In 1954 the Vanguard record label released Brother John Sellers Sings Blues and Folk Songs. The release carried a drawing by Charles White, of an African American man, relaxed as he sang. The 1954 release (a 10 inch) carried sleeve notes penned by one John Hammond and included:
In the rich contribution of the Negro people to American music, there have been constant cross-currents between gospel songs, blues and what have come to be known as folk songs. Yet today, as in the past, these three kinds of music continue as separate social traditions. The gospel hymns are a deep and devout church music. The blues singers have their own secular and improvisational literature, distinct even from the popular hit tunes. Folk music is confined to what is done in the concert hall or studied in school and library.
A great achievement of John Sellers is that he has brought these traditions together, and yet does each with the deepest feeling and most authentic style. Born less than thirty years ago in Clarksdale, Mississippi, as a child he sang gospel songs in the Church of God in Christ, and it was in this church, where the members traditionally address each other as “brother” and “sister,” that he became known as "Brother" John Sellers. At the same time, when travelling minstrel troupes like Silas Green's would come to town, Sellers would enter their amateur contests and win practically all the prizes, singing blues.
Looking at the range of Charles White’s art, a clear, strong and profound interplay with the music of Black America is ever-present. Indeed, this may well have been a contributory factor to the consistent ways in which White’s illustrations were used on record sleeves, throughout his career and after his passing.
This 10 inch Vanguard release, one of several versions, carried the following references to him in the sleeve notes.
The drawing on the cover is one of a series commissioned by Vanguard Recording Society, Inc., from the distinguished American artist, Charles White, for use on its Jazz Showcase and classical releases. Aside from our belief that it takes a creative artist to capture the full human feeling of creative music, we hope by this means to bring to the public a knowledge of contemporary American art such as this, which has only to be seen to be loved. Charles White won the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1942, an Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 1952, and a National Prize of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1952. His work is represented in the Whitney Museum, Library of Congress, and other famous collections.
The record contained six tracks: John Henry; Farewell Work Life; Doretha Boogie; Boll Weevil; Two Little Fishes, Five Loves of Bread; and Down by the Riverside.
This particular version carried the number VRS-8005