Thursday, November 14, 2013

Seven Songs By The Dixie Hummingbirds Gospel Quartet

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases seven songs by the Dixie Hummingbirds Gospel quartet. Information about The Dixie Hummingbirds is also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for religious, historical, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

..."The Dixie Hummingbirds formed in the late 1920s in Greenville, S.C. In the beginning, they were young boys, members of the Church of God Holiness choir in Greenville's Meadow Bottoms neighborhood...First called the Junior Boys they were immersed in the Black American spiritual tradition of the times. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel," and "Old Black Joe" were part of their regular repertoire. When they started high school, they changed their name to the Sterling High School Quartet.

They took their first step toward a professional career after graduating at the annual national convention of the Church of God Holiness in Atlanta, and decided to take off from there. They emulated musical groups like the Golden Gate Quartet, the Southernaires, and the Heavenly Gospel Singers. The Dixie Hummingbirds made their first recordings in 1939... In 1942, the Dixie Hummingbirds moved to Philadelphia, and shortly after they had a regular show over WCAU radio and a long-term engagement at Cafe Society, a New York City nightclub, where they were billed as the Jericho Quartet.

The Hummingbirds' popularity began to grow as their harmonies became more sophisticated. Their virtuosity did not go unnoticed by audiences, and throughout the mid-1940s the group regularly played to packed houses throughout the south. In 1944, they recorded for the Regis and Manor labels, and later for the Apollo label in New York City. The group's personnel had again changed with Davis as the only original to remain.

In 1952, The Hummingbirds began recording for Peacock Records. For the next 24 years, the group would remain the same: Ira Tucker, James Walker, James Davis, Beachey Thompson, William Bobo, and Howard Carroll.

After earning a standing ovation for their performance at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, they essentially retired from mainstream appearances to focus solely on the church circuit. They came back into popularity in 1973, backing Paul Simon on his pop smash "Loves Me Like a Rock." The death of Willie Bobo in 1976 "brought to a sad end a lengthy chapter of the Hummingbirds' history." After Davis retired in 1984, their current lineup included Ira Tucker, Paul Owens, Howard Carroll, Carl Davis, and William Bright.

Tucker continued leading the group at the 20th century's end, recruiting new blood to keep the Dixie Hummingbirds' spirit alive, celebrating their seventh decade with 1999's "Music in the Air: The 70th Anniversary All-Star Tribute." The Dixie Hummingbirds remain one of the leading gospel quartets on the road today.

The group now consists of Ira Tucker (lead vocals), William Bright (vocals), Carlton Lewis, III (vocals), Cornell Mcknight (bass), Torrey Nettles (drums/vocals), and Lyndon Baines Jones (guitar & vocals)."

"Formed in 1928 in Greenville, South Carolina, by James B. Davis and his classmates, [The Dixie Hummingbirds] sang in local churches until they finished school, then started touring throughout the South.

Lead singer Ira Tucker joined the group in 1938 at age 13, and they signed with Decca Records. In addition to his formidable vocal skills, Tucker introduced the energetic showmanship - running through the aisles, jumping off stage, falling to his knees in prayer - copied by many quartets that followed. Tucker also took the lead in the stylistic innovations adopted by the group, combining gospel shouting and subtle melismas with the syncopated delivery made popular by The Golden Gate Quartet, as well as adventuresome harmonies, which the group called "trickeration", in which Paul Owens or another member of the group would pick up a note just as Tucker left off. The group relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 1940s...

The Hummingbirds absorbed much from other artists as well, performing with Lester Young in the 1940s and sharing Django Reinhardt records with B.B. King in the 1950s. Tucker and the Hummingbirds inspired a number of imitators, such as Jackie Wilson and James Brown, who adapted the shouting style and enthusiastic showmanship of hard gospel to secular themes to help create soul music in the 1960s"...

(These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube, with the oldest dated videos given first. Information about the date of the performances or recordings are given for most of these examples.)

Example #1: Dixie Hummingbirds 1983 Jesus Is Coming Soon

dshock11, Uploaded on Jul 22, 2007

Ira Tucker & The Dixie Hummingbirds sing "Jesus Is Coming Soon" on a 1983 episode of Gospel Variations. Enjoy!!

Example #2: Dixie Hummingbirds I've Got So Much To Shout About

Konrad Klingelfuss, Uploaded on Dec 27, 2007
Click for a sound file of the Dixie Hummingbirds singing this song at the same venue: the 1966 Newport Jazz festivalHE NE

Example #3: Vintage" Dixie Hummingbirds - An AGQC 2004 Hall of Fame Inductee “Christian Automobile”

AGQCGospel,Uploaded on Aug 8, 2008

In 2004 The Dixie legendary Hummingbirds were inducted into American Gospel Quartet Hall of Fame Inductees recognizing their music ministry for Jesus Christ.
The following comment was posted in response to the questions “What year was this [performance]?”
methu124, 2009
"Newport Jazz Festival, 1966 They were on a rotating program with the Swan Silvertones and Dorthy Love Coates' Gospel Harmonettes. After the "Birds" sang "I've Got So Much To Shout About" The audience wouldn't let them leave the stage for the next act. James B. Davis (barritone) had to convince the people to let the "Birds" go!"

Example #4: The Dixie Hummingbirds - Holding On

fableable57, Uploaded on Sep 12, 2008

Example #5: Dixie Hummingbirds ---Swing Low Sweet Chariot

nipsipone, Uploaded on Jun 19, 2009

From A New York City Concert ---1991 ----Acapella--
Ira Tucker (lead vocals), William Bright (vocals), Carlton Lewis, III (vocals), Cornell Mcknight (bass vocals), Torrey Nettles (drums/vocals), Willie Coleman (bass guitar & vocals) and Lyndon Baines Jones (guitar & vocals).


Tjmministries T. Moore, Uploaded on Jan 10, 2010
A commenter wrote that this was from the late 1940s.

Example #7: Dixie Hummingbirds - Hold On.wmv

BevYoYummy, Uploaded on Mar 11, 2011

Live in Miami, Florida featuring: Ira Tucker, Sr., James Walker, Beachey Thompson, Paul Owens and Howard Carroll

Thanks to the Dixie Hummingbirds for their musical legacy. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube and thanks to those who I quoted in this post.

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