Bob Rick Ed Brad
Southern Gospel Music began when James D. Vaughn decided to sponsor a traveling quartet to sing his songs and sell his songbooks. 2010 marked the Centennial of this unique style of gospel music.
Since that time many hundreds, maybe thousands of gospel male quartets, mixed quartets and trios have come and gone. Many have left wonderful legacies of great singing, interesting personalities and interesting histories. Some, like the Blackwood Brothers sang for forty years, some like the Cathedrals traveled and sang for thirty years. Most, however, blossom and bloom for four or five years and fade away.
One quartet, based in California, was formed out of the Stamps Harmony Boys in 1954 and has now survived fifty-eight years, over 55% of the entire history of Southern Gospel Music. The Songfellows Quartet is now one of the longest lasting groups in the history of Southern Gospel Music.
It all started back in the 1920’s when a young man in Sweetwater, Texas attended a Stamp School of Music. That young man, Bob Jones Sr., 2006 inductee of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, formed the quartet in San Diego in 1944. One of the original members was another Hall of Fame member, Earl Weatherford. Together they developed a style of quartet singing that influenced an entire generation of quartets, including the Weatherfords, Imperials and the Cathedrals.
Based in California for over 50 years, Bob Sr. was responsible for bringing Southern Gospel Music out West and establishing a love for this wonderful style of heart warming, toe tapping gospel music.
Decades later from their radio program on KFI, the 50,000-watt clear channel NBC station in Los Angeles, people listened to their Sunday night broadcast from Guam to Des Moines and from Vancouver, BC to Mexico City and were featured on many early television shows originating on the West Coast.
The quartet was an early participant in television and appeared with many country artists such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Red Foley, and Glen Campbell. They have also been featured on Gospel Music Southern Style, TBN’s Praise the Lord and the Voice of Calvary. Now they are the featured group on the "Brush Arbor Jubilee" the synicated Southern Gospel program heard and seen over much of the United States.
The Songfellows were featured in the historic concerts in the Long Beach Civic Auditorium along with the Statesmen, Blackwood Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, Couriers, Weatherfords and others. The quartet regularly traveled from Vancouver, BC to Dallas, Texas and occasionally toured the entire country.
The Songfellows helped organize and create the Western States Gospel Music Association, which led to the expansion and popularity of Southern Gospel Music in the western states today.
For the last fifteen years the Songfellows have been featured at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, twelve of them on the main stage.
One of the Songfellows’ record releases on Homeland Records is “Hymns of the Homeland”, a collection of 13 of your favorite old hymns. Over the past fifty-eight years dozens of Songfellows recordings were made for Dial Records, Cornerstone Records, Gospel Singtime Records, HeartWarming and Homeland Records. These were 78, 45, 33 1/3 long play albums, cassettes and compact discs.
In 1954 The Songfellows Quartet was launched on the Mutual Radio Network. Over the next 57 years the quartet was the premier gospel quartet in the western states of America. Except for their annual appearance on the main stage of the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, KY. their ministry was exclusive in the west. In 2006 the quartet moved from Los Angeles, CA. to Nashville, TN.
Bob Jones Sr., the founder of the quartet was joined by his teenage son Bob Jr. in 1958. They sang together until 2007 when at the age of 93 Bob Sr. passed away. Bob Sr. was singing on the main stage at the National Quartet Convention at 91 years of age. He was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Bob Jr. remains active today as lead singer and manager.
Today, many gospel quartets have adopted a much more progressive, even contemporary sound. The use of “stacked tracks” (vocals recorded on the soundtrack and the groups sings along with itself) and pre-recorded music has changed the sound of the traditional gospel quartet. The emphasis on getting a good radio single has also caused groups to abandon the great old standards that people love.
The current group includes another Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee, Ed Hill singing baritone. Rick Strickland, another iconic industry veteran sings tenor. Brad Smith, a full blooded Cherokee, is the bass. Brad is gifted with a six octave range which enables him to add some exciting vocal dimensions to the Songfellows arrangements. Bob Jones sings lead and manages the quartet.
The Songfellows are dedicated to preserving the sound and style of the traditional Southern Gospel quartet by using a great piano player, four guys that just step up there and sing four-part harmony with a very high tenor, deep low bass and a big full sound. Most importantly, the quartet is dedicated to bringing the message of love and redemption found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Savior and King. If you love traditional gospel quartet music you will love the Songfellows Quartet.