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The Melody Boys Quartet was a Southern gospel music group based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The Melody Boys Quartet officially disbanded on December 31, 2012, at the end of the group’s “Exit 63” tour, celebrating sixty-three years together.
The group had its origins in the late 1930s when Herschel Foshee, aided by Joe Roper, created the Stamps-Baxter Quartet. The group was named after the music publishing company founded by V. O. Stamps and J. R. Baxter in 1926; the publisher was established in Texas but later opened an office in Pangburn (White County). The quartet’s original purpose was to sing and record the company’s publications exactly as printed and thus aid in selling Stamps-Baxter songbooks to interested musical groups and churches.
In 1949, Foshee died from a heart attack and was replaced by the sixteen-year-old Gerald Williams, who was also the bass singer for the quartet. The group also ceased to be associated with Stamps-Baxter at this time. Joe Roper took over the group, and they renamed themselves Smilin’ Joe Roper and the Melody Boys.
The quartet began to gain popularity throughout the 1950s. In addition to performing every weeknight as well as at different churches and music conventions every weekend, they began doing a radio broadcast program on the Little Rock station KARK-AM (now KARN) three times a day. The program consistently opened with the group’s most popular song, “Give the World a Smile.” The Melody Boys later became the first Southern gospel music group from Arkansas to have a television program; they began performing live on KARK TV in 1954. The Melody Boys also performed at the first National Quartet Convention in 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1959, Roper left the Melody Boys to join the Prophets Quartet, and the group disbanded due to legal and financial problems. Gerald Williams spent the next several years trying to reunite the quartet under his direction. In 1966, Williams was legally able to give the re-formed group its current name, the Melody Boys Quartet. However, several singers joined and left quickly throughout the next twenty years, and it was not until 1987 that the Melody Boys once again became firmly established. Williams maintained the name and led the group in many successful tours, as well as recording several albums and performing on television programs.
The Melody Boys recorded a number of albums over the years, and Williams was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on October 12, 2006. The band continued its touring and recording until its final performance at Geyer Springs Baptist Church in Little Rock on December 31, 2012. Williams currently resides in Little Rock.
For additional information: Caillouet, Linda S. “Melodious Memories.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 13, 2013, pp. 1E, 6E.
Melody Boys Quartet. http://www.themelodyboysquartet.com (accessed January 16, 2013).
“Melody Boys Quartet.” Southern Gospel History: Preserving the Legacy of Southern Gospel Music. http://bradyswww.sghistory.com/index.php?n=M.Melody_Boys_Quartet (accessed January 16, 2013).
Darby BurdineWhite Hall, Arkansas
Last Updated 9/5/2013
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