The Golden Era Gospel Blog learned from Jameel Fleming and Bob Marovich that Lucy Matthews Collier, aka: "Little Lucy Smith", died this morning in Chicago after an illness. Collier, the granddaughter of the late Rev. Lucy Smith, daughter of the late Rev. James Austin and stepdaughter of the late Roberta Martin was born circa 1926 and was a Chicago gospel mainstay during the Golden Era as a singer, writer, composer, pianist and organist. Collier was musically trained under Roberta Martin in the early 1940s, and was reported to be the one who initially introduced Rev. Austin to Roberta Martin and even helped to train Rev. James Cleveland in playing the piano. Collier became the organist for the Roberta Martin Singers in 1949, sharing the duties with Willie Webb through 1955. In 1955 and 1956, Collier recorded for the States Record Label with the Little Lucy Smith Singers, which consisted of herself, Gladys Beamon Gregory, Sarah McKissick, and Catherine Campbell. In 1959, Collier began transitioning from the organ to the piano on the Roberta Martin Singers' studio recordings, and by 1963 was the studio pianist for the group. It was also during this time that she also became the musical director and leader of the Roberta Martin Singers as Roberta Martin became ill and traveled less with the group. In 1962, Collier released a solo album of instrumentals on the Hammond B3 for Savoy Records, and made an appearance on fellow Roberta Martin Singers alum, Gloria Griffin's debut solo album in 1968 as a pianist and vocalist. After 1971, The Roberta Martin Singers disbanded and Collier became the pianist for the Chicago produced "Jubilee Showcase" TV Show. Sometime during the 1970s, Collier suffered a stroke, which left her partially paralyzed. While she retained the ability to sing, she was left unable to play the piano or organ again.
Collier continued to sing and write into her later years, recording in the 1980s and 1990s for Anthony Heilbut's Spirit Feel label, but was not active in recent years.
Information about funeral arrangements will be posted as it becomes available.