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'Mustard' Adds Flavor To The Highlands

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CLIFTON FORGE — Bishop Alfred “Mustard” Dearing Sr., a radio personality, DJ and emcee, will be inducted into The Virginia Opry alongside members of Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters in February of 2022.

Born in Washington D.C., on Oct. 22, 1942, Mustard did not move to Clifton Forge with Jennifer, his wife, until 1994. By the time he reached Clifton Forge, Mustard, his nickname that he has displayed on the special license plates for his car, had stuck with him since childhood.

Mustard recalled, “I attended school in Washington D.C. from first grade through grade 11, and all of my friends who had nicknames gave me the nickname, Mustard.

After serving in the U. S. Army at Fort Benning, Ga., during the early 1960s where he earned his GED diploma and got his start as a DJ, he decided to develop his talent as an emcee and music promoter as well. Soon thereafter, he found himself socializing with the likes of James Brown who came to be known as “The Godfather of Soul.”

Mustard and Marvin Gaye were friends who lived close to one another while they were growing up in Washington D.C., and by the mid-1960s, Gaye had risen to become one of the elite solo vocalists by recording such mega-hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and “Stubborn Kind of Fellow.”

Mustard’s career as a music promoter, DJ and emcee blossomed after he returned to Washington where he wound up serving as the last DJ to play at the Casino Royal Night Club in the 1970s. He was also one of the first in the Washington Metropolitan Area to use two turntables during a live performance.

Over the years as a DJ and emcee, Mustard touched all of the bases so to speak, performing as an emcee for Otis Redding, Ike and Tina Turner, Kool and the Gang, The Orioles, Gene Chandler, Junior Walker and the All Stars, Rare Earth, Roberta Flack, The O’ Jays, Sara Dash and Brown, as well.

Others he performed as an emcee for are Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson, Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Pookie Hudson and The Spaniels, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Little Sonny Warner, The Young Senators, Billy Stewart, Winfield Parker and Praise, The Dynamic Superiors, The Jewels, Sam and Dave, Dave Bass, Jodie Whitaker and the late Bob Campbell.

Ironically, Mustard’s photograph was taken while he was sitting on a sofa owned by Brig. General James G. Dearing who fought in the American Civil War under the command of General Robert E. Lee has been on display in the Avoca Museum in Altavista, VA since 2013.

While working as a DJ, emcee, and music promoter, Mustard held down numerous other jobs. He has worked as an exterminator, memorial counselor at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, MD, memorial counselor at National Memorial Park in Falls Church and as sales manager at the Alleghany Memorial Park in Covington.

In 2006, Mustard was ordained by Apostle Gene Boyd of the Tower of Deliverance Fellowship in Hampton, VA. That was after Mustard had launched “Precious Memories Gospel Hour,” a radio ministry that has aired for the past 21 years on the Highlands Media Group’s WKEY Radio Station’s 103.5 Big Country FM on Sunday mornings from 8:30-9:30 a.m. In 2018, Mustard was appointed bishop.

Also, after arriving in Clifton Forge in 1994, he began promoting musical acts at the Historic Stonewall Theatre owned and operated by Appalfolks of America at the time, bringing in such groups as Winfield Parker and Praise, a Maryland gospel music group, and such solo artists as Ron Henry of Williamsburg, VA,

Appalfolks hired Mustard to emcee its annual “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Musical Tribute,” and he was instrumental in bringing in talent such as Dave Bass from MD as a guest performer.

After Appalfolks donated the theatre to the Town of Clifton Forge in 2003, Mustard continued to work with Appalfolks, and he and Jana Allen teamed with the late Calvin Andre McClinton to present another “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Musical Tribute” prior to the pandemic.

Along the way before moving to Clifton Forge, Mustard cultivated professional relationships with such Motown stars as Patti LaBelle, Florence Ballard, Cindy Birdsong, Sarah Dash and Bill Pinkney, founder of Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters.

LaBelle got her start with Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, a successful 1960s group that became LaBelle in the 1970s. She was recognized in “Rolling Stone” magazine for being one of the 100 best female vocalists of the 20th century.

Ballard, a soprano, was an original member of The Supremes, and she sang lead on four of The Supremes’ top-hit records. After leaving The Supremes to pursue a solo career, she died at 32 of coronary artery thrombosis, cutting her career short before she could record a single hit that charted.

Cindy Birdsong replaced Ballard, a co-founding member of The Supremes, in 1967. Birdsong thought Mustard looked like her brother and had written to him while he was in the service. The Supremes were honored in 1994 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Mustard remembered, “My army buddies would gather round in the barracks wanting to hear what Cindy had written.”

Dash, who also got her start as a member of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, passed away on Sept. 20, 2021. She was Mustard’s friend, one who had kept in touch with him from the time she started singing professionally in the 1960s.

Another interesting friendship that Mustard cultivated while in the service was with the late Willie Ballard, Florence Ballard’s brother.

Mustard was instrumental in helping Appalfolks book Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters at The Historic Masonic Theatre after bringing the Rock ‘n” Roll Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame group to the Historic Stonewall Theatre on two previous occasions.

Maxine Pinkney, Bill Pinkney’s widow, continues to manage the group that will be performing at The Historic Masonic Theatre once again in February of 2022 providing COVID-19 and the Delta variant permit the show to be held. She and Mustard have maintained their friendship for many years.

Currently, Mustard’s CAYA Ministries is located on Ridgeway Street in Clifton Forge, and his “Precious Memories Gospel Hour” can be heard each Sunday morning by tuning into WKEY’s 103.5 Big Country FM.

Mustard remarked, “CAYA is still ongoing, and our ministry will continue whether in the present location or not.”

Appalfolks held a benefit for CAYA Ministries, and $600 worth of donations were received from donors in five states, including one donation from Maxine Pinkney who resides in Las Vegas, NV. The benefit was held during the COVID-19 shutdown that took place in 2020.

As for his invitation from Appalfolks to be inducted into The Virginia Opry as an emcee alongside the members of Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters, Mustard said, “I feel it to be a great honor and a blessing from God.”

Mustard often encourages his radio listeners and others to read Jesus’ word as rendered in “Matthew 17:20.” Jesus told those with little faith, “…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Mustard concluded, “Serving God and reconciling souls back to Christ will be my duty to God as long as I live. Be blessed!”

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