- Randolph Love
Gospel vocal quartet. It was formed by the brothers Bill (tenor; 1948–51) and Monty (baritone; 1948–52) Matthews as the Melodizing Matthews in 1948 in Springfield, Missouri, but the group has subsequently seen a number of personnel changes. Longtime members include Gordon Stoker (first tenor, manager, from 1950), Hoyt Hawkins (second tenor, baritone, 1952–82), Neal Matthews Jr. (second tenor, 1953–2000), Ray Walker (bass, from 1958), and Duane West (baritone, 1982–99). The white gospel group’s recording career began in the early 1950s with Decca covering black gospel songs and spirituals; they later worked for RCA Victor and Capitol. Their reputation grew when they began to back such country singers as Red Foley (“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”) and made television appearances on The Eddy Arnold Show and NBC’s The Grand Ole Opry. The group reportedly met Elvis Presley in Memphis while touring with Eddy Arnold in 1955. Presley invited them to participate on his first RCA session in January 1956, and they provided backup vocals on some of his biggest hits, including “Don’t be cruel,” “Are you lonesome tonight,” and “It’s now or never.” Over their long career, the group has recorded with many top pop and country stars including Jimmy Dean (“Big Bad John”), Loretta Lynn (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”), Patsy Cline (“Crazy”), and Conway Twitty (“It’s only make believe”). The group’s many honors include induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (1998), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1998), and the Christian Music Hall of Fame (2002).