Silk Suits and Raggedy Underwear
NBA and NFL Players Publishing, Inc.
(246 pages, illustrations)
By Bob Marovich
If books on gospel music remain woefully underrepresented in the pantheon of American music writing, the number of volumes chronicling the white Southern Gospel experience is smaller still.
Not if Don Frost can help it.
The founder and host of the popular Music City Gospel Showcase television program and convention, and member of the Frost Brothers Quartet, has released Silk Suits and Raggedy Underwear. The book doubles as his memoir and a biography of the Frost Brothers Quartet.
Organized in 1924, the Frost Brothers was a male harmony group consisting of Robert, Roscoe, Roy, and Raymond Frost. In 1962, Don organized the next iteration of Frost Brothers out of the family’s second generation. Three years later, Roebuck “Pops” Staples and the Staple Singers appeared on a Nashville gospel program with the Frost Brothers. Impressed, Pops invited the Frosts to sing on Chicago’s popular weekly gospel music television program, Jubilee Showcase. They appeared at an NAACP fundraiser in Chicago afterward. The Frost Brothers became the only white quartet to appear on Jubilee Showcase.
Frost had participated in, but never actually saw, the video of the group’s performance on the TV show. Not until recently, when he happened upon Steven Ordower’s Jubilee Showcase documentary airing on Nashville Public Television. There, in glorious black and white, was the Frost Brothers TV appearance, from fifty years ago. It brought back a warm wave of memories. All of this is captured in Silk Suits and Raggedy Underwear.
The title of the book is emblematic of Frost’s laugh-out-loud humor as he tells his tale of life in the gospel music industry. The Frost Brothers were often overlooked by the gospel music establishment because they were considered “weekend warriors” and not a full-time professional quartet, even though the group had produced record albums for major Southern Gospel labels and performed frequently. Without mentioning names, Frost relates stories of trials along the way, most involving money owed or egos gone wild. And of course, no book about a quartet would be complete without at least one story of road travails; in Silk Suits, Frost recounts a particularly scary experience while driving the group’s bus.
Frost’s writing style is conversational, anecdotal, and follows a chronological history of the original group, his awakening to Southern Gospel, the founding of the second generation of Frost Brothers Quartet, and his work as a banker and Christian entertainment entrepreneur. Along the way, Frost regales the reader with remembrances of the Blackwood Brothers (one of his personal favorites), the Statesmen, Imperials, Gospel Tones, Happy Goodmans, and many other gospel groups of the 1950s through the 1970s.
A companion CD offers a fascinating aural sample of the Frost Brothers: rare recordings of the original group, the mixed voice Frost Juniors Quartet (with a young Don), and the reconstituted 1962 version. Of special note on the CD are the Frost Juniors Quartet singing a charming rhythmic “When I Looked Up and He Looked Down.” “Gloryland,” from The Frost Brothers Sing Country Soul, recorded circa 1967, is a fine example of Southern-Gospel-meets-doo-wop. And two selections from the original Frost Brothers that open the CD are classic examples of close harmony.
The book would have benefited from a discography of the Frost Brothers’ recordings, as readers may want to locate some of the group’s recordings. Likewise, the CD would have benefited from additional notes and dates for each track, as some sound as if they were culled from rare television or radio broadcasts.
Southern Gospel enthusiasts will enjoy this lavishly illustrated and colloquially written story of the joys and occasional pitfalls of singing the glory down.