Originally created 05/26/05

Backup band records its first bluegrass-gospel CD



It is possible that 80-year-old Gordon Stoker has sung on more hit recordings than any other vocalist.

You might be unfamiliar with his name, but you've surely heard of his group, The Jordanaires, which has sung backup vocals for more than 2,500 artists.

The Jordanaires (named after the River Jordan because they were a gospel quartet) started in 1948 as The Matthews Brothers. Lead tenor Mr. Stoker joined The Jordanaires 55 years ago with his first recording success coming that same year when he and the three other Jordanaires sang backup on Red Foley's 1950 hit Just a Closer Walk (With Thee).

The group is best known for its backup work with Elvis Presley, harmonizing with The King on 361 recordings. Many are heard on the soundtracks of 28 of Presley's 31 movies. They sang on recordings of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Nelson, Sonny James, Jim Reeves and others.

Recordings on which they are heard include: Fame or Fortune, by Presley; Crazy, by Cline; Young Love, by Mr. James; Four Walls, by Mr. Reeves; Travelin' Man, by Nelson; (I'm Proud to Be a) Coal Miner's Daughter, by Ms. Lynn; (Since You've) Gone, by Ferlin Huskey; Big Bad John, by Jimmy Dean; The Battle of New Orleans, by Johnny Horton; and It's Only Make Believe, by Conway Twitty.

Always looking for new projects, The Jordanaires recently released their first bluegrass-gospel album, The Jordanaires, Believe, A Collection of Bluegrass Hymns. The triple set for IMI Productions (imimusic.com) contains two CDs with 13 songs on each, plus a bonus DVD on which Mr. Stoker and the three other current Jordanaires (Ray Walker, Curtis Young and Louis Nunley) discuss group history.

Most are traditional hymns, including It Is Well, Solid Rock, Blessed Assurance, Rock of Ages and Just a Closer Walk (With Thee). There are four new songs, including the title track. They were written by the CD's producer, Steve Ivey, who grew up in Swainsboro, Ga.

The last track is an a cappella version of Dig a Little Deeper.

"We did that as a tribute to Elvis," Mr. Stoker said. "He would hear us sing that song on the Grand Ole Opry, and he loved it. He absolutely loved it. That's the type of music he really loved."

NEXT WEEK: Gordon Stoker shares stories about Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and others.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 34 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at don.rhodes@morris.com.