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Eric Gardner

activist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage or youth. He was probably the James Gilliard listed in the 1860 Federal Census of Stockton, California; if this is the case, he was a barber, his wife was named Charlotte (c. 1835– ?), and had a step-daughter, Mary E. Jones (c. 1848– ?). In the late 1860s Gilliard worked as a teacher and sometime-minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and spent time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wrote several short pieces for the San Francisco Elevator—sometimes under his full name and sometimes using simply “J. E. M.”—and was noted by the editor Philip Bell as one of the weekly's best contributors (along with Thomas Detter and Jennie Carter). Gilliard was even occasionally noted as the paper's “associate editor.”

Gilliard lectured throughout California in 1870 ...


Eric Bennett

The gospel-quartet style developed during Reconstruction when the musical traditions of jubilee singing, shape-note singing, and blackface Minstrelsy conflated. Late-nineteenth-century gospel quartets were primarily a casual, amateur phenomenon, frequently characterized by family groups performing at special events such as picnics, celebrations, and church services. Though repertoires often centered on Spirituals and hymns, secular selections were not uncommon. Early quartets usually performed a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment) and often created original approaches to harmony and counterpoint.

By the turn of the century the form was popular and well established. Soon, hubs of expertise began to develop in the South, particularly around Norfolk, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama The best groups gained regional renown and in the 1920s and 1930s quartet singing assumed a commercial side when groups such as the Famous Blue Jay Singers and the Golden Gate Quartet went professional The former sang in the animated style of Pentecostal congregations ...