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