The Statesmen Quartet

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The Statesmen Quartet
Origin Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Genres Southern gospel
Years active 1948–2001
Labels RCA Victor, Skylite, Chime, Artistic, Temple
Associated acts The Blackwood Brothers, The Imperials, Elvis Presley, The Masters V

The Statesmen Quartet (also known as Hovie Lister and The Statesmen Quartet) were an American southern gospel music group founded in 1948 by Baptist Minister Hovie Lister. Along with the Blackwood Brothers, the Statesmen Quartet were considered the most successful and influential gospel quartet of the 1950s and 1960s and had a wide influence on artists during that time from the gospel, country, pop, and rock and roll genre.[1] Along with hits spanning many decades, The Statesmen Quartet had many notable successes including being the first Gospel group to receive endorsement deals. Additionally, they made television commercials, appeared on numerous radio and TV shows, and were signed to RCA Victor before launching their own record label, Skylite Records, with The Blackwood Brothers.

Early years[edit]

The Statesmen Quartet was founded in 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia by piano player Hovie Lister, a Baptist minister and convention-style piano player. Lister constructed the quartet as a hand-picked group of the best singing voices in order to secure a prime time-slot on the new WCON radio station,[1] the initial line-up included lead singer Mosie Lister from Atlanta, Gordon Hill singing the bass vocals, Bervin Kendrick from singing the baritone, and Bobby Strickland of singing tenor. The group's name was lifted from the title of a newsletter published by Herman Talmadge, Governor of Georgia, with Talmadge's permission,[1] the quartet made their debut on WCON in Atlanta in October, 1948.

Broadcasting, recording, and business[edit]

After having several radio programs in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, The Statesmen "became the first Southern gospel quartet to have a nationally syndicated TV program, Singing Time in Dixie, sponsored by Nabisco."[2] The group recorded 36 songs for Capitol Records from 1949 to 1953, they switched to RCA Victor in 1954, recording more than 30 albums during their years with that company. In 1968, they began recording for Skylite.[2] Though most fans were inclined to support the group in terms of religious inspiration and/or entertainment, a 1964 profile of the group in Billboard magazine noted, "The Statesmen ... are known as a complex organization to the music industry." In addition to the broadcasting and recording activities already mentioned, the article cited ownership of four gospel music publishing companies that "print and distribute song books and sheet music."[3]

Pinnacle years[edit]

In 1952, The Statesmen Quartet entered into a business partnership with The Blackwood Brothers Quartet, the "Stateswood" team would dominate Southern Gospel music for the next two decades. First, "Cat" Freeman was replaced by Irish tenor Denver Crumpler; in 1953, Lister's vision of the premiere lineup came to fruition by adding Jake Hess (lead), Doy Ott (baritone), and James "Big Chief" Wetherington (bass), with Lister on piano and master of ceremonies. During the next years, The Statesmen Quartet achieved fame as one of the premiere groups of Southern gospel music,[1] with this lineup, The Statesmen began recording for RCA Victor and began starring in the Nabisco Hour national TV show as mentioned above. Popular songs of this period include "Get Away Jordan" and "Happy Rhythm", as early as 1950, The Statesmen used the phrase "Rockin' and rollin'" in a song, and Hovie Lister's frantic boogie-woogie piano, piano bench acrobatics, and hair shaken down in his eyes would have great influence on early rock and roll artists, particularly on Jerry Lee Lewis, who was a fan of gospel music and the Statesmen. On July 4, 1955, the Blackwood/Statesmen team traveled to Texas for an engagement that would feature several secular artists on the same program, among them was Elvis Presley. Elvis was planning to sing his rock hits, but refrained out of respect of his gospel idols, the Statesmen exerted a powerful influence on young Elvis, who idolized and imitated Jake Hess' vocal styling and Wetherington's movements and gyrations on stage. In an interview with songwriter Bill Gaither, Hess remembered seeing young Elvis coming to Statesmen shows in Tupelo when Presley was only nine or ten. Hess said that the serious young Elvis would ask him, "How do you make a record?" or "How many suits you got?" On the Gaither Homecoming video "Oh My Glory", Hess recalls Presley attending Statesmen concerts and being invited up onstage to sing lead in his place on a couple of handpicked numbers. Phillip Goff, in The Blackwell Companion to Religion in America, provided a description of how The Statesmen began one live appearance. "Greeted by thunderous applause, the announcer approaches the microphone: "You're listening to the original Wally Fowler All Night Singing, November the sixth, right here in Nashville, Tennessee, nineteen hundred fifty-nine. This is the eleventh anniversary and the greatest crowd that's ever assembled for any program in the Ryman Auditorium is here tonight for the all night sing." Goff's description related but one aspect of The Statesmen's showmanship. Francis Edward Abernathy wrote about lasting changes that the group introduced to the world of gospel quartets: The Statesmen Quartet added flourishes which entertained new audiences -- exuberant singing, arm waving, hand clapping, and electrifying performances, this was alien behavior for traditional convention quartets. But the new behavior attracted interest, the Statesmen became so popular that subsequent gospel quartets imitated their style.[4]

Personal changes and group trials[edit]

In 1957, Crumpler died after seeking medical attention for what was at the time diagnosed as a heart condition, but was revealed to be diabetic shock. Cat Freeman came back briefly but was replaced by former Oklahoma police officer Roland "Rosie" Rozell, the Rozell-Hess-Ott-Wetherington lineup recorded such classics as "Faith Unlocks The Door" and Rozell's signature songs "Oh What A Savior" and "There's Room at the Cross," both songs becoming gospel music mainstays for decades after. In 1963, Hess left The Statesmen to form his own quartet, Jake Hess and The Imperials. Lister recruited Jack Toney to replace Hess, before long, Toney's powerful voice helped The Statesmen to press on and continue with their success. Another setback occurred when Wetherington died suddenly of early heart disease on October 3, 1973, while attending the National Quartet Convention in Nashville, it was around this time that the group was losing stability on its own and more changes to the line-up were inevitable.

Later years[edit]

Later incarnations of The Statesmen would include tenors Sherrill "Shaun" Nielson, Willie Wynn, and Johnny Cook; lead singers Roy McNeil and Jim Hill; baritones Chris Hess, Biney English and Rick Fair; and bass singers Ray Burdett, Bob Caldwell and Doug Young. Over the years, Jake Hess, Jack Toney, Doy Ott and Rosie Rozell would rejoin The Statesmen at various times, most notably a couple years after Wetherington's death when Lister brought back Rozell, Jake Hess, and Doy Ott as "The Statesmen" sans bass. A comical pairing of this classic Statesmen "trio" with longtime Blackwood Brothers/Stamps Quartet bass singer J.D. Sumner at the 1977 National Quartet Convention in Nashville was the birth of the Masters V Quartet, which would include, in its classic lineup, Rosie Rozell, James Blackwood, Jake Hess, J.D. Sumner, and Hovie Lister, the Statesmen's influence lives on in some of today's most popular quartets, such as The Dove Brothers Quartet, The Penny Loafers and Ernie Haase and Signature Sound. Doy Ott was the first of the original group that had survived Crumpler and Wetherington to die, having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1982 that left him comatose, but did not die until four years later. Rozell died in 1995 at the age of 67, Lister died on December 27, 2001, at the age of 75 due to complications of lymphoma, and Hess succumbed to a long battle with heart disease, dying on January 4,2004.[citation needed]

Legacy and cultural impact[edit]

The Statesmen influenced both gospel and non gospel artists alike. Elvis Presley was a fan of the group growing up and wanted to emulate them in his career and got the chance to perform with them. Jerry Lee Lewis also had a strong admiration for the group, but most notably Lister and his piano playing. "The Killer", as Lewis was called, credited Lister and the Statesman for developing his own style in performance. Carl Perkins and Larry Gatlin also cited themselves as fans of the group, while Tammy Wynette said on numerous occasions that Tenor Denver Crumpler was her "favorite singer, ever." The group's appeal to early rock and roll fans also pre-dated the "rock around the clock" era and also had an influence on early Contemporary Christian Music.

In his book They Heard Georgia Singing, former Georgia Governor and Senator Zell Miller said that Lister and his group "more than anyone else, put style and flair into gospel music.....Hovie was first of all a minister, and he ministered with his music," said Sen. Miller. "But he used to say religion did not need to have a long face, and he made religion upbeat." Lister defended his musical style that was considered "worldly" by many churches by retorting "If it takes shaking my hair down, beating a piano like Liberace or Piano Red to keep these young people out of beer joints or the rear seats of automobiles, I'll do it. The devil's got his kind of entertainment. We've got ours."

The group was elected into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame the previous year in 1997. The group permanently folded and retired in 2002.

Members[edit]

Line-ups[edit]

1948

(Under the Name "The Statesmen")

1948-1949 1949
  • Bobby Strickland – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Bervin Kendrick – baritone
  • Gordon Hill - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
  • Bobby Strickland – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Bervin Kendrick – baritone
  • A.D. Soward - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
1949-1951 1951 1951-1953
  • Bobby Strickland – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Bervin Kendrick – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
  • Earl Terry – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Troy Posey – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
  • Claris Freeman – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Doy Ott – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
1953-1956 1956-1957 1957
  • Denver Crumpler – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Doy Ott – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
  • Denver Crumpler – tenor
  • Les Roberson – lead
  • Doy Ott – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
  • Denver Crumpler – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Doy Ott – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
1958-1963 1963-1966 1966-1967
  • Rosie Rozell – tenor
  • Jake Hess – lead
  • Doy Ott – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
  • Rosie Rozell – tenor
  • Jack Toney – lead
  • Doy Ott – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
  • Rosie Rozell – tenor
  • Roy McNeal – lead
  • Doy Ott – baritone
  • "Big Chief" Wetherington - bass
  • Hovie Lister - piano, MC, group owner
1967-1968 1968-1969 1969-1971
Somehow, these following lineups are from the Kingsmen, not the Statesmen ...
  • Jerry Redd – tenor
  • Frank Cutshall – lead
  • Eldridge Fox – baritone
  • Calvin Runion - bass
  • Ray Talley - piano
  • Jerry Redd – tenor
  • Frank Cutshall – lead
  • Eldridge Fox – baritone
  • Jim McCallister - bass
  • Ray Talley - piano
1971-1973 1973-1975 1975-1976
  • Johnny Parrack – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Eldridge Fox – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Bruno - piano
  • Johnny Parrack – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Squire Parsons – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Bruno - piano
  • Johnny Parrack – tenor
  • Squire Parsons – lead
  • Eldridge Fox – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Bruno - piano
1977-1978 1978-1979 1979
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Squire Parsons – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Bruno - piano
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Squire Parsons – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Eldridge Fox – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
1979-1980 1980-1983 1983-1984
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Mark Trammell – baritone, bass guitar
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Wayne Maynard – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Ed Crawford – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
1984-1988 1988-1989 1989-1993
  • Garry Sheppard – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Arthur Rice – lead, Bass guitar
  • Ed Crawford – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
  • Garry Sheppard – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Arthur Rice – lead, baritone, Bass guitar
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
  • Garry Sheppard – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Parker Jonathan – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Anthony Burger - piano
1993-1995 1995-1996 1996-1997
  • Chris Collins – tenor
  • Jim Hamill – lead
  • Parker Jonathan – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Randy Matthews - piano
1997-1998 1998-2001 2001-2002
  • Chris Collins – tenor
  • Bryan Hutson – lead
  • Parker Jonathan – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Andrew Ishee - piano
  • Jerry A. Martin – tenor
  • Bryan Hutson – lead
  • Parker Jonathan – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Andrew Ishee - piano
  • Jerry A. Martin – tenor
  • Randy Crawford – lead
  • Parker Jonathan – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Succi - piano
2002-2003 2003-2004 2004-2005
  • Derrick Boyd – tenor
  • Randy Crawford – lead
  • Tim Surrett – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Succi - piano
  • Derrick Boyd – tenor
  • Tim Surrett – lead
  • Jason Selph – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Succi - piano
  • Jeremy Peace – tenor
  • Phillip Hughes – lead
  • Tim Surrett – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Succi - piano
2005-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009
  • Jeremy Peace – tenor
  • Phillip Hughes – lead
  • Tony Peace – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Succi - piano
  • Harold Reed – tenor
  • Phillip Hughes – lead
  • Bryan Hutson – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Succi - piano
  • Harold Reed – tenor
  • Phillip Hughes – lead
  • Bryan Hutson – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Nick Succi - piano
2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012
  • Jeremy Peace – tenor
  • Phillip Hughes – lead
  • Bryan Hutson – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Cody McVey - piano
  • Harold Reed – tenor
  • Randy Crawford – lead
  • Bryan Hutson – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Cody McVey - piano
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Bob Sellers – lead
  • Randy Crawford – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
2012-2016 2016 2016-present
  • Chris Jenkins – tenor
  • Bob Sellers – lead
  • Randy Crawford – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Ernie Phillips – tenor
  • Bob Sellers – lead
  • Randy Crawford – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass
  • Josh Horrell – tenor
  • Bob Sellers – lead
  • Randy Crawford – baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese - bass

Pianist and owner[edit]

Tenor[edit]

Lead[edit]

Baritone[edit]

Bass[edit]

Discography[edit]

  • 1957: The Statesmen Quartet with Hovie Lister
  • 1958: The Statesmen Quartet Sings with Hovie Lister
  • 1958: The Bible Told Me So (RCA)
  • 1959: Hymns
  • 1959: I'll Meet You By the River (RCA)
  • 1959: Get Away Jordan
  • 1960: Mansion Over the Hilltop (RCA)
  • 1960: On Stage (RCA)
  • 1960: Something To Shout About
  • 1960: Encores
  • 1960: Peace, O Lord
  • 1960: Statesmen Blackwood Favorites
  • 1961: Out West (RCA)
  • 1961: Through the States (RCA)
  • 1962: Stop, Look & Listen for the Lord
  • 1962: Camp-Meeting Hymns (RCA)
  • 1962: Singing Time in Dixie (Skylight)
  • 1963: The Mystery of His Way (RCA)
  • 1963: Message in the Sky (RCA Camden)
  • 1963: A Gospel Concert
  • 1964: Hovie Lister Sings with His Famous Statesmen Qt. (RCA)
  • 1964: Hovie Lister Spotlights Doy Ott (RCA)
  • 1964: Songs Of Faith (RCA Camden)
  • 1965: The Best Of The Statesmen Quartet (RCA)
  • 1964: Doris Akers & The Statesmen Sing for You
  • 1965: The Sensational Statesmen Quartet (RCA)
  • 1965: Sings the Golden Gospel Songs (RCA)
  • 1965: All Day Sing & Dinner on the Ground
  • 1966: The Happy Sound (RCA)
  • 1966: Sings the Gospel Gems
  • 1967: In Gospel Country (RCA)
  • 1967: My God is Real (RCA Camden)
  • 1967: Showers of Blessing (RCA)
  • 1968: Sing Brother Sing (RCA)
  • 1968: Hits of the Decade
  • 1968: Happy Land
  • 1968: The Best of the Statesmen Volume 2 (RCA)
  • 1968: God Loves American People (Skylite)
  • 1968: Standing on the Promises
  • 1969: Taller Than Trees (RCA Camden)
  • 1969: Thanks to Calvary (Skylite)
  • 1969: New Sounds Today (Skylite)
  • 1970: No Greater Love (RCA Camden)
  • 1970: Featuring…
  • 1970: The Common Man
  • 1971: Put Your Hand in the Hand (Skylite)
  • 1972: Keep On Smiling
  • 1972: Hits of the Decade
  • 1972: Hits of the Decade Vol. 2 (Chime, Artistic)
  • 1972: They That Sow (Skylite)
  • 1973: I Believe in Jesus
  • 1973: In Memory Of "Big Chief" Jim Wetherington & Denver "Crump" Crumpler (Lord, I Want to Go to Heaven) (CAM)
  • 1973: Time to Remember
  • 1974: Ain't That What It's All About
  • 1974: Precious Memories
  • 1974: Feature Doy Ott
  • 1977: The Legendary Statesmen Return
  • 1977: Gospel Songs Elvis Loved
  • 1977: Get Away Jordan
  • 1978: His Love Put a Song in My Heart
  • 1978: Oh What a Savior (Skylite)
  • 1979: Gospel Gems (Skylite)
  • 1979: Hovie Lister & The Sensational Statesmen
  • 1980: He is Here (Skylite)
  • 1981: Sweet Beulah Land
  • 1992: I Surrender All
  • 1992: The Bible Told Me So
  • 1992: Get Away Jordan
  • 1992: Jubilee’s A Coming
  • 1992: Revival
  • 1992: O What a Savior
  • 1993: O My Lord What a Time
  • 1996: Saints Don't You Know
  • 1997: Hovie Lister & The Statesmen
  • 1998: Still Sensational
  • 1999: You Can't Shake the Rock
  • 2000: Even So Come
  • Unknown Year Precious Old Book (Temple)
  • Unknown Year Faith Unlocks the Door (Temple)
  • Unknown Year How Great Thou Art (Skylite)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Goff, James (December 2001). Close harmony: a history of southern gospel. The University of North Carolina Press. pp. 169–174. ISBN 0-8078-5346-1. 
  2. ^ a b McNeil, W.K., ed. (2010). Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94179-2. P. 191
  3. ^ Billboard. July 25, 1964. Profile: The Statesmen Quartet. P. 26
  4. ^ Abernathy, Francis Edward, ed. (1993). Corners of Texas. Texas Folklore Society. ISBN 0-929398-57-2. P. 276.

External links[edit]