Legendary musicians like James Brown got their ideas from the impressive, dramatic performances of Afro-American gospel quartets that played in churches, on local radio stations and, later, at concert halls starting in the 1930s. The music documentary How They Got Over about the evolution of these quartets illustrates how this often originally religious harmony singing developed into more secular songs with instruments, multiple vocalists, passion, and sold-out shows. These singing men and women were musical precursors to famous genres such as doo-wop, rhythm and blues, soul, Motown and rock ‘n’ roll.
A number of octogenarian singers regale us with tales of their road trips across the South of the United States when they played for peanuts to make their names. Their stories and those of other genre lovers are augmented by seldom-seen archival footage of concerts by the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and many others.