we sing.”
As examples, Baptiste cited the brand of Soul exemplified by
James Brown and Otis Redding, the R&B styling of Sam Cooke
and Jackie Wilson, the romantic love songs of the Stylistics and
Delfonics, the pop tunes of the Beatles and Tom Jones and even
the hard-driving beat of Disco.
“So it’s a very diverse approach we take and we’re still true to
the authentic old school presentation,” Baptiste added. “All of
the guys dress alike and there is choreography scripted to each
song that allows us to tell a story and not just be a great voice.”
“We offer our audiences a complete entertainment experience,”
Mims added. “We’ve been doing this for so long we know what it
takes to put on a quality show. We don’t just stand up there and
sing. You’ve got to get the people involved in what you’re doing.
You want them to participate.
"People love it when we get them up there on that stage, take
off our jackets and put them on them," Mims said. "Or when you
walk out (into the audience) and give a young lady a rose that you
had in your hand and you sing to her. Or you take them out on
the floor and dance with them. Those are the things that people
like and you make them a part of that experience. You want to
keep those people coming to see you and they do.”
Barnes, the group’s unofficial “historian” and one of their two
remaining original members, proudly recounted how the New
Orleans Mystics came into being. Growing up in the 10th Ward
of the Central City neighborhood, Barnes became acquainted with
Mims and his brother Anthony Mims. Discovering a mutual love
for the “old school music,” the two brothers and Barnes, along
with two other friends formed a group called the Young Folks.
The quintet performed at talent shows around the city, starting
in 1970, and they won several of them. Two years later they began
performing professionally as The Mystics, a name they were later
ordered to change because a New York group that had a hit record
(“Hushabye”) in the late ‘50s, owned the trademark on the name.
Baptiste joined the group in 1975. Anthony Mims passed away
in 2002 and the group went through several other singers until
2013 when Johnson arrived.
“I’m really happy to be singing with the guys,” Johnson said.
“Each one of us has our own God-given talent. We all have a
totally distinctive voice and when you get all of that together it’s
harmonic. I was glad that we found this perfect fit and I’m excited
about the opportunities we’re getting.”
In the early years, the group started with a four-piece band and
later partnered with some of the premier established bands in the
city including Viet Nam featuring Caesar Elloie, Trac One, Saigon
featuring Shelia Allen and Jam Enterprise.
Their current accompanists, the Real Soul Band, consists of
drummer Brennan “Ringo” Williams, Michael Angelo Nocentelli
on bass, lead guitarist Ronald “Shameka” Earnest, Bobbie Parker
on congas and Richard “Rick” McQuillis on keyboards who also
plays the strings and horns lines.
In addition to performing as a group, each of the members also
pursue solo singing careers. Baptiste performs as Mike “Soul Man”
Baptiste with an exclusively Soul repertoire; Barnes performs
occasionally with legendary recording artists the Bar-Kays, a
Memphis-based group that produced a multitude of Top 10 R&B
hits including the 1967 classic, “Soul Finger”; and Mims and
Johnson sing in their respective churches.
Among the memories shared by the current group members,
singing for Quincy Jones’ 85th birthday ranks as one of the best.
It took place in Italy in 2018 when the New Orleans Mystics were
performing for a festival in Perugia, Italy.
As Barnes recalled, “He came to see us perform at the festival
and we had about 50,000 to 60,000 people there that night. I
didn’t know we were staying at the same hotel as him. When
we got back there I went upstairs and went to bed and, about
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