The Brooklyn AllStars

Marionna Claytor

 

The Brooklyn AllStars is the successful gospel quartet out of Brooklyn, New York. In 1950, furniture entrepreneur and singer, Charlie Storey founded the group. The group included Storey, Johnny Moore, Jesse Veloton, and Thomas Spann. Now famous for his rich bass voice, Spann originally sang baritone until Storey convinced him to try the bass part. 

In the quartets’ early years, the AllStars had a difficult time as they had little money for touring and were amid a hostile time in America. They often had to stuff into a single car to travel to their performances. The group relied on parishioners (Christians who belong to Parish churches and give to people in need) for food and rest as most places would not allow Black people in hotels and restaurants. In the early 1950s New York gospel promoter Joe Bostic help the AllStars land a regular spot on the weekly radio broadcast over WLIB and appeared on other popular gospel programs. 

The group went through numerous changes throughout their early years. By 1956, Storey found managing his furniture business and the Brooklyn AllStars at the same time was difficult. He turned the rights of the Allstars over to Spann who repopulated the quartet. Lead tenor Hardie Clifton, his brother Maurice Clifton, and Nathaniel Cook of the Singing Stars from Louisburg, North Carolina became the new members of the Brooklyn AllStars. In February 1958, they recorded professionally for the first time for Peacock Records. By this time, the group had changed members again and was comprised of Thomas Spann, Hardie Clifton, Nathaniel Cook, and Jake Holman with guitarists Herbert Robinson and Eddie Lester. Under Peacock Records, their singles “Careless Soul,” and “Singing for the Lord” flourished and earned the quartet a national touring spot with gospel powerhouses the Dixie Hummingbirds, Soul Sisters and Sensational Nightingales. 

In the 1960s, Spann and a gospel bookstore owner Harold Austin founded the Gospel Recording Company and the AllStars released singles and their first albums. The group underwent another member change and now included Paul Owens and Sam Thomas. In 1967, the group began recording with Nashboro Records. While recording for Nashboro Records and Jewel, between 1971 and 1978, the AllStars were voted the number one gospel group and had hits such as “When I Stood on the Banks of Jordan,” “He Touched Me and Made Me Whole,” and “No Cross, No Crown.” The group earned two gold albums and several music awards. The AllStars recorded for numerous labels, the latest being Malaco Records. Thomas Spann currently leads the quartet in its seventh decade of music. 

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