Since the beginning of the 1850’s specialized groups of singers began to form, including quartets. Quartets frequently sung without the use of instruments, but sometimes guitars, bass, and drums would be incorporated into the style of music. The a cappella style of music became known as jubilee quartet with the repertoire nature and sonic qualities of it. The designated four-part harmony arrangements of quartets made them specific for only four to seven singers. The quartet genre of music is historically divided into the: jubilee, transitional, and gospel period.
Jubilee specifically emerged within African American universities as “secular narrative texts sung in moderate or fast tempo”.
Fisk University was one of the most prominent schools that had a jubilee quartet. Fisk’s jubilee quartet was prominent in preserving the tradition of Negro Spirituals. In fact, through concerts and tours Fisk received an enormous amount of financial assistance as well as fame and recognition of their musical groups.
Other performers of jubilee quartet include the Mills Brothers who later became know as the “Four Kings of Harmony”. With their stardom they became the first African-Americans to have a network show on the radio. Some of their notable songs are: “Tiger Rag” and “Nobody’s Sweetheart”.
The birth of quartets, and later jubilee quartets, gave way to music that consisted of harmonized singers that relied mainly on each others voices rather than instruments. As time progressed, the harmony of quartets influenced the birth of pop and soul music genres.