Parade of Quartets History
The Parade of Quartets began in 1953 in the transition of WJBF radio to television. Under the leadership of J. B. Fuqua, Steve Manderson located African-American gospel groups to appear on the program, and also hosted the program. At that time each group acquired sponsors to pay for their time on the air. This allowed many businesses that normally could not get on television, an opportunity to advertise their products and services. Also, with its vast viewing audience, many businesses found the program to be an excellent vehicle to reach the African American community.
Originally, this Sunday morning program was on for two and one-half hours. Some of the original groups to appear included the Abraham Brothers, Swanee Quintet, Veteran Harmonizers, Gospel Echo Soul Stirrers, and others. The groups would sing, talk about their sponsor and then announce there engagements where they would be singing. Most of these engagements were benefit programs for churches and groups to assist in raising money for needed projects.
Upon the retirement of Steve Manderson, Henry L. Howard became the program's host and producer. At that time Howard was the lead singer and manager of "The Spirits of Harmony," a singing group that was a regular on the Parade of Quartets. This was a natural transition and worked well for the program.
Howard's improvements included adding the morning's prayer and becoming more aggressive in promoting minority businesses and gospel music in general. He saw the need to bring in a community service segment with guests coming in to be interviewed. This particular segment was called 'Past, Present, Future.'
In the early 1980's, Howard brought his son Karlton Howard on as co-host during a family crisis. Since that time, Rev. Karlton Howard has become host and producer. This gave Howard more time for his political career as county commissioner and state representative. Rev. Howard brought in the idea of offering the weekly international Sunday school lesson, the inclusion of younger contemporary gospel artists, and playing videos of national gospel artists.
In conjunction with the University of Georgia, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection is archiving some of the available past programs. This is an ongoing process.
Several co-hosts have been able to assist with the program. They include Valerie Howard, Mary Adams, Pam Parris, Roberta Stephens, Betty Griffin, Alicia B. Martin, Marco Brooks, Judy Jones Frank Brown, Anne Brown, Reggie Cofer Jr. and Robert 'Flash' Gordon.
The list of national recording artist appearing or performing on the program includes, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Shirley Caesar, Williams Brothers, Slim and the Supreme Angels, Willie Neal and the Gospel Keynotes, Violinaires, Dorothy Norwood, Christianaires, Tommy Ellison, Donnie Harper, Jackson Southernaires, CBS Trumperteers, F.C. Barnes, Luther Barnes, Sunset Jubilaires, Troy Ramey, James Brown, Joe Simon, Dixie Hummingbirds, Willie Banks, Julius Cheeks, Clarence Fountain and Al Green.
Many national, state and local political leaders have made their way to the stage of the Parade of Quartets. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and U.S. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas appeared on separate Sunday mornings before announcing their candidacies for president of the United States of America. Georgia Governor Roy Barnes and Mayor Willie Mays are among those who have appeared.
The Parade of Quartets continue to bless the 10 a.m. morning hour in the Augusta area with a new add edition that airs at 10 p.m. on MeTv.
Tragedy struck the Howard Family once again in 2005 with the death of Henry L. Howard. This was an untimely but he had prepared his sons and others to march on. Karlton continues to host the program with several co-host like Robert Flash Gordon. Henry DeWayne Howard came aboard as co-host to continue the political and community involvement. Zackary Howard provides sound expertise.
Affectionately called POQ, the program continues to be an influence in gospel music. Because of its presence the Augusta market has become a magnet for national and regional gospel artists. With a new wave of gospel quartets and an influx of new singers the Parade of Quartets will continue to have a role in preserving this American art form. The program is believed to be the longest continuous running program in its category in the United States.