The Fairfield Four, a multiple Grammy Award winning traditional African American spiritual and gospel quartet, will perform as part of this season’s second annual Carter Arts & Lecture Series on Feb. 19, at the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center, located on the BSC main campus.
The performance will begin at 7 p.m., with the doors opening at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public with no tickets required for entry.
The Fairfield Four, the most distinguished proponents of traditional African American a cappella gospel singing working today, were organized in 1921 by assistant pastor of the Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., the Rev. J.R. Carrethers. Their a cappella style was drawn from the Birmingham, Ala., quartet tradition exemplified by recording groups such as the Bessemer Sunset Four, the Birmingham Jubilee Singers and the Famous Blue Jay Singers with lead vocalist, Silas Steele.
The quartet was among pioneers of African American gospel groups that used radio to reach broader audiences. Radio led to making records and, beginning in 1946, the Fairfield Four released sides on the Bullet, Dot, Delta, and M-G-M labels, and later on Champion, Old Town, and Nashboro.
Extending themselves through the far reach of media, the Fairfield Four would influence both sacred and secular vocalists across the land, among them blues singer B.B. King.
“Before I left my hometown of Indianola, Mississippi,” said King, “the Fairfield Four used to come on the radio every morning real early before we went to work. I became a great fan and, in fact, (Sam) McCrary had a lot of influence on my singing over the years, and that’s the truth.”
Today, the Fairfield Four are best known from their appearance on the soundtrack and on screen in the Coen Brothers 2000 film, O Brother Where Art Thou. They are multiple Grammy winners with albums including Standing in the Safety Zone (1992) and I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1997) on Warner Brothers, Wreckin’ the House (1998) on Dead Reckoning, The Fairfield Four and Friends Live from Mountain Stage (2000) on Blue Plate, and by their bass singer Isaac Freeman with the Bluebloods, Beautiful Stars (2003) on Lost Highway.
Their awards and honors include: the National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Award, 1989; Tennessee Lifetime Achievement Award, 1994; Nashville Music Award Lifetime Achievement Award, 1995; James Cleveland Stellar Award, 1996; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Gospel Recording, for I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray, 1997; Gospel Music Hall of Fame, inducted, 1999.
Upcoming Carter Arts & Lecture Series events: Calidore String Quartet, March 12; poet Noah Blaustein, April 14; and Canopy Road Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s “Fences,” April 23.