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Gospel Music

The heartfelt voice of rural and urban America reached out to give praise and a new music was born, and this music was called "Gospel."

Traditional Black Gospel Traditional Mountain Gospel  Traditional Southern Gospel 
James D. Vaughan
Albert E. Brumley

The Founding
Fathers of
Gospel  Music

 R. H. Harris
Thomas A. Dorsey


The term "Gospel music" applies to a body of music that was developed in the United States during the twentieth century primarily in the south-eastern part of the country and in portions of the Midwest and the East. It is a Christian music that was not necessarily developed by the body of churches, but independently. In other words, the singers and performers were primarily church-going, Bible-believing 

Christian people, but their music wasn't always directly an outgrowth of a church organization.

There are three styles of gospel music that were developed. These styles were developed independently of each other because of racial and physical separation. 

1) The mountain gospel style developed in the Southern Appalachian mountains in Kentucky, Southwestern Virginia, Northeastern Tennessee, and Northwestern North Carolina. This music (in the past called "hillbilly music") sprang forth from  a deeply religious people living deep in the hills. Bible-believing and devoted, religious music formed a major part in the life of these rural peoples not only in their worship services, but as a part of their daily existence also. For simplicity sake, the DoveSong website talks about two types of mountain music: 1) the traditional style that was passed down and developed during the twentieth century and 2) the bluegrass style that was developed by Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, including Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt.

2) Black Gospel music originated in the final third of the nineteenth century with black "jubilee" groups that were formed in colleges primarily located in the Southeastern United States. These groups worked with quartet singing, with four-part harmony. One of the earliest and certainly the most successful of these groups was the Fisk University Jubilee singers. The jubilee style of singing continued, while evolving, well into the 1940s. Meanwhile, a tradition of church singing and composition was pioneered by such people as Charles Albert Tindley, Lucie Campbell, W. Herbert Brewster and Kenneth Morris, but reach a zenith with Thomas A. Dorsey who began using the term "gospel music" in the 1930s and in conjunction with such singers as Roberta Martin, Mahalia Jackson, Robert Anderson and Sally Martin, gave birth to a new style of gospel music that developed in Chicago and in other mid-western and eastern cities. Some jubilee quartets evolved into a harder singing style of the 1940s and 1950s. These were groups such as the Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Soul Stirrers and the Sensational Nightingales. During the 1970s, black gospel music moved primarily into another direction, pioneered by the great gospel singer James Cleveland. The style of gospel singing is called mass choir singing. This movement produced some great, and some not so great, music well into the 1980s when black gospel music began to more and more mimic the soul music of the secular world. Except for the few older groups that continued the older styles, what was originally black gospel music had been greatly obliterated by the 1990s, and now what you will find in the record stores, and called "gospel music," has little or no resemblance. The Positive Music Archives focus on the great black gospel music up through the 1960s, and those groups that have maintained these traditions.

3) The third category of gospel music is called Southern Gospel Music. This form of music originated at the turn of the century in the Southeastern United States with sacred quartet singing by white groups. The pioneer of this music was the Tennessee-resident James D. Vaughan, who created the first major white sacred quartet, then established a publishing company to make and sell books of the quartet music, including his own compositions. An offshoot of this company was the Stamps Music Company, and the Stamps Quartet. Quartets sponsored by both the Vaughan and Stamps companies began recording in the late twenties. From this nucleus, many other quartets were formed, often working for Vaughan or Stamps and using the name Vaughan Quartet or Stamps Quartet. However, in the 1940s, many new groups sprang up, some former Stamps or Vaughan groups. Thus a great tradition of quartet singing was perfected by the Blackwood Brothers, the Statesmen Quartet, the Rangers Quartet, the Harmoneers, and the Homeland Harmony Quartet. The quartet style of singing continued into the 1960s when another stream of southern gospel music developed best described as family groups. The first of these groups actually stem back to the 1930s with the Carter family group known as the Chuck Wagon Gang. In the 1940s,  the Spear Family and the Chuck Wagon gang became very popular. The family group tradition came into full fruition and by the 1980s and 1990s was thriving in the Southeast United States. Family groups are gospel groups that may or may not sing four-part harmony, and are mainly groups comprised of family members (for example mom and pop, and the kids). This tradition fortunately still thrives today in the Southeastern U.S. and, along with mountain and bluegrass styles, is one of the few positive music traditions that remains in this country.

-> Gospel Music in the DoveSong MP3 Library 

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