August 3, 1924 – March 27, 2013 Remembering Gordon Stoker

Remembering Gordon Stoker (August 3, 1924 – March 27, 2013) was born in Gleason, TN and showed a talent for music and singing early in life. He began playing piano publicly at the age of eight for West Tennessee’s Tumbling Creek Baptist Church. By age 12, “Hugh Gordon” was well-known, playing in and around Weakley County, TN and performing with the Clement Trio on WTJS in Jackson, TN. He was recruited after graduating from Gleason High School to join Nashville’s John Daniel Quartet. Performing with them on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, he became one of the Opry’s youngest performers at age 15. He was drafted in 1943 and served his country during World War II in the US Air Force. Rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant, he was stationed in Australia and the Philippines, serving as a teletype operator. After three years in the military, he moved to Shawnee, OK to attend Oklahoma Baptist University. While there, he studied psychology, music and voice, and sang in the Bison Glee Club. Longing to return to the bright lights of Nashville, he enrolled at George Peabody College in 1948, rejoining the Daniel Quartet, who by that time, had moved to WLAC radio. In 1949, while attending a church singing in Nashville, he was introduced to Jean Wilkerson of the local east Nashville family singing group, the Wilkerson Trio. Gordon and Jean were married in September of 1951. In 1950, he auditioned for and won the piano-playing job for the popular vocal quartet, the Jordanaires. He started singing first tenor with them in late 1951 after a sudden illness in the group. He soon assumed the additional roles of group leader/manager. The Jordanaires recorded for Capitol Records in the early 1950s and soon started providing background vocals on recordings for solo performers. Performing with the Jordanaires for over 60 years, he performed on stage, radio, television, and movies. The quartet provided background vocals on recordings with the biggest names in music. The quartet is perhaps best-known for the background vocals they provided for over 200 Elvis Presley recordings. Their work with Elvis includes appearances in three of his films, “Loving You,” “King Creole” and “GI Blues,” and television appearances with him on The Milton Berle Show, The Steve Allen Show, all three legendary Ed Sullivan Show telecasts and the Frank Sinatra Timex Show “Welcome Home Elvis.” Gordon was most proud of two of his several duets with Elvis: the hit singles “All Shook Up” and “Good Luck Charm.” In addition to Elvis Presley, the list of hit recordings the Jordanaires’ vocals grace is lengthy. They are heard on the biggest hits of Patsy Cline, Ricky Nelson, Jim Reeves, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Dottie West, Johnny Cash, Sonny James, Don Gibson, Red Foley, Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, Charley Pride, Tanya Tucker and countless others. Highlights of their career were the many Thanksgiving night performances at Carnegie Hall with Don McLean. The Jordanaires have been heard on an estimated eight billion records sold, including Grammy winning recordings in six consecutive decades, starting in 1959 with “The Battle Of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton to “Lost Highway” by Willie Nelson and Ray Price in 2007. In addition, the quartet is heard on four recordings selected for the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress: “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn, “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones. As a member of the Jordanaires, he helped raise money to build the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, performing in a benefit concert as part of the Elvis Presley Show. He was a long-time member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 257, joining in 1942. He was also responsible for starting the Nashville chapter of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (now AFTRA/SAG), and served as chapter president in 1974/75. He was awarded AFTRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Gordon was also awarded the State of Tennessee’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 1996, the Profile in Excellence Award from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1996 and was named a Tennessee Ambassador of Goodwill in 1997. In addition, he served on the Board of Trustees at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital and Belmont College (now Belmont University), as well as Middle Tennessee Medical Center in Murfreesboro. As a piano player, Gordon Stoker is a member of the Southern Gospel Piano Roll of Honor. With the Jordanaires, he is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Southern Legends Entertainment and Performing Arts Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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