Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
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