Robert Vanderbilt & the Foundation of Souls

Born in 1946 to a Baptist preacher on Stuttgart, Arkansas' soil, Robert Vanderbilt joined, at just 13, the locally prominent and long-enduring Stuttgart Harmonizers quartet. By 17, he had tired of tough vocal performances for little money and joined the deceptively named Woolford Singers, a secular group. In lean times, Vanderbilt found work in Stuttgart’s rice fields but finally heeded the word of his city-mouse uncle: Chicago likely held far more opportunity for Robert. He left Arkansas behind in 1966. After getting a nod of approval from Tyrone the Wonder Boy Davis, Vanderbilt quit his parks department job and hitched up with the Dakar artist’s entourage. A decade after arriving in Chicago, he was recruited by the Foundation of Souls. A self-contained unit, the Foundation consisted of guitar player Reverend Donnie Hardiman, vocalist Jerry Patterson, vocalist Eddie Cobb, lead guitarist Robert Golar, and bassist Larry Stampp. As their name implies, the Foundation of Souls never concealed an affection for contemporary soul music. Their lone issue, “A Message Especially From God” b/w “I Can’t Make It By Myself,” appeared on the Hardiman-run Sensational label in 1978—with the A-side bearing more than a passing similarity to Manchild’s Chi-Sound-released 1977 Windy City hit “Especially For You.” Sensational would have two more entries in Chicagoland cut-out racks over the next few years, one featuring Hardiman, the other the Jericho Travelers, with both taking an approach that was more traditional than R&B-leaning. The Foundation of Souls endured, ending a 40-year gap in their release schedule with So Hard To Get Along, a self-produced 2001 compact disc, with Robert Vanderbilt still at the helm.

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