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The name "Gospelaires" has been used by numerous gospel singing groups in at least a dozen states since the 1950s, but the one discussed here is Don Smith Gospelaires from Fresno California. Although he is not the only one, Don is often credited with helping to bring southern gospel music to the West Coast of the United States and helping to keep it going through his Gospelaires Quartet and his radio program for many years.
Don Smith, who was originally from Texas, and who had sung bass previously with the Stamps Melody Boys, the Blackwood Brothers, and Bob Jones Stamps Harmony Boys, organized the Gospelaires Quartet in Fresno, California in 1947.
At the group's beginning, the Daniels family, consisting of brothers J.C., Wilbur, Raymond, and their sister Wilma joined with Smith to form the Gospelaires Quartet. They quickly began a regular radio program on KMJ in Fresno, California.
After around a year, the Daniels family moved on, and there was considerable turnover between then and 1951 when the Daniels family rejoined the quartet. In the interim, future long-time Imperial Quartet lead, Homer Tankersley, Jr. and a former associate of Smith, Barney Welsh, among others, joined the group. During this period, the Gospelaires had Billy Hall, Reece Crockett, Ken Apple, and Elmer Childress at piano. Childress went on the play and sing with the Stamps Quartet and the Rangers before beginning a long career as a television personality in the Midwest and in the North Central US.
The lineup stabilized a bit when the Daniels family returned. Baritone Raymond Daniels didn't stay for very long, and was followed by several other baritones, including James Burleson, who went on to sing with the Melody Boys Quartet. When J.C. Daniels left in 1954, he was succeeded by a string of tenors over the next several years. After Wilma Daniels left in 1954, pianist Newman Miller joined the Gospelaires . Miller left in 1955 and went on to play for several quartets including the Foggy River Boys on the Ozark Jubilee, and the Plainsmen. Wilbur Daniels stayed and held down the lead singer position for most of the 1950s and into the early 1960s.
Don Smith's son Ronnie became the quartet's baritone in the mid-1950s and maintained that position for much of the remainder of the group's existence. Other long-serving members were James Farmer, Danny Pollard, Ray Cooper, George Melton, and Ray Cude.
The Gospelaires disbanded for a while in the early 1970s due to Don's health, and in 1973, they operated as a duo consisting of Don Smith and the group's former pianist Don Ball.
They regrouped later in the 1970s with the lineup of Ray Cooper at tenor and piano; James Farmer, lead; Ron Smith, baritone; and Don Smith at bass. After Don retired in 1983, Ron took over the group and operated with his wife, Anita; his son, Guy; and pianist Ken Hurley, until they disbanded the early 1990s.
The Gospelaires had been on radio in Fresno from their beginning, and they were on television for many years. After he retired from regular singing with the quartet, Don Smith continued with his radio program, "Don Smith Gospel Favorites" on KMJ radio in Fresno, California for several years until he was no longer able. Since then, the program has been hosted by Don's daughter, Earline Smith Starnes.
The Gospelaires recorded numerous songs on 78 RPM and 45 RPM records on the Don Smith Gospel label. They later recorded a number of LPs.
Throughout the decades with the quartet and with the radio and television programs they continued to do what their 1948 concert advertisements said they would do, which was to bring "your favorite southern gospel songs."
Would like to thank Larry Baker for contributing much of the history and members of the Gospelaires.
1958 Musical Moments of Inspiration (Gospel Records - Don Smith Enterprises/LP-9757)/(Bonnie Records/BON LP-9757): I'm Feeling Fine; I'm Thankful; On The Jericho Road; How Great Thou Art; Take A Moment To Live; The Upper Window (featuring James Farmer); Old Time Religion; Peace In The Valley; I Wouldn't Trade; Stop And Pray; I Don't Mind; Only A Look (Ray Cooper, James Farmer, Ronnie Smith, Don Smith, Cletus Clark).
???? What A Day That Will Be (Gospel Records - Don Smith Enterprises/LP-789): Happy And Free; Near The Cross; What A Day That Will Be; He's Already Done; Mansion Over The Hilltop; I'll Never Be Lonely; Sea Walker; When He Reached Down His Hand For Me; What A Precious Friend Is He; Every Hour And Every Day; Faith Unlocks The Door; Room At The Cross; I've Been With Jesus.
???? Songs You Have Requested (Gospel Records - Don Smith Enterprises/LP-795): Heavenly Love; Living With Jesus; Where Could I Go; Mail Order From Heaven; Because Of Him; Taller Than Trees; It's Different Now; Have I Done My Best; Oh, How I Love Jesus; Sorry, I Never Knew You; I Want To Walk As Close As I Can; I'll Be There (George Melton, Danny Pollard, James Farmer, Don Smith, Ray Cude).
???? The Best Of The Gospelaires (Gospel Records - Don Smith Enterprises/LP-796): I'm A Debtor I Know; Way Down Deep In My Soul; Sweet Jesus; Dear Jesus Abide With Me; Without Him; He's Everything To Me; When You Walk With Jesus; Oh, What A Saviour; Closer To Thee; Christ Is The Light House; Come And Go With Me; Angels Watching Over Me (George Melton, Danny Pollard, James Farmer, Don Smith, Ray Cude).
???? Something Old Something New (Gospel Records - Don Smith Enterprises/LPS-800): Rock-A-My Soul; No, Never Alone; Don't Point Your Finger; Standing By The River; Who Am I; Listen; Oh, What He's Done For Me; Just A Little Talk, With Jesus; I'm Free Again; Glad Reunion Day; First Day In Heaven; Medley: Precious Memories/Sweet By And By/Haven Of Rest (Danny Pollard, James Farmer, Ronnie Smith, Don Smith, Don Ball)
1987 Wrapped In His Love (Gospel Records - Don Smith Enterprises/LPS-804): Step Into The Water; Wrapped In His Love; When I Get Home; The Dawn Of This New Morning; It's The Little Things; Angel Song (He Sent His Son); Swing Down Chariot; Already Forgiven; Movin; Into His Presence (Anita Smith, Ken Hurley, Guy Smith, Ron Smith).