R. H. Harris biography

R. H. Harris

Vocals, Musical Artist

1916 – 2000


Who was R. H. Harris?

Rebert H. Harris was a gospel singer. In his work with the Soul Stirrers, he was instrumental in transforming the ensemble jubilee quartet style of the 30s into the lead-focused hard gospel style of the 40s and 50s. He was replaced by Sam Cooke. "I was 7 years old, and the closest boy in age was six years older," he said in that 1987 interview. "I heard the sound of each part in my head and I'd tell each person how to sing it."

Harris grew up on a farm 13 miles outside Trinity, Texas in the former "Blackland" settlement. James and Katie Harris and their nine children lived about 300 yards from the barbed wire fence of the Eastham Prison Camp, where convicts would toil in the fields and sing themselves back home with a mixture of spirituals and blues.

Rebert says he started arranging his first gospel quartet, with his brother Almo and two cousins, before he even knew what the quartet style was. The group was called the Friendly Four and then the Friendly Gospel Singers when Harris moved to town to start seventh grade at the Trinity Colored High School. After 10th grade, which is as far as the school went, 15-year-old Harris attended Mary Allen College in nearby Crockett and weighed a tempting offer to join Silas Roy Crain's group the Soul Stirrers, who had moved to Houston. At the time the Stirrers were a jubilee group, singing poppy, up-tempo numbers such as "Down By the Riverside." But as soon as Harris finally committed, he helped change the group's sound to a slower, deeper, more passionate hard gospel style.


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Mar 23, 1916
United States of America
Also known as
  • R.H. Harris
  • Rebert H. Harris
Sep 3, 2000

on July 23, 2013

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