The History of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Starting With S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.

Jan 01, 2024By PVP

The History of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America

Barbershop quartet singing has a rich history in America, dating back to the early 20th century. One of the most influential organizations dedicated to preserving and promoting this unique style of music is the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, or S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.

The Birth of S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.

S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. was founded in 1938 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by Owen C. Cash, Rupert I. Hall, and four other men who shared a passion for barbershop harmony. The organization aimed to bring together barbershop quartet enthusiasts and provide a platform for them to perform and appreciate this distinct form of vocal music.


Barbershop Quartet Singing in the Early Years

In the early years, barbershop quartet singing was primarily an informal pastime enjoyed by friends and colleagues. However, with the establishment of S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A., the popularity of this musical genre began to grow rapidly. The organization organized competitions, conventions, and educational programs to encourage participation and excellence in barbershop quartet singing.

barbershop singing
S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. logo

The Rise of Barbershop Quartet Singing

During the 1940s and 1950s, barbershop quartet singing experienced a surge in popularity across America. The close harmonies, a cappella style, and entertaining performances captivated audiences of all ages. The music became synonymous with a nostalgic, feel-good vibe that resonated with people during challenging times.

barbershop quartet performance
A Quartet, Right At Home

Evolution and Modernization

As the years went by, barbershop quartet singing continued to evolve and adapt to changing musical trends. While its core principles remained intact, new influences and styles began to emerge within the genre. Barbershop quartets started experimenting with different arrangements, incorporating elements of jazz, pop, and even rock music into their performances.

Modern BHS mission and values

The Barbershop Harmony Society

In 2004, S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. changed its name to the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) to better reflect its mission and inclusivity. The BHS continues to thrive, with thousands of members across the United States and internationally. It organizes competitions, provides resources for aspiring barbershop quartets, and promotes the joy of barbershop harmony.

Modern Barbershop Harmony Society logo
BHS logo

Barbershop Quartet Singing Today

Today, barbershop quartet singing remains a vibrant and beloved form of musical expression. It has found its way into mainstream media, with appearances in movies, television shows, and even commercials. Barbershop quartets continue to captivate audiences with their tight harmonies, energetic performances, and timeless appeal.

modern barbershop quartet performance
2022 Champions, Quorum


The history of barbershop quartet singing in America is a testament to the power of harmony, friendship, and the love of music. Thanks to organizations like S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. and the Barbershop Harmony Society, this unique art form continues to thrive and inspire generations of singers and audiences alike.