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the primitive quartet

The Primitive Quartet

Southern gospel singers Candler, NC (Buncombe County)

The Primitive Quartet began in 1973, when two sets of brothers, Reagan and Larry Riddle and Furman and Norman Wilson, carried a guitar and mandolin with them on a fishing trip to Fontana Lake. The Riddles had grown up on farms in Madison and Buncombe Counties, and the Wilson brothers, originally from Franklin, learned to sing shape notes from their father, who was a minister for fifty-seven years. The boys all sang at home and in church, but that night in Graham County was when they first sang in four-part harmony. After the fishing trip, with the encouragement of their parents and pastor, they began to sing together at area churches, calling themselves the Riddle-Wilson Quartet.

The Riddle and Wilson brothers went on the road as full-time musicians in 1978. Now called the Primitive Quartet, in honor of the old-time gospel singing that inspires them, the Riddles and Norman Wilson are joined by Randy Fox and Jeff Tolbert, and by Reagan and Larry’s brother Mike, who joined the group when Furman Wilson was called to the ministry.

They have recorded several albums and have toured throughout the United States and abroad. The group was the subject of a BBC documentary in 1984, and Singing News has listed them among the top five nominees for its readers’ Band of the Year award for several years consecutively. All but one of “the Primitives” live in Candler.


The Primitive Quartet sings at festivals, churches, schools, and other venues. They host the Hominy Valley Homecoming every Fourth of July weekend, and afternoon Fall Color Singing gospel concerts on October weekends at Hominy Valley Singing Grounds in Candler.