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One of Southern gospel's longest-running groups, the Statesmen was also one of the most influential -- their flair for showmanship and jazzy piano accompaniment pointed the way toward the crowd-pleasing CCM of the present. Formed in 1948 by pianist Hovie Lister, the original group also included lead Mosie Lister (no relation), tenor Bobby Strickland, baritone Bervin Kendrick and bass Gordon Hill. Although the Statesmen endured countless lineup changes over the years -- alumni included the great Jake Hess -- perhaps the most pivotal member (as well as its longest-lived) was pianist Lister; not only was the group among the first Southern gospel quartets to introduce piano into their music, but Lister's soulful, ragtime-influenced style heralded a major shift away from the rigid accompaniment of the past -- though an ordained minister, he understood the necessity of updating gospel to appeal to post-war audiences, particularly young people. Throughout the decades to follow, the Statesmen recorded over 100 releases for RCA; at various times, their lineup featured singers including Rozie Rozell, Doy Ott, Buddy Burton, Jim Wetherington, Tommy Thompson and Denver Crumpler, with Lister remaining a roster staple into the 21st century. ~ Jason Ankeny