Gospel in the 1950s
Gospel in the 50s was known as the Golden age gospel. The Jubilee quartets still had a huge influence on music and Gospel in
this time had a similar sound and syncopation as the groups. Some groups that flourished in this time include the Dixie hummingbirds, Pilgrim Travelers, Soul Stirrers, Swan Silvertones,Caravans and many more. The lead singers of these groups created a conjunct melody, which marked the difference between the two genres. The conjunction evoked spiritual emotion that crashed over the musicians and audience.
During this era solo artists stood out creating “hard gospel” .These soloists such as Ira Tucker Sr. and Paul Owens from the hummingbirds amplified the emotional and musical intensity of their music by shouting in falsetto and coming back down to a bass, this was known as “trickeration”. In this era, women singers were coming into the spotlight such as, Roberta Martin, Bessie Griffin and Mahalia Jackson. Women in this era used an overpowering technique to establish themselves. These women and many more opened the door for women in gospel for decades to come.
Interest in black gospel music gripped the country and every city and town in the South staged gospel music programs in churches and auditoriums. New artists such as the Dixie Hummingbirds and Shirley Caesar emerged, initially as second line acts, then later on as headliners. Soloists such as Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds and Claude Jeter of the Swan Silvertones became well known among devotees. With widespread appeal, groups could afford extravagant costumes and could travel in comfort. Local nonprofessional black gospel groups copied the dress and singing styles of more popular musicians and even adopted their names.
This increasing popularity and professionalism ultimately turned some of the more conservative church members away from contemporary gospel music. By the mid to late 1950s there was something of a backlash against “secularization,” most clearly manifested in the opulent manner in which some singers lived.
Popular songs in this era include:
This Little Light of Mine by The Clara Ward Singers (1952)
Jesus Is a Friend by The Swan Silvertones (1954)
Alex bradford – Im too Close(1953)
Soul Stirrers- Touch the Hem of his Garment
The Dixie Hummingbirds- Mercy Lord
The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi- Our Father
Professor Johnson – Where shall i be
Mahalia Jackson- Move on up a little higher