The Dixie Hummingbirds

The Dixie Hummingbirds

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How many singing groups reach their 75th anniversary? Better yet, how many can celebrate it with a cut on a chart-climbing soundtrack, a richly detailed book that documents their legacy, and a new album that shows them at their soul-stirring best? Only one group qualifies - The Dixie Hummingbirds

Biography

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.

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