Wendell, North Carolina resident and vocalist Walter Moreland recently released a CD single that delves into a challenging time in his life. Entitled “Alone,” it’s nominally a pop ballad, something of a new direction for the long-time soul singer and former member of national ‘70s-era recording act Mark IV. More notably, and powerfully, it’s a document of his faith in one day reuniting with his late wife, Cynthia Moreland, who was tragically killed in Raleigh in 2006, just shy of five years ago.
Moreland originally comes from Miami, Florida. He wasn’t very deep into music there; as a teenager, he “would just mess around singing” the doo-wop hits of the day for fun by himself. After high school, Moreland served two years in the army, including one in Korea, and then relocated to New York City, soon joining a singing group known as the New System. The New System were active in the region but apparently did not make any recordings: “We did a lot of practicing. We got uniforms. I don’t think we cut a record when I was with them. We did a lot of little gigs up in the mountains of New York, ski resorts….” Before the members moved in separate directions, the New System reached a high point in the form of some back-up work for Little Anthony & the Imperials.
Along with fellow former New System member Candido “Lucky” Antomattei (baritone), Moreland (first tenor) met up with two Georgia transplants, Lawrence Jones (second tenor) and Jimmy Ponder (lead). The four started a new singing outfit that they named Mark IV. They connected with performer and Alaga Records owner Roy C., who produced their debut single “Honey I Still Love You”:
Roy C. sold the rights for this hit single to Mercury Records, and the new support of a major record company led to many touring opportunities, including four appearances at the Apollo Theater and co-billings with Wilson Pickett, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Stylistics, B.B. King, and nearly even a gig at the famous Copa. While on tour in Raleigh, playing a gig at a club near downtown, Moreland met Cynthia Wilkerson:
We were playing at the Inner City Club in Raleigh here. I don’t know, call it fate. I don’t know why we had to play here. I don’t know why she had to come because she was only like 16. We were playing at the Inner City Club, and we started singing, and there she was…standing right there in front of the stage, standing right there. I saw her, and I said “I got to talk to her,” and I started talking to her…I said “Can I have your phone number”? She said, “I don’t have a phone,” and I said “oh well, there’s another brush off.” And then she said, “But my neighbor has a phone.” And I lit up, I said “Sure, give me that.” That’s how it started. I started calling her. Every time we would go further south like Alabama, when we finished, I would stop here.
Mark IV candid photo with Walter Moreland, second from right.
The pair began dating long distance until Moreland found touring “unbearable,” leading him to quit the group and settle in Zebulon with his soon-to-be wife. Finding employment at Wake Medical Center in Raleigh, where he still works to this day, Moreland also started performing with local soul groups such as Seduction. Later known as Klass, this little-known group would release a 12”-single in 1989. Following is some rare footage of Klass doing the A-side “Body Language” on country singer/broadcaster Slim Short’s “Carolina Today” television program:
From the 1990s until recent times, Moreland was less active on the music scene and more involved with his family, church, and work. Prior to making “Alone,” he did provide the vocals several years ago for an instrumental track made by William Killinger, a physician at Wake Medical Center. The product is some jangly pop called “The Way.” Click on the player below to hear a bit of both “Alone” and “The Way.” Moreland reflected recently on how his life and his singing have changed in the face of tragedy:
When I sing now…if it wasn’t for my wife being killed, I wouldn’t be able to have sung this song. I wouldn’t be more in depth in church. I wouldn’t be going to the temple every week like I’m supposed to. In a way I think God opened my eyes to show me that…because I put Cynthia first. I put her first. He didn’t plan it, but he didn’t stop it. He just made me open my eyes. ‘You’ve got to humble yourself; be more humble. I’m first.’ If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be doing the things that I’m doing now.
Excerpts of “Alone” and “The Way” by Walter Moreland.