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Springfield Musical Pioneer George Culp Turns 100

Culp has celebrated his 100th birthday, a Springfield native and a long-time musician. Culp was a member of the Philharmonics, an acapella group that traces its roots to gospel music. The group toured in the 1950s and were mainstays on Ozarks Jubilee. Performing with acts seen on the Grand Ole Opry, as well as on CBS, the Phils were one of the first musical acts regularly presented on national TV. They brought black voices to the homes of thousands of viewers.

According to Si Siman’s book Remembering the Ozarks Jubilee, “Springfield, Missouri, was the third-highest origination point for national television — third only to New York and Hollywood.”

We sat down with Mr. Culp to reflect on his time touring. “My very favorite show was when we sang in Wichita. A very good friend of ours found acts to play in Wichita, and he arranged a show for us.”

Early on in the Phils’ career, they played The Original Youth Opportunity Program, A musical competition broadcast on CBS, hosted by big band personality Horace Heidt. The Phils won the talent show twice, which was a huge boost to the group’s notoriety. They were asked to play on KY3, which was also making its debut. From there, they were picked up by Ozarks Jubilee.

“Touring, meeting other musicians was always nice,” said Culp, on his experience on the show.“Being invited to perform was very exciting, it built the group up. They (Ozarks Jubilee) gave all the acts record contracts. They never gave us one.” Consequently, it’s become a real challenge to hear the Phils sing, anymore.

Their music is in part preserved through the Ozarks Jubilee Digitization Project, on YouTube. Finding the Philharmonics in your local record store would be an exceedingly rare find, however, the band did get their contract, in time. Cardinal Records produced two singles from the group, “Teen Town Hop,” and “That’s Why I’m Losing You.” One of the Phils’ performances on Jubilee is linked through SGF Citizen’s article, in which they sing “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” It’s a real treat, and you can hear it by clicking the link below.

Culp’s favorite song to sing with the Phils was “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” which also proves a difficult find.
The Philharmonics is one of Springfield’s earliest black acts that saw success. I’d like to invite our readers in on preserving the group’s music. Maybe one day, we can get the Phils a greatest hits record produced. Mayor McClure officially made the 4th of May “George Culp Day,” and I can’t think of a better gift to give him for his 101st.

To the young singer, George Culp has this to say: “Work hard. Try to get set up with a manager. Accomplish and learn as much as you can. Music is a pain that makes people happy. It’s a good thing to work hard on.”

Here’s the link to view  The Philharmonics performing “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”

Mallory O. Vorel
UniteNews Staff Writer

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