John Vernon Bright (1919 - 1984)
John Vernon Bright was born in Bonnerdale, Arkansas, a small, rural community outside Hot Springs.
In 1937 at the young age of 18, he began his professional singing career with the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company’s Melody Boys Quartet in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They performed on KTHS radio. Bright was hired to sing tenor after Denver Crumpler left to join the Rangers Quartet. The manager of the Melody Boys was Odis Echols who had been a member of the original 1927 Stamps All Star Quartet, and had played a prominent role in the origination and the management of the Melody Boys. Echols became a life long mentor and friend to Bright.
Around 1940, Stamps-Baxter shifted the quartet to KARK radio in Little Rock. The company moved some of their personnel to Louisville, Kentucky where Echols organized the Faultless Melody Boys. Vernon Bright and his older brother Victor became members of this quartet.
By late 1941/early 1942, Bright had joined the Stamps-Baxter Dixie Quartet (formerly the Dixie Four) which had just relocated to Jackson, Tennessee to sing on WTJS radio. Other members were Roosevelt Abner, Brown Carter, Carl Rains, and Herschel Collins. The quartet disbanded after a few months.
By 1944, Odis Echols had left the Stamps-Baxter organization and started another quartet in Hot Springs, Arkansas called the "Hartford Melody Boys." This group was affiliated with the Hartford Music Company. Bright joined the quartet along with Echols, Delmon Knight and Jimmy Jones, who later joined the Rangers Quartet and spent many years with the Lefevres. Doy Ott, future member of the Rangers and the Statesmen, soon became a member of this quartet. The quartet relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana in 1945.
By May 1945, Vernon Bright had been drafted and was serving in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Germany where his first action was in the continuing grisly liberation of the Dachau prison camp.
After Bright's discharge in November, 1946, he and his brother Victor became members of the Stamps Dixie Quartet which was affiliated with the (Frank) Stamps Music Company. Their headquarters was Hot Springs, Arkansas. Other members were Delmon Knight, Ford Keith, and Billy Grable.
Bright's next career move was to Lincoln, Nebraska to sing tenor with the Melody Masters Quartet which included Jake Hess, James Wetherington, Alvin Toodle, Lane Shaw, and Wally Varner. While in Lincoln, the quartet performed on KFAB radio and also appeared with the legendary "Singing Cowboy" Gene Autry. Both Hess and Wetherington later became members of the Statesmen Quartet. Varner later played for the Blackwood Brothers. Bright’s time with the Melody Masters lasted until Wetherington left in mid-1949.
In August 1950, Bright joined C. R. Melton, who was rebuilding the All American Quartet in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration and lasting friendship with Melton. Along with Bright and Melton, the quartet consisted of former Statesman bass Aycel Soward, Lane Shaw, and Elmer Childress. Childress later played for the Stamps Quartet and the Rangers. Bright remained with the All American Quartet until the late fall of 1951.
Bright was brought to Dallas, Texas to sing tenor for the Frank Stamps Quartet along with Harley Lester and James Barnett. Elmer Childress joined them in 1952. The Stamps Quartet appeared regularly on KRLG-TV in Dallas.
When Bill Shaw left the All American Quartet in September of 1952 to join the Blackwood Brothers, Vernon Bright rejoined Melton in Decatur, Illinois. During this stint with the All American his duties included singing tenor, lead or baritone as well as being the emcee, depending upon the need.
In late 1953, Bright moved to Olney, Illinois to join Gene Lowery’s Southland Quartet which also included Warren Holmes and Elmer Childress. They were on the local radio in Olney and on television in Bloomington, Indiana.
In 1955 when the Southland Quartet disbanded, Bright returned to his native Arkansas to sing with the Lindsey Brothers Quartet based in Camden. They had a live TV show on KTVE (El Dorado, AR/Monroe, LA) from 1956 to 1957. During this period, the Lindsey Brothers Quartet also included future Plainsmen and Melody Boys bass, Gerald Williams.
C.R. Melton called Bright back to Illinois in 1958 for an abbreviated All American Quartet reunion. It lasted less than a year before Bright returned to the Lindsey Brothers Quartet in Camden, where he sang lead. Don Mooney, who had been recruited to play piano for the All American, followed Bright to Camden and the Lindsey Brothers.
In the fall of 1964, C.R. Melton called once again asking Vernon to help re-form the All American Quartet. The group had been operating for several years as a family group called The Melton Family. Bright sang lead with the family group. In 1966, Melton hired veteran bass Seals “Low Note” Hilton and added “Little Troy” Lumpkin for a brief period in 1968. Alice Melton remained at the piano. Throughout this time the quartet appeared on their weekly TV show which aired on WGEM in Quincy. This final incarnation of the quartet lasted until 1970 when the All American Quartet disbanded.
1970 marked the end of Vernon Bright’s professional singing career, but he still managed a family-run business in West Quincy, Missouri. Bright and his family remained in Quincy until the massive Mississippi River Flood of '73 washed away West Quincy and with it, their business. Bright returned to Camden, Arkansas after the flood.
By this time, Vernon Bright’s health was beginning to fail, and he was forced to retire on disability. Bright and the remaining members of the Lindsey Brothers would occasionally get together and play local events, but Bright didn't have the energy to do more than that. They played a set at the Ouachita County Court House on Labor Day in 1984. It would be Bright's last performance.
Vernon Bright died on December 2, 1984 at the age of 65. He left behind a legacy of almost 35 years in the gospel music industry, having performed with many of the finest musicians from what was arguably gospel quartet music's Golden Era.