Golden Gate Quartet – Complete Recorded Works 1937-1952 Vol 1 (1937-1938)
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The Gates’ history on record began on a high that the group sustained right through the years of the Second World War. On 4th August 1937 they cut no less than fourteen tracks at one mammoth session in Charlotte. The very first number was fore-taste of what was to become known as “quartet” singing to the groups that came after them in the late forties and early fifties.
Golden Gate Gospel Train is a hard driving number somewhat untypical of the material with which the group was normally associated. Given the Gates’ impact on the later groups who quoted them as their major influence while singing in this tougher manner it might be that what the Gates put on record and featured on radio was only the more easily accessible portion of their repertoire and that their programme for a live performance before a black audience may have been much more impassioned and involved. This varied first session also included a secular song in the barbershop favourite (Put On Your Old Grey) Bonnet, marking the beginning of a trend what would continue their career, and the comic “coon song” The Preacher And The Bear, later associated with! the white singer Phil Harris who knew the group during the war and later, during the sixties, employed Willie Johnson to help out with his Las Vegas appearances. The group’s humour and hipness is illustrated by I Was Born 10,000 Years Ago (known in white traditions as Uncle Dave Macon’s “I’m The Man That Rode The Mule Around The World”), their refusal to take Stephen Foster’s Massa In The Cold, Cold Ground in anyway seriously and such observations as “Job’s wife came tricking’ to him” in their cataloguing of that unfortunate stoic’s afflictions. This song and “Jonah” where the first in a series of such biblical tales recited at breakneck speed over a chanted background that became one of the group’s trademark approaches. Despite all this experimentation (including the imitation of instruments -brought about by record company executives enamoured of the Mills Brothers and in search of a hit?) the group confirmed their close identification with the black gospel scene by recording the early Thomas Dorsey song, later to be picked up by the Dixie Hummingbirds, Standing By The Bedside Of A Neighbor. This eclectic approach set the style for Golden Gate sessions for years to come. That of 24th January 1938 (another fourteen tracker) saw them balance a dreamy reading of the pop song Carolina with a powerful version of the moaning black lament Motherless Child and the nonsense of Dipsey Doodle with Pure Religion. They also placated Foster’s shade by including a fine performance of Swanee River.