Larkin Henry Ford Keith (1923-1951)
Ford Keith was born in DeRoche community near Hot Springs, Arkansas and graduated from Hot Springs High School. He had an early interest in music and attended singing schools including those put on by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company. Keith became a pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
After the war, the Stamps-Baxter Dixie Quartet, which had been disbanded during most of the war, was re-established in Hot Springs as Pat Lindsey And His Stamps-Baxter Dixie Quartet. Keith became a member, joining Lindsey, Ancil Baker, Billy Grable and one other singer. They sang daily on KTHS radio. Near the end of 1946 the quartet became associated with the Stamps Quartet Music Company which had been formed in 1945 by Frank Stamps. At that point, they were billed as the Stamps-Baxter Dixie Quartet. Keith became the groupís manager and sang the baritone part. Other members were Vernon Bright (tenor), Delmon Knight (lead), Victor Bright (bass), and Billy Grable (pianist). They continued to sing on KTHS.
Late in 1947, Keith was shifted over to the Stamps All-Star Quartet in Wichita Falls, Texas where they were on the music staff of KWFT radio. Not long after Keith joined the Stamps All-Stars, the group disbanded. Keith then joined the Ozark Quartet, also in Wichita Falls, which had just left Stamps-Baxter to become affiliated with the Frank Stamps organization. Keith became the manager, emcee, and lead singer of the Stamps Ozark Quartet along with existing members Pat Garner (tenor), Charles Bartlett (baritone), Russell Richardson (bass) and Henry Slaughter (pianist).
In addition to being the Stamps Ozark Quartetís lead singer, Keith performed as a soloist accompanying himself on the guitar. His style was that of a crooner similar to some of the famous pop singers of the day. Keith was a big hit with Stamps Ozark Quartet audiences on radio and at their concerts, which in those days consisted of gospel music for the first half of the concert and secular music the second half. He almost always encored in his spot on the concert programs.
In 1951, Keith died of an incurable kidney disease. He was 27 years old at the time of his death.
In the book, The Cathedrals, Glen Payne remembered Keith as a wonderful singer. When Keith died, Payne assumed his singing spot in the Stamps Ozark Quartet. Henry Slaughter said that he never worked with a better singer, musician, or Christian gentleman than Ford Keith. He said Keith had the ability to make it big in the secular field, but instead chose to sing the gospel music he loved. Slaughter said Keith's singing left a mark that no one forgot.