- Annual Meeting
- Get Involved
THE PILGRIM TRAVELERS
Listen to this group
THE PILGRIM TRAVELERS. The Pilgrim Travelers organized in Houston, Texas, in the 1930s. An early lineup that was associated with the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church included Joe Johnson, born in San Jacinto County, and brothers Willy and Johnny Davis, from Livingston, who met and began singing together. Joe (lead), Willy (tenor), and Johnny (baritone) invited Rayfield Taylor from Jefferson to join the group. Other early members were Kylo Turner and Keith Barber. The group began to sing and follow their pastor Rev. L. H. Simpson wherever he preached.
The Pilgrim Travelers became very popular, and, after winning a talent contest, the group was invited by R. H. Harris and the Soul Stirrers to join them on a national tour. After forty-two weeks with the Soul Stirrers, the group continued to tour through the South, East, and Midwest, and finally California. By the mid-1940s the Pilgrim Travelers had moved to Los Angeles, where they recorded with Specialty Records. Their percussive foot-tapping style, dubbed “walking rhythm,” proved to be unique and popular with listeners, and the group’s tightly-choreographed shows were a hit with audiences. The Pilgrim Travelers issued a number of strong singles into the early 1950s, including the gospel standard, “The Old Rugged Cross,” and their popular track “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well.”
From the late 1940s to the early 1950s numerous changes occurred in the original group. Willy returned to Houston; Johnny went into the service; Joe stopped singing, but continued to manage the group into the mid-1950s. Rayfield Taylor, another original Texas member, was replaced in 1954. A later version of the group, called the Travelers, included singer Lou Rawls. They disbanded in 1959. The group is in the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com), accessed July 1, 2011. Colin Larkin, ed., Encyclopedia of Popular Music (New York: Grove’s Dictionaries, 1998).
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Clayton T. Shorkey, "THE PILGRIM TRAVELERS," accessed November 19, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgp03.
Uploaded on May 29, 2013. Modified on October 25, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.