Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
A musical legend in their native Mississippi, the long-lived gospel group the Jackson Southernaires was formed in 1940 by producer Frank Crisler; originally comprising Huey Williams, Roger Bryant, Jr., Maurice Surrell, James Burks, and Luther Jennings, the quintet took its earliest cues from the Mississippi Blind Boys but swiftly honed its own distinctive style, becoming the first group in the state to implement guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard into their stage act. After decades of touring, they signed their first contract with Duke/Peacock in 1963; their debut, Too Late, was one of the label's best-selling releases. After a brief stint with ABC/Dunhill during the early '70s which yielded the LPs Save My Child and Look Around, the Southernaires signed with Malaco in 1975, where they enjoyed their greatest success with a series of hit albums including 1979's Legendary Gentlemen, 1981's Touch of Class, and 1982's Down Home. In addition to hosting their own radio show for over four decades, the Southernaires also starred in their own television series, Gospel Unlimited, and won Traditional Male Group of the Year honors from the Gospel Music Workshop of America each year from 1987 to 1989; 1991's Thank You Mama for Praying for Me... earned the group a Grammy nomination, as well. They continued performing and recording well into the '90s, albeit with Jennings as the lone remaining original member.