GOD & TEXAS: The Stamps Quartet
“Give the world a smile each day, helping someone on life’s way. From the paths of sin bring the wanderers in, to the Master’s home to stay. Help to cheer the lone and sad, help to make some pilgrim glad. Let your life so be that the world might see that you are serving Jesus with a smile.”
Founded in 1924 by Virgil Oliver Stamps and his brother Frank, the Stamps Quartet recorded this song in 1925, and it remains their theme song. It was the first Southern Gospel song to become a gold record.
Currently celebrating 99 years of music ministry, the Stamps Quartet has won Grammy and Dove Awards for best Gospel Group and Best Gospel Albums. Besides having their own stellar career, they have served as backup vocalists for Elvis Presley, Alan Jackson, Neil Sedaka, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, and many others. The Stamps Quartet were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1977.
In 2009, the Stamps Quartet were honored by the State of Texas as the oldest professional Gospel quartet in the history of America. The state flag of Texas was flown over the capitol in Austin and then awarded to the Quartet by Texas State Rep. Stephen Frost in a special ceremony in Atlanta, Texas.
It may surprise you to know that the Stamps Quartet originated in Upshur County, Texas, near the family home of the William Oscar (W.O.) Stamps. Born in Alabama in 1855, W.O. came to Texas in 1860 with his widowed mother and brother. His childhood years were spent in rural Upshur County. After accumulating some savings, W.O. purchased land 10 miles northeast of Gilmer, and built sawmills and ribbon cane syrup mills to augment his large farming interests.
The settlement was named for W.O. (Uncle Billy) Stamps in 1906. With a desire to instruct the children of the community, W.O. supplied the building materials and land for the construction of a school and church. He then hired music teacher Roe M. Morgan to operate a Gospel singing school. Two of his six sons, Virgil and Frank, became nationally known Gospel singers and founders of a large music publishing company and school.
W.O. died in 1926 just as Virgil and J.R. Baxter united to form the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co. The company began as a storefront business in Oak Cliff (Dallas) with a printing press and a book bindery downstairs, and offices and music rooms upstairs. At its peak, the Stamps-Baxter company published four new songbooks every year, and sponsored 34 Gospel quartets to travel and promote them.
After the death of Virgil (1941), and Baxter (1968), the company was led by “Ma” Baxter until she died in 1972. In 1974, the company was sold to Zondervan, and is now owned by Capitol Christian Music Group.
What an awesome legacy of declaring the Gospel of Christ and giving the world a smile through music. “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face” (Proverbs 15:13 NASB).
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