Spiritual Harmonizers

When Bland Childress, age 15, followed his father out of Ravena, Texas, in 1950, he was trading farm life for one that included gospel harmonizing. Sherman, Texas, their destination, was just urban enough to put them in the company of other vocal talents, and the two spent the next four years performing with the Bluejay Quartet, before Bland joined the military. While stationed at Selfridge Airforce Base outside Detroit, Michigan, he met his first wife and, following his 1956 discharge, relocated to her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. While working for Rockford’s Essex Wire Corporation, Childress sang with a series of local gospel acts, including the Sons of the Holy Land, the Christian Jubilees, the Christianaires, and the Traveling Four, before finally settling down with the Spiritual Harmonizers. Blissfully unaware of the Spiritual Harmonizers of Little Rock, Arkansas; Miami, Florida; Rock Hill, South Carolina; or Minden, Louisiana, Childress’ Harmonizers included Marvin Flint, Charles Morris, and brothers Jeff and Gene Pulliam of nearby Beloit, Wisconsin. Instrumentation was handled by bassist Gene and guitarist Flint, though they would eventually add drummer Terry Holloway in 1971, prior to their first recordings. To execute their first single, they employed the able hands of Dexter Witt from Radex Recording in Freeport, Illinois. Witt was no stranger to gospel acts, having already handled the recording activities of the Spiritual Five and T.J. & the Jackson Nears. None of his previous work had the cosmic flair of “God’s Love,” however. The Spiritual Harmonizers flourished, touring the Midwest and issuing the Stop LP on their own Enterprise label in 1975. Early in the 1980s, Childress was called to join the ministry and could no longer commit to extracurricular performances, forcing the group’s demise after a solid 15 years of harmonizing.

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