The Charioteers

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The Charioteers
Origin Wilberforce, Ohio, USA
Genres Gospel, Pop
Years active 1930–1957
Labels Decca, Vocalion, V-Disc, Vocalion, Brunswick, Columbia
Past members Wilfred "Billy" Williams (lead tenor)
Edward Jackson (second tenor)
Ira Williams (baritone)
Howard Daniel (vocal)
Herbert Dickerson (vocal)
Peter Leubers (vocal)
John Harewood (vocal)
Jimmy Sherman (piano)

The Charioteers was an American gospel and pop vocal group from 1930 to 1957.


The Charioteers were put together in 1930 by Professor Howard Daniel, and their school was Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio. They originally called themselves the Harmony Four. Later they changed the name to The Charioteers, from the song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,"[1] a favorite from the group's repertoire, and eventually recorded it in 1939. Starting with gospel music, the group expanded its repertoire to include a greater number of popular tunes. Their first break came from after winning the Ohio State Quartet contest in 1931, and soon after, they were engaged to perform on a Cincinnati radio show at station WLW. They stayed with the station for over two years, until another radio series brought them to New York.

They signed their first recording contract with Decca Records in 1935. Between 1935 and 1939 they recorded for V-Disc, Vocalion, Brunswick, and Decca without having a hit, yet their popularity grew through radio and live performances. The Charioteers recorded with major singers between 1935-1945: Pearl Bailey on recordings "Who?" and "Don't Ever Leave Me" (1945), and four recordings with Frank Sinatra, "Lilly Belle," "Don't Forget Tonight, Tomorrow", "I've Got A Home In That Rock," and "Jesus Is a Rock (In a Weary Land)" (1945).[2] In 1938, they signed with Columbia Records, where they would stay for over 10 years.

In 1941 they performed 1404 performances[3] with the musical revue Hellzapoppin', a Broadway hit.[4] They were the studio chorus from (1942–1946) on the Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall radio show.[5] The leader Wilfred "Billy" Williams (1910–1972), a recording member for 14 years, left The Charioteers. He then formed a new group The Billy Williams Quartet in the early 1950s. The rest of The Charioteers also left Columbia in 1950 and drifted through five labels over the next seven years. The Charioteers released 75 single recording over 22 of those years. The last recording was "The Candles" on MGM Records in 1957.

Hits Recordings[edit]

Their solo hits include "So Long" (1940) number 23 pop, "On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City" (1946) number 12 pop, "Open the Door Richard" (1947) number 6 pop, "What Did He Say?" (1948) number 21 pop, "Ooh! Look-a-There Ain't She Pretty" (1948) number 20 pop, and "A Kiss and a Rose" (1949) number 8 R&B, number 19 pop.[6]


The Charioteers were inducted in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.


Selected albums[edit]

Year Title Genre Label
1957 The Charioteers Gospel Harmony
1959 Sweet & Low Gospel CBS

Charted singles[edit]

Year Single US
1940 "So Long" 23
1945 "Don't Forget Tonight Tomorrow"
(Frank Sinatra and The Charioteers)
1946 "On the Boardwalk (In Atlantic City)" 12
1947 "Open the Door, Richard" 6
"Chi-Baba Chi-Baba (My Bambino Go to Sleep)" 16
1948 "What Did He Say?" 21
"Ooh! Look-a-There, Ain't She Pretty?" 20
"Now Is the Hour (Māori Farewell Song)"
(Buddy Clark and The Charioteers)
1949 "A Kiss and a Rose" 19


  1. ^ Warner, Jay. American Singing Groups: A History from 1940 to Today, Hal Leonard (2006), page 18 - ISBN 0-634-09978-7
  2. ^ Luiz Carlos do Nascimento Silva. Put Your Dreams Away: A Frank Sinatra Discography, Greenwood Press (2000), page 92 - ISBN 0-313-31055-6
  3. ^ Ewen, David. Complete Book of the American Musical Theater, Holt (1958), page 87 - ASIN B0006AWA7K
  4. ^ Production: Hellzapoppin'
  5. ^ NBC: Kraft Music Hall
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness (1995), pp. 766-767 - ISBN 1-56159-176-9
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories: 1890-1954. Record Research. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1994). Pop Hits: 1940-1954. Record Research. 

External links[edit]