Pianist Hovie Lister was the founder and driving force behind the Statesmen Quartet, the long-running and highly influential Southern gospel group whose flair for showmanship and jazzy accompaniment pointed the way toward the crowd-pleasing CCM of the present. Lister was born September 17, 1926 in Greenville, SC and began playing piano at age six; by 14, he was accompanying the Lister Brothers Quartet, a group made up of his father and uncles, and later that summer toured behind evangelist Mordcai Ham. After attending Dallas' Stamps-Baxter School of Music, Lister backed the LeFevre Trio, the Homeland Harmony, and the Rangers Quartet before founding the Statesmen Quartet in 1948 with lead Mosie Lister (no relation), tenor Bobby Strickland, baritone Bervin Kendrick and bass Gordon Hill. Although the Statesmen endured countless lineup changes over the years -- alumni included the great Jake Hess -- no one was more pivotal to the group's success than Lister himself; not only was he among the first to introduce piano into the Southern gospel sound, but his soulful, ragtime-influenced style heralded a major shift away from the rigid accompaniment of the past. Throughout their lengthy career, the Statesmen issued dozens of albums on RCA, with Lister remaining an active member into the 21st century. ~ Jason Ankeny
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