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What is Vocal Group music?


What is Vocal Group music?

A typical vocal group LP

Definition: "Vocal Group" is a catchall term used for group harmony singing, largely on pop records, from approximately 1935 or so through the early '50s. The style first came to record simply because technology had finally advanced to the level of recording more than one vocal simultaneously, but vocal group music is considerably more jazz-oriented and sophisticated than earlier pop classics. It can refer to several different types of pop music -- jazz, novelty, pop ballads, and a style of gospel known as "Jubilee" singing -- but it was always characterized by harmony singing with only occasional solo vocals. It touched upon popular styles like swing and boogie-woogie, but were not beholden to them. It is the direct antecedent of the '50s vocal groups that produced doo-wop.

The typical vocal group song was arranged with jazz guitar, acoustic bass and drums, piano, heavy rhythm (for the time), and very little in the way of orchestration outside of the occasional horn section, though the poppier ballads could indeed be heavily produced. Ultra-romantic or comic in nature as doo-wop would later be, vocal group brought a new level of class to what had been rather raucous music, not just in sound but in style. It was instrumental in introducing black music and musicians to white pop audiences, tying together various elements of jazz and pop and gospel into a seamless whole that would not be equaled until rock and roll came along. Although later groups like the Jordanaires, the Four Freshmen and the Happenings carried vocal group music into the 60s, the style had essentially become co-opted by doo-wop once hard R&B set in sometime around the early '50s. However, vocal groups themselves adapted and thrived, going on to great success in Motown, Philly Soul, and even disco. Echoes of the vocal group phenomenon can be seen in the boy-band boom of the late '90s.

Also Known As: Pop vocal, Harmony groups
  1. "The Glow Worm," The Mills Brothers(purchase/download)
  2. "Ragg Mopp," The Ames Brothers(purchase/download)
  3. "If I Didn't Care," The Ink Spots(purchase/download)
  4. "The Object of My Affection," The Boswell Sisters(purchase/download)
  5. "The Jumpin' Jive," The Andrews Sisters(purchase/download)
  6. "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," The Delta Rhythm Boys(listen)
  7. "Shadrack," The Deep River Boys(listen)
  8. "The Preacher and the Bear," The Jubalaires(purchase/download)
  9. "Open the Door, Richard," The Three Flames(purchase/download)
  10. "Dream," The Pied Pipers(purchase/download)
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