For the past 30 years if you were a part of the Detroit gospel music community, you spent time at God’s World. From buying the latest CD’s, to autograph parties featuring the top gospel artists in the country, to going to Cobo Hall, Fox Theatre, or Chene Park to see live gospel performances, and even listening to radio station WWON, God’s World has been a blessing to not only Detroit gospel music lovers, but to gospel music enthusiasts throughout the U.S.
I recently talked to Larry Robinson, God’s World owner, about the possibility of God’s World closing, if a certain amount of money isn’t raised.
Carl B: What was your original dream or vision for God’s World?
Larry: To build a Christian entertainment complex where the saints could come chill out and have fun in a not religious, but in a religious-encouraging setting. We wouldn’t be preaching, but you would feel love and God’s presence and fun.
Carl B: I remember, especially on Livernois, when everybody came through God’s World. You never knew who you might see; Thomas Whitfield, Pop Winans. I think it did happen. Would you agree?
Larry: It happened in reality, [but] it didn’t happen to the magnitude of the dream that I wanted. We didn’t have that gorgeous building. It was a just a little whole in the wall, but it was home. The saints and the artists would come together. Most of the people, like you mentioned, we all grew up with dreams. They weren’t big artists at that time, and they were “wanna-be” artists at that time. They had their dreams, I had my dreams, and we kinda helped each other.
Carl B: How long has God’s World been in business, and what are some of the things God’s World has accomplished over the years?
Larry: We’ve been in business 30 years. We turned 30, May 7, 2009. Far as accomplishments, I can’t put my finger on any specific things. I can say the friends we’ve made, the bonds we’ve had, the people that have blessed us with their spirit and their help. We’ve tried to bless people and to be there for a lot of churches, artists, “wanna-be” artists, big name artist record labels. We’ve tried to be a blessing, a real brother in the Lord, and try to help out.
Carl B: As I look around your office, I see so many great memories: “Be Ye Exalted,” “Gospel in the Park,” radio station WWON, there are so many things that God’s World has done over the years, not just a record store. You are a visionary in giving a foundation for not just record sales, but giving a platform through concerts, through autograph parties, book signings. This has been the place you had to come to if you were involved in Gospel Music in Detroit.
Larry: I guess we have given a platform for people to start. The first book, the first album, the first cassette. It was a lot of “first” here. I remember when Commissioned would use God’s World for a practice area. When the store would close at night, they would move things around so they could rehearse. God has helped us to be there in the early stages of artists’ careers.
Carl B: That brings back to memory a video, “The Lost Concert.”
Larry: That was one of the first, to my knowledge, Beta [videos] that was ever made. And when I look at it now I see the afro, the long side burns, and the bell bottoms.
Carl B: And Commissioned in tuxedos, along with The Winans, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and Esther Smith.
Larry: Also Edwin Hawkins, Yes that goes way back.
Carl B: We all know that these are difficult times. It’s not only affected the recording industry overall, it’s also affected record shops like God’s World. What do you think God’s World needs to do to survive these tough times?
Larry: First and foremost, we have three bills we need to pay off that have our head below the water. If we don’t pay those off, there will not be a God’s World. That’s what we’re praying and asking God’s people to help us with.
Next, we need to get into more modern technology with downloads. We have a machine now that makes soundtracks. We’d like to get a machine where customers can give us a list and the machine allows us to fill up your iPod. You tell us how many songs you want, and we charge whatever the fee is.
We would like to get more into church supplies, and things like that, where we make a little more money. Right now in the industry, we don’t make very much off of records at all. Almost nothing off records. We want to continue to do CD’s, but we want to spread out into some things where we can make some monies, so we can grow the business.
Carl B: You have an event coming up on October 24; explain what the event is about.
Larry: We’ve gotten to the point if we don’t pay off these three bills, we will probably have to shut the doors right after Christmas. We’ve sent out letters to about 300 artists asking them to come and support. We don’t expect 300, but we do expect 30-40. It’s across the street from the store at Greater Immanuel. They were so nice to give us the church to help us out because they realized how serious this is.
We also sent out letters to churches asking them to buy blocks of tickets and also make a donation. That hasn’t been too prosperous. We’ve had one or two to come through, but we expect more by the event or after the event. Right now it’s tough times for everybody, so it takes time. They may not be able to do something for the event, but they hopefully will remember the week after.
Whatever God says that’s what we want. We want to continue, but if it’s not, we’ve had a wonderful 30 years.
Carl B: It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years. I remember the record table in the lobby of Greater Grace when you were telling people about the new record club you were starting. God blessed that vision to go on for 30 years. Are you able to talk about any of the artists that will be performing on October 24?
Larry: Some of the confirmed artists are 21:03, Dr Leonard Scott, Ben Tankard, Shanna Wilson, Lashell Griffin, Adrian King, The Clark Sisters, Darius Twyman, Phil Carter & SOV, Larry Calhan and SOG, and we’re waiting on others to confirm.
Carl B: In closing what would you say to those that read DetroitGospel.com, about God’s World and what they can do to help at this point?
Larry: First and foremost, they can pray that God’s will be done. Second, if they can put the word out about the October 24th event, and if they can make it, or send a small or large donation, whatever God lays on their heart. No amount is too small, we’re trying to raise a certain amount of money, and every dollar helps. We’re not trying to do anything spectacular, we’re just trying to survive.
For more information about the Benefit Concert, call God’s World at 313-862-8220.