GOGR Music History -
One of the most underrated groups of the 1950's and 1960's was the Harvesters Quartet from Charlotte, NC. The alumni of the group includes a Minister of Music, a top gospel music talent agency executive, an insurance salesman, a florist, a barber, a professional comedy writer, a session pianist, a featured soloist for the Jerry Falwell ministries, a country music artist, and a Congressman.
The group was originally formed from remnants of the Crusaders Quartet. As a little history lesson, Bobby Strickland formed the Crusaders Quartet shortly after leaving the Statesmen Quartet. Former members of that group included Strickland, Buddy Parker, Bervin Kendricks, Bob Prater, Hershell Wooten, and Dickie Matthews among others. This quartet was a major factor in gospel music until a car accident took the life of Mr.Strickland. Bill Hefner replaced Strickland as the tenor of the group, but it soon disbanded.
In the mean time, WBT radio of Charlotte, NC was looking for a gospel quartet, and several members of the defunct Crusaders came to Charlotte to form the Harvesters Quartet. Bill Hefner, Buddy Parker and Hershell Wooten of the Crusaders joined forces with David Reece and Pat Patterson and the Harvesters Quartet was born.
Unlike most groups, the Harvesters had very few personnel changes throughout their professional career. Bill Hefner and Buddy Parker set the foundation for the group at the tenor and lead slots, and remained there for their entire professional career. Through the years, the only change in baritones was made in 1958 when Pat Patterson was replaced by Don Norman. The treble parts had little change, but the bass part did change on occasion as the original bass singer, Hershell Wooten, was followed by Fred Rose, Jay Simmons, Bob Thacker, and Noel Fox.
The Harvesters have boasted one the finest trio of pianists of any group in the history of gospel music with David Reece, Jack Clark, and Earl Brewer among the alumni of the keyboards. Phil Ross and Gary Trussler also had short stints with the Harvesters at the piano.
The quartet retired in the mid 1960's as one of the finest quartets in gospel music. They had tight harmony, great arrangements, and were fine entertainers. Bill Hefner had a fine tenor voice, and his emcee techniques kept the audience laughing as soon as he began speaking. Buddy Parker had a wonderful lead voice with the range of a first tenor. Don Norman had a lovely baritone voice, and all of the Harvesters bass singers were solid contributors to the sound of the group. Jack Clark had a great piano style that complimented the group without overshadowing their singing.
Few groups retire when they are at the top of the pack. The Harvesters did so. After their retirement, the Harvesters continued to sing in local concerts promoted by Mr.Hefner throughout the North Carolina area. This arrangement lasted for several years until politics came to call on Mr. Hefner. Jack Bryson, Richard Coletrain, Richard Lee, Joe Ferguson, Gene Player, Danny Parker, CR McClain Jr., and Phil Barker were all among the "part-time" Harvesters which also included Earl Brewer and Bob Thacker.
The Harvesters continue to perform now. Their current group is quite active and maintains the solid quartet sound made famous in the 1950's by the Harvesters. Danny Parker (Ivan's brother) is the manager of the group.
Time has been a bit kinder to the Harvesters than many other groups, and the current Harvesters have done their part to pay homage to their roots. Recently, the Harvesters had a reunion concert featuring four of the former members of the group: Bill Hefner, Don Norman, Hershell Wooten, and Jack Clark. Danny Parker filled the vocal part of Buddy Parker as the "Old Harvesters" thrilled the audience singing songs from their career. Although Hershell Wooten is not in the best of health, his voice filled the rafters as he sang with his old comrades. The Harvesters' current bass singer, Jim Collins, sang some with the "old guys" to give Hershell a break.
Be sure to check out the current Harvesters at their web site at www.harvestersquartet.com.
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