The Dixie Hummingbirds
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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Paul Simon's musical explorations began not with the African rhythms of Graceland, but on the much earlier There Goes Rhymin' Simon. While that album was not quite as thoroughly enveloped in a singular musical style, it did make several forays into gospel music. In addition, it helped bring the magical sound of The Dixie Hummingbirds to a wider audience. The group first formed in 1928 in Greenville, South Carolina, and it soon hit the rural church circuit along the Deep South. Though the quartet has included more than 19 different members over the past 70 years, no personnel change was quite as profound as the 1938 addition of Ira Tucker, Sr. who still performs with the Dixie Hummingbirds today. Tucker helped bring an emotional edge to the ensemble that later carried over into the music of soul legends Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke.

Music in the Air celebrates the 70-year anniversary of the Dixie Hummingbirds and highlights the complex vocal arrangements the group has incorporated into its songs. Joining the quartet is an all-star cast of guest musicians that include Stevie Wonder, Bobby Womack, Paul Simon, and Mavis Staples. The group revisits Simon's Loves Me Like a Rock, giving the song an even warmer glow than the original version had. In addition, Staples, Tucker, and new 'Bird William Bright play off each other's vocal solos and fill I Need Thee with a passionate spiritual awakening.

As Isaac Hayes states in the introduction to the album, "The Dixie Hummingbirds are indeed an American cultural institution." When it comes to gospel music, it's truly hard to find a group that has had a greater influence, and as Music in the Air proves, this quartet still sings with a tremendous amount of power and passion. - The Music Box


The Dixie Hummingbirds, “Diamond Jubilation,” Treasure Records. On the one hand, I worry about the recent trend of pairing brilliant but aging gospel singers with younger, “hipper” white musicians (and songs). It just seems wrong that these amazing vocalists have to mix their artistry with outside influences in order for people like me to even notice them. But, the results just keep on winning me over. And besides, it’s not like the Dixie Hummingbirds haven’t done this before – these are the guys providing the spectacular harmonies on Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like a Rock.” The guest-stars on this record – Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Dr. John, and some guys I don’t know from Adam – are more interested in playing gospel music than they are in bringing the singers into their world. And, there’s only one Bob Dylan song brought in from outside the normal gospel tradition, and even that one is an obviously Christian number. The fact is, you’d pretty much have to dislike joy and be immune to beauty to reject this wonderful record. - Vintage Vinyl


From the quiet comfort of his Philadelphia home, the Grammy winning, Hall of Fame songwriter shared intimate insight into the Hummingbirds’ history, heart and hopes for the future of, perhaps, the most powerful CD release in their 70+year career.



Although aggressively sought-after by countless star-makers with a promise of fame and fortune in the secular music world, Ira Tucker never strayed from God’s calling to proclaim the good news of the gospel. After an initial ill-fated attempt at a gospel career in the tiny, post-depression town of Spartanburg South Carolina, Ira heeded the advice of his grandfather to “get back to singing”. “One of these days,“ he continued, “you just might find yourself singing on a big stage somewhere in Florida ”. Never dreaming he would ever see beyond the city limits of Spartanburg, Ira was overcome with emotion a few years later as he remembered his granddad’s encouragement and vision as the Hummingbirds stepped off their bus into a standing room only auditorium in Gainesville Florida. Both his grandfather’s “prophecy” and the resulting lesson in sticking-to-your -dreams served Tucker well throughout his sixty years as a mainstay of music and message in the internationally renowned Dixie Hummingbirds. As a lifelong fan and follower of the Dixie Hummingbirds, MCG’s Bullard best summarized their greatness with the reminder that Ira Tucker and his musical companions have always been known as “the gentlemen of gospel music”. “Even after all their successes,“ he added,“ the applause from thousands of performances, artist accolades the world over and millions of CD sales, The Hummingbirds remain the ever-humble servants who understand that their musical mission is not a job…but a calling.”
reviews - CDBaby


Discography

Please note: This dicography only goes back til' 1990 - Full list available upon request.

This Is Gospel: The Dixie Hummingbirds - 2007
Still... Keeping It Real: The Last Man Standing - 2006
Jesus Has Traveled This Road Before 1939-52 - 2005
Diamond Jubilation: 75th Anniversary - 2003
Journey to the Sky - 2002
Move On Up - 2002
Journey to the Sky - 2001
Music in the Air: 70th Anniversary Celebration - 1999
Thank You For One More Day: The 70th Anniversary Of The Dixie Hummingbirds - 1998
Looking Back: A Retrospective - 1998
The Best of the Dixie Hummingbirds - 1995
Live in Atlanta - 1995
In Good Health - 1993
Smooth Sailing - 1990
Mama - 1990

Photos

Bio

The Dixie Hummingbirds are an institution. While they have always remained deeply rooted in the gospel tradition, their influence has made itself known far and wide in American popular music. Perhaps Isaac Hayes has put it most eloquently: "In the beginning, after the word, and before there was rap, hip-hop, disco, punk, funk, metal, soul, Motown, rock-a-billy, before bebop, doo-wop, and the big band swing there was the Dixie Hummingbirds."

With Diamond Jubilation, they proved that they have yet to miss a beat. As Stevie Wonder pointed out, "They continue to press the envelope with their greatness, linking us to a rich musical heritage that keeps us in tune and in harmony with the universe and each other."

The group began their remarkable journey in 1920s Greenville, South Carolina, organized by gospel great James B. Davis, then 12 years old. After singing together in church through their high school years, Davis and his friends embarked on a ten-year stint of "wildcatting" - taking their act on the road to build up a reputation. In 1939, they began recording on the prestigious Decca label, and in the early 1940s they moved to Philadelphia, where easy access to a range of venues allowed them to make a name for themselves on an even larger scale.

By 1942, the Dixie Hummingbirds were wowing audiences at Cafe Society, New York's first integrated nightclub, backed by legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young. In the 1950s, they routinely brought down the house at the Apollo Theater. The group broke into the popular consciousness in 1966, when they prompted a standing ovation at the Newport Folk Festival, and still greater fame was in store in 1973, when they backed Paul Simon on his smash hit "Loves Me Like a Rock." The Birds' own rendition of the tune won them a Grammy in 1974.

But the truth is that long before mainstream America knew their name, they knew their music. Retired patriarch Davis is fond of noting that the Dixie Hummingbirds have typically been about a decade ahead of the curve. In the 1940s, for example, they were singing the kind of a cappella harmonies that caught on as doo-wop in the 1950s, and in the 1950s, they added electric guitar to their sound, prefiguring the soul music of the 1960s.

Lead singer Ira Tucker, Sr., who has been with the group since 1938, when he was 13, was especially inspired and inspiring. Musicologist Horace Boyer writes that "not only did he put his voice and vocal technique to use, he also became the model for the 'activity' singer. He ran up and down aisles, jumped from the stage, and spun around without sacrificing one iota of the pure musical sound that he first brought to the quartet. Indeed, he served as the model for many of the rhythm and blues and soul singers from Jackie Wilson and Clyde McPhatter to Bobby Blue Bland and the Temptations."

Mr. Tucker continues to lead the group in his 80’s, with a lineup that spans three generations. With a new CD, Still Keeping It Real, and a busy touring schedule, the Dixie Hummingbirds will be entertaining audiences for years to come.