co-formed by a pair of evangelical brothers, Bill and Monty Matthews, in
1948. Bill was the first tenor
and Monty was the baritone.
They drafted Bob Hubbard to be their lead singer and second tenor
and added Culley Holt as their bass singer and
Bob Money as their pianist. In
1949, they moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and wound up on The Grand Ole Opry, singing back-up for Red Foley.
You need a
scorecard to keep track of all of the roster moves The Jordanaires
made in their formative years.
Late in 1949, Bob Money got a call from Uncle Sam and was replaced
in December by Gordon Stoker.
Gordon was a double threat who not only played the keys but sang
lead tenor. In 1951, Bill
Matthews quit the band and Gordon supplanted him at first tenor. Also, The Jordanaires
inked a deal with Capitol Records.
In 1952, Bob Hubbard was conscripted and Monty Matthews left the
group voluntarily. That left a
couple of holes in the group that were filled by Don Bruce, a first tenor,
and Hoyt Hawkins, a baritone.
The double switch meant that Gordon would be moved to second tenor,
but The Jordanaires could not stay out of the
Army. In March 1953, Don was
called up, and he was replaced by Neil Matthews, Jr., who was not related to
the Matthews brothers who had started and left the group.
out to be a key player in the group.
He did all of their vocal arrangements and created The Nashville
Numbering System, which assigns numbers to chords, making life easier for
studio players. For a brief
time, they had to change their name to The Foggy River Boys because Bill
and Monty Matthews still owned the rights to the name, The Jordanaires.
The new quartet coughed up the cash and The Jordanaires’
legacy continued. In December
1954, Culley left the group and Hugh Jarrett
became their new bass singer.
In 1955, they
worked with Eddy Arnold on his TV show, Eddy
Arnold Time, and did a show in Memphis, Tennessee, in order to promote
the program. In the audience
was a young Elvis Presley.
Elvis was not well-known at the time, and was still recording for
Sun Records. He introduced
himself to the group and told them if he ever made it big, he wanted them
to be his backing singers.
Sure, they thought. They
had heard that one before.
signed by RCA Victor and Chet Atkins asked Gordon to do the backing vocals
on “I’m Counting on You” and “I Was the One”,
along with The Speer Family.
His services were used again, along with Ben and Brock Speer, on
“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, which was recorded in
April 1956. Elvis pulled Gordon
to one side after the session was over and said he wanted The Jordanaires to be his permanent backup singers. This they would become, appearing on
the better part of his records for fourteen years. Elvis even insisted they be billed
on the record labels themselves, a generous and unusual move in an industry
that rarely gave kudos to background musicians of any kind. It turned out to be a shrewd move
because The Jordanaires were already well-known,
and Elvis was about to be.
In 1958, Hugh
Jarrett left his post at bass and was supplanted by Ray Walker. It was this incarnation of the group
that most people will remember as “The Jordanaires”: Hoyt Hawkins (Baritone); Neil
Matthews, Jr. (Lead/Second Tenor); Gordon Stoker (First Tenor/Pianist);
and, Ray Walker (Bass). This
group would stay together for almost twenty-five years. They did not work exclusively for
Elvis. So sought after were
they that it was not unusual for them to do four recording sessions per
day, six days a week.
In 1969, Elvis
decided to take his show on the road to Las Vegas, but The Jordanaires were doing so well on the Nashville studio
scene, they decided to stay there.
It was another smart move by a group that could seemingly do no
wrong. They continued to record
with Elvis through 1970 and also backed Patsy Cline, Ricky Nelson, Marty
Robbins, and Jim Reeves.
In the 1970s,
they added another part-time, temporary baritone to their line-up in Duane
West. The National Academy of
Recording Arts & Sciences bestowed on them their Superpickers
award in 1976 and 1979. This
was in recognition of their accomplishment of singing on more top-ten
recordings than any other group of their ilk. In between, they accompanied Johnny
Cash on his 1978 LP, I Would Like to
See You Again.
October 1982, Hoyt Hawkins shuffled off his mortal coil and was replaced by
Duane West. This version of the
group would last almost two decades.
The Country Music Association gave them their CMA Masters Award,
essentially a lifetime achievement award, in November 1984. In 1996, they appeared on the Ween CD, 12
Golden Country Greats. They
even appeared on stage, off-Broadway, in the 1997 musical, Violet.
awards really began to rain down on them. They were inducted into the Country
Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the North America
Country Music Associations International Hall of Fame, and the Rockabilly
Hall of Fame.
Duane got sick
in 1999 and was replaced by Louis Nunley at
baritone. Almost a year later,
Neil Matthews, Jr. died. He was
supplanted by Curtis Young.
This group continues to perform. To summarize, this is their current
line-up: Louis Nunley (Baritone); Gordon Stoker (First Tenor/Pianist);
Ray Walker (Bass); and, Curtis Young (Lead/Second Tenor).
In 2002, they
won a Grammy for Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Album, for their
efforts on the Larry Ford & The Light Crust Doughboys’ We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music: The James Blackwood Tribute Album. They were inducted into The Vocal
Group Hall of Fame in 2004.
In the late
2000s, they appeared on several albums, including Friends of Henry Golis Wish You a Merry
Christmas with The Jordanaires, Henry Golis
Presents Good Music with Friends Featuring The Jordanaires,
The Road Less Traveled by
C.B.O.P., and Save Your Dreams by
Shark. They were inducted into
the Christian Music Hall of Fame and the Southern Legends Entertainment
& Performing Arts Hall of Fame in 2007. On 16th May 2009, they
did a show with Millie Kirkham & D.J. in Russellville, Alabama,
entitled “The Elvis Story”.
reputed to have appeared with over 2,200 artists on more than 30,000
Holt (Bass) 1948-1954
Bob Hubbard (Lead/Second Tenor) 1948-1952
Bill Matthews (First Tenor) 1948-1951
Monty Matthews (Baritone) 1948-1952
Bob Money (Pianist) 1948-1949/1952
Gordon Stoker (Lead/First Tenor/Pianist/Second Tenor)
Don Bruce (First Tenor) 1952-1953
Hoyt Hawkins (Baritone) 1952-1982
Neal Matthews, Jr. (Lead/Second Tenor) 1953-2000
Hugh Jarrett (Bass) 1954-1958
Ray Walker (Bass) 1958-Present
Duane West (Baritone) 1982-1999
Louis Nunley (Baritone) 1999-Present
Curtis Young (Lead/Second Tenor) 2000-Present