Golden Gate Quartet (1934-Present)
The Golden Gate Jubilee Singers quartet was formed in 1934 by Willie Johnson, William Langford, Henry Owens, and Orlandus Wilson who were students at Booker T. Washington high school in Virginia. Their early style was influenced by the Mills Brothers. The group quickly became a fixture on radio station WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their regular radio appearances and other opportunities that followed led to an invitation for the group to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1938 on John Hammond's Spirituals To Swing concert. By this point, they were recording for Victor's Bluebird label.
Clyde Riddick replaced William Langford in 1939 at the tenor position. The group name was changed to Golden Gate Quartet in 1940 at the suggestion of CBS. The newly named quartet was the first black group to participate in the inauguration ceremonies of a United States president when they sang for Franklin D. Roosevelt. This performance led to a number of concerts at the White House.
In 1941, the group made their first tour outside the United States when they were invited to sing in Mexico by the Mexican government and appeared in the Paramount movie Star Spangled Rhythm. Over the next few years, they appeared in several more Hollywood films. Joe Johnson and Alton Bradley sang baritone while Willie Johnson served in the Navy from 1943 until 1946. Orlandus Wilson was also mobilized for duty in the Navy in 1944. Clifford Givens filled the bass position until Wilson and Willie Johnson returned at the end of the war. Willie Johnson would leave the group again in 1948 to join the Jubalaires. He was replaced at baritone by Orville Brooks. In 1948, the Golden Gate Quartet appeared in the film A Star Is Born with Danny Kaye, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong.
During the 1940s and early 1950s, the Golden Gate Quartet was often featured on events with white male quartets. A 1952 poster for the Battle Of Songs event lists the Golden Gate Quartet alongside eighteen all-white quartets. Racial tensions escalated in the South after the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board Of Education decision, though, so the Golden Gate Quartet began to explore other audiences, ultimately moving to Europe. The early 1950s also brought a few personnel changes for the group, but they stabilized in 1955 after a 26-year-old second tenor singer named Clyde Wright and a baritone named Caleb Ginyard joined Reddick and Wilson, the high and low vocal fixtures of the quartet. The next membership change would come in 1971.
In 1956 and 1957, the Golden Gate Quartet began touring annually in Europe and the Middle East, playing in diverse locales including England, Gaza, and Scandanavia. They extended their world tour to the Orient, Greece, and Japan in 1958. By 1959, the group had permanently relocated to Paris where they annually toured throughout Europe. In 1962, they also toured in 26 African countries over a six-month period. During this period, the group began transitioning from singing strictly a cappella to add a guitarist and later piano, bass, and drums. In the 1960s, they toured Hungary, Spain, Israel, Germany, Norway, Portugal, the Phillipines and Thailand.
In 1971, Wright and Ginyard, who had joined in the same year in 1955, both left the group. They were replaced by Calvin Williams and a 21-year-old singer named Paul Brembly. Although few artists from the west were allowed to sing behind the Iron Curtain at the time, East German television featured the Golden Gate Quartet on Christmas show in 1972. In 1979, the group made their first tour in the Caribbean. During the 1980s, the Golden Gate Quartet celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first European appearance and the 50th anniversary of the group's birth. In 1983, they were awarded the Grand Prix Gospel Mahalia Jackson by the French Academy Of Jazz.
Clyde Wright returned to the second tenor slot in 1985, replacing the man who replaced him fourteen years earlier, Calvin Williams. Wright would remain with the group for ten years this time. In 1995, Frank Davis and Charles West replaced the groups top two voices, Wright and an 82-year-old Clyde Riddick who sang with the group for more than 55 years. Original bass singer, Orlandus Wilson, passed away in 1998, leaving baritone Paul Brembly (Wilson's grand-nephew) in the management position. Meanwhile in 1998, Clyde Wright returned to begin his third stint with the Golden Gate Quartet.
2002 Best Recordings (Quintessential Records/8011): Joshua Fit The Battle; Swing Down Chariot; Dipsy Doodle; My Time Done Come; Gabriel Blows His Horn; Rock-A-My Soul; My Lord Is Writing; Hush; Sweet Adeline; Jezebel; Sampson; Travelin’ Shoes; Hold The Wind; Bones, Bones, Bones; Shadrack; Give Me Two Wings; I Am A Pilgrim; The End Of My Journey; Listen To The Lambs; Golden Gate Gospel Train.
???? The Golden Gate Quartet (Signal Records/5831): Rock My Soul; Swing Down Chariot; Old Man River; And The Angels Sing; Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen; Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho; Down By The River; Old Time Religion; Amen; Friendship; Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child; Oh Happy Day.
???? The Double Album (Happy Bird Records/90072): Where Shall I Be (When The First Trumpet Sounds); Yes Indeed; Glory, Glory Hallelujah; God Said He Would Calm The Ocean; The Village Of Bernadette; Living Humble; My Way Is Cloudy; He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands; Do Not Pass Me By; What Could I Do Without The Lord; Soldiers Of The Cross; Sabbath Has No End; Micheal; Put Your Hand In The Hand; If I Had A Hammer; Mammy Blue; Just A Closer Walk With Thee; On The Street Where You Live; The Sun Didn’t Shine (On Calvary’s Mountain); Up Above My Head; My Time’s Done Come; Only Believe; When The World’s On Fire; He Never Said A Mumblin’ Word.
LINK (requires RealAudio Player) Gospel Train
1983 - French Academy Of Jazz recognizes the Golden Gate Quartet, awarding them the Grand Prix Gospel Mahalia Jackson
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