The Golden Gate Quartet
Jubilee quartets have roots stemming from the Fisk Jubilee Singers, formed in 1871. This group banded together to preform negro spirituals and combat the large amount of debt that Fisk was facing. These performances of negro spirituals to audiences led to the creation of jubilee quartets and their style of singing.
Introducing: The Golden Gate Quartet!
The Golden Gate Quartet is a jubilee quartet that has been active since 1934. Originally known as The Golden Gate Jubilee Singers, the group has origins stemming from Booker T. Washington school out of Norfolk, Virginia. The group preformed for local people, and began to grow in popularity in 1936. Following a certain structure, the group would be lead by one vocalist and the three other vocalists would follow their lead in a rhythmic fashion.
Willie Johnson was the original baritone of the group from 1934-1943 (Johnson was mobilized into the military), and then from 1946-1948. Upon leaving The Golden Gate Quartet, Willie Johnson becomes the leader of the “Jubalaires”, another jubilee quartet group. Still during his time with The Golden Gate Quartet, Willie Johnson is credited for writing the song “Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’“. Johnson passed away in 1980.
William Langford sung as one of the original tenors of the group, and did so until his departure from The Golden Gate Quartet in 1939. Langford died in 1970.
Henry Owens sung as second tenor in the original quartet from 1934 to 1951. Owens left the group to become a solo artist and preacher. Henry Owens died in 1970.
Orlandus Wilson was born in 1917, and died in 1998. Wilson was apart of the original quartet, and was in the group from its creation in 1934 to 1944, having to take a break since he was mobilized in the Navy until 1946. Orlandus Wilson served as the bass singer until his death. Orlandus was credited as the creator of the Golden Gate Quartet. Here is a video that seems to show Wilson leading in the song “Working On a Building” in 1998.
As time went on, original members retired and passed away. As this happened, new members continued to keep the group active. The group has seen various new members, including but not limited to, Paul Brembly has served as Baritone, Frank Davis as first tenor, Anthony Gordon as bass, and Clyde Wright as second tenor.
Golden Gate Quartet: Through the Years
The Golden Gate Quartet formed during a period referred to as the Transitional Period. Jubilee quartets were going from a slower sound to a sound that was based on a faster paced rhythmic style. The Golden Gate Quartet had to have been, at the very least, one of the most famous groups in this genre at the time. Being that this group even appeared in some films, its safe to say that the Golden Gate Quartet had a large piece of the image of Jubilee Quartets at the time. Being that they had this exposure, I believe that this group had an impact on future music genres. Jubilee quartets in the Transitional Period had a certain sound that would later evolve into the rhythmic style that we associate with genres, such as Rap, today.
Bosert, Jeff. “At Fisk University, A Tradition Of Spirituals.” NPR Music, 26 Feb. 2011, choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/2011/02/26/134028602/at-fisk-university-a-tradition-of-spirituals.
CultD. “The Golden Gate Quartet (e).” The Golden Gate Quartet, web.archive.org/web/20120131135415/http://www.cultd.net/goldengate/beginE.htm. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.