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.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Research Executive - Quantitative/Qualitative

£27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

ETL Developer / Consultant

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week