GOGR Music History - 
The Trav'lers

Let me begin my monthly article by apologizing for being tardy in my posting. I assure you that it was not the fault of the webmaster, but your esteemed writer. Many of you know that I've been in a job search for a few months, and my new job has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have reaped the benefits of working for a company that appreciates its employees unlike the job I left in March. That being said, I will continue to write about one of the great groups of the 1960s.

This month, I will feature one of the most underrated and forgotten groups from the 1960s . . . the Trav'lers Quartet.

This group, headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, set the standard for modern harmony and perfection by a group of young singers. Their class and dignity were admired by older groups across the country.

When the group formed in the early 1960s, all of the members were in their early 20s, yet their sound was much ahead of many of the other groups in that time frame. They had a desire for vocal perfection, and that showed itself in all of their recordings and performances.

The original Trav'lers included Bobby Edwards (tenor), Carl Whitman (lead), Tom Brown (baritone), Joel Duncan (bass), and Otis Forrest (pianist). They were mainstays on the syndicated television program, "Bob Poole's Gospel Favorites." This was one of the first gospel music television programs to reach from coast to coast. The Trav'lers was one of the groups responsible for the nationwide acceptance of this wonderful television program. Later in their career, they would become one of the anchor groups on another syndicated gospel music spectacular, the Charlie Waller production "America's Gospel Favorites."

The Trav'lers employed great modern harmonies in their performances and recordings. Bobby Edwards and Otis Forrest were responsible for many of their early arrangements. These arrangements were quite unique in the gospel music world in the 60s. Few groups were able to attain the great stacked and inverted harmonies that were mainstays of the Trav'lers Quartet performances.

The Trav'lers' first album, "Trav’lers Sing Songs You Have Requested" was the first album recorded by the Huffman brothers in the Mark V studios. Many great recordings followed this superb album. The Trav'lers were guinea pigs for these early Mark V recordings.

Other gospel singers began to take notice of the Trav'lers and their proficiency in their chosen trade. The Trav'lers often backed other artists in the studio. Noted songwriter Marshall Pack recorded an album with the Trav'lers. Bob Thacker, bass singer with the Harvesters Quartet, recorded an album of his famous recitations with the Trav'lers singing background for him.

Bobby Edwards departed the Trav'lers to join the famous Plainsmen Quartet in 1967. His abilities to sing and arrange modern harmonies were developed during his years with the Trav'lers. He took those abilities to the Plainsmen Quartet. Around this time, Otis Forrest also left the group from the stage, but not the studio. He continued to work in the Mark V studio with the Trav'lers after leaving the road. Otis also spent a couple of years as pianist for the Blue Ridge Quartet.

Wayne Shuford replaced Bobby Edwards as tenor singer for the Trav'lers. Prior to joining the Trav'lers, Wayne spent time with the Pine Ridge Boys. He was a natural for the Trav'lers. He continues to sing tenor for the current Trav'lers with the same beautiful tones he possessed in the late 1960s.

The Trav'lers have had some great pianists including Otis Forrest, Don Frazier, Art Bain, Mitch Humphries, and Tony ("Tarzan") Brown. These pianists have set the table for some of the great Trav'lers arrangements.

In 1967, the Trav'lers recorded an album entitled "If Not Today, Then Maybe Tomorrow." The title song of this album continues to be their most requested song nearly forty years later. To this writer's knowledge, this is the only group to record this classic song.

The Trav'lers took a few years away from the gospel music trails and several of the Trav'lers went elsewhere in gospel music. Bass singer Joel Duncan joined Rosie Rozell and the Searchers for a time. He later joined the Palmetto State Quartet where he remained for many years. Otis Forrest began doing studio work and also worked for several years with the Blue Ridge Quartet.

The group has made few changes through the years. The current Trav'lers consist of Wayne Shuford, Eddie Broome, Tom Brown, and Joel Duncan. Tom and Joel are members of the original group and Wayne has been a member since 1967. The "new kid on the block" is Eddie Broome. Eddie is no newcomer to gospel music, having spent many years in the industry as tenor singer with the Dixie Echoes and the Palmetto State Quartet in addition to his work with some local groups. Eddie has also filled the tenor position with the Harvesters Quartet in recent years.

I once asked one of the members why the Trav'lers didn't have a pianist, and the reply was simple: How do you fill the role of pianist after singing with the likes of Tony Brown, Art Bain, Otis Forest et. al.? Simply put, the Trav'lers have been spoiled!

Currently, the Trav'lers do a limited number of personal appearances, but whenever they are on the program, you always know you will experience class and dignity.

Their current recording is a celebration of 44 years in gospel music. It is one of their finest as it features ten great arrangements of classic gospel songs done in their superb style.

The Trav'lers were recognized as "Living Legends" by the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in 2004. This award was in recognition of their years of dedication to classic gospel music for the past forty three years.

The original Trav’lers appeared at the 2004 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. Bobby Edwards, Carl Whitman, and Otis Forrest joined current members Tom Brown and Joel Duncan to relive some very fond memories. Their harmony was stellar after almost 40 years apart.

Otis continues to work in the recording studio, and Bobby is still singing. Carl Whitman is a successful Tupperware distributor and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Tom, Joel, Wayne, and Eddie are no longer in their twenties, yet their musical capabilities still reach far beyond most of the full time groups singing professional gospel music. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The Trav'lers are the finest "unknown" quartet in gospel music today. If you have to chance to see them, I encourage you to do so. You will be both blessed and impressed.

I'd like to give a special thanks to Wayne Shuford for his help with this article, and I encourage you to check out their web site for information about their recordings and personal appearances.

www.thetravlers.com

If you have any questions or comments, I welcome them at john@grandolegospelreunion.com.


Trav’lers LP Recordings:

The Trav’lers Sing Songs You’ve Requested – Trav’lers Record Co. Mark V 2788

Meet the Trav’lers – Festival FLP 6403

Sweet Jesus – Family Tone FT-100

Trav’lers Quartet with Marshall Pack – Songs of Faith SOF 131

If Not Today, Then Maybe Tomorrow – Mark V 4141

Inspiring Country – Mark V 4365

There’s Something Wrong – Mark V 4605

Information about current Trav’lers products are available on their web site.


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