R. H. Harris
Rebert H. Harris (March 23, 1916  - September 3, 2000) 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. (Anthony Heilbut, liner notes to When Gospel Was Gospel, Shenachie, 2005, p. 5) 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 (named after the darkness of its soil, not the racial constitution of its residents). James and Katie Harris and their nine children (Rebert was their sixth) 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 (also known as "Senior" Crain or S.R. Crain) 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 (Rebert says the year was 1931; gospel historians usually put the year at '35 or '36), he helped change the group's sound to a slower, deeper, more passionate hard gospel style.
Harris claimed to have no musical influences besides those he found in the trees and fields of his family's farm outside Trinity.
- JON PARELESPublished: September 09, 2000 (2000-09-09). "Rebert Harris, 84, Soul Singer And Model for Sam Cooke". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- Guralnick, Peter (2005). Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. New York: Back Bay Books. p. 35.