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SHOUT! Black Gospel Music Moments - Famous Cleveland Quartet

The Famous Cleveland Quartet were one of the earliest to record arrangements of the old spirituals – what’s now called “jubilee.”

The earliest recordings of Black Sacred Music capture a wonderful slice of American music history. These artists knew former slaves, heard the original spirituals, arranged and recorded them on the earliest known recording devices. We’re lucky to have a handful of recordings by Mitchell’s Christian Singers, the Dinwiddle Colored Quartet and this group, the Famous Cleveland Quartet.

J.W. Parker founded the group around 1920 and it continued until his death in 1947. The Clevelands sang old-timey arranged spirituals – what we now call jubilee ... and the immediate predecessor of black gospel music. What was different about the Cleveland Quartet was that they included instruments like mandolins and pianos on their recordings and during their few years together they even toured Europe.

The end result is something that combines spirituals, folk music, gospel hymns and those sweet barbershop harmonies. And on this early recording of the spiritual, “Hold Out Your Light...” you can hear the early beginnings of what will someday be called gospel music.

2215 Famous Cleveland Quartet - Hold Out Your Light.mp3

MUSIC: “Hold Out Your Light,” the Famous Cleveland Quartet, 27 Years on the American Gospel Scene LP, Track 1, Side 1

I’m Robert Darden … “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” is produced by KWBU, the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University Libraries and is funded by generous support from the Prichard Foundation.