The Statesmen Quartet was a Southern Gospel Music group founded in 1948 by Hovie Lister. Along with the Blackwood Brothers, the Statesmen Quartet was considered the most successful and influential gospel quartet of the 1950s. Their distinctive style made them a premiere gospel singing group for two decades, and their work became a standard for modern gospel quartets.
During the first years, the group underwent several member changes, and included singers like James 'Big Chief' Wetherington, Denver Crumpler, Jake Hess, Doy Ott, Hovie Lister, 'Rosie' Rozell, Jack Toney.
Their hits spanned many decades, they were the first Gospel artist to receive endorsement deals, they made television commercials, appeared on TV shows and they were signed to RCA Victor before launching their own label with the Blackwood Brothers
The Statesmen Quartet was founded in 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia by piano player Hovie Lister, a Baptist minister and convention-style piano player with a flair for showmanship. Lister constructed the quartet as a hand-picked group of the best singing voices in order to secure a prime time-slot on the new WCON] radio station. The initial line-up included lead singer Hovie Lister from Atlanta, Gordon Hill on bass, Bervin Kendrick from Birmingham singing baritone and Bobby Strickland of Albertiville singing the tenor. The group's name was lifted from the title of a newsletter published by Herman Talmadge, Governor of Georgia, with Talmadge's permission. The quartet made their debut on WCON in Atlanta in October, 1948.
From 1948 to 1952, the group underwent several personnel changes. In 1953, Lister's vision of the premiere lineup was realized with the addition of Denver Crumpler as tenor. Crumpler joined Jake Hess (lead), Doy Ott (baritone), and James 'Big Chief' Wetherington (bass), with Lister on piano and master of ceremonies. During the next years, The Statesmen Quartet achieved fame as one of the premiere groups of Southern Gospel music.
In 1952, the Statesmen entered into a business partnership with The Blackwood Brothers Quartet. The "Stateswood" team would dominate Southern Gospel music for the next two decades.
The popular Cat Freeman, a native of Fyffe, Alabama was replaced by the great Irish tenor Denver Crumpler. With this lineup, the Statesmen began recording for RCA Victor and began starring in the Nabisco Hour national TV show. Popular songs of this period include "Get Away Jordan" and "Happy Rhythm." As early as 1950, the Statesmen used the phrase "Rockin' and rollin'" in a song, and Hovie Lister's frantic boogie woogie piano, piano bench acrobatics, and hair shaken down in his eyes predated Jerry Lee Lewis' use of the same tricks by a good five years.
During this period, the quartet had offices at the Briarcliff Hotel at Ponce and N. Highland in Virginia Highland, Atlanta. Business manager Don Butler and tenor Roland "Rosie" Rozell partnered to open the King & Prince Restaurant inside the hotel