Jubilee Quartet

Elvis Presley: King of Rock and Roll or King of Stealing?

Jubilee was a unique African American tradition that originated in the mid- 1880s where it evolved in three major cycles; the jubilee period, the transitional period, and the gospel period.

In the beginning, the jubilee period highlighted slow hymns, no backing music and no rhythms. The period emphasized the secular nature of the practice which makes sense because the Negro Spiritual period ended prior.

In the transitional period, there was an apparent shift. The music changed from slow, melodramatic and intentional, to fast paced, performance based music with a hint of gospel music. This period was a hit or miss in various musical commitees. Some groups such as schools or smaller secular groups believed that it was too “ghetto” and disassociated. 

While others thought it was the new age of Jubilee and gravitated towards it.

In the final period “the gospel period,” jubilee quartets had taken on a whole new approach. The music was completely performance based and included techniques captivate the audience.


The transitional stage caught the attention of many white artists such as the well known Elvis Presley. Elvis loved the upbeat rythms and tones of this music and decided to coin it and make it for his own. His music relayed on the tunes of black gospel, blues and country.

His music was stolen from artists such as Lil Richie, Joe Turner and Ray Charles whose styles were all heavily influenced in this period.

To conclude, the Jubilee Quartets era of music is often overlooked because of the fame of Elvis Presley. While it is disheartening that black artists were overshadowed by him, it is important to look at the roots.

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