The PTL Club first took interest in BeBe Winans and his sister CeCe in 1982 as background vocalists for the show. After going to North Carolina to audition, they were accepted, moved to the PTL campus, and were on the show for about five years.
The duo recorded and released an album that did well on the charts, but later left PTL to pursue their singing career. Five successful albums later, the brother and sister decided to split up and pursue their own solo careers.
“CeCe and I were always very close,” says BeBe Winans, who will be taking center stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Aug. 23. “My whole family is very close, and we sang together a lot. My mother, father and grandparents also sang, so music was truly a part of my upbringing.”
Part of a big family, Winans said his father always encouraged the siblings to be close. “And to this day, my sister and I live very close to each other in Nashville. We talk and see each other as much as possible. So singing with CeCe was always easy for me to do and I really miss it. There’s so much history with her, so much we accomplished with each other, that, at times, it’s much easier to sing with her than sing alone.”
In 2009, they got a chance to do just that, doing the album “Still Together.” On it was the song “Close to You,” which won a Dove Award in 2010 in the category of Urban Recorded Song.
Along the way, Winans’ own solo career was on the upswing. In 1989, he won his first Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Male for his contribution to “Abundant Life,” a track on his brother Ronald’s Family & Friends Choir.
More were to follow, “but that’s not why I sing,” Winans says. “When I look at the awards they remind me of the people who listen to my music. I love people, and they are the reason I do what I do. I definitely want to touch people through my songs. I want them to lift their heads up and be OK. I think music is love and the method through which we can accomplish our dreams.”
Over the years, Winans went on to accomplish many of his dreams. By 2003, he had started his own record label, The Movement Group, and partnered with Still Waters, an inspirational and gospel imprint of Hidden Beach Records.
He made his film debut in 2004 in the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” with Denzel Washington.
He also appeared on Broadway in “The Color Purple,” and is looking forward to returning to the Great White Way soon in a musical he’s writing about his family.
“After doing ‘The Color Purple,’ I said I might never return to Broadway because it’s such hard work,” Winans explains. “But looking back, I realized how much I actually enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to producing my own show there.”
One of Winans’ most recent projects is the release of his latest CD, “America America,” featuring such songs as “Star Spangled Banner,” My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and others. “People wondered why I was doing something like this. There’s not even a genre for it,” Winans says. “But the reception has been absolutely wonderful. I wrote three songs for the CD and the others are all classics. I just wanted to remind people of how wonderful our country is and how blessed we are to live here.”
To coincide with the release of that CD, Winans decided to write a book describing his friendship with Whitney Houston titled “The Whitney I Knew.” In it he talks about the late star’s final days and more. “Her death was quite a surprise to me,” he said. “We had walked through some of the darkest times in her life, so many of us were caught off guard when this happened. But she was such a wonderful person, and will really live on forever in all of us through her extraordinary work.”
For times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650.