The Soul Stirrers

The Soul Stirrers have been an American gospel music group, whose profession spans over eighty years.[1] The group was a pioneer within the improvement of the quartet model of gospel, and a significant affect on soul, doo wop, and Motown, among the secular music that owed a lot to gospel.


The group was fashioned by (Silas) Roy Crain, launching his first quartet who sang in a jubilee model, in 1926 in Trinity, Texas, United States.[1] Within the early Nineteen Thirties, after Crain moved to Houston, he joined an present group on the situation that it change its title to “the Soul Stirrers”. The title “Soul Stirrers” yields from the outline of one in every of Roy Crain’s earlier quartets as “soul-stirring.” Among the many members of that group was R.H. (Rebert) Harris, who quickly turned its musical chief.[1] The Soul Stirrers, fashioned as a jubilee quartet, reworked their sound, influenced by laborious gospel singers resembling Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Rebert Harris, additionally from Trinity, Texas, introduced a number of modifications to the Soul Stirrers that affected gospel quartet singing typically. He used a falsetto model that had its antecedents in African music, however which was new to the favored jubilee singing model of the time. He pioneered the “swing lead”—in which two singers would share the job of main the track, permitting virtuoso singers to extend the emotional depth of the track because the lead handed between them with out disturbing the 4 half concord.[1] That innovation led the Soul Stirrers, whereas nonetheless referred to as a quartet, to amass 5 members.

The Soul Stirrers made different essential modifications in these years: ad-libbing lyrics, singing in delayed time, and repeating phrases within the background as each a rhythmic and emotional assist for the lead singers. The Soul Stirrers together with different quartet performers, dropped the “flatfooted” model of jubilee quartets earlier than them and expanded their repertoire from spirituals and conventional hymns to the newer gospel compositions. The group additionally loosened the inflexible preparations that jubilee quartets had favored to allow particular person singers throughout the group extra space for particular person improvement.

In 1936, Alan Lomax recorded the Soul Stirrers for the Library of Congress’s American music undertaking, and people 4 unissued recordings are within the American Folklife Heart assortment at the moment. They later moved to Chicago, the place they broadcast a weekly radio present (WIND) with different well-known teams together with Golden Gate Quartet and The Well-known Blue Jay Singers. Because the gospel quartet model of singing turned extra well-liked, teams would carry out in competitions referred to as “track battles” to additional improve the style’s recognition.

As World Conflict II started, it turned harder for a lot of gospel quartet teams to make a dwelling. It resulted in some quartets supplementing their revenue by doing stay performances at church buildings, colleges, and neighborhood facilities. Regardless of the financial scenario, all through the Forties and main into the Fifties, many gospel quartet teams have been in a position to pursue their careers efficiently. The Soul Stirrers’ nationwide touring gained them an excellent bigger viewers.

The Soul Stirrers signed with Specialty Data, the place they recorded plenty of tracks, together with “By and By” and “In That Terrible Hour”.[1] Harris give up in late 1950 to kind a brand new group, citing dissatisfaction with what he seen because the crookedness of the enterprise and immoral conduct by musicians he noticed on the “Gospel Freeway” touring circuit.[1] He was briefly changed on lead by Paul Foster, then by Sam Cooke.[1] Cooke joined the group at 19 and served as lead vocalist from 1950 to 1956.[2]

One of many early singles with Cooke was “Jesus Gave Me Water”, a significant hit that introduced the Soul Stirrers acclaim. Thomas L. Breuster was changed by Bob King and, briefly, Julius Cheeks.[1] When Cooke left in 1957 to pursue a profession in pop music, the Soul Stirrers’ preeminence in gospel was basically over, although a short interval of success with Johnnie Taylor sustained the group for a time.[1] The group made a number of appearances acting on TV Gospel Time in early Nineteen Sixties. Numerous line-ups continued touring and recording all through the final half of the century to a small and devoted following. The group — and all of its members — was inducted into the Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame in 1989 as one in every of rock’s ‘Early Influences’, and into the Vocal Group Corridor of Fame in 2000.

Additional studying

  • Tony Heilbut, The Gospel Sound: Good Information and Unhealthy Occasions. Limelight Editions, 1997, ISBN 0-87910-034-6.
  • Horace Clarence Boyer, How Candy the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Elliott and Clark, 1995, ISBN 0-252-06877-7.
  • Jerry Zolten, Nice God A’ Mighty!:The Dixie Hummingbirds – Celebrating The Rise Of Soul Gospel Music, Oxford College Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-515272-7.
  • Michael Corcoran, “All Over The Map: True Heroes of Texas Music”. Austin: College of Texas, 2005.
  • Peter Guralnick, “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke”. New York: Little, Brown and Firm, 2005.
  • Rachel Rubin ed., “American In style Music”. Amherst: College of Massachusetts, 2001.
  • Daniel Wolff, “You Ship Me”. New York: William Morrow and Firm, 1995.
  • Mark Burford, “Soul Stirrers” in Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. New York: Routledge, 2005.

  • Vocal Group Corridor of Fame web page on The Soul Stirrers

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