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The Jordanaires are an American vocal quartet, which formed as a gospel group in 1948. They are best known for providing vocal background for Elvis Presley, in live appearances and recordings from 1956 to 1972. The group has also worked in the recording studio, on stage, and on television with many other Country and Rock and Roll artists.

Group history

Early years:

The history of The Jordanaires can be traced back to the early 1940s, and the original Foggy River Boys, which were made up of the Matthews brothers--Bill (b. LaFollette, Tenn., 1923), Monty (b. Pulaski, Ky., 1927), Jack, and Matt (all ordained ministers). In 1948, Matt and Jack left to become full-time preachers and were replaced by Bob Hubbard (b. Chaffee, Mo., 1928), also a minister, and bass singer Culley Holt (b. McAlester, Okla., 1925), and pianist Bob Money. After three years Money was replaced as pianist by Gordon Stoker. At that time, they formed the new group as the Melodizing Matthews, in Springfield, Missouri, but soon changed the name to The Jordanaires, after Jordan Creek in Missouri--not after the Jordan River, as many have thought.

This lineup lasted until 1952; at that time, Bob Hubbard was drafted and was replaced by Hoyt Hawkins. Later that year, Monty and Bill Matthews left. Hawkins switched to baritone, and new lead Neal Matthews was recruited. Don Bruce came in as a new first tenor; however, he was drafted the next year. The group narrowed to a quartet, with Stoker taking over as first tenor. They recorded for Capitol Records in the early 1950s, and began providing vocal accompaniment behind solo singers in Nashville, Tennessee.

The lineup changed again in 1954, with Cully Holt leaving and new bass Hugh Jarrett (later a disc jockey) coming in.

The Jordanaires became well known in the southern gospel realm, and what made them stand out from other quartets of that time was how they would bring spirituals (such as "Dry Bones") to a predominantly white audience. While continuing to turn out gospel albums of their own, the group become better known for the signature background harmonies they have provided on dozens of secular records.

Jarrett remained until 1958; at that time, he was replaced by Ray Walker.

With Elvis Presley:

One Sunday afternoon in 1955, the Jordanaires played a show in Memphis with Eddy Arnold to publicize their new syndicated TV series, Eddy Arnold Time (for the program the group used the name Gordonaires). They sang "Peace In The Valley", and when the show was over, a young man, quiet and courteous, with plenty of combed-back hair, came backstage to meet them. He was Elvis Presley, a practically unheard of singer just getting his start in the area. There were a few polite exchanges, then Presley said, "If I ever get a recording contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up." He was on Sun Records at that time.

On January 10, 1956, Presley recorded his first session for RCA with guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black and drummer D. J. Fontana. That day, "I Got A Woman", "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Money Honey" were recorded. True to his word, Presley asked his new label RCA Victor if The Jordanaires could appear on the recordings. The next day Gordon Stoker was called by Chet Atkins to do a session with a new kid, named Elvis. RCA had also just signed The Speer Family. Chet asked Stoker to sing with Ben and Brock Speer so he could use them. On that day, "I'm Counting On You" and "I Was The One" made history by being the first recording session that Presley did with vocal background. By April 1956, "Heartbreak Hotel" was No. 1.

After having done several more recording sessions in New York with Scotty, Bill, and D. J., Presley flew to Nashville on April 14, 1956, to record "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You". Stoker was called again, to sing a vocal trio with Ben and Brock. After the session, Presley took Stoker aside and told him (not knowing, at the time, why all the Jordanaires were not there) that he had wanted the Jordanaires. This time, Stoker saw to it--and Presley used the Jordanaires on nearly every one of his recording sessions for the next 14 years. At a time when no backing musicians, producers, or engineers received a name recognition on any records, Presley insisted that he have "with the Jordanaires" on the label of his records. The reflected glory was enough to earn the Jordanaires "Group of the Year" awards well into the late 1960s. The quartet also appeared in some of Presley's movies, and on many of his television appearances.

As Elvis was about to start performing at the Hilton in Las Vegas, the Colonel's office called for them to work with Elvis in the shows. They had 35 recording sessions already booked for the dates he needed, so, they could not go. They got in touch with The Imperials, who had done the ''How Great Thou Art'' Elvis album with them, and they took their place.

After Elvis:

The lineup consisting of Gordon Stoker, first tenor and manager, Neal Matthews, second tenor and lead, Hoyt Hawkins, baritone, and Ray Walker, bass, would be the group's most stable lineup, lasting throughout the 1960s and '70s.

The group changed again in 1982, when Hoyt Hawkins died. His replacement was Duane West, formerly of Sonny James' backup group, the Southern Gentlemen. The lineup remained constant for another two decades, with West leaving due to illness in 1999 (he died in 2002). His replacement was Louis Nunley, formerly of the Anita Kerr Singers.

Neal Matthews died the next year. He was replaced by new lead Curtis Young.

Hugh Jarrett died at 78 on May 31, 2008, from injuries sustained in an auto accident in March.


First tenor

Bill Matthews (1948-51),

Gordon Stoker (alternated as 2nd Tenor) (1951-present),

Don Bruce (1952-53),

Second tenor

Bob Hubbard (1948-52),

Neal Matthews (1953-2000),

Curtis Young (2000-present),


Monty Matthews (1948-52),

Hoyt Hawkins (1952-82),

Duane West (1982-99),

Louis Nunley (1999-present),


Culley Holt (1948-54),

Hugh Jarrett (1954-58),

Ray Walker (1958-present),


Bob Money (1948-49; 1952),

Gordon Stoker (1949-51),

Musical influence

The Jordanaires have also recorded with Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, Tammy Wynette, Kenny Rogers, Sawyer Brown, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Dolly Parton, Red Foley, Jim Reeves, Willie Nelson and George Jones, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Connie Francis, Johnny Hallyday and Julie Andrews.

The group toured extensively around the world and recorded a number of music albums on their own. They continue to record: "On The Jericho Road", A Friend We Have in Jesus and others. In 1999, a call to Jordanaires' first tenor Gordon Stoker by lifelong Jordanaires' musical disciple and Grammy Award-winning artist-producer Art Greenhaw resulted in a run of six Grammy-nominated albums in six different years and a Grammy Award. Gospel music pioneer James Blackwood was also responsible for the initial Jordanaires' collaboration on the indie label Greenhaw Records. The years between 1999 and 2006 saw The Jordanaires and Greenhaw artistically joined and Grammy-nominated with Blackwood, The Light Crust Doughboys, Ann-Margret, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, Larry Ford, Nokie Edwards (of The Ventures) and Larry "T-Byrd" Gordon. In addition, The Jordanaires-Greenhaw Records teaming also received a Dove Award nomination for Best Country Album of the Year for God is Love: The Gospel Sessions with Ann-Margret.

Guest appearances

The Jordanaires performed with many modern recording artists as well as recent sessions with country music legends.

Harmonies on Ringo Starr's second solo album, Beaucoups of Blues,

Vocal support for Ricky Nelson on "Poor Little Fool", "Lonesome Town", "It's Late" and other hit recordings,

Several tracks on Johnny Cash's 1959 album The Fabulous Johnny Cash, the 1978 album I Would Like to See You Again and others,

On the second album by The Grascals on the song "Did You Forget God Today?",

In 1973 backing harmony for Bobby Bare's hit single, "Ride Me Down Easy",

In 1981 backing rockabilly singer Gene Summers on several tracks for the LP "Gene Summers In Nashville",

Sang with The Tractors (of Steve Ripley),

In 1996 vocals on the Ween album 12 Golden Country Greats.,

In 1997 sang "Who'll Be The One If Not Me" for the off-Broadway musical Violet.,

In 1999 began their collaborative work with Art Greenhaw which resulted in a Grammy Award win for the album We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music (2003) and 6 Grammy Award Nominations for best album of the year in a gospel category for other album titles including The Great Gospel Hit Parade (2001), God Is Love (2002), Always Hear The Harmony (2004), 20th Century Gospel (2005) and Southern Meets Soul (2006). The Grammy Award-Winning and Grammy Award-Nominated albums were all released on Greenhaw Records.,

In 2007 recorded "Save Your Dreams" by Americana artist Shark (Wild Colonials),

In 2006 and 2007 featured on Park Lane Drive Records' Friends of Henry Golis Wish You A Merry Christmas with The Jordanaires, and Henry Golis Presents Good Music With Friends featuring The Jordanaires,

In 2007 appeared with the Christian pop band C.B.O.P. on the songs "Between You & Me" and "Live Like A King" on the album A Road Less Traveled,

In 2009 featured on the Today, Tomorrow & Forever EP by Pete Molinari,

In 2010 on Canadian rockabilly band The Kingmakers' third album Last Night In Nashville on two songs, "Annabelle" and "Well Well Michelle",

See also

The Nashville A-Team,

The Foggy River Boys