The Four Vagabonds – Standard Broadcast Transcription Session – X-127 – Rec. 1942-1943 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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The Four Vagabonds to put one week to rest and to start up a new one in a new month.
The Four Vagabonds were an African-American male vocal group of the mid 20th century. Active for twenty years (1933–1953), they form a bridge between vocal quartet jive of the 1930s and the rhythm and blues vocal groups that thrived after World War II.
The Four Vagabonds were formed in 1933 by four students at Vashon High School in St. Louis: John Jordan (lead singer), Norval Taborn (baritone), Robert O’Neal (tenor), and Ray Grant (bass; Grant also played guitar accompaniment). Their early work showed strong Mills Brothers influence.
They first appeared on college radio, then on WIL, and then on NBC Radio on KSD. This led to a 1936 move to Chicago radio, including Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club and Garry Moore’s Club Matinee.Throughout the 1940s the Four Vagabonds made network radio appearances on many national shows,including the Chesterfield Supper Club, the Nat King Cole Show, and others.
On April 1, 1949, during the pioneering early days of television, the local variety show Happy Pappy premiered on the local Chicago station WENR-TV. Hosted by Ray Grant and featuring the Four Vagabonds (as well as the Modern Modes and other groups), it was the first all-African-American television show, although short-lived.
The group continued into the 1950s, with successive replacements (Bill Sanford, Frank Houston) for Ray Grant, who had vision problems. Their last release was a re-issue “P.S. I Love You”, in 1953.
Long considered the grandfathers of R&B harmony and radio stars of the early and mid 1940s. Their 1946 Apollo recording sessions links them to R&B recording history. Their songs some also blues-oriented are exceptionally accurate especially for the lead vocalist John Jordan and for their impressive horn imitations is impressive not because it sounds so much like a brass band, but because the group managing to make it gorgeous beyond description.
And as a reminder, or an introduction – here is one their two sessions recorded for the Standard Radio Transcription Service between 1942 and 1943. Female vocalist is Patti Clayton.
Crank it up.