Sunday, June 29, 2008

Another great one leaves The Gospel Highway!

Hi folks it is a sad day for The Gospel Highway. Ira Tucker, lead singer of The Dixie Hummingbirds, passed away this week of heart failure, he was 83. Born in Spartanburg, S.C., on May 17, 1925, Tucker was initiated into the world of making music and money at about age 6 after he learned to whistle, said son, Ira Tucker, Jr.

Over the years, as the popularity of the group grew, the men sang throughout the country at black churches and gospel extravaganzas and performed often at Harlem's Apollo Theater. In 1942, they sang at the Cafe Society, an integrated nightclub in New York. "Ira was really proud of the role the Dixie Hummingbirds played in overcoming social injustice and prejudice," Zolten said. "He was proud of the time spent working in Cafe Society in New York, breaking down the barriers of segregation in the 1940s."

In more recent years Tucker collaborated with Wynonna Judd on "How Great Thou Art" and recorded a country album. Tucker and the group were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; and in 2007 his album "Still Keeping It Real: The Last Man Standing" was nominated for a Grammy.

In addition to his son, Tucker is survived by his wife, Louise; two daughters, Sundray Tucker of Philadelphia and Lynda Laurance of Sherman Oaks, both of whom are vocalists; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A funeral will be held Wednesday in Philadelphia. Memorial donations can be sent to the African American Museum, 701 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19106.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hey Folks.....

Sorry for lack of information, I have been busy graduating from Moorpark College and finishing finals. This summer will have intermittent blurbs by myself and others who are concerned about The Gospel Highway and its preservation and place in history. We are applying for a Grammy Grant so we can archive interviews of folks that chartered this highway of faith and hope. So just be patient and more will written as i have time to write more.

God Bless,

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jim Crow.....What an Awful, Awful Fella

I am reading the book "Remembering Jim Crow" which is part of the Duke University Behind the Veil Project. The separate but equal laws made it very hard for The Gospel Highway travelers to have any amount of dignity or self expression. These artists were taught to do what the white man said and do what he told you to do, especially the police. No African American was safe from these laws, not even the quartets of The Gospel Highway.

Mahalia Jackson once said, " I can be Queen of the stage while playing, but when we finish I still have to go back to the jungle."

Jimmy Carter of The Blind Boys of Alabama said," We just let 'em say what they wass gonna say and do what they was gonna do, cause if we fought back it would have been worser then."

Jim Crow finally left our country in 1964 thanks to the Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King, Jr.


P.S. He can still be seen in the very rural south and some urban areas of the south- just be very careful.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Blind Boys of Alabama...LIVE at The Belly Up Tavern

I don't want to take up too much time on this post.Iwill just let you enjoy a little of the gospel magic of The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Fly High Dixie Hummingbirds!!!

The first real superstars of The Golden Age of Gospel were The Dixie Hummingbirds.

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

The Hummingbirds lead singer was the charismatic Ira Tucker.
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 the 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.

During the years, a number of talented singers starred in the group--their bass singer, William Bobo, baritone Beachy Thompson, James Walker, who replaced Owens, who went on to star for The Swan Silvertones. The Hummingbirds added a guitarist, Howard Carroll, who added even more propulsive force to their high-flying vocals.

Just one listen to Paul Simon's "Love Me Like A Rock", in which The Hummingbirds sing back up, will let you know how vibrant this group was and still is today.

*Thanks to Robert Darden's book People Get Ready for bio info.

**Thanks to Jerry Zoltens book Great God A' Mighty! : The Dixie Hummingbirds - Celebrating The Rise Of Soul Gospel Music for bio info

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mike Farris...Salvation In Lights....PRAISE GOD!!!!!

Folks, go immediately to and check out his Salvation In Lights cd. Let me tell you, this man is THE REAL DEAL. Old time gospel the way gospel was meant to sound. The song "Streets of Galilee" should not only be nominated for a Grammy, but should win hands down for Best Gospel Song. Here is a little background about Mike Farris.

From his website bio at "I finally said, 'I think it's time for me to take those traditional, turn-of-the-century songs and add these things I'm writing that sound like that, and just go with it; this is what I want to do,'" he says. "It became real clear to me."

Now, original songs like "Devil Don't Sleep" and "Streets of Gallilee" serve as much as to remind Farris of where he's been as they do to encourage his listeners. By doing so, they forge a bond between audience and performer, even as they connect him to a rich tradition of spirituality that runs through American folk, gospel, soul and rock.

"If not for the grace of God I would surely be dead or wishing I were dead." Farris says. "My life is a testament that God has an unique and special place for everyone. God will use people no matter how tattered and torn. Just surrender to His love and trust in His grace."

Let me tell ya my brothers and sisters as long as Mike Farris is traveling The Gospel Highway it will never shut down.

Now next week A little about The Dixie Hummingbirds,

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Blind Boys of Alabama meet The Soul Stirrers

One of the first groups to start traveling The Gospel Highway were The Blind Boys of Alabama. The Blind Boys of Alabama are a gospel group from Alabama that first formed at the Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939. The three main vocalists and drummer/percussionist are all blind. As of 2007, they are still performing, and are likewise scheduled to continue touring through 2008. Two of the original members, vocalists Jimmy Carter and Clarence Fountain, remain with the group.

Another group to forge ahead on The Gospel Highway were The Soul Stirrers
. The Soul Stirrers were pioneers in the development of the quartet style of gospel and, without intending it, in the creation of soul music, the secular music that owed much to gospel. The group — and all of its members — were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 as one of rock's Early Influences, and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000.

These are just a few groups who were influential in blazing the trail for others on The Gospel Highway. Many of these groups did not know that each other were traveling to these churches and later, high school auditoriums. Once they started meeting each other, they started traveling in caravans and multiple act bills to help defray the costs of the traveling.

The travels were difficult and times were lean. But, according to Jim Crow America by Earl Conrad there was only four ways for an African American to be his own boss:
1) Own an insurance parlor selling only to an all African American client el.
2) Own a barber shop catering to an all
African American client el.
3) Own a restaurant
catering to an all African American client el.
4) By being a minstrel or musician or circus performer.
Many of these traveling gospel quartets found their financial and cultural freedom by choosing this last option. This is where The Gospel Highway truly begins.

See ya next time when we discuss The Legendary Dixie Hummingbirds,


Friday, January 25, 2008

A little background...

Gospel music did not just come thundering out of the sky courtesy of the Good Lord above. It actually came from a far more interesting place. The Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey, decided to take the blues he so dearly loved and couple it with the message of truth and hope that the hymns already produced. He was the first to be dubbed "King of Gospel." Other artists picked up the torch along the way such as "the quartet singers" including The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Soul Stirrers, The Pilgrim Jubilees, and The Swan Silvertones. The difference with these groups is that they traveled outside of their comfort zone to sing this uplifting, hopeful music that The Blind Boys of Alabama singer Jimmy Carter calls, "The Good News of God" and to spread the message of hope to the depressed areas of that time. At first they knew nothing of each other and later would begin meeting along the way, eventually creating caravans that would travel what would become...The Gospel Highway.

See you next week
Peace and Many Blessings,


Friday, January 18, 2008


Hi! Welcome to the first post on The Gospel Highway.
The Gospel highway was a metaphor for the traveling gospel quartets and caravans from the 1930's to the 1960's. It was a highway full of small churches and high school auditoriums where the African American gospel artists could play and spread hope to the hopeless communities in which they played. These artists traveled through horrible conditions set forth by The Jim Crow Laws; separate but equal under the state. Yet they still carried the message of hope. They are the true heroes of that time.

So everyone hop in and lets take a ride down this highway together.

*Please feel free to add your own stories or information to this blog.

**Please for the sake of integrity make sure your stories are true and your information accurate.


"The truth can't walk on it's own two legs, it has to be carried from one person to another."