LITTLEFIELD, A. C.
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LITTLEFIELD, A. C. (1925–1999). A. C. Littlefield, gospel singer, was born on January 16, 1925, in Sealy, Texas. He was the son of Willie and Georgia Littlefield. The family moved to Austin in 1938. During World War II, Littlefield was drafted into the United States Army in 1943 and served honorably until his discharge in 1945. He married Johnnie Mae Sorrells in 1947. They had one son, but he died in infancy.
Littlefield, a faithful member of the Baptist Church, was a talented singer. In the late 1940s he became a lead singer of an East Austin group known as the Starlight Singers. The members included A. C., his brother Ester Littlefield, Vernon Manor, Ed Demmon, and A. D. Watson. By 1951 the group had changed its name to the Bells of Joy and recorded on Don Robey’s Peacock label in Houston. Their release “Let’s Talk About Jesus,” which featured A. C. Littlefield as the lead singer, became a hit on the R&B Billboard charts. Propelled by Littlefield’s booming voice, the record sold a million copies—the most ever sold up to that time by a black gospel group. Many offers were extended to the Bells of Joy to switch to the mainstream rhythm-and-blues market, but they opted instead to stay true to their roots and remain in gospel.
The Bells of Joy continued to perform for decades. They made a television commercial for Blue Bell Ice Cream in 1986. In 1991 the group performed at the Texas Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. They filmed a video with singer Willie Nelson in 1995 and released a CD, The Second Time Around, in 1999.
In addition to his performing, Littlefield worked at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin for approximately twenty years. He also served as a foster grandfather to students at Andrews Elementary School in Austin. He was very active in the Mount Olive Baptist Church and was chairman of the deacons and a soloist in the Chapel Choir.
Littlefield died in Austin on January 22, 1999. He was buried at Cook-Walden/Capital Parks Cemetery in Austin. He was survived by his wife of more than fifty years. He was inducted into the Austin Music Memorial in 2013.
Austin American–Statesman, January 23, 30, 1999. Gloryland Gospel Blog: The Bells of Joy (http://gqnw.net/wordpress/?tag=a-c-littlefield), accessed June 7, 2011. City of Austin: 2013 Austin Music Memorial Inductees (http://austintexas.gov/news/2013-austin-music-memorial-inductees), accessed November 3, 2015. “In Memory of A. C. Littlefield,” Senate Resolution No. 104 (http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/76R/billtext/html/SR00104F.htm), accessed June 7, 2011.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski, "Littlefield, A. C. ," accessed January 23, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fli50.
Uploaded on May 6, 2013. Modified on November 3, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.