GOGR Music History -
During the Depression Era of the 1930's, Vernon Hyles, Arnold Hyles, George Hughes and Walter Leverette formed a quartet that soon became known as the Texas Rangers. Vernon sang lead and played the guitar. George Hughes was a fine tenor, and Walter Leverette was a very smooth baritone singer. The showcase of the group was "The World’s Lowest Basso Profundo" Arnold Hyles. Arnold’s voice was loud and rough. It made for a unique sounding quartet with a very heavy sound. The group drew large crowds and was soon commissioned as honorary Texas Rangers. They were also denoted as "Ambassadors of Good Will" for the state of Texas. After a few years of touring, the name was shortened to "The Rangers".
The Rangers were master showmen. As their reputation began to grow, they began traveling outside of Texas. In keeping with their master showmanship, they decided to ride bicycles from Texas to New York City to perform on "The Major Bowles Amateur Hour". The bicycle riding didn’t last long, as they began to perform in towns throughout the country. The trip to New York was soon forgotten, and the Rangers were drawing large crowds and making an excellent living doing what they loved . . . SINGING!
George Hughes left the group in 1938 and subsequently joined the Swanee River Boys. Denver Crumpler was hired to sing the tenor part, and the popularity of the group continued to grow. Denver took over the guitar playing and brought a clear Irish tenor voice to the group that became part of their trademark sound. Denver’s lyric tenor and Arnold Hyles’ bottomless bass were the anchors for one of the finest quartets in that era. Walter Leverette and Vernon Hyles were both excellent musicians with extraordinary ranges, and they complimented the outside parts quite nicely. The Rangers began to incorporate intricate harmonies and key changes in their music that many groups of that era could only dream about.
In the late 1930's, the Rangers moved from WHAS radio in Louisville, Kentucky to WBT radio in Charlotte, North Carolina. Shortly after moving to North Carolina, the Rangers decided to hire their first pianist: new SGMA Hall of Fame member Marion Snyder. He brought excellent piano skills to the group and was a master showman himself.
Around this time, the Rangers were responsible for many innovations in the gospel singing field. They signed a recording contract with Decca records in 1939 and recorded a number of songs for both Decca and Okeh with only Denver’s guitar as accompaniment.
They were the first quartet to have a commercially sponsored gospel radio network program. The Rangers were also the first gospel quartet to become a full time group completely on their own. They did not supplement their income with side jobs or songbook sales. They were professional gospel music entertainers! Other groups soon followed the Rangers lead for the Rangers quickly found out that they could be more prosperous by associating themselves with radio stations that would allow them to book their own concerts and advertise their programs on the air. As was typical in that era, their programs featured a mixture of hymns, gospel, pop, and Western tunes.
The Rangers left Charlotte in 1945 and moved to radio station WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. Marion Snyder had left the group earlier and was replaced by Charles Friar. Soon thereafter, WBT hired Larry Walker as staff pianist and he began playing for the Rangers. When they moved to Wheeling, Denver again pulled out the guitar and the Rangers added even more western and cowboy songs to their repritore. The Rangers made a short move to Richmond, Virginia where they procured the services of Lee Roy Abernathy as pianist. Lee Roy soon convinced them to move to Atlanta, Georgia. Professor Abernathy’s comments about the Rangers were this: "I decided to hunt the world’s finest quartet, and play the piano for them just to advertise my piano course by mail. I decided upon the Rangers who were singing on WRVA in Richmond, Virginia. I played with them for fifteen months before they fired me. . . "
While working in Atlanta, they recorded four songs for RCA Victor. WBT in Charlotte again asked the Rangers to rejoin their station, and in 1947, the Rangers again moved to Charlotte. Although Lee Roy says they "fired him" other accounts say that he didn’t want to leave the Atlanta area, so Hovie Lister left the Homeland Harmony Qt. to join the Rangers in Charlotte. During Hovie’s short tenure with the Rangers, they recorded four songs for Bullet Records, one being a solo by Hovie Lister. Hovie became the first member of the group to record a solo.
Hovie didn’t care for the Charlotte area either, so he soon moved back to Atlanta opening the seat on the piano bench to another future Statesman, Doy Ott. When Doy joined the Rangers, he was known as a pianist and not a vocalist. The Rangers then did a tour of duty at WIBW in Topeka, Kansas.
When Doy Ott left the quartet in May of 1949, David Reece, formerly with the Blue Ridge Quartet, became their pianist. On June 1, 1949, baritone Walter Leverette succumbed to a heart attack, and the Rangers were forced to make their first personnel change in vocalists in more than ten years. Ermon Slater from Sand Mountain, Alabama became the new baritone. Slater has previously sung with the Harmoneers. The Rangers soon moved to WPTF in Raleigh, NC. That particular group began their own "Record of the Month" club which they distributed under their own "Rangers" label.
Tragedy again struck the Rangers in early 1951 when Arnold Hyles and Ermon Slater were involved in an automobile accident and were hit by a drunk driver. Slater was killed instantly, and Hyles was severely injured. Arnold was out of action for many months, as the doctors gave him little hope for survival.
Although Vernon then considered disbanding the group, the hospital bills were mounting up. Jimmy Jones joined the group six days after the accident, and the Rangers continued as a four-man group with David Reece playing the piano and singing baritone. Jimmy did a very admirable job in filling the spot of one of the greatest bass singers in gospel music history. That particular group soon moved to Dallas, Texas to work for the Liberty Broadcasting System. The Rangers continued to thrive. At one time the Rangers were heard on more than 450 radio stations from coast to coast.
After a long period of recuperation, Arnold Hyles began making selected appearances with the quartet singing a few songs, but he wasn’t up to full time singing. For these performances, he would be in a wheelchair, for his injuries hadn’t fully healed. Arnold lived in constant pain for the remainder of his life.
Personnel changes were few and far between with the Rangers until 1953. Then, David Reece left the group and was replaced by Cecil Pollock. Glenn Sessions joined the group as a sixth member, filling in both at lead and baritone. Jimmy Jones moved to baritone when Arnold would return to the group, and switch back to bass when Arnold couldn’t make the dates. The last change in 1953 occurred at the same time when Jimmy Jones left to form the Deep South Quartet and Denver Crumpler left to join the Statesmen. Denver was replaced by Gene Moss, a great tenor from the Stamps-Baxter Quartet.
The Rangers decided to pursue a move to Hollywood. Cecil Pollock remained in Texas and was replaced by pianist Elmer Childress. Glenn Sessions soon moved back to Texas, and was replaced by Ralph Dailey. After a short time in California, the Rangers moved to Wichita, Kansas. Dailey remained in California, and Childress did double duty as pianist and baritone vocalist. The Rangers disbanded shortly thereafter, closing the career of one of the most successful and innovative quartets in gospel music history.
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Please note that Marion Snider's name is mispelled. Marion Snider, age 91, is still playing piano and gospel music for his many fans around the world. He lives in Dallas, TX with his wife, Bell, of 65 years. For more information and ways to obtain recordings of Marion Snider, please call 214.368.3726.
Where may one find some of the recordings of the Rangers?
I am 73 years old and have followed Gospel music for 60 years. I remember the Rangers being at some of the Atlanta singing probably in the 1949's or thereabout. I have only one Recording by the Rangers, that being He's a Personal Savior. I have everybody else that I ever heard and wish I could get hold of some Rangers recordings. Can anyone help me??? Thanks so much.
I still have some old 78s by the RANGERS in the Denver Crumpler days. What a group, still love them
In response to Gene Wray, the story of the Rangers Trio is continued in January, 2005. Hope you will enjoy reading it.
In 60 years of listening and singing Southern the Rangers before the wwreck were the best Quartet ever. No one has sung bass as low as Arnold Hyles and no first tenor compares to the Irish Tenor of Denver Crumpler
I am proudly related to Arnold Hyles, as my father was his nephew, Earl Hyles. I grew up listening to all the old recordings of the Ranger Quartet and still love them today! Such joy and energy! It was a wonderful surprise to see him listed in such a beautiful way on this website and, also, to discover he had been inducted into the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame this year! I plan to vist there soon.
The Rangers were good friends of my parents and came for a visit when I was born-65 years ago and brought me a pair of "Ranger Boots" which I still have. When my Dad passed away in 1948-they sent the biggest and most beautiful wreath of flowers I had ever seen and I still remember them as my special family.
Contrary to the last sentence above, The Rangers continued (or regrouped) as a Trio in the 1950's with David Reece, Ronnie Page, and Darrell Johnson. I have two of their records (well worn) and would love to find other of their LP albums. Does anyone have a continued history of The Rangers Trio?
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