The Jordanaires - Biography

The Jordanaires are best known today for their contributions as the frequently employed backing vocal group for Elvis Presley. They also backed Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, Tammy Wynette, Jim Reeves, Kenny Rogers, Tennessee Earnie Ford, Dolly Parton, Red Foley, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Steve & Eydie, Ringo Starr, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Connie Francis, Julie Andrews, Ween and others. They also released a series of pop vocal-gospel records for many years, through many line-up changes.


The Jordanaires were formed in 1948 in Ozark town of Springfield, Missouri by brothers Bill Matthews (first tenor) and Monty Matthews (baritone), Bob Hubbard (second tenor/lead), Culley Holt (bass), and pianist Bob Money. The year after their formation they made their debut on The Grand Ole Opry, where they showcased their hillbilly doo-wop hybrid. The line-up didn't last long and in 1950s, Money left and was replaced by Tennessean Gordon Stoker. In 1951, Bill Matthews quit the group. In October 1952, his brother followed. The Matthews brothers owned the group's name and the remaining members switched their name to The Foggy River Boys. In 1952, Hubbard was drafted into the army and replaced by Hoyt Hawkins. The group's former leader later joined The Foggy Rivers Boys Quartet in 1967 before becoming a minister in the Disciples of Christ denomination. The Foggy River Boys reverted to The Jordanaires in 1953, after the members purchased the rights to the name.


Hawkins then switched to baritone and Cocker added first tenor and manager to his credits. New addition Don Bruce signed on as first tenor but was drafted in 1953. That year in March, they added new lead Neal Matthews (no relation to the Matthews brothers) as second tenor. He also proved to be a talented arranger and under his leadership The Jordanaires moved toward a smoother, polished sound that epitomized what came to be known as "The Nashville Sound." That year they released their debut full-length, Beautiful City (1953 RCA) and also provided accompaniment on other Nashville recordings. In December 1954, with the departure of Cully Holt, the last original member of the group was gone. His replacement was Hugh Jarrett.


In 1955, (as the Gordonaires), the group were backing Eddy Arnold on Eddy Arnold Time when they were afterward approached by a young fan, Elvis Presley, who expressed his interest in recording with the group. In January 1956, Chet Atkins contacted Stoker to record a couple of songs with Elvis. In April, Presley called on him again and clarified that he wanted all The Jordanaires. For the next fourteen years, the group appeared on nearly every one of Elvis's songs and in his many films. In 1956, they also won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show. The following year they released their sophomore album, Peace in the Valley (1957 Decca) which was in turn followed by Heavenly Spirit (1958 Capitol). At that point, Jarrett was replaced by Mississippian Ray Walker in April. This proved the most stable line-up, lasting until 1982.


The new line-up released Gloryland (1959 Capitol) and that year began collaborating with Patsy Cline. In the 1960s, between recordings with other artists, they cut Land of Jordan (1960 Capitol), To God Be the Glory (1961 Capitol), Spotlight on the Jordainaires (1962 Capitol), The Big Country Hits (1964 Columbia), This Land (1964 Columbia) and Church in the Wildwood (1968 Vocalion). In 1970, they ended their relationship with Presley. Afterward, their output slowed in the 1970s, during which they only released We'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (1972 Ember) and Christmas to Elvis from the Jordanaires (1978 Classic Records).


After almost a quarter of a century without a line-up change, the October 1982 death of Hawkins necessitated his replacement and the group picked Duane West (ex-The Southern Gentlemen), who'd often guested with the group in the past. For all intents and purposes, the group were no longer primarily focused on recording and instead became live fixtures at casinos and hotels. In the 1990s, they did release several CDs, including Elvis Memories (1990) The Jordanaires Sing Gospel (1992 K-Tel), Will the Circle Be Unbroken (1992 EMI), Memories of Elvis (1994 K-Tel), Tribute to Elvis (1994 Step One Records), Great Gospel Songs (1996), Sing Elvis' Favorite Gospel Songs (1997 Revival).


In 1998, they were inducted into both the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Another Elvis oriented release followed, including The Jordanaires Sing Elvis' Favourite Spirituals (1999 Castle). That year, do to illness, West left the group and was replaced by Louis Nunley (ex-The Anita Kerr Singers), who'd also filled in with the group in the past when needed. In 1999, they were inducted in 1999 into the North America Country Music Associations International Hall of Fame as well as the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In April, longtime member Neal Matthews died and was replaced by Tennessean Curtis "Mr. Harmony" Young. They resumed their recording of mostly Elvis (The King), Jesus (The King of Kings) and Christmas songs, releasing Christmas Tribute to the King (2000 Laserlight) in time for the holidays and He Lifted Me (2001 Versus/Pamplin).


In June 2002, Duane West passed away. The following May, original member Bill Matthews died. In 2004 they were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and released Gospel Greats (2004). In March, Monty Matthews, passed away. In May, Bob Money became the last of the original line-up to pass on, although by then The Jordanaires had existed for 51 years without them. That year they teamed with The Dinning Sisters and released Rhinestone Christian (2005 GoldRhyme) and The Christmas Album (2005 Curb). In 2007, they were inducted into the Southern Legends Entertainment & Performing Arts Hall of Fame and the Christian Music Hall Of Fame. In May, early member Hugh Jarrett died from injuries sustained in an car crash. Although they released The Kings of Harmony (2008 Fabulous), since then The Jordanaires have gone on hiatus.


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