Ten On Ten – Statesmen

This week’s ten on ten feature continues reader requests and takes a look at one of the biggest names in Southern Gospel quartet music; Hovie Lister and the Statesmen.  The one, two punch of the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers in the 50’s/60’s were unrivaled and unmatched in the quartet world.

The Statesmen were trend setters in every sense of the word and are still considered by many as the most influential quartet in Southern Gospel music history.  So,  how does one even start in attempting to rank the group’s ten best recordings?  The only answer, very thoughtfully and carefully.  Here is my final result.

The Statesmen’s ten best recordings are as follows:

  1. On Stage (1960)
  2. The Statesmen Quartet Sings With Hovie Lister (1958)
  3. The Statesmen Quartet With Hovie Lister (1957)
  4. A Gospel Concert (1963)
  5. Sing Brother Sing (1968)
  6. Get Away Jordan (1959)
  7. Through The States (1961)
  8. The Sensational Statesmen Quartet (1965)
  9. Revival (1992)
  10. Featuring… (1970)
  • As already mentioned, the Statesmen dominated the quartet world through the mid 1960’s.  It is no surprise the group’s biggest recordings come from this time period.  The 1960 album On Stage, I consider to be the pinnacle in the Statesmen discography.
  • Recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium in 1959, On Stage captures the Statesmen in their prime as no other recording could.  Hearing songs that are now quartet classics performed with class and flair.  “Thanks To Calvary”, “Something Within”, “He’s Already Done”, “Wade On Out”, “Gonna Open Up All The Doors”, “He Set Me Free” and “Get Away Jordan” all highlight this recording.
  • The Statesmen time spent with RCA Victor dominated the top ten list.  Seven of the top ten albums were released by RCA Victor.
  • The Statesmen’s first two RCA Victor albums rank #2 and #3 respectively.  The 1958 album ranks #2 and the 1957 album ranks #3.  All the great, what are now quartet standards found on these two albums are a quartet lover’s dream.
  • The Statesmen delights the listener with “Glory, Glory Clear The Road”, “My God Is Real”, “Led Out Of Bondage”, “One Of These Mornings”, “Hide Me Rock Of Ages”, “I Know It Was The Lord”, “It’s A Wonderful Feeling”, “Wonderful Is The Lord”, “Sea Walker” and “Stand By Me”.  All these songs highlight these two gems.
  • The Statesmen recorded two other concert albums in the early ’60s and both landed among the group’s ten best.  The 1963 album A Gospel Concert ranks #4 as the 1961 album Through The States lands at #7.  While neither quite captured the excitement of On Stage, they were still great recordings.
  • Hovie Lister had some of the most legendary names in Southern Gospel quartet history as a member of the Statesmen.  Buddy Burton, Bob Caldwell, Johnny Cook, Denver Crumpler, Biney English, Rick Fair, Cat Freeman, Jake Hess, Ed Hill, Jim Hill, Sherrill Nielsen, Doy Ott, Rozie Rozell, Tommy Thompson, Jack Toney, Jim Wetherington and Willie Wynn among others spent time with the Statesmen during their storied career.
  • The only ’70s era Statesmen album to land in the top ten was the 1970 recording Featuring.  The re-formed ’90s edition of the Statesmen also landed in the top ten with the 1992 return album Revival.
  • The gem in the Statesmen’s discography is the 1968 album Sing Brother Sing.  This happens to be one of my personal favorite Statesmen recordings.
  • With a discography as extensive as the Statesmen there were several albums that didn’t quite make the top ten but deserve an honorable mention:  Thanks To Calvary (1969), O’ My Lord What A Time (1993), The Happy Sound (1966), Even So Come (2000) and The Common Man (1970).

9 thoughts on “Ten On Ten – Statesmen

  1. I’m glad I asked you to tackle this one, and I’m glad you took me up on it! Great list, and I would have to imagine mine would be very similar in many respects. I am inclined to agree that On Stage is indeed their best recording, and the 1992 Revival project is indeed the only one post-Big Chief that I would put in their top 10.

  2. Great list Steve! Hard to argue with “On Stage” being number 1, and I’m glad to see Revival in the list as well. The Get Away Jordan album is fantastic. The only two that I’d have tried to find a spot for (including the Honorable Mention) are I’ll Meet You By The River, which was Rosie’s first, and The Mystery Of His Way.

  3. Great list from a great quartet. My only question is this: What did you find about “Featuring” that put it ahead of their other albums from that era? Frankly, I thought it was the weakest LP of the “jim hill era”. No quartet songs . . . only solos.

    I grew up watching the Statesmen with Sherrill, Jim, Doy, Chief and Hovie. Such wonderful memories.

    1. I enjoyed the songs. I was going to place ‘Thanks To Calvary’ at #10, but I thought I should include at least one ’70s era album in the top 10. The problem lies with the number of good albums the Statesmen released in their career.

  4. By the way, one of my favorite LPs that is missing from this list is “The Bible Told Me So” from 1957. It had some of their biggest and longest lasting hits.

  5. There were some LPs that I learned to appreciate the more I listened to them: The Mystery of His Way, and the two with Roy McNeal. Your #2 is my #1.

  6. As to the “Featuring . . . ” lp: Durning their concerts in that era, they would stage a four song medley from that album, with each singer performing a song on that lp that he composed. The songs were much stronger on stage than their recorded versions because they became “quartet songs” instead of solos.

  7. Nice list. Since the Statesmen are my all time favorite, I was anxiously waiting to see your list. I’m with Dean on the fact that your number #2 is my number #1. (Although your number 1 is an awesome vinyl). I always enjoyed the Jim, Sherrill line-up. The first vinyl I ever heard with that particular line-up was “Keep On Smiling”. Great album indeed. Anyways..your list is awesome. Good job man.

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