Origin/Legacy

The Dinwiddie Colored Quartet were a jubilee quartet founded in 1898 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. They began as a jubilee quartet for the Dinwiddie Normal and Industrial School (now known as Southside High School), but left the school in 1902 and began touring as an act of a vaudeville show.

It is believed that The Dinwiddie Colored Quartet were the first black vocal group to have recordings on disc.

The group disbanded in 1904.

Musical Style

The Dinwiddie Quartet maintained the original elements of jubilee:

  • close harmony
  • formal arrangements
  • no instruments.

This also included restrained musical expression, as improvisation was looked down upon.

Members of the Group

The Dinwiddie Quartet was comprised of :

  • J. Mantell Thomas (bass vocal)
  • Harry B. Cruder (bass vocal)
  • Sterling Rex (tenor vocal) and
  • J. Clarence Meredith (tenor vocal).

Commodification

In October of 1902 The Dinwiddie Colored Quartet recorded six songs for the Victor Talking Machine Company, a record company and phonorgraph manufacturer in Camden, New Jersey. (1)

5 of the 6 songs were also featured on the album The Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets, 1894-1928, which is composed of tracks from various other jubilee quartets.

Influence

Even though The Dinwiddie Quartet only lasted for 6 years, the group contributed to the genre of jubilee and are an example of the origins of Jubilee Quartets.

The group’s recordings are regarded by scholars as “key documents in the recorded history of black jubilee music.” (2)

Over time, jubilee took on elements of jazz and blues and evolved into what is known as “hard gospel”.

Summary Statement

The Dinwiddie Colored Quartet were just another black male vocal group that popularized negro spirituals after the abolition of slavery. If you want to know about the original form of jubilee quartets, definitely give the Dinwiddie Quartet a listen.