GOGR Music History -
The Georgia Music Hall of Fame recently inducted the Harmoneers Quartet into their halls. The Harmoneers won the coveted Mary Tallent "Pioneer Award". This group is very deserving of the award. Let's hope the gospel music industry can bestow the same honor upon them.
The Harmoneers were organized in the early 1940's by Fred C. Maples. Maples was a native of Cleveland, Tenn.-- a central location for quartet music in those days. His group soon signed a recording contract with RCA Victor, possibly being the first quartet to record on that label. The members of the group at that time were Herbert Newman, Paul Stringfellow, Maples, Sidney Braden, and Charles Key. The war was underway at the time, so they were limited in their ability to travel. At the end of the war, Maples revamped the quartet by hiring Bobby Stickland to sing tenor, Ermon Slater to sing baritone, and AD Soward to sing bass. This group moved to Knoxville, Tenn. and began an affiliation with the Chattanooga Medicine Company. They became spokesmen for "Scalf's Indian River Medicine", which they sold during their transcribed radio broadcasts.
During a war imposed recording ban, the group released several recordings as the "Maple Leaf Quartet" on Lee Roy Abernathy's "Quartet" label. The name change was a result of their exclusive recording contract with RCA Victor. If you come across any recordings by that group, you'll be listening to the Harmoneers!
As with any group, the personnel of the Harmoneers changed a bit through the years. Strickland and Soward left the group and were instrumental in the formation of the Statesmen Quartet. Slater left the group to join the Rangers Quartet. They were replaced by three gentlemen that became core members of the Harmoneers for many years to come: Bob Crews (lead), Wallace "Happy" Edwards (tenor), and Seals "Low Note" Hilton (bass).
The Harmoneers Quartet arrived in Decatur, Ga. from Tennessee in 1949. The hard-working group sang live regularly on Atlanta radio station WEAS, now WGUN, and later on NBC and CBS radio. In the 40s and 50s, the Harmoneers became one of top quartets in the nation. "Happy" Edward kept the audience on their toes with his humor, and the group always lived up to their name with wonderful harmony.
Fred C. Maples retired in the mid-1950's, and soon the Harmoneers reorganized with "Happy" Edwards, Bob Crews, Shorty Bradford, Seals Hilton, and Charles Key. This was one of the most exciting Harmoneers lineups, but it was also quite short-lived. Jimi Hall soon joined the group as pianist and lead singer. The four man group (Edwards, Hall, Crews, and Hilton) continued for several years and released their first long playing album on the Sing label in 1959 titled "This Little Light of Mine". Prior to this, eight RCA recordings by the Harmoneers were released on a 10" album titled "Church in the Wildwood". This is one of the rarest gospel records in collecting circles.
The group experienced several personnel changes prior to their retirement in the early 1960's. Former members include Fred Elrod, Troy Lumpkin, Joe Moscheo, Mack Evans, Byron Burgess among others.
The group received the "Living Legend" award at the 1995 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in Greenville, SC. Although the Harmoneers name has been formally retired, Bob Crews, Charles Key, Seals Hilton, and Jimi Hall are still alive and well. They performed at the reunion just a few years ago.
I had the good fortune to see the Harmoneers around 1948 at the Crab Orchard Baptist Church and at the Memorial Building in Beckley,Wv. I will always remember Happy Edwards singing and rocking back and forth as the group sang "Rocking on the ocean waves" Great memories!!
My mother, Mildred Sellers, sang on WEAS Radio Station in Decatur, Georgia on Saturday morning in 1946 and 1947 with Minnie Lee and five young men (one name Doug who played piano). They regularly sang at the Atlanta Auditorium and Theatres around Atlanta. The genre of music was Bluegrass, Country, and Gospoel. We are looking for any information on the surviving members, pictures, or data relating to her past as a singer. Mildred played guitar, Doug played piano, other members played fiddle, mandolin, and bass. Mother said there were professional photographs of their group which were posted on various billboards during the 1946 and 47. My mother, Mildred, and Minnie Lee, worked for H.W. Lays Potatoe Chip Company on Boulevard Avenue, Atlanta during the same timeframe. Any information please call (850)773-9989 or email. Thanks so much!
Looking for former Harmoner Byron Burgess to notify him of our 50th Class Reunion. Anyone know his address please contact me. May be in Baldwin County, AL.
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