More on sg and black gospel

Historically minded DA wrote with an interesting reference to the intersection of black and white gospel.

The Statesmen “borrowed” a number of songs from the black groups.

From Happy Rhythm by David Taylor (1998):

“We’d hear different records back in those days,” says Jake. “They’d always have a few programs over the country that played black spirituals and we heard some of those. But I guess our favorite group back then, black group, was Golden Gate. We liked the Golden Gate Quartet quite a bit. We didn’t do too many of their songs. But I guess we used more of their stuff than any other group.”

“They were classy,” says Hovie. “They were real good. They were showmen.”

DA notes that “even in later years the Statesmen did some classic black spirituals.”

This makes me wonder what accounts for the trailing off in southern gospel of covering black gospel tunes. A coupla possibilities come to mind (though please add yours): perhaps with the waning fervor of the Civil Rights movement in mainstream America after the 1960s, the popular imagination was less preoccupied with spirituals specifically affirming “black culture” more generally, as the focus shifted from visibly expressing solidarity to integrating the disenfranchised.

Integration, in turn, would suggest another possibility: the slow but inexorable (and often faulty) incorporation of African-American voices and cultural productions into mainstream society might have made it more common to integrate discrete aspects of black gospel music into the repertoire of Christian music more generally. Rather than singing traditional spirituals in a white way, white artists adopted and borrowed stylistically from the tradition in a higgedly-piggedly, less self-conscious fashion - a run or vocal improvisation here, a rhythmic adaption there. Certainly this is what happened in an array of secular genres. And the ubiquity of the “soulful” anthem or ballad on so many sg albums – you know the one that begins with big blocked chords on the middle-lower registers of the piano walking up from the five to the one and accompanied by a thumping bass guitar and a B-3 at some point – suggests that something similar may have happened in sg.

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  1. www wrote:

    Anyone who EVER heard the Golden Gate Quartet knows that they were the real deal. Ben Speer once told me that they were like pure electricity on stage when they came to Nashville in his younger years. The rhythmic phrases were uncanny. Every white quartet who tries to copy a Statesmen uptempo song is really trying to cop the Golden Gate Groove whether they know it or not!

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I’ve only heard one 11-minute sound clip by the Golden Gate Quartet, and I would have sworn they were a white gospel group if I hadn’t been told otherwise. On this clip, they are extremely polished and precise, much like the Statesmen or Blackwood Brothers…not soulful or bluesy like the Fairfield Four or the Blind Boys Of Alabama, which is what I was expecting to hear.

    You can hear the clip I’m talking about at the following link:

  3. www wrote:

    Gotta get best of the Golden Gate Quartet. For a second there, when you said they sounded white, I thought you were slamming them. IMHO, though the Blackwoods were, I suppose, precise, the Brothers pale (no pun intended) in comparison to the expertise and raw chariama of GGQ.

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