The ViolinairesBlack History Highlight

Here is a Gospel Music Trivia Question – What world renowned gospel quartet group was named after a musical instrument? The Violinaires.

The year was 1952. The city was Detroit, Michigan. Isaiah “Lil Shoot” Jones, Wilson DeShields and Leo Coney decided to form a gospel quartet group. They would come to be known as The Violinaires. From this humble beginning the world was introduced to the greatest gospel group to sing God’s praises. Know for their high falsetto background and lead singers, the group would make an indubitable mark on gospel music.

Shortly afterwards, they were bless with a great talent in the person of Willie Banks. He would become their first lead singer. He remained with the group for a short time before he moved on to form his own group. In the early sixties, they were blessed with another powerfully talented lead singer, Robert Blair. His unique style along with their high, sweet, falsetto voices in the background has become the signature of the Violinaires. In the latter part of the sixties, another extraordinary talent was added to the group. Charles Brown’s exceptional voice and style would enhance an already super group.

Some other members during the early years were, Wilson Pickett (of secular fame) Rev. J.C. Smith (Smitty), Cleophus Tilman, Jim Byers, Murray “Bud” Durhan, Rick Wilson, Elder James McCurdy, J. J. Hawkins, Frank Thompson, David Battle and others played a tremendous part in establishing this group. Many have come and gone, but the Violinaires are still together. In 1965, they recorded their first album, “Stand By Me,” for Chess Records which propelled them to the top of Gospel Music Charts all over the country. They recorded 12 albums during their affiliation with that label. The group also recorded for Jewel Records, Atlanta International Records, Paula Records, Prominence Records, MALACO, and MELENDO Records.

The group has gone through several name changes, from The Violinaires, The Fantastic Violinaires, The Violinaires featuring Robert Blair, Robert Blair and The Violinaires, to Robert Blair and The Fantastic Violinaires. And, they are once again known as The Fantastic Violinaires. No matter what name was used by the group, there was one constant – the incomparable falsetto background and lead singers. The group never lost their ability to take harmonizing to a level that would rarely, if ever, be matched by any other group.

Bio on the Violinaires provided by The Fantastic Violinaires.