Florida Folklife Program
Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: The Versiteers
The VersiteersFlorida Folklife Program/Department of State. Photo by Robert L. Stone.
The Versiteers - 1992 Florida Folk Heritage Award
The Versiteers (Jacksonville) is a female a cappella gospel group from Jacksonville founded in the l940s. Although several founding members of the group either left in the early years or are now deceased, Harry Mae Anthony, Myrtle Barton, and L. V. Starling sang together for more than four decades. The fourth member changed more frequently, but included Artie Brooks and Linda Carter.
Male a capella groups were fairly common in the 1940s and 1950s, but they were uncommon among women. This uniqueness increases the significance of the group’s longevity. Today the Versiteers are one of the few old-time a cappella groups still performing in Florida.
The members of the Versiteers learned the four-part harmony singing style by practicing with other singers. They began singing in church, and eventually learned from professional a cappella groups as well. L. V. Starling was taught the a cappella tradition from members of a male group called the Royal Harmonies, a group that later achieved national notoriety as the C. B. S. Trumpeteers.
The Versiteers performed their repertoire of spirituals, jubilee songs, and gospel at churches, folk and arts festivals, and in the schools. They appeared at the annual Florida Folk Festival and participated regularly in Duval County’s Folklife in Education Program.