Primitive Quartet – A Reason to Sing


With a deep history as deep as the valleys from where they are from, the Primitive Quartet has been one of the most consistent and best loved groups in our industry.  From humble beginnings back in 1973, the Primitive Quartet started with 2 sets of brothers, Larry & Reagan Riddle and Norman & Furman Wilson out on a fishing trip singing around the campfire with a guitar and mandolin.  Coming back home and singing together in church that next Sunday, the group ultimately started singing around their hometown and eventually gained popularity in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.  By 1978, the Primitive Quartet was picked up by the Inspirations and was asked to tour with them on all their dates for the next 18 months, where they learned the ropes of a traveling gospel band and became acquainted with all the Inspirations’ promoters and pastors.  The Inspirations were the hottest ticket in town at that time, and the Primitive Quartet learned from the best and they learned it well from booking their own dates, promoting their own events in Hominy Valley and being consistent in all they do.

Consisting today of 3 brothers, Larry, Reagan and Mike Riddle along with Randy Fox and Jeff Tolbert, the group the group has attained success that many groups never quite obtain.  Though they have no major label or booking agent behind them, nor do they have any #1 songs, they do all the work themselves, and they’ve been extremely successful to obtain high quality dates and a large legion of fans that see them everywhere they go.  As Reagan states, “it’s just a genuine love for the Lord.  He has blessed our group from the very beginning and we honestly never had a desire to be professional singers.”  Brother Larry also manages to keep things in perspective, “Obedience is better than sacrifice and if you’ll be obedient to God’s call on your life, He will bless you abundantly.  We’ve got a faithful following that loves us and supports us, and we appreciate them.  I’m sure there would have been a little more fanfare if we had a major label that pushed what we do, but God has blessed us in that we don’t have to go that route and it’s something that has worked very well for us.”

Along with success, comes heartache and probably the most heart wrenching time for the group came October 15, 2014 with the sudden passing of original member, Norman Wilson.  The last couple of years have been hard since losing Norman.  He was a big part of the group, much more than an employee of the Primitive Quartet, but a founding member and by all accounts, he was family.  Many groups would not have been able to faithfully carry on as the Primitive Quartet has.  As Reagan states, “God knows the future and he knew when He would call Norman home.  All the time he was preparing Jeff and Randy and they have certainly stepped up and doing a wonderful job”.  Through this time, God has continued to have His hand on the group and as Reagan states, they have learned one thing, “You either have a walk with the Lord, or you don’t.  You cannot hide either one!”

The group recently released their second recording since Norman’s passing and features some of their finest work to date.  Reagan shares, “we record every March so that we will have our project back by the first week of July, which is when we have our Singing in Hominy Valley.”  Featuring an array of songs that speak to people on various levels, the title song, “I’ve Been Touched” is an older song penned by the Easter Brothers and features Jeff Tolbert and has been touching people everywhere they sing it.  Reagan continues as he shares other songs making an impact, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Table” has been connecting with folks and has been instrumental in leading people to the Lord.  “We’re Gonna Talk About Jesus” is another song resonating with our audiences.  The song was written by Steven Curtis Chapman and it’s a very timely song.”  Also included on this latest recording is a beautiful instrumental rendition of the Dottie Rambo classic, “He Looked Beyond my Fault and Saw my Need”.

Since the groups’ inception over 40 years ago, God has blessed the Primitive Quartet.  A long list of songs have become standards in the groups’ repertoire such as “Gloryland”, “Fallen Leaves”, “No Longer an Orphan”, “Walking in the Highway”, “My Hope is in the Blood”, “The Flowers We Love”, “Flight Without an Airplane” and many others.  Despite all the success, they haven’t forgotten Who got them there and they are still learning to trust in Him and His will for their ministry.  As Reagan so aptly puts it, “Every night that we sing, there are hurting people.  There are discouraged people and people that don’t know the Lord in the audience.  He is teaching me to be constantly aware of this and to do my best to minister to their needs.”  It’s with that thought in mind, that the Primitive Quartet continue on their work for the Kingdom…reaching hearts and meeting needs along the way.

James Hales

James Hales, from Durham, North Carolina, has been a writer for AbsolutelyGospel.com since 2000. James is our featured reviewer and also contributes to monthly features periodically.
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