Soul Stirrers prepare for moving CD, reunion

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The legendary acclaimed gospel quartet group, the Soul Stirrers have reunited for a “Soul Stirring Reunion!” Say the name Soul Stirrers and immediately the name Sam Cooke comes to mind. “Once you are a Soul Stirrer you are always a Soul

The legendary acclaimed gospel quartet group, the Soul Stirrers have reunited for a “Soul Stirring Reunion!” Say the name Soul Stirrers, and immediately the name Sam Cooke comes to mind. “Once you are a Soul Stirrer you are always a Soul Stirrer. Sam Cooke will always be known as a Soul Stirrer regardless of what he did in the world,” said Willie Rogers.

The longtime member also commented, “I came after Sam Cooke and sang most of the material for years. I came in right after Johnny Taylor left and I stayed there, and actually I have really been a Soul Stirrer all of my life.”

Chicago’s late R.H. Harris was one of the founding members of the group that was considered a trendsetter and trailblazer in the world of music for a remarkable eight decades. In 1989, they were honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of Rock’s Early Influences.

“There’s no bigger name in the quartet genre than The Soul Stirrers,” said Malaco Records executive D.A. Johnson. The project couldn’t be more timely…when the music industry and music lovers alike are steady reaching back and blowing the dust off the classic songs from back in the day.

“We did a legend CD… all of us came together, the Caravans, the Dixie Hummingbirds, the (Mighty) Clouds of Joy and it was such a hit for about a year,” Rogers said. “Me and Dell Luster talked about this…we wanted to leave something behind, and he took it to Malaco and they thought it was a good idea. Malaco had good success on one of the legends, (so) we did all of the older groups. We did a reunion and a documentary and everything, and it should be out soon. We are looking forward to it, and we are excited.”

The lineup 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 the Rev. Luther Gamble, who first joined the group in 1974.

The group was formed in 1926 in Trinity, Texas, led by Silas Roy Crain with lead singer Rebert “Pop” Harris, and moved to Chicago in 1936 where they became one of the very first gospel groups to travel and charge admission for their performances. The Soul Stirrers’ commanding vocal style and incomparable harmonies quickly earned them recognition.

In the ’40s, the group became known, in particular, for having two lead singers within its ranks.

The arrival of Sam Cooke in 1951, replacing 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 heartthrob, stepping out on an immediate and huge hit for the group, "Jesus Gave Me Water."

This would be the first of many classic songs 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 former Highway QC’s vocalist Johnnie Taylor, who also left the group in 1961 after five successful years, to pursue a solo career in R&B.

Other vocalists featured during the group’s history include J.J. Farley, Paul Foster, Martin Jaicox and Julius Cheeks.

Fans will hear the sweet sound of Rogers, whose presence prominent on the new release.

“I am doing about six songs…doing some of the stuff I did from the ’60s, and I’m doing some of the Sam Cooke songs: ‘Stay With Me Jesus,’ ‘Oh What A Meeting‘ and ‘When The Gates Swing Open.’ Johnny Taylor did that in the 60s and I did it in the 60s, and I’m doing ‘Last Mile Of The Way‘ as well as ‘Going To A Meeting,’ a beautiful song…written by Dell Luster. I played a great part in the history. Also, we got one doing ‘Floyd Taylor‘–Johnnie Taylor’s son is singing. He is R&B and just came back to work on this project. I wanted to use him because his dad played an important part (in) The Soul Stirrers once upon a time,” Rogers said.

In addition to the CD dropping, the group may be also be hitting the stage once again. “We probably will be doing a tour,” Rogers said. “My main purpose is to let the young people know about the old school. We don’t talk enough about our history… ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and ‘Wonderful’ are still popular. It’s amazing, but that they are still popular today.”

Indeed, The Soul Stirrers are still amazing! The reunion CD hits the shelves on September 23. For more information on The Soul Stirrers reunion, please visit http://www.myspace.com/soulstirrersunion.

“Remember you are Blessed by the Best!”

Effie Rolfe is the religion entertainment columnist for the Chicago Defender and can be contacted at effie@theinspirationalcafe.com.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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