The Fairfield Four are an a cappella group that has been around for nearly 90 years. This group started off with just two members that was created in the 1920’s by the pastor of Fairfield Baptist Church down in Nashville to occupy his sons, Harry and Rufus Carrethers, they became a gospel trio when they added member John Battle. The transformed into a “jubilee quartet” by the 30’s and began the first of many personnel changes that have occurred over their long time going. They are known for their interpretations of gospel hymns where their harmonies move together and where they utilize the full extent of their voices. They sing in unison and it is a most pleasant and joyful listen.
They reached major acclaim with certain instances throughout their inception many years ago. They reached a broadcast audience when Sunway Vitamin Company sponsored a nationally broadcasted radio show which aired daily for them at 6:45 in the morning, on WLAC in Nashville. They were touring extensively during this time as well. Couple the radio show with the rigors of touring and occasionally a member or two would be missing for the radio show. So in 1942, the quartet did some recording for the Library of Congress and by 1950 it just all became too much and they broke up. Though one member Reverend Sam McCrary used the group name to perform with other quartet’s. In 1980, the original members from the 40’s reunited for a concert in Birmingham, Alabama, and by 1989 they were designated as National Heritage Fellows by the National Endowment for the Arts, and they still continue to do a little touring.
The Fairfield Four were put back in the musical eye when they their version of “Lonesome Valley” for the movie, “O Brother Where Art Thou.” When you hear them, at least for me, it is almost like a time wrap. I felt as if I was taken back to a time when all you had was your voice. When sure it would be nice to have a fancy guitar or banjo, but you have this “thing” inside of you that you use everyday when you speak, your voice. And, to a certain extent, at least with these fine gentleman, that is their best instrument. They have honed in on this craft and bring the songs they grew up on. The hymnals they listened to, the gospel songs that they grew up on so many years ago that give them merely, and literally, a voice. With their voices the songs seem to roll along into a most wonderful listen.
These fine men will be gracing The Whispering Beard Folk Festival stage on Saturday night, August 23rd. In what will sure to be a performance that gets to the core of tradition and singing from your heart and your soul. 90 years of music and they are still going, although some members have passed or retired, The Fairfield Four still keep to the tradition that has given them many an accommodation, and the sheer joy of sharing their brand of gospel music. These four gentlemen and one microphone are sure to be a sight we will all need.