During the 1940s, the Fairfield Four
were among the top-ranked gospel quartets, along with the Dixie Hummingbirds
, Five Blind Boys
, and Soul Stirrers
. Originally a gospel duet created in the early '20s by the pastor of Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville to occupy his sons, Harry
and Rufus Carrethers
, they became a gospel trio with the addition of John Battle
. The group was transformed into a jubilee quartet by the '30s and began the first of numerous personnel changes. They recorded for RCA Victor and Columbia during the decade and were known for their reinterpretations of standard hymns, featuring bright, close baritone and tenor harmonies. When the Fairfield Four
sang, they utilized the full extent of their voices, moving easily from deep, rolling basslines to the staccato upper peaks of the tenor range, all executed with precise, intricate harmonies and ever-shifting leads.
The Fairfield Four
reached their broadest audience when the Sunway Vitamin Company sponsored a nationally broadcast radio show for them daily at 6:45 a.m. on WLAC, Nashville. At the same time, they also continued touring; it was a grueling schedule, especially with the drive to Nashville, and often the group would be missing a member or two on the show. In 1942, the quartet recorded for the Library of Congress, but by 1950, it all became too much. Coupled with some financial trouble and a dwindling radio audience, the Fairfield Four
broke up, though one member, Reverend Sam McCrary
, used the group name to perform with other quartets. In 1980, the Fairfield Four
from the '40s was reunited for a concert in Birmingham, Alabama, by Black gospel specialist Doug Seroff
. In 1989, they were designated as National Heritage Fellows by the National Endowment for the Arts. They continue to perform, though the original members are either deceased or retired.