The Fairfield Four is a gospel quartet that has been singing in various incarnations since the 1920's. The best known singer in the group is Isaac Freeman, who has an incredible basso profundo voice that really hasn't had any equal this century. The group has enjoyed a surge of popularity recently due to their appearence on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack singing Lonesome Valley.

In 1921, at the Fairfield Baptist Church located in Nashville, one of the best a cappella gospel groups was taking the stage to perform together in public for the first time. This group aptly named the Fairfield Four by Reverend J.R. Statton, achieved a popularity like no other gospel group. With their spirit filled lyrics and dynamic voices, such as bass singer Isaac Freeman, whose voice is so deep and full of life it has a truly harmonious sound, they fill the listener's heart with a range of emotion.. Their soulful voices and stage presence added to the way their songs depicted stories of sorrow and joy. The Fairfield Four has been reformed several times with different performers. The Fairfield Four has played with a who's who of gospel and secular artists such as:

After that day in 1921, the Fairfield Four became a local hit in Nashville.  They performed in churches all over the southern part of the United States.  The groups first radio performance occurred in the early 1930s, when WSIX hosted a live gospel show in which the Fairfield Four performed wonderfully.

In 1941, the Fairfield Four made their first recording.  They would perform their song titled "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around" after Reverend Statton concluded his sermon he called "Dry Bones In The Valley".  The whole sermon was being recorded for the Library of Congress.  "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around"  became one of the Fairfield Four's most recognized songs.

The Fairfield Four won a contest in 1942; their prize was a chance to perform live for a local CBS affiliate WLAC.  Their performance was such an astounding success, that they were signed to a 9 year contract to perform for WLAC.  Since the show was nationally broadcast, their recognition quickly grew.  At one point fans of the show were calling them "The South's Famous Fairfield Four".

B.B. King said this about the Fairfield Four.

"Listening to the Fairfield Four on their national radio show helped in forming my singing style."

As the group toured the United States in the late 1940s, their popularity grew after each performance.  By this point in their career, the Fairfield Four had recorded over 100 different titles.  Sadly though, after a disagreement over a performance, the original Fairfield Four decided to split up.

In the late 1940s, Sam McCrary who was the group's leader traveled to the Nashville area looking to reform the band with new members.  What he found were singers such as Isaac Freeman, who has the most unique singing voice I have ever heard, James Hill, and Edward "Preacher" Thomas, also known as "Preacher" Jones.  These members became the next version of the Fairfield Four.  Isaac Freeman's unique basso profundo voice became the cornerstone for the Fairfield Four's harmony and style.

During the early 1950's, the Fairfield Four had yet another split.  James Hill, Isaac Freeman, and "Preacher" Jones formed a new group called The Skylarks.  After this split occurred, the Fairfield Four only had one album release in the 1960s, which was made by Reverend McCrary's original line-up.  After that release, the Fairfield Four were not heard from for over 20 years.  

In the early 1980s, Doug Seroff, who was an avid music collector of gospel quartets was planning a show called "A Quartet Reunion", which was  performed in Birmingham, Alabama.  The first group that was invited to the performance was his favorite group... Fairfield Four.  After performing at this reunion, the Fairfield Four gained a whole new group of fans that enjoyed their harmonious story telling.  During the 1980s and 1990s, the group had several roster changes as older members retired from the group. They would be replaced with new members, such as:

  • 1982    Wilson Walters joined as the new tenor
  • 1984    Robert Hamlett joined as the new lead singer
  • 1991    Walter Settles replaced Hamlett as the lead singer

At this point in their career, the Fairfield Four were actually five people.  This line-up consisted of Isaac Freeman, Joe Rice, James Hill, Wilson Walters, and Robert Hamlett.  This revival of the Fairfield Four sold out each of their performances.  Whether the fans liked country, rock and roll, gospel, or blues music, by the end of the concert, the Fairfield Four made new fans out of them as they were clapping along with the group. 

The Fairfield Four gained many accolades over the course of their career.  These include such honors as:

After a performance in Boston, in 1995, the lead singer, Walter Settles suffered from a severe stroke and had to be replaced.  His replacement (Joe Rice) stands out from the band due to the fact that he is the youngest member to ever be in the group, at age 22.  The Fairfield Four, with its new lead singer recorded with several artists in the mid 1990s.  These include such well known artists as:

In the year 2000, after resurfacing in the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", the Fairfield Four once again gained a whole new fan base and continue performing throughout the United States and Europe.

I first heard the Fairfield Four from my mother in 1991, and instantly fell in love with the group.  I own all of their present day albums and I am always searching to find any of their older releases on vinyl.  However, I have yet to find any of their older selections, but I am always hopeful that I will find some of their older music.  If you are a fan of classic southern gospel and blues music, I highly recommend that you listen to their CD titled "Standing in the Safety Zone".  This, to me, is by far the best collection of music on one CD, which is playing in my CD player as I write this.

Some of the Fairfield Four's albums that I really enjoy:

  • Road to Glory    2004
  • Standing in the Safety Zone     1992
  • Standing on the Rock     1995
  • I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray    1997
  • Famous Fairfield Four     1960
  • Bells Are Tolling     1962
  • Angels Watching over Me     1981

Jacket sleeves from my Fairfield Four CDs

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