Obituaries

Gordon Stoker, singer in group backing Elvis

Gordon Stoker (left) and Hoyt Hawkins backed Elvis on his early recording in the 1950s.

Country Music Hall of Fame

Gordon Stoker (left) and Hoyt Hawkins backed Elvis on his early recording in the 1950s.

NASHVILLE — Gordon Stoker, a member of The Jordanaires vocal group that backed Elvis Presley, died Wednesday. He was 88.

His son, Alan, said that Mr. Stoker died at his home in Brentwood, Tenn., after a lengthy illness. Mr. Stoker, who was born in Gleason, Tenn., got his start playing piano on WSM radio and its signature show, the Grand Ole Opry.

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Alan Stoker said his father was just 15 when he started playing professionally. He joined the Jordanaires as a piano player, but then became tenor vocalist. The group was already well known for gospel singing when Presley recruited them for his recording of ‘‘Hound Dog,’’ in 1956.

The Jordanaires started in Missouri and came to Nashville.

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According to John Rumble, senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, they drew on both black and white gospel music, as well as many of the hymns Mr. Stoker knew by heart from his childhood in rural West Tennessee.

The quartet soon developed a national audience after performing on the Opry.

They recorded and performed for years with Elvis, who was a huge gospel fan, Rumble said. In some early Elvis recordings, such as ‘‘It’s Now or Never,’’ and ‘‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’’ their vocals really stood out, he said.

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The Jordanaires also performed with Patsy Cline on ‘‘Crazy,’’ with Jim Reeves on ‘‘Four Walls,’’ on George Jones’s 1980 hit ‘‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’’ and on Kenny Rogers’s ‘‘Lucille.’’

The group was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

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