Government - Internal City StructureBusiness - Tools For GrowthServices - Provided by the CityCommunity - Resident EngagementEnjoy Norfolk - Leisure & VisitorsHow Do I - Information Center
Elizabeth River with a Tugboat, Sailboat and the USS Wisconsin

Go To Search
The Golden Gate Quartet
The Golden Gate QuartetInducted 2003

The original members of the Golden Gate Quartet included students from Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School and a Berkley barber named Eddie Griffin. Beginning in 1934 as a traditional gospel group, the four soon found their niche in the new “jubilee” style then popular in Virginia – a style that was freer and more rhythmic than traditional Gospel, and inspired by such groups as the Mills Brothers and Three Keys.

Local radio and live performances throughout Hampton Roads led to a 1935 broadcast over Charlotte’s WBT, which was heard over much of the East Coast. Their first recording, "Golden Gate Gospel Train," released two years later, assured their place in American music.

There were changes in personnel during the group’s early days but by 1937 they had found their ideal combination in Henry Owens (tenor), Willie Johnson (baritone), William Langford (tenor) and Orlandus Wilson (bass). Each brought an important component to the group’s sound and rhythm and their career soared.

In 1938 the Gates appeared in "Spirituals To Swing" at Carnegie Hall, alongside such artists as Benny Goodman and Count Basie. A weekly radio show on CBS followed. While at a New York City club, one customer, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, heard them and invited them to sing at his 1941 inauguration.

On their first European tour in 1955, they discovered a brand new market for their music. They were so popular there that they moved their headquarters to Paris in 1959, where today’s Gates continue to live and perform, nearly 70 years after Hampton Roads audiences heard The Golden Gate Quartet for the first time.