Gordon Stoker, a member of The Jordanaires vocal quartet that sang backup for Elvis Presley, died Wednesday at his home in Brentwood, Tenn. He was 88.
A member of the Country Hall of Fame group for more than 60 years, Stoker passed after battling a lengthy illness, his son Alan told the Associated Press.
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Stoker was born in the rural northwest Tennessee town of Gleason on Aug. 3, 1924. He began playing music at 15 when he joined the Daniel Quartet in Nashville, but left to serve in the United States Air Force, returning to America in 1946 and enrolling in college.
He joined The Jordanaires as a pianist in 1949, a year after they formed as a gospel group, and evolved as a tenor vocalist. Elvis Presley recruited the quartet to sing backup on his track "Hound Dog" in 1956.
"With Gordon's soaring high tenor and leadership, the quartet changed the sound of pop records with their signature backing vocals, even if they sang only nonsense syllables," author and Elvis Presley historian Alanna Nash told The Tennessean
. "Just as they brought spirituals to the predominately white audience, they did the same for rock and roll, vocalizing behind Elvis."
Stoker and The Jordanaires are credited with helping Elvis get his start.
"What may not be so obvious is that Elvis, such a 'moral threat' when he first appeared on the national scene in 1956, may not have been so readily accepted by such powerful impresarios as Ed Sullivan had The Jordanaires not lent Presley their sound and support," Nash said. "In a sense, they risked their reputation in the gospel world by performing with him and giving him their stamp of approval. That was Gordon's doing, all the way."
Stoker and The Jordanaires went on to work with other high-profile acts like Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and Kenny Rogers.
The group still performs today, after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
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