By Robert M. Marovich

JGM was saddened to learn from Darrell Luster of Malaco Music Group that Thomas Spann, the longtime bass singer with the Brooklyn All Stars, passed away today at the age of 98.

Here is a brief bio on Spann and the Brooklyn All Stars.

The Brooklyn All Stars story begins with Brooklyn-based singer and furniture entrepreneur Charley Storey, who formed a group called the All Stars. A relationship with New York gospel promoter Joe Bostic helped Storey land the All Stars a regular spot on Bostic’s weekly radio broadcast over WLIB. The quartet also appeared on gospel music programs hosted by Thurman Ruth and Professor Alfred Miller. Thomas Spann joined the All Stars in the late 1940s, singing with the group for about four years. Renowned for his resonant bass voice, Spann initially sang baritone with the All Stars until Storey persuaded him to try the bass part. During this time, Spann learned the ins and outs of managing a gospel quartet.

By 1950, Storey found it difficult to manage the All Stars and his furniture business at the same time. He turned the rights of the All Stars over to Spann, but suggested they change their name to the Brooklyn All Stars. Spann repopulated the quartet with three members of the Singing Stars of Louisburg, North Carolina: lead tenor Hardie Clifton and brother Maurice Clifton, and Nathaniel Cook.

The Brooklyn All Stars first recorded professionally in February 1958 for Peacock Records. By this time, the quartet was comprised of Spann, Hardie Clifton, Nathaniel Cook, Jake Holman, Herbert Robinson, and Eddie Lester on guitar. Their Peacock singles, including “Careless Soul” and “Singing for the Lord,” sold well enough to earn the quartet a national touring spot alongside gospel household names the Dixie Hummingbirds, Soul Stirrers, and Sensational Nightingales.

Sometime in the mid- to late 1950s, Harold Austin, owner of the Gospel Bookstore of Brooklyn, formed the Gospel Recording Company, under which the Brooklyn All Stars released singles and its first LPs. By this point, quartet veteran Paul Owens had joined the group, as did Sam Thomas, a former member of Charley Storey’s original All Stars.

In 1967, Sullivan Pugh of the Consolers introduced the All Stars, which now included the Reverend Sam Taylor, to Ernie Young of Nashboro Records. The group began a prodigious recording career with Nashboro. Between 1971 and 1978, while recording for Nashboro and Jewel, the All Stars were consistently voted the number one gospel group on the basis of hits such as “No Cross, No Crown,” “Brightly Beams,” “Family Prayer,” and the best-selling “When I Stood on the Banks of Jordan” and “He Touched Me and Made Me Whole.” The group earned two gold albums and numerous music awards.

The All Stars recorded for a number of labels in the 1980s, including Atlanta International Records, and took their traditional sound to ports of call throughout the world. They eventually moved their headquarters from Brooklyn to Greensboro, North Carolina, setting up shop where quartet singing is especially cherished.

For Malaco’s 4 Winds imprint, the Brooklyn All Stars released Just Look at Me Now (2011) and Live in Richmond, Virginia (2013), on which they reprise some of their most popular hits in addition to new songs, such as “I Found a Friend,” “Get in the Way to Get It,” and  “Pray Right On.” Thomas Spann continued to lead the quartet in its seventh decade of touring, recording, and ministering until recently.

Special thanks to Rev. Spann’s daughter Denise Spann Morgan, a popular singer in her own right, for her invaluable assistance with this bio. Please pray for Rev. Spann’s family, especially Spann’s wife Donna, his friends, and his many fans.


  1. Jerome L Ferrell August 10, 2023 at 10:22 pm - Reply


    • MFD August 12, 2023 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      An era has come to an end. I first saw Rev Span and the Brooklyn Alstars at the National Guard Armory in Laurinburg NC in the early 1970s. I last saw the group at the Blockbuster in Florence, SC in 2008. I’m blessed to have seen this legend live. RIP Rev!! He is the GOAT bass singer in quartet history in my opinion! Blessings to his family!

    • Willie Anderson February 20, 2024 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Prayers going up for The Spann Family in Jesus name 🙏🏾 and my Condolences 🙏🏾 and Love and SALUTE to a Longtime legend Mr Thomas Spann.

  2. Jennifer Brayboy August 12, 2023 at 5:52 am - Reply

    What a mega voice in Gospel….He will truly be missed❤️❤️

  3. viney L washington August 12, 2023 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry to hear about Rev Spann,

  4. viney L washington August 12, 2023 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry to hear about Rev Spann, praying 🙏 for the family another angel 😇 gone to heaven.

  5. NB August 14, 2023 at 10:55 am - Reply

    After he moved the headquarters to Greensboro, NC, I was fortunate to travel with Rev Spann and the Brooklyn Allstars in the early 2000s. An outstanding man. I agree GOAT bass singer. Praying for the family and fans.

  6. Vernita Jones August 14, 2023 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Condolences to the Family of Rev Spann. He will be missed by many. Some days l would listen and watch him and the group for hours. Job well done Rev Spann, take your well deserved rest.

  7. Vernita Jones August 14, 2023 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Prayers and condolences to the Family of Rev T. Spann. Take your well deserved rest Rev Spann.

  8. Sandy Shepard August 15, 2023 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Rev. Spann was my neighbor in Greesboro NC. He became my mentor. RIP. You will never be forgotten. Condolences to his family.

  9. Myrna Brown Granger August 15, 2023 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Roger and Myrna Granger of Hampton, Virginia were saddened to hear of the Passing of Rev. Thomas Spann. We attended several Brooklyn Allstars concerts in the Hampton Roads locality. Hopefully Sonny and the Guys will keep the tradition moving forward. May God continue to Bless his First Lady and his Entire Families.

  10. Myrna Brown Granger August 15, 2023 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Roger and Myrna Granger of Hampton, Virginia were saddened to hear of the Passing of Rev. Thomas Spann. We have attended several Brooklyn Allstars concerts in the Hampton Roads locality. Hopefully Sonny and the Guys will keep the tradition moving forward. May God continue to Bless his First Lady and his Entire Families.

  11. Ricky Rook August 16, 2023 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    I have had the honor and distinct pleasure of singing on the same program as the Brooklyn Allstars with the Gospel Travelers of Garysburg, NC. The Brooklyn Allstars have a smooth sound unlike no other. Rest in peace Rev. Spann, you certainly have earned it.
    Rev.Dr Ricky Rook

  12. Tony Sharper August 17, 2023 at 7:06 am - Reply

    My Time with the group as the drummer was my first start being on the road I have some great times, Thanks Rev. Tommy Spann for my first start with you and Hardie Clifton, Bobby and the rest of the Guys, Tony Sharper! Sharp Records

  13. Jonia Webb August 17, 2023 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Prayers to Brian Spann & family

  14. Henry August 17, 2023 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    A true legend gospel singer gone home. I was blessed to see this legend and his group when I was a little boy. They were fantastic and pros all the way. Always on point. Rocky mount NC. Loved them. Thanks you sir for your service and I know you have received your crown in heaven.

  15. Fannie Brown August 17, 2023 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    I was saddened to hear of Rev. Spann’s transition. I am praying for the family and his fans. My favorite is I Stood on the Banks of Jordan. Rest in Paradise.

  16. Queen Hawkins August 25, 2023 at 11:29 am - Reply

    The Brooklyn All Stars were an awesome quartet group. Rev. Spann and Hardie Clifton were a powerful combination at lead. I am grateful I have some of their albums still around. I love quartet singing, which is almost nonexistent today.

  17. Viney Washington October 22, 2023 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    Rip 🙏 Rev Spann you will be missed

  18. Mattie Whitfield June 9, 2024 at 9:39 am - Reply

    My condolences still go out to his family, friends and fans. My father, Rev. Troy Whitfield was the first gospel promoter to bring the Brooklyn Allstars to the tidewater area.

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.