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STAMPS QUARTET. The Stamps Quartet is a gospel quartet originally founded in 1924 in Dallas by Virgil Oliver Stamps. V. O. Stamps founded the V.O. Stamps School of Music in 1924, and his brother Frank (born around 1890 in Gilmer, Texas) established the first Stamps Quartet around the same time. The quartet underwent numerous personnel changes from its beginning in 1924 to the present, and in fact some other gospel groups used the Stamps name whether or not they actually had any direct affiliation with the original Stamps brothers.
The Stamps Quartet became the first Southern gospel quartet to sign with a major label when it recorded “Give the World a Smile” for the Victor label in the late 1920s. By that time V. O. Stamps had partnered with J. R. Baxter to form the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, which was instrumental in the development of the various Stamps Quartets over the years and also became one of the most successful printers of shape note hymnbooks in the United States. The Stamps Quartet provided the ideal promotional vehicle through which to advertise the company’s songbooks through their daily broadcasts on KRLD radio in Dallas. Virgil Stamps died in 1940, and with his death Frank took over the partnership with J. R. Baxter and allowed several groups to use the Stamps name in exchange for their selling of the Stamps-Baxter songbooks.
Over the years the Stamps Quartet also underwent both high and low points in terms of their popularity. In 1950 Frank Stamps decided to focus his attention solely on publishing songbooks. The remaining members of the group, however, continued to record as the Stamps Quartet for a short time thereafter but soon changed the name to the Plainsmen Quartet. Around 1962 the group reformed with members Terry Blackwood, Smiling Joe Roeper, Jerry Redd, Big Jim Waits, and Roger McDuff. Upon his retirement in 1962 Frank Stamps sold his publishing interests. Eventually J. D. Sumner purchased some interest in the company and became manager of the Stamps Quartet. During the ensuing years more personnel changes occurred. Beginning in 1971 and lasting for over half a decade, the Stamps Quartet reached its greatest popularity as the main backup group for Elvis Presley until his death in 1977. Following Presley’s death, numerous personnel changes resulted in an overall decline in the group’s popularity, despite performing at various Elvis tribute events and gospel concerts. The quartet broke up in 1979, but by the late 1980s J. D. Sumner decided to revive the group. After Sumner’s death, quartet member Ed Enoch officially trademarked the Stamps Quartet name in 2003. The group continued to perform, although only one of the current members, Enoch, owner and manager, remained from the quartet’s golden years with Elvis.
Virgil and Frank Stamps were inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1997. The Stamps Quartet has been honored with induction into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the group has won both Grammy and Dove awards for best gospel group and best gospel album. The group’s numerous appearances at festivals and on television have included a live televised performance at the Grand Ole Opry and in Elvis—The Concert. In its illustrious history the Stamps Quartet has also backed such stars as Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Ricky Skaggs, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Recent projects have included backup vocals for Alan Jackson’s Precious Memories Volume II, recorded in 2013. In 2014 and 2015 the group toured Europe to perform in Elvis—The Musical.
In 2015 the Stamps Quartet consisted of Ed Enoch (manager and lead vocalist), Michael Means (bass), Joe Combs (baritone), and Tony Goforth (tenor). Their office was headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.
Albert Goldman, Elvis (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1981). Southern Gospel History, “JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet” (http://www.sghistory.com/index.php?n=J.JD_Sumner_And_The_Stamps_Quartet), accessed June 25, 2011. The Official Website of the Stamps Quartet (http://www.thestampsquartet.com), accessed August 26, 2015.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Shaun Stalzer, "STAMPS QUARTET," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgs06), accessed February 12, 2016. Uploaded on May 27, 2015. Modified on November 1, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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