Thomas Quartets (428 KB)
Valley Staff Gospel Quartets: 1940-1950 (164 KB)
Cash Quartet (105
Activity Final Report (33.2 KB)
- July, 2007) is currently a doctoral candidate in
musicology at the University of Kentucky. The subject
of his dissertation in progress is the music of famed
gospel composer and publisher, Albert E. Brumley.
Fellowship work at Berea June-July 2007 focused on the
gospel quartets documented in Berea's radio program collections,
especially the Renfro Valley Gatherin' and other programs
John Lair aired on network radio from Renfro Valley in
Kevin's efforts focused on analyzing performing styles and repertoires, understanding
stylistic similarities and differences within a concentrated geographic region,
and developing a more complete account of John Lair's association with Albert
Brumley. He also looked closely at John Lair's use of gospel music in the radio
programming, quartet contests, and annual all-night singing events he produced,
and the impact this activity had on the greater Renfro Valley community. Fieldwork
included attending present-day Renfro Valley performances, conducting oral history
interviews, and identifying a collection of rare gospel quartet radio recordings
from the 1950s.
Quartet profiles and audio samples excerpted from Kevin
Kehrberg’s Fellowship Activity Report documenting
key persons, quartets, repertoire and singing styles associated
with southern gospel music activity at Renfro Valley 1940-1950.
Crusaders were organized in the late 1930s by Clinton County
school teacher, Reual Thomas (lead) along with wife, Flossie
(alto), and neighbors, Marvin York (bass) and Leslie Andrews
(baritone and guitar accompaniment). They sang regularly
on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, and John Lair's more subdued,
scripted radio programs such as Monday Night in Renfro
Valley and the Renfro Valley Gatherin' until disbanding
They were generally typical of southern gospel
quartets of the time. However with both male and female
members, their sound was more mild and rounded than all-male
groups, then the majority in Kentucky's gospel quartet
scene. Their repertoire included a heavy dose of Albert
E. Brumley material and leaned toward newer, more recently
composed songs that could place them apart from other groups.
|The Four Tones
Thomas organized the Four Tones in mid to late 1944 as a
replacement for the Crusaders. While on Renfro Valley business
in the south, he recruited Georgians, Carroll "Shorty" Bradford
(tenor) and Paul "Curley" Kinsey (bass). Combined with Howard
Steele from Corbin, Kentucky (baritone & guitar), the new
group took their name from a no longer existing one that
had included Bradford, Kinsey, and future gospel star, Lee
Roy Abernathy. No group recordings have survived, however
Renfro Valley radio scripts strongly suggest that the Four
Tones maintained much of the same repertoire that the Crusaders
had performed. The original configuration held only briefly
over the period during 1944-1945 that the group was in action.
Replacements moving in and out at various times included
Herschel Collins, Glenn Pennington, and Flossie Thomas. (More. 434KB)
|Rusty Gate Quartet
Rusty Gate quartet was a Renfro Valley radio presence during
period 1944-1948. Consisting of various staff performers,
their repertoire drew heavily from spirituals and classic
black gospel songs. Their performing style reflected the
famous jubilee quartets of the 1930s and 40s. Original personnel
included Glenn Pennington, Jerry Behrens, and the Turner
Brothers (Red and Lige). Others over time included Wade Baker,
Carroll "Shorty" Bradford, Bob Simmons, and Troy Gibbs. With
performances that were tight and polished, the group at its
prime were heard often on both the Barn Dance and Gatherin'.
Particular highlights were Behrens's guitar work and Pennington's
skillful bass singing. (More. 173KB)
|The Gloryland Quartet
was heard at Renfro Valley for only about a year, 1948-1949.
The group was made up of singing duo, Shug and Ray Mulkey,
fiddler, Shorty Sheehan, and comedian, Manuel "Old Joe" Clark.
In the quartet, Ray and Shug respectively sang lead and tenor
while Sheehan and Clark handled baritone and bass.
recordings and a repertoire list suggest that in part, they
continued the Rusty Gate's emphases on spirituals. However,
they also followed other country radio quartets in covering
Hank Williams songs such as "I'll Have a New Life," "Lord
Lead Me On," "I'll Fly Away," "After the Sunrise," and Bill
Monroe's arrangement of "Drifting Too Far From the Shore."
|Seventy Six Quartet
| In February
1947, Reual Thomas reformed the Crusaders under a new name,
the Seventy Six Quartet, probably to distinguish themselves
from two other south-central Kentucky gospel groups then
going by the name "Crusaders." Personnel, in addition to
Thomas, included wife, Flossie (alto) and cousins, Clay and
Jeff Colson. With Flossie and the Colsons being later replaced
at various times by Edward Snell, Leslie Andrews, and Morris
Gaskin, the quartet was a Renfro Valley radio fixture until
Broadcast recordings reveal different guitar
work than on any of the other Thomas quartet recordings.
There are turnarounds between verses and at times a second
guitar. Their long repertoire list reveals Thomas's preference
for current singing convention favorites mixed in with some
newer compositions. Over one-fifth of the songs are by composer
Albert E. Brumley, along with strong showings by such others
as Luther Presley, J.B. Coats, and Vep Ellis.
|Cedar Springs Baptist
Thomas' singing school teaching resulted in guest radio appearances
by school "graduates" from time-to-time. One such group were
singers from Casey County's Cedar Springs Baptist Church
who sang on the Renfro Valley Gatherin' 1948. Lair depicted
the group as an "old-fashioned singing school" despite the
fact that they were singing newer seven-shape gospel hymns.
Also, perhaps to give the program an old timey feel, the
group sings the shapes, a practice common in the older, or "Fasola," shape-note
singing (e.g. "Sacred Harp" singing), but one that is somewhat
rare in seven-shape, or "Doremi," gospel music performance.
Cash quartet from Rockcastle County, Kentucky, formed around
as the result of singing together at the Ottawa Baptist Church.
Members included Walter Cash, wife Reba, Walter's sister
Joanne, and R.H. Hamm. Like many other amateur gospel groups
at the time, they were not interested in commercial recording.
They sung only occasionally on the nationally heard Renfro
Valley Gatherin'. However they gained a local radio following
through their own weekly program, Sinclair Sunday Serenade,
over Renfro Valley's WRVK. They were busy as well with frequent
appearances at local and regional gospel singing events,
something they continued after they stopped radio performing
in the late-1960s. (More. 104KB)
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