The Deep River Boys were one of America’s most iconic Black vocal quartets. Founded in Virginia in 1936, the “Deeps” career peaked in the 1940s though they continued on through 1980. The Deep River Boys recorded several hundred songs, but never had a gold record. Still, their career led them to tour five continents, including five trips to the Far East. They toured 16 African cities under the auspices of the U.S. State Department’s cultural exchange program. They made 32 consecutive annual visits to Europe including playing the London Palladium five years in a row. They sang to England’s Queen Elizabeth and at the White House to President Eisenhower. In their heyday, they were stars of stage, radio, film and TV.
The Deep River Boys sang in a wide variety of music styles, including pop, rhythm & blues, show tunes, jazz, blues and rock & roll. Yet if there’s one thing the Deep River Boys are remembered for, it’s their respect for their musical roots. Like other groups that formed in Black colleges during the 1930s. the Deeps began by singing old African American spirituals. Most genres of American music, including jazz, blues, rhythm & blues and rock & roll trace their roots to spirituals, sung first by slaves in the cotton fields of the American South. Throughout their career, the Deep River Boys continued to preserve the legacy of spirituals in their authentic form and dialect, resisting the temptation to modernize them. The songs on this CD were recorded by the Deep River Boys for the Lang-Worth radio transcription company in the 1940s.
Liner Notes by Charlie Horner