from "The Memphis African American Sacred Quartet Community." by Kip Lornell, pg. 258-279
In The Music of Multicultural America

Edited by Kip Lornell and Anne K. Rasmussen


May 3, 1983, Memphis, Tennessee. The Spirit of Memphis Quartet. Melvin Mosely–lead vocal; Earl Malone–bass vocal; Jimmie Allen–tenor vocal; Jack Stepter–tenor vocal; Robert Reed–alto vocal; Hubert Crawford–guitar; Brown Berry–bass guitar; and Clifford Jackson-drums.

This performance of “I John Saw” updates the sound of black sacred vocal harmony singing into the 1950s. The Spirit of Memphis have been around (in one incarnation or another) since the late 1920s and their history reflects the history and development of the entire local quartet tradition. Like many of their peers this group added musical instruments beginning in the early 1950s, though this sound reaches back to the “jubilee” style that was pioneered by the golden Gate Quartet in the late 1930s. This style is characterized by the pumping bass (provided by a long-time group member) and the half spoken/half-sung (cante fable) lead vocal of Melvin Mosely that calls to mind the vocal stylings of the Golden Gates leader, Willie Johnson.

Old newspaper clipping showing the gospel group The Spirit of Memphis dressed in suits and lined up by a microphone.
Earliest Known Photo of the Spirit of Memphis, ca. 1945.