Denver Dale Crumpler (1912–1957)
When singer Denver Dale Crumpler became a member of Hovie Lister and the Statesmen Quartet of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1953, his Irish tenor voice completed what many experts in the Southern gospel music field have termed “The Perfect Quartet.” By then, the Statesmen had formed a team with the famed Blackwood Brothers Quartet of Memphis, Tennessee, and were performing 250–300 concerts per year across the United States. Shortly after Crumpler’s arrival, the Statesmen signed a recording contract with RCA-Victor, as well as a contract with Nabisco as the sponsor of a syndicated television show eventually to be seen on about 150 television stations around the nation.
Denver Dale Crumpler was born on August 17, 1912, in Village (Columbia County), near Magnolia (Columbia County). He was the youngest of seven children of Frank Iley Crumpler and Pennie Eugenia Rogers Crumpler. Relatives recalled that he learned to play the guitar while still too small to hold it, placing it flat on a bed to play it. At the age of twenty, Crumpler traveled to Dallas, Texas, to study voice with the renowned Virgil Stamps. His professional quartet experience began with the Stamps Melody Boys Quartet, sponsored by the Stamps music publishing company in Dallas.
In 1938, Crumpler moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to become the tenor singer with the Rangers Quartet, heard daily on WHAS radio. The quartet got its name after singing for the Texas Centennial celebration in 1936 when Texas governor James V. Allred commissioned them Honorary Texas Rangers. The group was known for a while as the Texas Rangers Quartet. While singing with the Rangers in Kentucky, Denver met his future wife, Frances “Frankie” Harper. The Rangers left Louisville in 1939 for WBT radio in Charlotte, North Carolina, and later spent time in Wheeling, West Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; and Atlanta, Georgia. By the late 1940s, the Rangers had become the most widely known quartet in the gospel music field, although their concerts and radio shows often featured western tunes as well as gospel fare.
A 1951 traffic accident claimed the life of one member of the Rangers and placed another in the hospital for an extended recuperation, greatly reducing the quartet’s singing schedule. When the tenor position became open with the Statesmen, group founder Hovie Lister convinced Crumpler to take the job.
The Statesmen were winners on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scout Show on CBS television on September 6, 1954. That appearance featured their live performance of Stuart Hamblen’s “This Ole House,” which they had recorded for RCA-Victor only weeks before. The record quickly sold 100,000 units following the Godfrey appearance. Notable recordings of Crumpler’s high tenor interpretations of gospel classics are “My God Is Real,” “I’ll Tell It Wherever I Go,” “My Heart Is a Chapel,” “How Long Has It Been,” and “My Heavenly Father Watches over Me.”
Crumpler died suddenly at age forty-four on March 21, 1957, from complications of diabetes; he was survived by his wife Frankie as well as daughters Charlotte and Dale and son Bobby. He is buried in the Village Methodist Church cemetery near Magnolia.
When he was voted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1973, his Gospel Music Association (GMA) biographical data stated: “Denver gave to gospel music dignity, the performance of a true professional and one of the highest lyric tenor voices we have ever known. He gave to gospel music all any man can give—his entire life.” Famed gospel songwriter Lee Roy Abernathy said of Crumpler: “Denver could command respect because he had a voice as big as Stone Mountain!” Crumpler was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association (SGMA) Hall of Fame at Dollywood in Tennessee in 1997.
For additional information:
“Denver Crumpler.” Gospel Music Hall of Fame. http://www.gmahalloffame.org/speaker-lineup/denver-crumpler/ (accessed August 31, 2020).
Taylor, David L., and Bill Gaither. Happy Rhythm: A Biography of Hovie Lister & the Statesmen Quartet. N.p.: 2015.
David L. Taylor
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