Jubalaires Birmingham AL

Among the most accomplished of all the Birmingham jubilee quartets.  They sang and recorded with, Andy Kirk, Kay Starr, Elvis Presley (in several of his films), Phil Harris and Ry Cooder.  Their own recordings, made for Decca, King, Capitol, Reprise and other labels, were widely influential. Bass singer, George "Biggie" McFadden, later toured with the Ink Spots.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

The Jubalaires


By Karen Caplan

One night while sprawled on the couch, I clicked on a tape of Jubalaires' transcriptions. As the tight polished harmonies of rhythmic spirituals and foot stomping jazz tunes filled the room, I began to write this tribute.

Born from the Royal Harmony Singers, the Jubalaires group was spawned by the rich tradition of southern Jubilee styled vocal quartets.

Acquiring their own show on KYW Radio, the Royal Harmony Singers arrived in Philadelphia from Florida in 1941. Personnel included forming member and leader, Caleb Ginyard, Jr., Theodore Brooks (baritone), Elijah Wright (bass) and Willie Wright (tenor). Shortly after coming to Philadelphia, George "Biggie" McFadden replaced Elijah Wright. Charles Newsome managed the group.

The popular CBS radio group, the Golden Gate Quartet, would often travel to Phila. to catch the Royal Harmony Singers' performances. The young group in Phila. respected the "Gates". Golden Gate Quartet lead, Willie Johnson taught the Royal Harmony Singers his famous narrative style.

Thurmon Ruth first brought the Royal Harmony Singers to New York City to appear on one of his Selah Jubilee Singers' programs. At New York's Cafe Society the Royal Harmony Singers were invited to substitute for the Golden Gate Quartet. They performed tunes that were standardized by the "Gates" and were well received.

Following Keynote and Decca label recordings, the Royal Harmony Singers were renamed the Jubalaires by general manager Paul Kapp. With the Jubalaires' relocation to New York City, John Jennings replaced Willie Wright. Just prior to their hit recording of "I Know", the group decided to add one more part, tenor Orville Brooks. "I Know" was recorded with the backing of Andy Kirk's full orchestra.

By the mid 1940's, the Jubalaires had taken over for the Golden Gate Quartet on CBS Radio. The groups' fifteen minute Sunday morning show was supplemented by regular daily appearances on Arthur Godfreys'radio program.

The Jubalaires sound was innovative, featuring rotating vocal parts with jazzy, upbeat overtones that offered a versatile blend and repertoire. The Jubalaires had a succession of guitar players including Abe Green, Everett Barksdale and Roosevelt Howerton. In 1946, The Jubalaires acquired the talent of Bill Lee Johnson. Johnson's eloquent guitar maneuvers complimented the Jubalaires' harmony.

Bill Johnson recalled the time the Jubalaires played CBS radio and the Apollo Theater on the same days, racing between the two. The management hired an ambulance loaded with flashing lights and screeching sirens to satisfy the group's itinerary.

Early in 1947, the Jubalaires left the Arthur Godfrey Show to go on tour. Bill Johnson remembered that Mr. Godfrey begged the guys to stay.

"He almost got on his knees.' Boys don't leave me now.' Godfrey pleaded. 'We've got a couple of irons in the fire. We're going to go commercial. Stay with us.' But the guys didn't listen."

Shortly thereafter, Godfrey took his show to television, replacing the Jubalaires with the Mariners. The Jubalaires tour began in the South and progressed to the western states. When the Jubalaires reached Jacksonville, Florida, they were joined by Willie Johnson who had left the Golden Gate Quartet. Willie served as a mentor and sixth voice throughout the remainder of the tour. While in California, the Jubalaires were signed to replace the Delta Rhythm Boys on the Amos & Andy radio show.

The Jubalaires returned briefly to New York before deciding to make California their new home. Guitarist Bill Johnson decided to remain in New Jersey. Willie Johnson became the Jubalaires' new lead. Orville Brooks left the Jubalaires to become the new lead of the Golden Gate Quartet.  Within a year, Caleb Ginyard left the Jubalaires to form the Dixieaires.

Prior to Ginyard's departure, the Jubalaires began recording for King Queen records. The Jubalaires also made several film appearances including Ebony Parade, The joint Is Jumping, and The Duchess of Idaho. With the popularity of the group on Amos & Andy, the Jubalaires signed with Capital Records. It was not until 1952 that the groups' popularity began to diminish. But the story does not end there.

In the late 1950's, the Jubalaires resurfaced as the Jubilee Four. Personnel included Willie Johnson, Theodore Brooks, George McFadden and Jimmy Adams. The Jubilee Four became regulars on the Jimmy Dean TV Show and played Las Vegas extensively.  They also appeared in the Elvis Presley film Viva Las Vegas. In 1978, Ry Cooder reunited members of the Jubalaires to back him on some of his albums. In the early 1980's, Doug Seroff gathered the original Jubalaires for one last reunion in Birmingham.

Caleb Nathaniel (J.C.) Ginyard, Jr.: Caleb Ginyard was a pivotal icon in black vocal quartet singing. He immersed himself in music interpretation to strive for and attain vocal excellence.   Ginyard was born on Juanuary 15,1910 in St. Matthews, S. Carolina. His early exposure to music was singing spirituals with his mother at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.  As an outlet for his early talent, he also dabbled in folk blues singing. Caleb was active in community service. Upon moving to Jacksonville, he became a member of the Brooklyn Royal Social Club, a group of men who enhanced the neighborhood by contributing to worthy causes.

Following the "Jubes", Ginyard formed the Dixieaires. After some spectacular recordings, the Dixieaires folded three years later and Caleb formed the Du Droppers. In 1955, Ginyard joined the Golden Gate Quartet and was a member for 16 years. Those years with the Gates sparked the most brilliant repertoire of Caleb's career. His addition to the group inspired the hallmark years of the Golden Gate Quartet as well.

With failing health, Caleb Ginyard left the Gates in 1971 and died in Basel, Switzerland on August 11, 1978.

Caleb Ginyard should be remembered not only for his music contributions but for his singular, unique personality, sensitive heart and his kind words for others. This evening, Caleb Ginyard III will sing a tribute to his father's group.

Orville Brooks: Orville Brooks was born in Fruitland, Maryland on January 27,1919. As a youngster, he formed a group to sing in church. They started out singing for cake. Orville sang with the Fruitland Harmonizers before joining Bill Langford's Southern Sons in the early 1940's.

After the Jubalaires, Orville led the Golden Gate Quartet until 1953 when he and Gene Mumford left the Gates to form the second group of Larks. He also sang with an Ink Spots group. Orville Brooks passed away on August 30,1997. Tonight, Mrs.Orville Brooks will accept the award for her husband.

Bill Lee Johnson: Bill Johnson was born in Dothan, Alabama on February 22, 1915. He moved with his family to Newark, New Jersey the following year. Bill started playing banjo in high school. He played house parties and worked his way up to bands. During the depression, Bill played guitar with a WPA six piece combo. After the Jubes, Bill Johnson stayed active in music and formed his own Lee Johnson Trio. Bill later operated the Alcazar jazz tavern in Irvington, NJ. He has worked for the police and recreation departments for the City of Newark. He will be accepting an award tonight.


The Jubalaires contribution to the music industry was remarkable. They made hundreds of recordings, radio transcriptions and appeared in films. The Jubalaires' enriching contribution to the entertainment industry was priceless. Their soul-stirring musical. renditions touched a chord with audiences across the coutnry for over four decades. Tbough all of the original vocal members have passed away, the Jubalaires legacy lives on.

Extensive research for this article was done by Charlie Homer and Karen Caplan. Special thanks to all those who helped with valuable information: Mrs. Orville Brooks, Conrad Federicks, Ray Funk, Caleb Ginyard 111, Peter Grendysa, Bill L. Johnson, Charlie LaRocco, Bill Proctor, Thurmon Ruth, Doug Seroff, Orlandus Wilson.

Source: http://www.ugha.users5.50megs.com/UGHA/ughahof98.htm

Gospel Classics, JubalairesThe Singing Waiters: 1947-1948

Listen: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/gospel-classics/id319150853

Listen: http://www.amazon.com/The-Jubalaires/e/B001LHD5WQ/ref=ntt_mus_dp_pel

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jubalaires









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