When Specialty folded in 1959—owner Art Rupe exhausted from operating an independent record company for more than a decade—the Stirrers were a major gospel quartet in need of a label home. This inspired Sam Cooke, J.W. Alexander of the Pilgrim Travelers, and Senior Roy Crain of the Stirrers to form their own company. They named it SAR: Sam, Alex, and Roy.
Music historian Bill Dahl states in the album notes that by 1959, when the Stirrers entered Chicago’s famed Universal Studio on Walton Avenue to make their first SAR sides, there wasn’t much they had left to prove. Nevertheless, the SAR discs provided brilliant new examples of the fresh, youthful sound the Stirrers had exuded since Sam Cooke replaced R.H. Harris in early 1951.
This new two-CD set covers the Soul Stirrers 1959-1964 period, when Cooke was in the producer’s chair and new leads such as Johnnie Taylor, Jimmy Outler, and James Phelps emulated and extended Cooke’s handsome pop sensibility and gospel yodel. An amalgam of gospel and R&B musicians, including guitarists LeRoy Crume and Clifton White and bass players Johnny Pate and Sonny Mitchell, gave the quartet significant crossover appeal. The SAR-Soul Stirrers partnership lasted until late 1964. Cooke’s untimely death in Los Angeles in December of that year effectively ended SAR