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Award-winning gospel musician to play Sunday

Faith Outreach Center will resound with righteous sound Sunday morning as Grammy-winning gospel musician the Rev. Jessy Dixon regales fans with everything from Amazing Grace to It's a Highway to Heaven.

Dixon, who has won Billboard and Dove awards, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performer, is also a featured artist on the Bill Gaither Homecoming Tour.

Bay area fans might remember Dixon from his cable television show, Celebrate with Jessy Dixon, broadcast for 10 years from Clearwater on WCLF-Ch. 22.

Or they might have caught him on Oprah Winfrey or Saturday Night Live.

The musician-turned-preacher has traveled worldwide to dispense both music and ministry.

"I'd be doing my concert, then I'd stop singing and start sharing what was in my heart," Dixon once told the Times, recalling how he came to the ministry about a decade ago.

Dixon said it wasn't until his pastor admonished him to "stop bootlegging the gospel" that he became a minister.

Church pastors told him, "You're not just a singer; we'll ordain you so you can do this legally,' " Dixon said.

And so he does.

Dixon was ordained through Calvary Ministries International of Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1982. Since then, he has appeared on numerous televised religious shows, including Billy Graham specials and The 700 Club.

Dixon, who got his start in Chicago as a performer while playing organ and piano and writing songs for other artists, said he would sing his songs to show how they went "and all of a sudden, people wanted me to sing."

With his ability to give gospel music an appeal beyond the church, Dixon did a stint with Paul Simon as a backup singer and a solo vocalist. He has worked with Leo Sayer, Diana Ross, Phoebe Snow, Toto, Natalie Cole, Cher, Dottie West, Bette Midler and Al Green.

So how does Tampa fit into Dixon's whirlwind schedule of international touring?

"I got too busy to do my TV show anymore," Dixon said. "I've got some good fans here who don't get a chance to see me anymore."

Dixon will appear at 10:45 a.m. Sunday at Faith Outreach Center, 7607 Sheldon Road in Town 'N Country. Admission is free; an offering will be taken. Nursery care for children will be provided. Call 887-3354 for information.

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