One of many vocal groups caught between stylistic eras who made a belated and somewhat compromised attempt at fitting in to rock ‘n’ roll but while they had the technical chops to pass muster, they couldn’t comfortably embody the rock attitude necessary to convince you of their authenticity.

The Striders formed in the early 1940’s and had the perfect name for a group because it happened to be their own last name, as they were comprised of three brothers, James (bass), Charles (baritone) and Eugene (tenor) and were joined by a fourth non-relative on lead before World War Two broke the group up with both Charles and Eugene joining The Wings Over Jordan, a famed choir that performed for servicemen around the world.

When the war ended the brothers got the group together again with Ernest Griffin as the other tenor and in 1948 managed to get signed to Capitol Records cutting thirteen tracks, of which only two saw release that fall. The record was pure pop, albeit one side was a blues song, and while their voices and arrangements both showed skill they were far too out of step with the shifting black music market of the day to make any impact with the public. However they did attract the attention of television which itself was in its earliest days and needed cheap talent to fill out programming, giving the group some exposure singing some nice acapella treatments of a wide range of songs.

In 1950 The Striders were signed to Apollo Records who were still seeking a foothold in rock ‘n’ roll and saw them as a way to capitalize on the growing vocal group trend but while they gave it a good shot their more refined instincts held them back and soon they became well-traveled backup singers, mostly for Savannah Churchill, first on Manor Records and then Regal taking the role that another vocal group caught between eras, The Four Tunes, had done with great success in the late 1940’s. The Striders weren’t nearly as commercially successful in this realm however, less a reflection of their own minimal contributions and more attributable to Churchill’s own style being increasingly past its prime as well, though there are several records they did together that are solid examples of the final wave of pre-rock styles from a few years earlier.

Over the next few years The Striders continued to back Churchill on stage, and later they did some sides on Derby Records backing Betty McLaurin. By the end of 1952 the group broke up, Eugene, the youngest, still just 26, entered the Air Force and upon his discharge in 1958 managed to sustain a long but ultimately fruitless solo career under the name Gene Stridel. He got some recording contracts along the way, doing pop, light soul and various other styles, with mostly disappointing results before his death by drowning in 1973 at the age of 45.

His brothers left music behind after the group’s breakup, pursuing regular careers with little recognition for being members of a once promising vocal group. The only non-relative in the group, Ernest Griffin, was first to pass away in 1990, followed by James Strider in 1993. Charles, after a long career in the ministry, died in 2009.

Despite having undeniable vocal talent and an admirable amount of versatility, all of which was highlighted by a flair for arranging, their timing was against them their whole career. Their early hopes at a career were dashed by a war and when signed to their first contract it came too late to find an audience for their preferred pop-influenced style which was by then on the wane. When the opportunity to make a fresh start in rock came along they were too set in their ways to make a smooth transition to the style and weren’t given enough time to work on adapting their strengths to rock ‘n’ roll before being cast in a new role as supporting characters in the careers of others. With their talent they may have deserved better than they got but in the end what did them in the most was simply the fact that the calendar kept turning while they were forced to wait and consequently they could never catch up.
THE STRIDERS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Apollo 1159; April, 1950)
Though well sung and with a few good arranging touches, it’s too emotionally removed both vocally and lyrically to make more than a fleeting impression in rock… it’s really quite pretty, but also pretty slight in showing a deeper conviction. (4)

(Apollo 1159; April, 1950)
A more generic sound than the top side which is less at risk for slipping into pop-territory at times but which is less compelling because it is conforming to the standards of the style without pushing the boundaries with a more inventive arrangement. (3)