Jubilee is a style of singing that emerged out of university quartets, and is usually sung acapella. The Fisk Jubilee singers popularized the style and influenced other HBCU’s to start their own school singing groups. Different types of Jubilee quartets exist/have existed including barbershop, minstrel and community-based.
The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi started singing in the 1930’s at the Piney Woods School near Jackson, Mississippi. They started off as a quartet and were originally known as the Cotton Blossom Singers. The group members included Lawrence Abrams, Archie Brownlee, Joseph Ford, and Lloyd Woodard. The group sang popular songs at school fundraisers and in 1937 they were record for the Library of Congress. In the 1940’s, the group started performing gospel music in the jubilee style, changing their name to the Jackson Harmonizers. The quartet became a quintet in 1942, when Melvin Harrison joined the group. Later, the group moved to Chicago and became The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Percil Perkins replaced Melvin Henderson, and also became the groups manager.
In the late 1940’s the group became famous nationwide, being known for their hard gospel style. Archie Brownlee, the lead singer, had a strong voice and was known for shouting, growling and moaning in songs. The group’s song, “Our Father”, hit the Billboard R&B Charts in 1950 and was one of the first gospel records to do so.
The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi were an influential gospel jubilee quartet. They paved the way for gospel music today, with their strong voices. Some key elements in their songs like shouting, and moaning can be heard in some gospel songs today, especially in songs made by choirs or groups. Hezikiah Walker, is an example of a gospel artist that uses some of the elements heard in the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi’s music.
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