The Delta Rhythm Boys

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The Delta Rhythm Boys
Delta Rhythm Boys.JPG
The quartet with pianist Rene DeKnight. Top l to r: Lee Gaines, DeKnight. Center: Carl Jones. Bottom l to r: Traverse Crawford, Kelsey Pharr.
Background information
Origin United States United States
Genres R&B
Black gospel
Years active 1934 (1934) – 1987 (1987)

The Delta Rhythm Boys were an American vocal group active for over 50 years from 1934 to 1987.


The group was first formed at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma, in 1934 by Elmaurice Miller, Traverse Crawford, Essie Joseph Adkins, and Otho Lee Gaines. In 1936, they moved to Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where they worked under Frederick Hall and took the name Frederick Hall Quartet. Clinton Holland (soon replaced by Carl Jones) and Kelsey Pharr replaced Miller and Adkins. Rene DeKnight became their pianist.

The group appeared often in the 1940s on radio programs such as Amos and Andy and The Joan Davis Show, and performed on Broadway in the shows, Sing Out the News and Hot Mikado. They also appeared extensively in film, including in You'll Never Get Rich with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. Aside from their own recordings, they served as background vocalists for Charlie Barnet, Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ruth Brown.

One of their most successful releases was a vocal version of the Glenn Miller instrumental hit "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem" from 1941 with lyrics by Buddy Feyne and music by Glenn Miller Orchestra arranger and composer Jerry Gray, Ben Smith, and Leonard Ware.

Also memorable is their 1950s version of the spiritual song "Dem Bones", a hit record for them, and which they performed on television extensively, and is currently revived with at least two postings on YouTube.

Later years[edit]

In the 1950s, they began to amass a large fan base in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia. Meanwhile, their fame was diminishing in America, so in 1956, the group relocated to Europe and performed there for a few more decades.

In 1960, Kelsey Pharr died in Hawaii and Carl Jones left for personal reasons. They were replaced by Hugh Bryant and Herb Coleman. Coleman and Crawford died in the 1970s and were replaced by Walter Tremmel and Ray Beatty.

Lee Gaines died of cancer in Helsinki on July 15, 1987.[1] At Gaines's funeral, Hugh Bryant collapsed while performing, and died, apparently from a heart attack.[2]

The Delta Rhythm Boys were later inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

The Delta Rhythm Boys version of "Alouette" was used in a commercial for Target in 2012.


First tenor
  • 1934-1944: Elmaurice Miller
  • 1944-1960: Carl Jones
  • 196?-1974: Herb Coleman
  • 197?-1987: Walter Trammel
Second tenor
  • 1934-1975: Traverse Crawford
  • 197?-1987: Ray Beatty
  • 1934-1943: Essie Atkins
  • 1943-1960: Kelsey Pharr
  • Early 1950s: Cliff Holland (Temporary replacement for Pharr)
  • 196?-1987: Hugh Bryant


  1. ^ Obituaries: Lee Gaines, 73, a Jazz Singer New York Times, July 21, 1987.
  2. ^ Obituaries: Hugh Bryant Dies as He Sings Tribute at Lee Gaines Funeral New York Times, July 24, 1987.

External links[edit]