Visit The Soul Stirrers MySpace Page to hearSay the name ‘Soul Stirrers’, not just in gospel circles, but in the wide world of R&B and Rock and there is instant recognition. The Soul Stirrers, as pioneers, trendsetters and trailblazers, have inspired and brought joy to church congregations, concert hall audiences and festival-goers for a remarkable eight decades. Former Soul Stirrers renowned vocal giants include Rebert H. Harris, Sam Cooke, J. J. Farley, and Johnnie Taylor.
tracks from the upcoming release entitled "A Soul Stirring
Reunion," and to look at all the pictures, old and new, of this legendary Gospel group.
At times during their rich history, the Soul Stirrers featured vocalists Paul Foster, Martin Jacox and Julius Cheeks. Honored in 1989 by the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame as one of ‘Rock’s Early Influences’, the Soul Stirrers are justifiably remembered as one of gospel music’s premier vocal quartets. The good news for their many longtime admirers and fans is that the Soul Stirrers are back with a brand new album.
Appropriately titled, ‘A Soul Stirring Reunion’, the Malaco Records project focuses on many of the great classics that have kept The Soul Stirrers at the forefront of traditional gospel since their 1926 formation by Silas Roy Crain. The line-up for ‘A Soul Stirring Reunion’ consists of longtime member LeRoy Crume who first joined the Stirrers in 1955, brother Arthur who began playing guitar with the group in 1965, Eddie Huffman, a Soul Stirrer off and on since 1973, Willie Rogers, a member at different times since 1965, and Rev. Luther Gamble, who first joined the group in 1974. This superb quartet is continuing the group’s legacy with an album that brings new life to such time-honored songs as “Be With Me Jesus,” “Nearer To Thee,” “Wade In The Water” and “Lord Remember Me,” all staples in the Soul Stirrers’ vast repertoire.
LeRoy Crume, whose individual credits include work with Aretha Franklin and The Staple Singers, recalls that the group was approached in late 2007 by Malaco Records, long a bastion for traditional and contemporary gospel music. “The group had been doing performances here and there, somewhat sparingly but we always stayed in touch,” says Crume. “I’d been away from the music business for a while so at first, I was a little cool towards the idea but once I got together with the other guys in the group and we met with Malaco, the juices started flowing again.”
The famous Soul Stirrers harmonies that set the trend for so many others in the gospel world are on full display on rousing new upbeat original tracks “Going To A Meeting”, and “I’m Still Here”, both written by project producer and guest vocalist, Darrell Luster of the Sensational Nightingales. A true jewel is the wonderful, heartfelt rendition by Rev. Luther Gamble of the memorable, “Peace Be Still.” Another much-loved Soul Stirrers perennial, “The Love Of God” is a standout, featuring the lead vocals of special guest Floyd Taylor, son of the late Johnnie Taylor, a member of The Soul Stirrers from 1957 until 1961. Johnnie Taylor was featured on the original of “When The Gates Swing Open,” revived on this new album with a blues-tinged rendition by Eddie Huffman.
Says Crume, “I think the people who’ve been listening to us for many years will receive the album with open arms because these are new arrangements of many of the songs they know. When you do a reunion like this, you want to do your old material. But I think it will also be new to a lot of people who have heard of us but haven’t heard us yet.” Of prime importance to those who’ve been moved by the music of The Soul Stirrers for generations, Crume says, “We’ve kept our identity. We’re from the old school and some of the flavor that was there when Sam Cooke was with us is still there.”
Malaco Records executive D.A. Johnson notes that ‘A Soul Stirring Reunion’ follows a similar project the label did with The Caravans. “As a company known for working with the legends in gospel music, we felt it was important not just for traditional gospel but for music in general to have a new recording by The Soul Stirrers,” says Johnson. “There’s no bigger name in the quartet genre than The Soul Stirrers.”
Indeed, The Soul Stirrers have been bringing their message of deliverance, celebration and rejoicing to audiences since the group was formed in 1926 as a successor to The Mount Pleasant Green Singers in Trinity, Texas led by Silas Roy Crain. In 1936, the group, with lead singer Rebert .H. “Pop” Harris, moved to Chicago where they became one of the very first gospel groups to travel and charge admission for their performances. Legend has it that one week the group only earned $3.65 at a church, but when word soon spread about The Soul Stirrers’ commanding vocal style and incomparable harmonies, their earnings quickly increased. During the ‘40s, the group became known, in particular, for having two lead singers within its ranks. Notes Crume, “The Soul Stirrers were the first ones to do that and that’s partly why the group was thought of as pioneers. During the early days when the group performed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, you would find performers like Little Richard and Ray Charles in the audience, getting vocal tips from us.”
The arrival of Sam Cooke in 1951, replacing R.H. Harris who was featured on the group’s very first recordings for Specialty Records, dramatically changed the appeal of The Soul Stirrers. With his dashing good looks, Cooke quickly became gospel music’s first heart throb, stepping out on an immediate and huge hit for the group, “Jesus Gave Me Water.” This would be the first of many classic songs Sam Cooke would deliver that helped create a lasting repertoire for The Soul Stirrers.
After Cooke left in 1957 to pursue a secular career, he was replaced by an energetic youngster who stepped right into his shoes, former Highway QC’s vocalist and soon-to-be star in his own right, Johnnie Taylor. After five successful years fronting the group, Taylor, like his predecessor Cooke, would leave in 1961 to seek fame and fortune in the burgeoning Rhythm & Blues music arena.
Although the group recorded sporadically after Johnnie Taylor’s departure, their live performances continued to thrill audiences in the U.S. and throughout Europe, where they became regular annual visitors for many years The dynamic Gospel group was featured on secular events such as The Sacramento Blues Festival, and have received honorary citizenship citations in Washington, DC, Baltimore and Gary, Indiana.
Since the 1983 “Divine Love” release for Malaco, the Soul Stirrers have recorded several albums and created two DVDs of their dynamic live performances. Now, with the release of ‘A Soul Stirring Reunion’, Crume comments, “We feel great. The Soul Stirrers still have that flavor from way back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, so in some ways, the album is ‘back to basics.’ It definitely feels like it’s a whole new ballgame for us.”
With such highlights as “Oh What A Meeting,” “Restin’ Easy” and two songs originally arranged by Sam Cooke, “Stand By Me Father” and “The Last Mile of The Way,” ‘A Soul Stirring Reunion’ is far more than its title may imply. It is another milestone in a career that has truly helped shape both traditional and contemporary Gospel as well as Rock & Roll for decades. It is a timely reminder of The Soul Stirrers’ stature in the genre, a welcome return for longtime fans, and a wonderful introduction of the timeless group to a whole new generation.
The Soul Stirrers Reunion CD project is creating quite a buzz. Fans from across the globe are looking forward to the upcoming release by the legendary Gospel group. This is quite an event for the surviving members of the group, too - and it's been a long time coming.