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African-American Quartet Tradition Alive In Texas

Sep 24, 2010 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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In the 1930s and '40s, John Lomax and his son, Alan, bounced along the back roads of America in a Ford weighed down by a 300-pound recording machine. They were searching for the music they believed defined us as Americans: folk music. And in Angelina County, Texas, they found plenty. In fact, they discovered a rich tradition of African-American quartet singing. Quartets are still singing in rural East Texas — only now they've gone electric.

Elmo Ray Scott is a member of the Stars of Harmony. In the song "Where I Am You Brought Me," Scott is talking to God.

"We started when I was early in my teenage years, and I'm like 73 now, so that's been a long time," Scott says. "Where we growed up, all we had was church — couldn't stay out all night like a lot of people did, mostly we was at church. We heard other groups sing, like I say, we didn't sing it directly the way they sang it. I always feel like, if you sing it one way, by the Scripture I can get my version of it and add something to it."

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