Gordon Stoker: Singer with the Jordanaires

 

Gordon Stoker was the leader of the Jordanaires vocal group, who were billed alongside Elvis Presley on many of his hit records including "All Shook Up", "It's Now Or Never" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight". Elvis went as far as telling them, "Let's face it, if it hadn't been for you guys, there might not have been a me."

Gordon Stoker's mother, Willie, was one of the operators and his father, Ambus, the repairman for the telephone system in Gleason, Tennessee, where he was born in 1924. They encouraged his musical talent, so much so that he was playing organ at the Tumbling Creek Baptist Church when he was only eight.

He played piano for a family group, the Clement Trio, and in 1937 he was spotted at the Snead Grove Picnic by the John Daniel Quartet. He became their pianist when he left school at 15 and often played on the Grand Ole Opry.

During the war, Stoker worked as a teletype operator at an air base and then studied music at Oklahoma Baptist University. He rejoined the John Daniel Quartet and then became the pianist for the gospel group, the Jordanaires. With some changes in line-up, he became their lead tenor and by 1953, the vocal quartet was Stoker, Neal Matthews (second tenor), Hoyt Hawkins (baritone) and Cully Holt (bass), the last named being replaced by Ray Walker in 1958.

The Jordanaires recorded in their own right for Capitol Records, but they sang behind Ferlin Husky on his million-seller, "Gone", in 1953. They accompanied Eddy Arnold and Red Foley and had regular session work.

"Elvis loved the sound we had and he'd been hearing us on the Grand Ole Opry for years," Gordon Stoker told me in 1991. "We met him in Memphis in 1955. He was wearing a pink shirt and I had never seen a man in a pink shirt before! He was on Sun Records and he told us that if he ever got a major recording contract, we were going to sing with him. When RCA signed him, he asked for us and we were on his sessions in January 1956."

Those RCA records like "Don't Be Cruel", "Teddy Bear" and "A Fool Such As I" are enhanced by the Jordanaires with their oohs and aahs and bop-she-wahs. Stoker sang harmony duet with Elvis on "All Shook Up" and "Good Luck Charm" and he played piano on "Hound Dog" when the original pianist had to leave. The Jordanaires worked with Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show in which he was filmed from the waist up. They appeared in his films, notably in the train sequence in GI Blues, where they perform "Frankfurt Special".

Soon, every act in Nashville wanted the Jordanaires on their records. They sang "Crazy" with Patsy Cline "The Battle Of New Orleans" with Johnny Horton and "Big Bad John" with Jimmy Dean, and also with Presley's biggest rival, Rick Nelson, on "Lonesome Town".

Stoker recalled, "Jim Reeves was an old maid. He watched the clock and he wanted complete attention at all times. Elvis was never concerned about getting three numbers down in three hours, but Jim knew the longer it took, the less he got in royalties."

The Jordanaires had a busy life of recording sessions and TV commercials and they chose not to work with Presley when he returned to live performance in 1969. "You had to do what was best for you and your family, said Stoker, "and we took the right decision. I think that two shows a night in Vegas is what killed him. He wanted that second show to be as good as the first and so he took uppers to get him going again and then downers to put him to sleep."

The Jordanaires sang with Don McLean on his No l "Crying" (1980), and they became a touring act in their own right. They were featured in a long-running tribute show for Patsy Cline and in 1991 toured the UK with an Elvis interpreter, Johnny Earl.

Among their albums is The Jordanaires Sing Elvis' Gospel Favourites (1986). Stoker was a modest man who was proud of his time with Presley. He told me, "People will be talking about these records 200 years from now."

Hugh Gordon Stoker, singer: born Gleason, Tennessee 3 August 1924; married (two sons, one daughter; died Brentwood, Tennessee 27 March 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas