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Utica Institute Jubilee Singers (Children's)

Mississippi's vocational Utica Normal & Industrial Institute for the Training of Colored Young Men and Women was founded in 1903 by Dr. William Henry Holtzclaw, the son of emancipated slaves. Following the example of Fisk University, Utica's own Jubilee-styled vocal group was sent on a tour of Northern cities to raise funds for the institute. The first commercially distributed recordings of a Utica Jubilee group were cut nearly a quarter century later by a unit that had been together for about a year. Managed by European-American faculty member C.W. Hynes, they operated under the direction of African-American tailoring instructor Charles R. Lawrence. This superb vocal harmony group was anchored by ex-blacksmith and bass singer William G. Culver and baritone George Withington. Its three tenors were Marshall Cole, who studied tailoring under Lawrence, Clarence E. Radcliffe, and Ben E. Skinner. Piano accompaniments were provided by Norma Lynch, who sometimes sang with the group and eventually married Cole.

During a period beginning in March 1927 and lasting a little over two years, the Uticas cut some 18 sides, both sacred and secular, for the Victor record label. By this time they were also performing regularly over radio station WJZ in New York, and would be heard from coast to coast on NBC's Blue Network for several years. In a thrilling example of living history, one special guest on their program was Stephen Foster's daughter Marian Foster Welch. The group's success in broadcasting led to its appearance in the Vitaphone film short Radi-ators. They are known to have worked with various evangelists, including England's own Rodney "Gipsy" Smith. The Uticas toured Europe twice, in 1927 and 1930. On the second tour they visited Scandinavia and the Balkans, at one point sharing the bill with Valaida Snow in Louis Douglas' Black Flowers Revue. A printed compendium of Utica Jubilee Singers spirituals was published in 1930 with transcriptions executed by J. Rosamund Johnson. Formed in 1926, the group whose recordings were reissued by Document in the late '90s stayed together until 1939. In 1983 an elderly Marshall Cole appeared in Woody Allen's fictional documentary film Zelig. ~ arwulf arwulf
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Story The Crow Told Me: Early American Rural Children's Songs

1. I Am Just What I Am

2. Poor Little Thing

3. Barnyard Tumble

4. Old Molly Hare

5. Animals Coming In

6. Johnny Booker

7. The Old Grey Goose Is Dead

8. Pretty Little Pink

9. Free Little Bird

10. King Kong Kitchie Kitchie

11. Hop Along Peter

12. Horsie Keep Your Tail Up

13. The Nick Nack Song

14. The Story That The Crow Told Me

15. Sue Cow

16. Skip To Ma Lou, My Darling

17. Cindy

18. Say Darling Say

19. Liza Up In The Simmon Tree

20. The Old Bell Cow

21. George Washington

22. Sourwood Mountain

23. Angels Watching Over Me

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