Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Swan Silvertones

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Genres  Christian
Genre  Christian music
Active from  1938
Swan Silvertones thecatholiccataloguecomwpcontentuploads20131
Albums  Heavenly Light, Gospel Favorites
Members  Claude Jeter, Paul Owens, Solomon J. Womack, Louis Johnson
Record labels  Collectables Records, Universal Music (Argentina)
Similar  The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Soul Stirrers, Art Rupe, The Harmonizing Four, Five Blind Boys of Mississippi

Claude jeter swan silvertones 1996 american gospel quartet convention hall of fame inductees

The Swan Silvertones are an American gospel music group that first achieved popularity in the 1940s and 1950s under the leadership of Claude Jeter. Jeter formed the group in 1938 as the "Four Harmony Kings" while he was working as a coal miner in West Virginia. After moving to Knoxville, Tennessee and obtaining their own radio show, the group changed its name to the "Silvertone Singers" in order to avoid confusion with another ensemble known as the "Four Kings of Harmony." They added the name Swan shortly thereafter, since Swan Bakeries sponsored their show. Their wide exposure through radio brought them a contract with King Records.


At this early stage, the Silvertones already embodied an amalgam of two styles: the close barbershop harmonies that they had featured when starting out in West Virginia, and virtuoso leads supplied by Jeter and Solomon Womack. The group later lost Womack, but added Paul Owens in 1952 and Louis Johnson in 1955. The three singers with their sharply contrasting styles – Jeter a tenor who could sing falsetto without losing his lyric control, Owens a crooner, and Johnson a hard shouter – played off each other to great effect in songs such as "Mary Don't You Weep."

The group recorded for Specialty Records from 1951 to 1955, when it switched to Vee-Jay Records. They recorded one album with Hob Records after Vee-Jay shut down in 1965, at which point Jeter left the group for the ministry.

When interviewed by Dick Cavett in April 1970, Paul Simon credited the group with inspiring him to write the song "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

The Swan Silvertones were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.

In January 2011, the Swan Silvertones were nominated for The 10th Annual Independent Music Awards in the Gospel category for Need More Love.

Suggested reading

  • Zolten, Jerry, Great God A' Mighty!:The Dixie Hummingbirds – Celebrating The Rise Of Soul Gospel Music, Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-515272-7.
  • Songs

    Oh Mary Won't You WeepGospel · 2011
    Saviour - Pass Me NotThe Big Easy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack · 1987
    My RockMy Rock / Love Lifted Me · 1991


    Swan Silvertones Wikipedia