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Gordon Stoker dies

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Gordon Stoker, who as part of the vocal group the Jordanaires sang backup on hits by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, George Jones and countless others, died Wednesday at his home in Brentwood, Tennessee. He was 88.

His death was confirmed by the group’s website.

For many years, the Jordanaires were Elvis’ go-to backup singers, performing on hits including “Hound Dog,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “Crying in the Chapel.”

The group also supported Patsy Cline on “Crazy,” Jim Reeves on “Four Walls,” Kenny Rogers on “Lucille” and Jones on “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

On their own, they generally stuck to gospel, releasing more than a dozen albums over the course of several decades.

The group met Presley after a performance with Eddy Arnold in 1955. According to a much-told story, after the show the then-unknown Elvis told the group that, if he ever landed a major-label contract — he was on Memphis’ Sun Records at the time — he’d have the Jordanaires back him up. After Presley joined RCA in 1956, he was true to his word. The group sang with him on both recordings and in concert for the next 14 years.

Stoker wasn’t an original member of the group, which formed in Springfield, Missouri, in the 1940s. He was hired as its piano player in 1950 and only became a vocalist later — staying for more than 60 years, generally as its lead tenor.

“As a longtime member of the vocal quartet the Jordanaires, he helped to influence the sound of gospel, country and pop music with a unique and versatile style while recording with an impressive roster of artists,” said the Recording Academy in a statement. “We have lost a gifted and timeless artist who made significant contributions to music and our industry.”

A memorial service will be held Saturday, according to the Jordanaires’ website.

By Todd Leopold, CNN

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