bigapplejazztoursml.gif (11039 bytes)

Fuller Up The Dead Musician Directory
New:
Listen as you read and remember:
REAL GONE CATS RADIO

 
FULLER UP
HOME
GRIM REAPER
PAGE
CAUSES OF
DEATH
SEARCH BY
NAME
GET IN
TOUCH
SHAMEFUL DISCLAIMER
 
 
Orlandus Wilson
Orlandus Wilson
Dec. 30, 1998    Died  Age 81
OBITUARY 
BIOGRAPHY  
LINKS                                                                           Travelin Shoes record review
 
 
 
 

OBITUARY 
        
       
 NY TIMES
 
 
                Orlandus Wilson, 81, Singer in Influential Gospel Quartet
          By JON PARELES  

                Orlandus Wilson, whose bass voice was the foundation of the Golden Gate Quartet's gospel  
               harmonies, died on Dec. 30 in Paris, where he lived. He was 81.  

          The Golden Gate Quartet had a huge influence on American sacred and secular music. Performing in  
          clubs and concert halls as well as churches, and backing up blues singers like Lead Belly and Josh  
          White, the quartet demonstrated that gospel had all the vitality of secular music. Its driving versions of  
          spirituals were a model of vocal harmony for groups from the Dixie Hummingbirds to the Spaniels.  
          And Wilson, who joined the group in 1934, provided its syncopated bass lines for six decades.  

          Wilson was born in Chesapeake, Va. When he joined the Golden Gate Jubilee Singers in 1934, all  
          four members were still in high school. Two years later the group was singing five days a week for a  
          radio station in Columbia, S.C., and in 1937, they signed to RCA Records' Bluebird label, releasing  
          a new single every month.  

          In 1938, they were part of the program at John Hammond's historic "Spirituals to Swing" concert at  
          Carnegie Hall, sharing the bill with Joe Turner, Sidney Bechet, Lionel Hampton and Benny  
          Goodman. The quartet stayed in New York City with a regular engagement at Cafe Society, where  
          their sets included gospel and popular material. In churches, the quartet sang only gospel songs.  

          The group moved to Columbia Records in 1941 and shortened its name to the Golden Gate Quartet.  
          During World War II, it recorded songs like "Stalin Wasn't Stallin' " along with spirituals. Wilson left  
          the group to join the Navy in 1944 and returned in 1946. The quartet had a national radio show on  
          the CBS network and appeared in a number of films, including "Star Spangled Rhythm," "Hollywood  
          Canteen," "Bring On the Girls" and "A Song Is Born." It had performed at the inauguration of  
          Franklin Delano Roosevelt, becoming the first black group to sing in Constitution Hall, and also sang  
          for the Roosevelts at the White House.  

          In 1958, after a 28-country tour sponsored by the State Department, the Golden Gate Quartet  
          relocated to Paris. With Wilson as its manager and arranger, the group continued to be a major  
          concert draw in Europe and on world tours. Since the 1970s, the group has included Wilson's  
          grandnephew, Paul Brembly.  

          In 1994, the quartet gave its first performance in the United States since the 1950s when it was  
          inducted into the hall of fame of United in Group Harmony, an organization devoted to preserving the  
          history of vocal harmony.  

          Wilson announced his retirement from performing with the quartet in October but continued to  
          oversee rehearsals for his replacement, Andrew Freeman.  

          He is survived by his wife, Gun, and a son, Charles, of California. 

 
 
 
Orlandus Wilson 

          PARIS (AP) -- Orlandus Wilson, one of the founding voices of an influential gospel quartet and an  institution in popular jazz music, died Dec. 30 at 81.  

          Wilson and three other high school singers formed the Golden Gate Jubilee singers in Norfolk, Va., in 1934. The group, which later changed its name to the Golden Gate Quartet, went on to become one of the most influential gospel groups, updating well-known spirituals with jazz and swing.  

          In 1938, the group appeared on the program of John Hammond's ``Spirituals to Swing'' concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, earning them national recognition. In 1941, they became the first black singers to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington.  

          They discovered Europe in 1955, and like many other black musicians fed up with racism in the United States, decided to make it their home.  

          In 1994, the quartet gave its first performance in the United States since the 1950s when it was inducted into the hall of fame of United in Group Harmony, a group devoted to preserving the history of vocal harmony.  

          Wilson managed the quartet for most of its life, but he also did musical arrangements and composed original works. He retired from the quartet in October.  

          Sony Jazz is to release an anthology of the Golden Gate Quartet's music this month.  
 

 
 
 
       
 

OBITUARY
BIOGRAPHY
LINKS TOP
 
 
 
 
 

 
BIOGRAPHY
 
 Golden Gate Quartet
(see photo)
 
The story of the Golden Gate Quartet begins in the early 1930s at a barbershop in the Norfolk, Virginia suburb of Berkeley. It was there that owner A.C. "Eddie" Griffin, a tenor singer, and Robert "Peg" Ford, a one-legged bass vocalist, recruited two Booker T. Washington High School glee club members, tenor Henry Owens and baritone Willie Johnson, to form a quartet singing gospel music in the new "jubilee" style that was beginning to sweep through Virginia churches. Unlike, say, the older Alabama gospel tradition, with its trademark reliance on formal song structure and straight-ahead harmonies, Virginia's gospel music was looser, and more rhythmic. Influenced by 
     such varying sources as the pop group Mills Brothers, the swinging jazz of the Three Keys, and the emotional wailing of area pulpit preachers, jubilee singing was something daring and exciting - gospel music geared for the body as well as the soul.  

     It was the youthful energy of jubilee that Griffin sought to harness with Owens and Johnson in his group, and that indeed proved to be the case; the quartet eventually gained enough recognition that by 1935 they were regularly venturing to neighboring Virginia towns such as Richmond and Tidewater and even into parts of the Carolinas for personal appearances. By this time, Griffin's modest ambitions had been more than fulfilled, and as he felt more certain about his haircutting business than a singing career, he retired from the quartet, replaced by Portsmouth tenor William Langford, a veteran of several area singing groups. In the summer of 1936, as the elderly and sickly Ford began to miss more and more of the Gates' growing number of engagements, Johnson, Owens, and Langford succeeded in talking the parents of 16-year old bass singer Orlandus Wilson (their favorite fill-in for Ford) into permitting their son to join the group as a permanent member.  

     With Wilson aboard, the look and sound of the group struck a new balance. Each of the four brought specific talents to the quartet: Langford was a showy, melodramatic lead singer in the standard barbershop/pop mold, with a tremendous range that allowed him to easily slide from baritone all the way up to a falsetto soprano; Johnson, the most jazz-influenced of the group, had developed a grin-and-wink hipster narrative style the likes of which gospel music had never before seen; Owens, probably the best pure singer in the quartet, was a master at harmonic invention, allowing him to shuttle between Langford and Johnson's leads as the arrangements warranted; and Wilson, the bass singer, anchored the foursome's songs with an intrinsic sense of timing and syncopation that allowed them to jump, glide, bounce and swing. Together, they were poised to set gospel music on its ear.  

     Through regular appearances on radio programs in Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC, and with performing dates in churches throughout Virginia and the Carolinas, the Golden Gate Quartet was, by the middle of 1937, the hottest gospel act around - a fact that did not go unnoticed by Bluebird talent scout and producer Eli Oberstein.  That August, Oberstein recorded the Gates in a field recording session at the Charlotte Hotel, and so primed was the group that they laid down fourteen tracks in two hours flat - all but two of them in just one take! The release of their debut 78, the signature song, "Golden Gate Gospel Train," brought them immediate recognition, and the quartet's highly successful recording career was on its way.  

     That same year, the group received their first nationwide radio exposure via several appearances on NBC's "Magic Key" variety program, and in 1938 their place in the national limelight was secured when promoter John Hammond placed them on the bill - alongside such artists as Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Big Joe Turner and James P. Johnson - at his history-making "spirituals To Swing" concert at Carnegie Hall. That performance in turn led to a weekly radio show on CBS as well as a long-term run at New York's ultra-chic Cafe Society club, where they were seen by all manner of celebrities, including the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt.  FDR was so impressed that he later brought the group to Washington to entertain at his January, 1941 inagural 
gala at Constitution Hall - where, it should be noted, singer Marian Anderson had been forbidden to perform just two years before by the hall's owners, the ultra-conservative Daughters of the American Revolution. (According to Time magazine, the D.A.R. "moodily approved" the Gates' booking.)  

     The Golden Gate Quartet made their final RCA-Victor recordings at a milestone June, 1940 session with legendary folk singer Leadbelly (the fruits of that collaboration can be heard on the RCA Heritage Series album, Leadbelly: Alabama Bound). Not long thereafter, lead singer William Langford left the Gates to form a new group, the Southern Sons (some of whose best work can be found on another RCA Heritage Series release, I Hear Music In The Air), and Langford's place was taken by old friend Clyde Riddick, who had been an early replacement for Griffin even before Langford joined the group in the thirties. The 1940s found the group making cameo appearences in a number of films, including Star-Spangled Rhythm, Hollywood Canteen, and A Song Is Born, and continuing to record (for Columbia and Mercury). In 1948, Willie Johnson exited the group, but the Gates were able to absorb the loss, as they would later also manage to do when Owens departed in 1950 to become an evangelist preacher.  

     The group went through several more personnel changes during the early fifties, as r 'n' b, and then rock 'n' roll, dampened the demand for their music in the U.S., but when they made their initial European tour in 1955, they were delighted to discover a new worldwide audience waiting for them with open arms. It is in Europe that they've primarily lived and worked for the last thirty-plus years - Riddick and Wilson anchoring, respectively, the top and bottom of the trademark Golden Gate Quartet sound, with second tenor Clyde Wright (a member on and off since 1954) and baritone Paul Brembly (a member since '71) rounding out the group's current, and still extremely active, 
lineup.  

 
 
  
 
 

OBITUARY
BIOGRAPHY
LINKS TOP
 
 
 
 

 LINKS
  
 
GOOGLE 
 
 

OBITUARY
BIOGRAPHY
LINKS TOP
 
 
 
 

FULLER UP
HOME
GRIM REAPER
PAGE
CAUSES OF
DEATH
SEARCH BY
NAME
GET IN
TOUCH
SHAMEFUL
DISCLAIMER
   
 
TOP