The Jordanaires

The Jordanaires were an American vocal quartet that formed as a gospel group in 1948. Over the years, they recorded both sacred and secular music as a solo act for various record companies, including Capitol Records, RCA Victor Records, Columbia Records, Decca Records, Vocalion Records, Stop Records, and many other smaller independent labels.[citation needed]

The Jordanaires
The Jordanaires with Elvis Presley, 1957
The Jordanaires with Elvis Presley, 1957
Background information
OriginSpringfield, Missouri, United States
GenresGospel, country, rock and roll, folk
Years active1948 (1948)–2013 (2013)
Associated actsFoggy River Boys, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Ricky Nelson, Ringo Starr, Ween, Johnny Cash
Past members
  • Ray Walker
  • Curtis Young
  • Gordon Stoker
  • Bill Matthews
  • Bob Hubbard
  • Warren (Monty) Matthews
  • Culley Holt
  • Hoyt Hawkins
  • Neal Matthews Jr.
  • Don Bruce
  • Hugh Jarrett
  • Duane West
  • Louis Nunley

In the mid-1950s, along with their solo career, they began lending their vocal talents to featured artists as background vocalists in recording sessions. They are widely known for having provided background vocals for Elvis Presley, in live appearances, recordings, and feature films from 1956 to 1972. The group worked in the recording studio, on stage, and on television with many country, gospel, and rock and roll artists.

Their background voices can be heard on at least one Grammy-winning recording every decade from the awards' inception through the mid-2000s. The first was in 1959 and the last was in 2007, thus winning in six decades.[citation needed]

Group historyEdit

Early yearsEdit

The history of The Jordanaires can be traced back to the early 1940s, and the original Foggy River Boys, who were made up of the Matthews brothers, all ordained ministers: Bill (b. LaFollette, Tennessee, 1923), Monty (b. Pulaski, Kentucky, 1927), Jack, and Matt.[citation needed] In 1948, Matt and Jack left to become full-time preachers and were replaced by Bob Hubbard (b. Chaffee, Missouri, 1928), also a minister, bass singer Culley Holt (b. McAlester, Oklahoma, 1925), and pianist Bob Money. After three years, Money was replaced as pianist by Gordon Stoker.[citation needed] At that time, they formed the new group as the Melodizing Matthews, in Springfield, Missouri, but soon changed the name to The Jordanaires, after Jordan Creek in Missouri.[citation needed]

This starting lineup lasted until 1949; at that time, Bob Hubbard was drafted and was replaced by Hoyt Hawkins.[citation needed] Later that year, Monty and Bill Matthews left. Hawkins switched to baritone, and new lead Neal Matthews was recruited. Don Bruce came in as a new first tenor, but he was drafted the next year. The group narrowed to a quartet, with Stoker taking over as first tenor. They became members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1949.[1][2] They recorded for Capitol Records in the early 1950s, and began providing vocal accompaniment behind solo singers in Nashville, Tennessee.[2]

The lineup changed again in 1954, with Culley Holt leaving and new bass Hugh Jarrett coming in.[citation needed]

The quartet became well known in the Southern gospel genre, and what made them stand out from other quartets of that time was how they would bring spirituals (such as "Dry Bones") to a predominantly white audience. While continuing to turn out gospel albums of their own, the group become better known for the signature background harmonies they have provided on dozens of secular records.[3]

Jarrett remained until 1958; at that time, he was replaced by Ray Walker.[citation needed]

With Elvis PresleyEdit

On October 3, 1954, a teenaged Elvis Presley made the drive from Memphis to Nashville to make his only performance on the Grand Ole Opry. Debuting his high-energy brand of rockabilly with "Blue Moon of Kentucky", it was his first live performance on a radio broadcast. He had just recorded his first record at Sun studios, "That's All Right", just a few weeks prior. In 1955, The Jordanaires played a show in Memphis with Eddy Arnold to publicize their new syndicated TV series, Eddy Arnold Time (for the program the group used the name Gordonaires). They sang "Peace in the Valley", and when the show was over, Elvis Presley, an emerging singer, talked with them and said, "If I ever get a recording contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up."[4] He was on Sun Records at that time.[citation needed]

On January 10, 1956, Presley recorded his first session for RCA with guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and drummer D. J. Fontana. "I Got a Woman", "Heartbreak Hotel", and "Money Honey" were recorded. Presley asked his new label RCA Victor if The Jordanaires could appear on the recordings. The next day, Gordon Stoker was called by Chet Atkins to do a session with a new, young singer named Elvis. RCA had also just signed the Speer Family. Atkins asked Stoker to sing with Ben and Brock Speer so he could use them. The recording session for "I'm Counting on You" and "I Was the One" was the first one Presley did with vocal background. By April 1956, "Heartbreak Hotel" was number one on the chart.[citation needed]

After having done several more recording sessions in New York with Moore, Black, and Fontana, Presley flew to Nashville on April 14, 1956, to record "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You". Stoker was called again, to sing a vocal trio with Ben and Brock Speer. After the session, Presley took Stoker aside and told him (not knowing, at the time, why all The Jordanaires were not there) that he had wanted the Jordanaires.[citation needed] This time, Stoker saw to it—and Presley used the quartet on nearly every one of his recording sessions for the next 14 years. The quartet also appeared in some of Presley's movies, and on many of his television appearances.[citation needed]

As Presley was about to start performing at the Hilton in Las Vegas, the Colonel's office called for the Jordanaires to work with Presley in the shows.[citation needed] They had 35 recording sessions already booked for the dates he needed, so they could not go. They got in touch with the Imperials, who had done the background vocals for Presley's album How Great Thou Art along with them, and the Imperials took the place of the Jordanaires.[citation needed]

Patsy ClineEdit

The group appeared on all of Patsy Cline's Decca sessions from her first in November 1960 to her last in February 1963, during which time they backed her on songs such as:

After Elvis and ClineEdit

The lineup consisting of Gordon Stoker, first tenor and manager, Neal Matthews, second tenor and lead, Hoyt Hawkins, baritone, and Ray Walker, bass, would be the group's most stable lineup, lasting throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In January 1978, the group performed a medley of Presley's songs on the NBC TV special Nashville Remembers Elvis on His Birthday.[citation needed]

The group changed again in 1982, when Hoyt Hawkins died. His replacement was Duane West, formerly of Sonny James' backup group, the Southern Gentlemen. In 1990, the group provided backing vocals for Presley's former Sun Records labelmate Johnny Cash on his Mercury Records album Boom Chicka Boom. The group has also recorded with the Swedish group Vikingarna.[6]

The lineup remained constant for the rest of the decade, with West leaving due to an illness in 1999 and his death in 2002. His replacement was Louis Nunley, formerly of the Anita Kerr Singers.[citation needed]

The Jordanaires were among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[7]


Neal Matthews died on April 21, 2000. He was replaced by new lead Curtis Young.[citation needed]

Hugh Jarrett died at 78 on May 31, 2008, from injuries sustained in an auto accident in March.[8]

Gordon Stoker died at 88 at his Brentwood, Tennessee, home on March 27, 2013, after a long illness. His son Alan confirmed that The Jordanaires were formally dissolved, per his father's wishes.[9]


Classic lineupEdit

  • Hoyt Hawkins – baritone and lead vocals, piano, organ, percussion (1949-1980; died 1980)
  • Neal Matthews Jr. — second tenor and lead vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, double bass, bass guitar (1949–2000; died 2000)
  • Gordon Stoker – tenor vocals, piano, organ, percussion (1924-2013; died 2013)
  • Ray Walker – bass vocals (1958-2013)

Other membersEdit

  • Bill Matthews – vocals (1948-1949)
  • Monty Matthews – vocals (1948-1949)
  • Bob Hubbard – vocals (1948-1949)
  • Culley Holt – bass vocals (1949-1954)
  • Bob Money – piano (1949-1951)
  • Don Bruce – first tenor vocals (1949-1950)
  • Hugh Jarrett – bass vocals (1954-1958)
  • Duane West – baritone vocals (1980-1999; died 2002)
  • Louis Nunley – baritone vocals (1999-2013)
  • Curtis Young – lead vocals (2000-2013)

Session appearancesEdit

The Jordanaires performed with many modern recording artists, as well as recent sessions with country musicians.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Opry Timeline – 1940s". Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "The Jordanaires". AllMusic. 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  3. ^ "Jordanaires Biography". Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  4. ^ Graham, Charlotte "The Jordanaires" (February 22, 2003), The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS), "Religion," p. 1E.
  5. ^ Cox, William L. "Patsy Cline's Recording Sessions - The Decca Years". Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  6. ^ Linda Hjertén (22 January 2004). "Vikingarna tar farväl av fansen". (in Swedish). Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  7. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Hugh Jarrett". Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  9. ^ Cooper, Peter (March 27, 2013). "Jordanaires leader Gordon Stoker dies". The Tennessean. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Lewry, Peter; Goodall, Nigel (1991). Cliff Richard The Complete Recording Sessions 1958-1990. London: Blandford. pp. 62–63. ISBN 0-7137-2242-8.
  11. ^ "Hard Line - The Blasters - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  12. ^ The Jordanaires at AllMusic. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
  13. ^ "Complete list of Grammy nominees; ceremony set for Feb. 23". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Corporation. January 8, 2003. Archived from the original on December 7, 2012. Retrieved September 22, 2012.
  14. ^ Official records, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, 2000–2006.
  15. ^ "20th Century Gospel: From Hymns to Blackwood Brothers Tribute to Christian Country - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 February 2019.

External linksEdit