Gospel music star Bobby Jones began with Channel 4 show - WSMV Channel 4

Gospel music star Bobby Jones began with Channel 4 show

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

An iconic figure in gospel music, who has helped launch the careers of dozens of artists, got his first big break at Channel 4 more than 35 years ago.

Dr. Bobby Jones is now an international television and music star, but for Jones, returning to the Channel 4 studios is like stepping back to the beginning.

"I walked myself in here, and said, 'self: What? Go for it,'" Jones said.

In 1976, Channel 4 executives gave Jones the green light for Nashville Gospel, a weekly show with a small budget and audience.

And he says his singers also earned a modest wage.

"I think they made $10 a piece. Yeah, per show. That was gas money," Jones said.

No one knew the show would lead to another and catapult the Tennessee native to international fame. In 1980, BET network started airing Bobby Jones Gospel.

The Sunday staple has been credited with giving almost every top gospel star today their first national exposure.

"The fun thing is they talk about it, (saying) 'Dr. Jones, we couldn't have done this,'" Jones said. "Yes, they're all friends."

Today, Dr. Jones has the longest-running show on cable television. And after more than three decades on the air, he says he learned a whole lot, like the importance of being himself.

"In the beginning, I tried to be what I thought people wanted, so I over did it," he said.

Now at age 73, Jones is an ambassador to Dominica, he's been recognized by two U.S. presidents, and he even has a star on the Music City Walk of Fame.

It's not a bad resume for a kid who grew up poor in Henry, TN, and dared to dream.

But Dr. Jones says one thing of which he is most proud is donating 30 years worth of his recordings, with rights included, to his alma mater Tennessee State University.

The donation is estimated to be worth $6 million.

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