“How Long, Oh Lord, How Long”
Although the Pattersonaires formed in 1953, they did not make any commercial recordings until 1965, when two singles were released on Stax Records’ short-lived Chalice imprint. The quartet cut several tracks for the Memphis-based label but only four were issued until the early 1990s when Fantasy/Specialty released Free at Last, a sampling of Chalice’s eight released singles and plenty of previously unreleased material. England’s Ace Records issued this same CD in 1993 as Disturb My Soul.
However, “How Long, Oh Lord, How Long,” a Rev. Brewster composition issued on Chalice 101, was not included on the compilation because the original tapes had been lost and – one can surmise – a clean vinyl copy was not available for remastering. Yet this is arguably the quartet’s finest recording. It opens with a tenor lead (probably James Shelton) calling out, “Hoooow loooong, hoooww loooong” in a clear, high falsetto, with the quartet cooing in hushed, tight, upper-register harmony. After a brief pause, the quartet responds with its own “How long,” sung in unison with a shadow of instrumentation backing them.
After this haunting and extended introduction, all instruments enter and the session takes on the standard jaunty quartet sound of the day, but awash in a dramatic minor key. The overall mood of the record is more reminiscent of spirituals than gospel music.
The Pattersonaires continue to ride the Gospel Highway, more than fifty years after their founding. In 1984, the quartet recorded a full length LP for the High Water label (the critically-acclaimed Book of the Seven Seals), and in 2000 entered their sixth decade of performing by releasing the CD Why Not Try My God (which, incidentally, is the title of the flip side of Chalice C-101).