The Soundtrack For The Baby Boomer Generation

Step back to a time when singers were as bright as the stars in the heavens
and the music they sang was really swingin'. Stacks of wax to fit every occasion!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Looked Over Jordan And What Did I See? Jordanaires!

Artist: The Jordanaires
Song: Girl In The Valley (b-side) (a-side is Sit Down)
Label: Capitol 4431
Number: 45-18919
Songwriters: John Lovis - Ib Glindeman
Time: 2:05
Released: 1960

In my last post, I mentioned how this group sang background vocals with Betty Johnson's family band. Well, this group has sang background vocals for just about everybody in the music business! However, they are probably best known for the work they did with the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Despite the work they've done in the shadows of other artists, they themselves have had a stellar career that began in 1948 and lasts through today.
Formed in Springfield, Missouri, in 1948, the group originally consisted of Bill Matthews (first tenor), Bob Hubbard (second tenor/lead), Monty Matthews (baritone), Culley Holt (bass), and pianist Bob Money. After three years, Money was replaced by new pianist Gordon Stoker. This lineup lasted until 1952, when Bob Hubbard was drafted. He was replaced with Hoyt Hawkins. Later that year, the Matthews Brothers left the group and were replaced with Hawkins switching to baritone and new lead vocalist Neal Matthews, Jr., and Don Bruce as first tenor. Bruce was also drafted, in 1953, so Gordon Stoker moved over to first tenor.
The lineup changed again in 1954, with Culley Holt leaving and new bass Hugh Jarrett coming in. Jarrett remained until 1958. At that time, he was replaced by Ray Walker. This lineup, consisting of Gordon Stoker, first tenor and manager, Neal Matthews, Jr., second tenor and lead, Hoyt Hawkins, baritone, and Ray Walker, bass, would be the group's most stable lineup, lasting throughout the 1960's and 1970's.
The group changed again in 1982, when Hoyt Hawkins died. His replacement was Duane West, formerly of Sonny James' backup group, the Southern Gentlemen. The lineup remained constant for another two decades, with West leaving due to illness in 1999 (he died in 2002). His replacement was Louis Nunley. Neal Matthews died the next year. He was replaced by new lead vocalist Curtis Young.
In 1955, The Jordanaires were performing a show in Memphis, Tennessee with Eddy Arnold, to publicize his television show, Eddy Arnold Time. When the show was over, a young man, quiet and courteous and with plenty of combed-back hair, came backstage to meet them. He was Elvis Presley, a practically unheard of singer just getting his start in the area. There were a few polite exchanges, then Presley said, "If I ever get a recording contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up." He was on Sun Records at that time. On January 10th, 1956, Elvis was recording his first session for RCA Records with Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D. J. Fontana. That day, I Got A Woman, Heartbreak Hotel and Money Honey were recorded. True to his word, Elvis asked his new label if The Jordanaires could appear on the recordings. The next day Gordon Stoker was called by Chet Atkins to do a session with a new kid, named Elvis. RCA had also just signed "The Speer Family". Chet asked Gordon to sing with Ben and Brock Speer so he could use them. On that day, I'm Counting On You and I Was The One made history by being the first recording session that Elvis did with a vocal background group. Afterwards, Elvis took Gordon aside and told him (not knowing, at the time, why all the Jordanaires were not there) that he had wanted "The Jordanaires." This time, Stoker saw to it - and Elvis used the Jordanaires on nearly every one of his recording sessions for the next 14 years. The Jordanaires also appeared in several movies with Elvis and because of their association with him, they received Group Of The Year awards well into The Beatles' era.
Throughout the years, The Jordanaires have been one of the premier backup vocal groups, performing in a wide range of musical genres and with artists such as Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Kenny Rogers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Julie Andrews, Connie Francis, Ringo Starr, Ricky Nelson, The Grascals, The Tractors, Ween, Shark, Henry Golis and have even sang in the off-Broadway musical Violet.
If you thought that The Jordanaires only sang gospel music or were merely the backup singers for Elvis, you're in for a nice surprise today! The song, Girl In The Valley is a mid-tempo recording, in the Popular style and if you've heard The Jordanaires sing before, you almost won't recognize them. Sounding quite like The Four Aces, The Crew Cuts or The Four Freshman, they will amaze you with their Pop abilities. The song itself is a nice number and makes me feel good when I listen to it. But, don't just take my word on it. Download and listen to The Jordanaires singing Girl In The Valley. You might just see them in a whole new light!

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