GOGR Music History - Plainsmen
If the world of gospel music had a dictionary and you looked up the words "modern quartet harmony", no doubt a picture of the Plainsmen Quartet would accompany the definition. The Plainsmen Quartet may not have invented "modern quartet harmony", but they certainly perfected the technique. Imaginative arrangements, creative dynamics, and precision singing became trademarks of this outstanding gospel quartet.
The voices of the original Plainsmen were associated with the Stamps Music Company located in Dallas, Texas. Many of the original members of the Plainsmen recorded for Columbia Records as the Stamps Quartet.
In August of 1956, the quartet left the Stamps organization to work independently. The group at the time consisted of Howard Welborn (tenor), Jack Mainord (lead), Bill Randall (baritone), Joe B. Davis (bass), and Easmon Napier (pianist and emcee). The group maintained the "heavy" sound associated with the Stamps organization until their first personnel change when Rusty Goodman joined the group as the baritone singer in December of 1957 replacing Bill Randall.
Although his vocal range was more in the baritone range, Rusty soon replaced Joe B. Davis in the bass slot, and identical twins Ermon and Thurman Bunch joined the Plainsmen. The Bunch twins came from the Jubilaires Quartet. Although many people aren't aware of them, The Jubliaires were pace setters in the modern harmony department. You may remember their pianist, Wally Varner. When Wally left the Jubilaires, he joined the Blackwood Brothers.
The Bunch twins brought many of their unique arrangements to the Plainsmen. With Rusty Goodman singing bass and the extraordinary range of the Bunch twins, the harmonies were superb. That particular group only released one album: "Songs and Hymns by the Plainsmen Quartet". It is one of the most collectable records in gospel music. It's often referred to as "The Red Album" for most of the copies were pressed on red vinyl.
Ermon Bunch didn't stay with the group for long, and Howard Welborn returned to the baritone slot instead of the tenor slot that he'd earlier vacated. That particular version of the Plainsmen featured some dramatic ranges among the singers. The bass singer (Rusty Goodman) could sing well into the second tenor range, and the baritone singer (Howard Welborn) was the former first tenor for the group. High, unusual harmonies prevailed as pianist Easmon Napier stretched the limits of the vocalists with his magnificent style.
Governor Jimmie Davis saw the potential in this quartet, and took them on the campaign trail with him as he sought reelection in 1958. Larry Denim soon replaced Easmon Napier, and the Plainsmen moved their home base to Baton Rouge, La. During this time, the Plainsmen also sang secular music. Listen closely and you can hear them on your oldies radio station as they back up Johnny Horton on his hit song "North to Alaska". They became one of the only gospel music artists to record secular music on an ongoing basis.
Rusty Goodman left the group in 1963 to join his family group, the Happy Goodmans. Long time Harmoneers Quartet bass singer Seals "Low Note" Hilton joined the group for a short time upon the retirement of the Hamoneers. At his departure, two North Carolinians joined the group: Jay Simmons and David Reece. Jay remained bass singer for the Plainsmen for many years, but Reece was quickly replaced by Eddie Crook as pianist. The personnel of Thurman Bunch, Jack Mainord, Howard Welborn, Jay Simmons, and Eddie Crook remained intact for a couple of years, and this group recorded many gospel music classics showcasing their varied talents.
Personnel changes in the Plainsmen continued as Jerry Redd replaced Thurman Bunch. In the changing world of gospel music, several members of the current Plainsmen moved to Wichita, Kansas and reunited with former pianist Easmon Napier to form the Marksmen Quartet. The Marksmen continued the Plainsmen sound singing both gospel and country music. Thurman Bunch, Ermon Bunch, Easmon Napier, Jay Simmons, and Jerry Menshall traveled as the Marksmen performing on country music shows and on several radio stations owned by Mack Sanders in the Midwest.
Howard Welborn, Jack Mainord, and Eddie Crook remained in Baton Rouge, and enlisted the services of Gerald Williams as bass singer. Gerald had sung for many years with the Melody Boys Quartet, and was an excellent vocalist and quartet man. Gerald brought dignity and class to the Plainsmen performances. Bobby Edwards was selected as the tenor singer for the group.
In the ensuing years, the personnel of the Marksmen and Plainsmen reunited. For several years, the Plainsmen consisted of Thurman Bunch, Jack Mainord, Dwight Hicks, Jay Simmons, and Easmon Napier. This group headlined many country music shows and continued to promote radio stations owned by Mack Sanders much like the Marksmen.
After a few years, Gerald Williams once again joined the Plainsmen replacing Jay Simmons. The group continued the flourish, as they sang across the country. They were headliners at the Landmark Hotel in Las Vegas showcasing a program that consisted of country, pop, standards, as well as gospel music.
The Plainsmen went though a time of singing as a trio, and had numerous changes in personnel. Some former Plainsmen members not previously mentioned that you may recognize include Sherrill Nielsen, Gene McDonald, Jerry Venable, Laddie Cain, Jerry Trammell, Steve Warren, Brad Harris, Tommy Randall, Newman Miller, Roy McNeill, Jonathan Sawrie, Tank Tackett, Jim Garstang, Butch Sanders, and Mike Loprinzi. This is by no means a complete list of former Plainsmen, but some of the more recognizable names in gospel music history.
The music of the Plainsmen was not only ahead of its time, but it is timeless.
I am looking for some good copies of the Plainsmen albums--Rusty Goodman era.
We would like to hear more about bass singer Joe Davis. If you have more information.
i have many albums of the plainsmen, and knew jack mainord personally, as he was from near my home town in searcy county, arkansas. i also know that he and rusty goodman have passed on to their maker and was wondering about thurmon bunch and howard welborn. could you shed some light on them for me.
I found a cassette entitled, 20 Gospel Quartet Greats. We love it, esp, I wouldn't take nothing for my journey now. We can't find this tape; do you know how we can obtain a copy? Very grateful, thanks, Connie
I think my father sang with your group for about six months in the late 50s. His name was Glenn McClintock. He had sung with his family as the "Peerless Quartet". They were from West Frankfort, Illinois. Around that same time he also sang with the "Melody Men". He later formed his own group called the "Starmen Quartet" which later was the "Starmen Trio". Maybe you remember them. That group consisted of Glenn McClintock, Albert Garner and Gene Fuller. Albert Garner's grandson, Josh Garner, sings with the Florida Boys today.
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