Harps of Melody

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A cappella gospel singing with a different twist was the province of the Memphis-based group the Harps of Melody. Throughout their career, their ranks moved between that of a quartet, quintet and a sextet,…
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A cappella gospel singing with a different twist was the province of the Memphis-based group the Harps of Melody. Throughout their career, their ranks moved between that of a quartet, quintet and a sextet, always led by the strong voice and manner of Clara Anderson. After working her way up through the ranks as a member of the Busyline Soft Singers and their satellite group, the Busyline Junior Girls, Anderson struck out on her own, first forming the Golden Stars, the precursor to the Harps, which featured two of the future charter members of the Golden Harps, lead singer Ruth Youngblood and bass singer Elizabeth Morris.

By 1950, the Golden Harps of Melody had been formed, creating a stir around Memphis with their "soft" harmony, totally at odds with the usual hard singing and screaming in favor in most gospel circles. Never really a professional group, the Harps did a lot of charity work, performing to raise money for various churches in Memphis and surrounding communities, curtailing their travels each winter. They also did regular sustaining radio broadcasts from the 1950s into the '80s on stations WDIA, WLOK, WSMS and KWAM. Their recorded legacy consisted of only two singles on the local Philwood and Designer labels (both featuring the only examples of the group singing to backing instruments) with a collection of live and studio a cappella performances from the 1980s finally seeing issuance in 1998. The group stayed together for almost 50 years, their ranks finally decimated by the deaths of Lillian Jones, Ruth Youngblood and Clara Anderson in the mid-1990s, putting an end to one of Memphis' longest-running, and most unique, gospel singing units.