Most Influential – #1 – Statesmen

StatesmenAfter 39 weeks of counting down the most influential artists in Southern Gospel music, it is time to crown the #1 most influential artist in the history of the genre.  That honor is given to the Statesmen.

Hovie Lister put the Statesmen together in 1948 to receive airtime on WCON in Atlanta GA.  The original group consisted of Bobby Strickland (tenor), Mosie Lister (lead), Bervin Kendrick (baritone) and Gordon Hill (bass).

It wasn’t long until Jake Hess would replace Mosie Lister as lead singer for the Statesmen.  Jake would be a fixture with the group until he left to form the Imperials in 1963.

The most famous iteration of the Statesmen came about in 1958 when Rosie Rozell became the group’s tenor.  He joined Hess (lead), Doy Ott (baritone), James Wetherington (bass) and Hovie (pianist) to create the quartet that all future quartets would be measured.  Several of the group’s biggest recordings were released during this time.  They include Get Away Jordan, Mystery Of His Way, On Stage, Out West and Through The States among others.

Jake Hess would be the first to depart from this all-star line-up.  Jack Toney came aboard as lead singer in 1963 to help contribute to the quartet’s success.  He would remain with the group until 1968.  

The Statesmen legacy came to an initial end in 1981 when Hovie finally decided to retire the quartet.  He would come together with Rozell (tenor), James Blackwood (lead), Hess (baritone) and JD Sumner (bass) to form the Masters V shortly after.  Hovie decided the Statesmen legacy needed one more run and he put the quartet back together in 1992.  This allowed a newer generation to experience the awesomeness of the Statesmen.  The group would continue in to 2001, the same year that would bring Hovie’s passing.


  • statesmenquartet1960onstagemaxThe Statesmen were instrumental in introducing large crowds to what is now known as Southern Gospel music.  With the help of the Blackwood Brothers, the two groups dominated the 1950’s, singing to sell out crowds all over the country.  The Statesmen’s flair for performance and proper singing allowed for future generations of Southern Gospel quartets to find success.
  • The Statesmen’s dominance came before Southern Gospel radio airplay charts and awards programs.  If they were around in the 1950’s/1960’s, there is no doubt the Statesmen would’ve won many awards and had many #1 hits.  The group was inducted in to the Gospel Music hall of fame in 1998.  Members of the Statesmen that have been inducted in to the Southern Gospel music hall of fame include Denver Crumpler (1997), Jake Hess (1997), Hovie Lister (1997), Doy Ott (2000), Rosie Rozell (1999), Bobby Strickland (2003), Jack Toney (2005) and James Wetherington (1997).
  • Many great quartet men spent time with the Statesmen.  In addition to those already mentioned:  Ray Burdette, Buddy Burton, Bob Caldwell, Elmer Cole, Johnny Cook, Biney English, Rick Fair, Cat Freeman, Chris Hess, Ed Hill, Jim Hill, Roy McNeal, Shaun Neilsen, Tommy Thompson and Willie Wynn among others.
  • Known Songs:  “Bible Told Me So”, “Brighten The Corner Where You Are”, “Come Out With Your Hands Up”, “Common Man”, “Death Ain’t No Big Deal”, “Every Time I Feel The Spirit”, “Get Away Jordan”, “Glory Glory Clear The Road”, “God’s Not Dead”, “Great Physician”, “He Set Me Free”, “He Will Never Let Me Down”, “He’s A Personal Savior”, “Hide Thou Me”, “I Believe In The Man In The Sky”, “I Know He Heard My Prayer”, “I Know It Was The Lord”, “I Wanna Know”, “If You Drink This Water”, “I’ll Meet You By The River”, “I’m Climbing Higher And Higher”, “I’ve Got The Corners Turned Down”, “Just A Little While”, “Known Only To Him”, “Live Like Jesus”, “Lived And He Loved Me”, “My Home”, “Mystery Of His Way”, “Oh My Lord What A Time”, “Oh What A Savior”, “Old Landmark”, “Sing Brother Sing”, “Something To Shout About”, “Something Within”, “Stop Look And Listen For The Lord”, “Surely I Will Lord”, “Sweet Jesus”, “Thanks To Calvary”, “They That Sow”, “Those Tender Hands”, “Wade On Out”, “Wait Til You See Me In My New Home”, “Wake Me Shake Me Lord”, “We’ve Come This Far By Faith”, “When He Calls I’ll Fly Away”, “Where No One Stands Alone”, “Where The Milk And Honey Flow”, “You Can’t Shake The Rock”, “You Sho Do Need Him Now” and “You’d Better Run”.
  • Best Album:  On Stage (1960)


Here are several YouTube clips of the Statesmen at their best.  Enjoy!

1.  “When He Calls, I’ll Fly Away” (published by statesmenfan).

2.  “Get Away Jordan” (published by statesmenfan).

3.  “Come Out With Your Hands Up” (published by akdal83).


8 thoughts on “Most Influential – #1 – Statesmen

  1. I could not agree more! The Statesmen were one of the first groups (with the Blackwoods) that I heard at old Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis. I heard many comments about how “flashy” and “entertaining” they were and there “stage gyrations” didn’t belong in church (remember Elvis supposedly took his leg shaking from Big Chief). But they could sing! No one could read a crowd any better than Hovie and make you laugh and cry almost at the same time. For me they were and are the epitome of Southern Gospel music.

  2. I agree with your designation of the Statesmen being the most influential, however the statement “The most famous iteration of the Statesmen came about in 1958 when Rosie Rozell became the group’s tenor” is open for discussion. I realize this is your opinion but the influence and tenure of Denver Crumpler cannot be denied.

  3. Dean, I think when most people think of the Statesmen, they think of the Rosie Rozell era. However, I am sure that I heard Hovie say in an interview that the “perfect” quartet was with Denver. The Statesmen suffered two mainstay losses when Denver passed away and likewise with the Chief.

  4. Add Mosie Lister (1997) to the list of Statesmen in the SG Hall of Fame. He may not have been with the group long, but he does have the distinction of being one of the five Statesmen who were actual founding members.

  5. Nice list! I enjoyed reading it! The Statesmen are, without a doubt, the most influential group to ever sing Southern Gospel. But I have to ask, why did The Inspirations not make the list? I will admit, I’m a bit partial to them as they are one of my favorite groups, but they did receive several awards in the 1970s and a few in the 2000s. They were also the group that started to make the song “Jesus is Coming Soon” popular, the Singing News recognized them as being the “Favorite Group” in 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978, and recognized them as being the “Favorite Traditional Male Quartet” in 2005 and they tied with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound in 2006 for the same award. The Singing News also gave them the “Song of the Year” award in 1974 (Touring That City), 1976 (Jesus is Mine), 2002 (I’ll Not Turn My Back On Him Now), 2003 (We Need to Thank God), and 2007 (I Have Not Forgotten). Several members of the group have received awards, over the years. Archie Watkins was “Mr. Gospel Singer” in 1974, 1975, and 1976, he was also recognized as the “Favorite Tenor” in 1972, 1973, 1979, and again in 1982. Other members of the group have also received awards from the Singing News (Troy Burns, Eddie Dietz, Mike Holcomb, and Martin Cook) over the 50+ years the Inspirations have been singing. I’m just a little curious as to why they didn’t make the list.

    Source of Information:

    1. Hello Rick,
      Thanks for stopping by. When I put this series together a few years ago I wanted to look at artists that influenced or are influencing this generation’s Southern Gospel artists/listeners. While I have no argument the Inspirations are one of Southern Gospel’s most popular groups; most popular doesn’t always translate to being influential. When I put this list together I was hard pressed to find artists of past/current decades whose sound was directly influenced by the Inspirations, so in turn that is why they didn’t make the final list.

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