Gospel Period: The Changes of the Jubilee Quartet Tradition- Five Blind Boys of Mississippi

In the early jubilee period, there were no instruments used in part of the performances. In the 1940s, the jubilee quartets were formed and became known as gospel quartets. During this gospel period, the gospel quartets included instruments such as guitars, drums, and piano. Then post-1940s, the gospel quartet began to change by adding new elements to the performance by incorporating gospel characteristics. Furthermore, the quartets also contained vibrato, falsetto, shouting vocals, and timbre changes. The gospel groups began to walk and run across the stage, jump off the stage, and use walk-in aisles during the concert. One of the groups involved with this new vamp was the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. With their singing style that captivated the crowds,  the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi impacted and changes the jubilee quartets’ traditions forever.

Origin

The four members of the quartets: Archie Brownlee, Joseph Ford, and Llyod Wooded, were students at Piney Wood School in Jackson, Mississippi. They formed a group known as Cotton Blossom Singer to raise money for school funding. They began and performed secular and sacred music. When they moved to Chicago in the mid-40s, they become known as the Five Blinds Boys of Mississippi.

Singing Style

Before they became the Five Blind Boys, they screamed and shouted during the concert. In the early 1940s, they were known as the Jackson Haramonies where they performed religious music and sung in jubilee style which was first popularized by the Fisk Jubilee. Later, the group wanted to create their own singing style. Robert Harris, the lead singer of the Soul Stirrers, played a significant part and influenced the group with his hard gospel style, which contained much of the baritone vocal range. Archie Brownlee, the quartets’ lead singer, used his vocal range to make such sounds as shouting vocals, and timbre changing such as growling, moaning while singing to the gospel.

In the 1940s, the group gained popularity and was pickup by Don Robey. They began recording with the Peacock Record Label in 1950. They recorded their first hit song, “Our Father,” which was placed on the Top 10 of Billboard’s R&B chart. Because of their performance style, they were the first gospel group to have a hit song, the Billboard Chart. They continue to record 27 singles and five albums. The Five Blind Boys continued to perform in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Overall, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi performance style significantly impacted the jubilee quartets during the Gospel period. Their ability to make noises and do body movements have help to change the course of gospel music—the impact and influence have transformed many artists and groups such as Ray Charles. The quartets have expanded to become the most fantastic jubilee groups in the 20th Century

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