Sumter band competes for state fair slot: Elijah Bradford and the Valentinos could open for renowned gospel singer


Sumter gospel band Elijah Bradford and the Valentinos are among the top five finalists in the competition to open for gospel singer JJ Hairston, the leader, chief songwriter and director of the Youthful Praise choir. The choir is nationally known for its urban-influenced style of gospel, as well as its praise and worship songs.

Bradford and the Valentinos are well known in South Carolina and by Sumter area music lovers. Most recently, they opened the Sumter Iris Festival in May as the band for the Taste at the Gardens. They were also the featured group at the City of Sumter's Fourth Fridays Concert Series on June 28.

The group is also known for its original choreography, reminiscent of the Temptations and other popular bands of the 1960s and '70s.

Earlier this year, the Valentinos auditioned for Showtime at the Apollo and got an immediate callback. They subsequently performed twice at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, and were asked to do a full concert at a time yet to be announced.

Bradford said, the band "entered the contest through the radio station WFMV 93.5 in Columbia. We submitted a song I wrote called 'Jesus Rolled the Stone,'" which they had performed live at the Apollo in March.

In order to open for Hairston, the Valentinos must receive the majority of votes cast online at Bradford said the band encourages "everyone to vote from more than one device. When chosen, we will open for national recording artist JJ Hairston."

Among the songs Bradford and the Valentinos plan to give the audience are "some original music as well as some covers by The Winans, Rance Allen and The Mighty Clouds of Joy."

Only one vote per device is allowed for the contest. Winners will be announced at 5:20 p.m.on Monday.