Lynn Abbott, a jazz archivist at Tulane University, was an expert on early African-American popular music and gospel quartets. He discovered overwhelming evidence that barbershop quartetting was pervasive in African-American culture in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including among many men who went on to become the pioneers of jazz.
What is Barbershop Harmony and How Did it All Begin?
Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a primarily homorhythmic (the same word sounds at the same time) texture. The melody is consistently sung by the lead (second tenor). The (first) tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord. Occasional brief passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts. Barbershop harmony is rooted in African-American tradition.
"In this age of dictators and government control of everything, about the only privilege guaranteed by the Bill of Rights not in some way supervised and directed, is the art of Barber Shop Quartet singing." Learn how the Society began with 26 men singing on a roof top.