BORN: September 18, 1892 in Upshur County, Texas.
DIED: August 19, 1940, in Dallas, Texas
V.O. Stamps was a winsome pioneer who was largely responsible for the widespread popularity and promotion of gospel quartet music during the industry’s infancy. He was a highly effective mass marketer of gospel music, as well as a publisher, composer, quartet singer and singing-school teacher.
Bill Gaither has studied the life and work of V.O. Stamps extensively and calls Stamps a “charismatic visionary,” adding, “A few others took gospel songs to the world through the new avenue of radio during that time, but he took the popularity of gospel music to an entirely new level.”
As a young kid, Virgil was already hooked on gospel music and earned money working with his father at a sawmill so he could build his collection of gospel songbooks. He attended Richard M. Morgan’s singing school in 1907, when he was around 15 years of age. A few years later, the student became the teacher, working part-time teaching at the singing school and part-time in his father’s store.
A few years later, Stamps was hired by James D. Vaughan, a founding father of Southern Gospel music, to be a field representative for the James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He joined a traveling quartet that represented the company, and his energy and passion eventually opened up for him the opportunity to open a new branch of Vaughan’s publishing company in Jacksonville, Texas.
During his decade with James D. Vaughan’s company, Virgil mastered the business of music marketing and promotion, and decided to start the V.O. Stamps School of Music. In 1927, after publishing his first songbook, Harbor Bells, Virgil joined forces with J.R. Baxter to form the Stamps-Baxter Music Company, based out of Dallas, Texas.
J.R. Baxter oversaw the operations east of the Mississippi River, and V.O. Stamps ran operations in the western half of the United States. The company grew quickly and became the premier gospel music business in the United States.
The music school’s training weeks would culminate in huge ticketed performances where students sang for thousands, creating some of the largest gospel music gatherings up to that time. The Stamps-Baxter Music Company quickly set the standard for training young singers in technique and shaped-note theory, then placed outstanding students in “hot” young quartets, equipped them with songs to which the company held the copyrights, marketed their music through ticketed gospel performances and radio programs, then sold the music and recordings in stores and at live events.
Stamps organized the now renowned Stamps Quartet, in which he sang bass, and began promoting his quartet and their songs on KRLD, a large radio station out of Dallas, giving the quartet massive radio coverage across much of the United States. KRLD offered the group their own daily show in 1936, after a huge response from their radio performance at the Texas Centennial Exposition. Exposure on this large broadcast facility could only be compared in their infl uence to today’s large-scale networks out of New York City.
Other groups were added to the company’s roster, including the Blackwood Brothers, and the massive radio exposure created high demand for tickets to live performances. In response, Stamps created all-night singings, huge events that featured all the most popular groups of the time who performed from sundown to sun-up. Radio listeners drove from miles around to see their favorite groups perform live.
This large-scale thinker knew how to create excitement and exposure for great music. Through his innovation and his ability to get ahead of the curve, countless individuals have fallen in love with this life-changing music we now know as “Southern Gospel.” May God send us more trailblazers who can birth new and better ways to impact the world with music that makes a difference for eternity.
1915 Composed his first song, “The Man Behind The Plow”
1914-24 Served as field representative for James D. Vaughan Music Company
1924 Founded V. O. Stamps School of Music in Jacksonville, Texas
1925 Published Harbor Bells, his first songbook
1927 Formed partnership with J.R. Baxter
1936 Obtained daily radio show through which he popularized gospel music
1937 Wrote the music and melody for “When the Saints Go Marching In” with lyricist Luther G. Presley
1973 Inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame
1997 Inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame