R. C. Foster

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R. C. Foster (born 1899 in Lowndes County ) was influential in bringing the "university style" of jubilee gospel quartet singing to the Birmingham District where it flourished and inspired generations of gospel singers.

Foster learned the style from Vernon W. Barnett, a Tuskegee Institute graduate who taught music at Lowndes County High School. He moved to Bessemer in 1915 to work at the Woodward Mine. He sang along with some of his fellow miners informally at first during lunch breaks and in the evenings. The group's progress was interrupted by World War I, but it was reconstituted in 1919 when the men returned home from the service.

Encouraged by mine owner Rick Woodward, Foster put together a more formal quartet, which he named the "Foster Singers". They began appearing at church services and various community events, spreading the new sound through the Bessemer area and inspiring a generation of gospel groups. Foster's college-influenced style was more formal and restrained than some of the other popular quartets of the time, but the group's musicianship and polish greatly influenced later groups.

Foster, a deacon at New Zion Baptist Church, suffered hearing impairment after a fall in 1979 and stopped performing.


  • Seroff, Doug (1980) Album liner notes for the Birmingham Quartet Anthology: Jefferson County, Alabama (1926-1953). Stockholm, Sweden: Clanka Lanka Records. CL144.001-2
  • Boyer, Horace Clarence (1995) "The Emergence of the Jubilee Quartet: The Jefferson County School," pp. 29-33 in How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Montgomery: Black Belt Press. ISBN 1880216191

External links

  • R. C. Foster's "Music Achiever" profile at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame