The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet was ‘the’ pioneering gospel/pop quartet of the 30’s and 40’s. Propelled by Willie Johnson (baritone) and William Langford (first tenor), the group enjoyed massive acceptance far outside the church and their smooth Mills Brothers-influenced harmonies made them naturals for pop crossover success.
Together with Henry Owens (second tenor) and Orlandus Wilson (bass), they began recording for Victor in 1937 followed by National radio broadcasts and an appearance on John Hammond’s 1938 ‘Spirituals to Swing’ concert at Carnegie Hall.
By 1941, the ‘Gates’ were recording for Columbia (minus Langford) and movie appearances were frequent: ‘Star Spangled Rhythm’, ‘Hollywood Canteen’ and ‘Hit Parade’ during 1943, to name a few.
When experiments with R&B material didn’t pan out during the late 40’s, Johnson defected to the Jubilaires (in 1948). The group eventually emigrated to France in 1959.
Recordings by The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet go in and out of print with frustrating regularity and the best are often available only on import labels. An excellent introductory CD, ‘Travelin’ Shoes’, contains 19 of the earliest recordings.