Despite never having a hit record, Ortheia Barnes is one of Detroit, MI's most beloved singers. She started singing in church, made some solo singles, and toured with Motown artists, though she never signed with the label. Barnes has enjoyed a full career, but unlike J.J. Barnes, her older brother, it hasn't been scrutinized much, and a chronological discography of her work does not exist.
She debuted on Mickay Records in 1962 with two Dorothy Pierce tunes: "Your Picture on the Wall" b/w "Same as Before"; the single did so well locally that ABC Records acquired the licensing and reissued it in 1963. The dates dispute the notion that she got the secular singing bug at 14 when J.J. Barnes cut his biggest hit, "Baby Please Come Back Home," since it would have made her nine when she cut the Mickay single.
Other recordings include two popular Northern soul selections -- "Watch Out Boy," written by J.J. Barnes, Don Davis, and Kirkland Peterson and "I've Never Loved Nobody (Like I Love You)" -- in 1967 on Coral Records. Coral issued a second single, "Take My Heart and Soul" b/w "Heartbreaker," in 1968; the former was composed by Joe Hunter and Anthony "Tony" Wilson. A few years later, Wilson moved to Cleveland, OH, and was the Ponderosa Twins Plus One's manager; he co-wrote their song, "Bitter With the Sweet." Barnes worked behind the scenes, vocalizing on sessions and backing artists live. In 1980, she formed Cut Glass with Mildred Vaney for two singles on 20th Century Records -- "Alive With Love" b/w "Without Your Love" and "Rising Cost of Love" b/w "Sometimes Soon." She even cut a funk tune entitled "Green Eye Monster" in 1984. In 1987, she sang at Diana Ross' aunt's funeral with Ross in attendance -- the two songbirds were high school friends.
At WCHB she became a radio personality with her own talk show, Ortheia's Special Touch, which aired every Wednesday; she also had a cable TV show on Bloomfield Community Television that was broadcast on Booth Cable, but her aim to be syndicated for the show never happened.
Later, Barnes married elder Robert L. Kennerly and became Reverend Ortheia Barnes-Kennerly, evangelist and singer; she became part of SpiritLove Ministries and appeared and performed at many religious and civic functions throughout the country. She celebrated civil rights activist Rosa Parks' 83rd birthday in Nassau, Bahamas, performing with the Freedom Soldiers -- who consisted of Barnes, Sandra Feva, Pat Lewis, and Hezekiah Williams. She performed at the Plymouth Neon Jammin' Ball in 1995 to help introduce a new generation of young Detroiters to the city's historic Music Hall of Fame, and she represented at A Season For Nonviolence with Reverend Jesse Jackson and other luminaries. Barnes-Kennerly was also a member of Michigan's Volunteers of America.