GOGR Music History - Revelaires

Through the years, many groups have formed to sing gospel music, but their respective careers have ceased after a few short years. I have to bring attention to many of these short-lived groups in these monthly history lessons. This month, we'll learn about another group that fits this description: The Revelaires Quartet from Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta was the hub of gospel music in the early 50s. Most of the top groups of that time were headquartered in the Atlanta area. The Revelaires Quartet was formed by several quartet veterans in this fertile gospel music soil.

Dan Huskey, Bobby Shaw, and Big Jim Waits were the founders of the Revelaires Quartet. They organized in September 1952. Dan had just left the position of tenor singer with the Blackwood Brothers. He moved from Memphis to Atlanta to take his place as first tenor in this new quartet. Jim Waits had most recently been singing with the Chuck Wagon Gang, but his gruff bass voice wasn't well suited to their family harmony. He sought greener pastures and left Ft. Worth, Texas and moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

Bobby Shaw had recently been the lead singer for another Atlanta-based group, the Homeland Harmony Quartet, and was currently serving his country in the Air Force. Dan and Jim kept in close contact with Bob's wife, and when Bob returned from his stay in Japan, the plans were already in place to form the Revelaires Quartet.

The three founders hired Tommy Rainer to sing baritone and Jerry Briggs to play the piano. This was one of Tommy's first professional quartet jobs, but he later sang with some other fine quartets in the Atlanta area including the Deep South Quartet and the Homeland Harmony Quartet. Jerry had been playing for Dempsey Rainwater in the Macon, Georgia area, prior to joining the Revelaires Quartet.

This particular group remained intact for several months before Jerry Briggs was drafted. He was replaced at the piano by Atlas Howard. Not long after that, Tommy Rainer was replaced at baritone by Larry Taylor. This configuration didn't last long and Larry, a fine musician, soon replaced Atlas Howard at the piano. His place as baritone singer was filled by Cat Freeman. This was a very unusual configuration: Two former first tenors from the Blackwood Brothers were singing together in the same quartet.

Jim Waits left the Atlanta area and moved to Tampa, Florida for health reasons. Shortly thereafter, he became the bass singer for the Rebels Quartet. The vacant bass slot in the Revelaires Quartet was filled by Johnny Atkinson. Johnny was another Atlanta resident who had recently left the Homeland Harmony Quartet. Johnny sang with the Revelaires for only a short time before he replaced J.D. Sumner in the Sunshine Boys. Those Atlanta groups really swapped their singers around!

Gordon Hill, the first bass singer for the Statesmen Quartet, took over as bass singer for the Revelaires Quartet, and Wally Varner came on board as pianist. By now, the group consisted of Dan Huskey (tenor), Bobby Shaw (lead), Cat Freeman (baritone), Gordon Hill (bass), and Wally Varner (pianist). This particular group was probably the most stable version of the quartet, and is heard on the majority of their Bibletone recordings. They recorded more than twenty songs, many of which were top-sellers on the Bibletone label. This aggregation appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts program in 1955.

The group had a very solid sound. Huskey and Freeman had great tenor voices, but Freeman could also blend quite well as a baritone. Bob Shaw had a very commanding lead voice which he had perfected during his tenure with the Homeland Harmony Quartet. Both Wally Varner and Gordon Hill were seasoned quartet veterans, and the group soon became quite active both on radio and in concert.

During the 50s, the "quartet team" concept was becoming popular. In early 1955, the team of the Revelaires Quartet and Harmoneers Quartet was unveiled. They did concerts together and were quite entertaining. During this time, the Revelaries Quartet released quite a few recordings on the SESAC label that were played on radio stations throughout the country.

Later that year, Bobby Shaw announced that he was retiring from the road. Wally Varner and Gordon Hill also left the group at this time. Dan Huskey and Cat Freeman were left to rebuild the quartet. Jim Hamill was hired to replace Bobby, but he didn't stay long and was replaced by Roy McNeal. Soon thereafter, Cat Freeman left to join the Oak Ridge Quartet. The last version of the Revelaires was Dan Huskey, Don Butler, Bill Ballew, Bill Huie, and Larry Taylor. Huie had a nice bass voice, and  also spent time with the LeFevres and Happy Goodman Family. This was one of Don Butler's first professional quartets. After the Revelaires disbanded, he went on to form the Sons of Song.

In the ensuing years, Bob Shaw became quite active in politics and civic activities. He still has a great voice and sings today with the Sunshine Boys. The late Dan Huskey left full time gospel singing and moved to North Carolina where he ran a successful seafood restaurant. Tommy Rainer went on to sing with several other Atlanta-based groups including the Deep South Quartet and the Homeland Harmony Quartet. My sources tell me that he's living in Louisiana and still singing as good as ever.

Gordon Hill's singing legacy continues through his son, Stephen, who sings in the Gaither corral. At last contact, Gordon was living in Tucson, Arizona. Wally Varner lives in Florida and is having some serious health concerns, so please keep him in your prayers.

Gospel music has had many groups that were on the scene for a short time and have been all but forgotten. Unfortunately, the Revelaires Quartet is one of these groups. The Revelaires Quartet has an impressive list of alumni, several of which deserve Hall of Fame recognition. It's a shame they aren't mentioned more often with the elite groups in gospel music.

(Comment box deleted due to spam material, Email additional comments to webmaster@grandolegospelreunion.com)


Home | Ticket Info | Photos | Products | News | FAQ's | Guestbook | GOGR Music History | Links


2005 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion
Last Modified: November 23, 2004
Site Maintained by A.B. Kendall Productions