You might not have known the name Gordon Stoker, but odds are you probably have an album in your collection with his vocals represented on it. Stoker, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 88, was a member of Country Music Hall of Fame vocalists The Jordanaires for over 60 years, with his tenor being heard on records by artists such as Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves. According to the group’s website, total sales of music that included their vocals total more than eight billion copies.
Stoker’s son Alan told the Associated Press that Stoker died Wednesday at his home in Brentwood, Tenn., after a lengthy illness. Born in rural Gleason, TN in northwest Tennessee on August 3, 1924, Stoker joined the group in 1949 — the year they joined the Grand Ole Opry. He was originally hired as a pianist, but by 1951, the Jordanaires had evolved into a vocal group, bringing fans to their feet at the Ryman Auditorium with their energetic performances of songs of the day in addition to their warm and capable versions of Gospel songs, such as “Noah.”
In 1955, the quartet became acquainted with a local artist who at a show in Memphis who told them if he ever got a recording contract with a major company, he wanted them to back him up. Signed to Sun Records at the time, Elvis Presley made good on his offer, as the singer inked a deal with RCA Victor not soon after. From 1956-1970, the Jordanaires were the background group on the majority of Presley’s records and also appeared on the soundtracks of many of his films in the 1960s.
In addition to Presley, Stoker and the Jordanaires appeared on classic records such as Cline’s “Crazy,” Reeves’ “Four Walls,” and Loretts Lynn’s “Coal Miners’ Daughter”. The group continued to be highly sought-after into the new millenium, with recent performances on albums by The Grascals and Kristin Chenoweth. The group was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.