Jubilee quartets were popular from the 1880s to 1930s. Jubilee quartets existed in three periods the jubilee period which lasted until the 30s, the transitional period which lasted for about 15 years, and finally the gospel period. Jubilee quartets are characterized by the harmonizing of voices. Typically there are four people but many quartets had more. The voices featured, in order from highest to lowest, were first tenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. There were five types of Jubilee quartets, university jubilee quartet, minstrel jubilee quartet, community based, shape note/sacred heart quartet, and barbershop quartet.
The commodification of Jubilee Quartets was primarily through radio ads and minstrel shows. The radio was also used to spread propaganda. During the transitional period, there was a very popular radio ad that ran called Stalin wasn’t Stallin’. This ad was recorded by the Golden Gate Quartet during world war II. The song was written to praise the efforts of Joseph Stalin in his efforts against Hitler.
One of the most nationally and internationally know Jubilee Quartets were the Fisk Jubilee Singers. This group was composed of students from Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville Tennessee. The group originally organized in 1871 with a purpose of fundraising. The Fisk Jubilee Singers had a relatively quick rise to fame. Not only were their voices amazing but part of their stardom was due to the fact that they showed Black people in a positive light. Rather than performing in minstrel shows they performed as themselves with grace and poise. The Fisk Jubilee singers were world renowned and some of their accomplishments include performing at the White House and performing in England for Queen Victoria.
Other notable Jubilee Quartets include The Mills Brothers, The Golden Gate Quartet, The Soul Stirrers, The Five Blind Boys, The Dixie Hummingbirds, and the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet.