1 Episode results for "Dixie Hummingbird"
Part 2: Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul
"Support for NPR and the following message come from Amazon prime video with Llerena the new docu series that shares Lorena Bobbitt side of the story and investigates the headlines and press coverage twenty five years later lorraina now streaming on Amazon prime video. Hey, you're listening to the world cafe I'm Talia Slinger. We are sharing something special here on our podcast. It's a six part audio documentary that explores the history and influence of gospel music on early rock and roll soul. And are in b it's called Saturday night and Sunday morning gospel roots of rock and soul. The documentary was produced by our colleagues at W X P N where we make world cafe and it is hosted by Grammy award winning gospel singer, CeCe Winans, okay? Here is part to enjoy. You're listening to Saturday night and Sunday morning. The gospel roots of rock and soul. I'm CeCe Winans. While Thomas Dorsey was beginning to find success in Chicago a boy name IRA. Tucker was singing for nickels at local tea parties in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He mimic the stage moves and bulk will acrobats of his idols the singers of the Golden Gate cortex the Fairfield four and the heavenly gospel singers, his favorite group was a court from few towns over the Dixie hummingbirds. Geez. They had a style of saying that I I used to hear them on Sunday morning. Here's the late IRA Tucker speaking with NPR's, Terry gross in one thousand nine hundred eighty four really like their home. And you know, I had heard them good while and that was just trying to keep the trend if what they was doing Davis. He created that style. You know, he created hummingbirds sound, and it was it was tremendous. You know, you had a beautiful sound back. Then he's talking about James Davis. The longtime leader of the Dixie hummingbirds Davis established the group in one thousand nine hundred twenty eight after he witnessed the success of other travelling gospel court tits. A gospel quartet is a group usually early on a cappella where the four voices are represented in harmony gospel historian, Jerry Zoltin of Penn State university wrote the definitive history of the Dixie hummingbirds. The typical structure would be a lead voice who saying overtop, and then middle voices who would carry the harmony backup. And then usually underneath a Beijinger who would pump out the bottom and keep the rhythm going. You know, and I think the groups were acapella in the beginning. Because frankly, they they didn't have the money to buy musical instruments to take lessons. They worked with. What was right there handy in front of them trail-blazing court tits like the golden gates and the heavily gospel singers pass through Spartanburg touring churches and revivals on what people called the gospel highway. There were hunt. Hundreds of these groups so in the Dixie hummingbirds IRA Tucker saw ticket out of town, his childhood friend. William Bobo was already singing bass with the group. And I remembered what he told him he said well later on I come back, and I'll try to get you in the group, and I guess about a couple of months, maybe three months, they came back to sing. Mr. Davis came back popstar, thirteen Irish son IRA Tucker, Jillian says the Dixie hummingbirds James Davis recognized his father's talents. And he asks IRA's mother if he could join the group, so he went as my grandmother would be all right for my dad to go on the road with the group. She made him promise that he would take care because she felt he stood a better chance with them. And I went to hear them at night, and I've been with them ever since. No that. Running for. This was in one thousand nine hundred thirty eight for the next couple of years. They would mostly toward the south on the same gospel highway as I reside -als hummingbirds would get in their car and travel from little town little town. They called it wildcat Jerry's Alton says before the interstate highway era. Jim crow rule the two lane roads. These black gospel court tits wrist real danger. They didn't know where they would go from day to day, they created a path future, rock and soul musicians would navigate who would go to little town and back in those days. A radio is a far more available sort of thing. They'd knock on the door and said, hey, can we sync on your radio station and most of the time that would be okay. And they stay there until they felt they had shack rated the that particular region. Stop your women. Ira Tucker junior recalls. His father's story of one close. Call the group was driving. It's beautiful Chrysler imperial a luxury sedan to a gig in Georgia some local whites didn't like what they saw. Six guys sitting in this huge car. Can't be right to lay pulled him over just hassled him. You know, they didn't do anything. But they made him go to the station house. They had to check make sure that no cars stolen. They told the police. They were singing group on the way to a church show. The police officers said prove it so today chose a song called down on me and the nearest time. It seems like everybody and not whole wide world down on me. And it was so sad that the cop was almost in tears, right? And he goes go ahead, man. Y'all y'all guys can call. And when he let them go Natone will we're going to have to hurry to get there because you made us late. He gave. An esco. So they could get there and do this show. Down while that situation worked out others. Gospel groups got run out of town and loss bookings and money because white proprietors had a change of heart because of this the Dixie hummingbirds soon moved north I to New York then to Philadelphia. By nineteen forty two Goss spoil court tits gang national recognition on a rough but regular touring circuit groups, like the sole stirs the Fairfield four and the Golden Gate. Coretec were religious music royalty. They perform live on radio stations across the country and play to huge audiences. The quartet were like our Spurs superstars, here's gospel deejay and music historian, Deborah Smith, powered again because of just how they carried themselves and how they sounded everybody likes tits. And so all of that helped to propel gospel music beyond what people think of as the small church venue and bring it out to the wider world. The Dixie hummingbirds were hungry to join their reigns. The court tits in this period, wore matching outfits and developed intricate stage choreography. As the group's got better the competition to top each other group, pretty intense. There were the pilgrim travelers from Houston, Texas famous for their revolutionary alternating shape. Shifting leads. New the Fairfield for from Nashville Tennessee featured the sweet bass melodies of Sam Macquairie whose Boko style. BB king has admitted he copied. And. The caravans from Chicago launched the careers of some of the greatest Bo Klis Abidine Walker. I'm as Andrews and Shirley Caesar. I could go on and on hundreds of other groups pushed the boundaries of what this music could be Jerry Zoltin, the author of great God almighty, a history of the Dixie hummingbirds told us fierce talent and competition. Help generate a new performance style hard gosh to me refers to that kind of driving. Gosh, bold. And one of the things I would do is pull out all the vocal stops. And hold nothing. I know. America wasn't ready for that screen. You know, I read Tucker junior the Dixie hummingbirds broke through in large part because of his father IRA Tucker, a singer with the performance style. Nobody seen or heard before defer to jump off the states. All right. He jumped off the stage went down in your audience FANG to the people that was unheard of. All right. So that was something that kind of opened the door. Being away. Gus will had opened many doors by the nineteen fifties. The traveling groups helped develop a musical ecosystem of radio stations performance venues record labels that could sustain their careers over decades. So many of these guys who came out of quartet, and they bring that soulful nece, they bring the swag gospel, DJ and scholar. Deborah Smith Pollard, they bring that ability to reach out to their audience. They really wanna pull the on and certainly within the black community because they still have all of that presence that great voice that ability to connect with them. But with great popularity with something to sail comes money, and responsibility. Mcgaw? Bo you. That's the pressure to cross over to sign deals with secular music companies mounted for the best. Singers, it presented an excess sensual spiritual issue for the groups who wanted to stay together and sing gospel music. James Davis was raised up in the whole of the church and you couldn't smoke drink. Nothing like that, you know, IRA Tucker and the Dixie hummingbirds saw themselves as a religious club with strict bylaws. You got credit those rules to Mr James Davis Carlton Lewis. The third is a Dixie hummingbird now under him. He told us the rules continue. No, drinking swearing, no smoking, no outside women. None of that stuff. Even on down to your uniform uniform just had to be so intact. You got fine for having the wrong pocket square, though, spines can really add up and. They're a way of reinforcing the underlying idea of their music that while they can jump off the stage to screaming fans or shout. The words to the hymns. It's all in the name of God. You. Dixie hummingbirds have stuck to their rules for more than ninety years. The member say that sustains their legendary commitment to gospel music. Other groups turned out differently. This was one of the very best during this golden age of gospel quartet s-, the sole Stor secret Bob mayor vich told us was a singing technique called the switch lead. One lead to start another lead to build the temperature a little bit higher than I lead comes back, and builds it a little further to the point where people start leaping out of their seats that this music overcome because of this the sort of build up of this religious tension. Roy crane established the five soul stirs of Houston in nineteen twenty eight. It didn't take long for them to dominate the local Gus sprucing they famously recorded with Alan Lomax in nineteen thirty six for the library of congress. We have singing and often pictures on twelve. The library of congress and Washington. After they added tenor are H hairs famous for his boss settle. They really pulled ahead of the competition. The group moved to Chicago in nineteen thirty seven and quickly made a name there. They landed a deal to cut a record in California the following year. So by the nineteen forties. The group had a regular Sunday morning radio program in Chicago and became one of the top selling cortex in the country. This was the group that young IRA. Tucker would have seen on the gospel highway passing through South Carolina gospel Cortez from around the country, soft them out to absorb their style. Thor's my favorite retired Dixie hummingbird. The Reverend Joe Williams told us he catched the sole stirs every time they came through his hometown, Philadelphia really really couldn't tell him. I'd ever my favorite group. I could never hear what the birds doing the style. And the rain was still duplicate. It's complicated. The Solters I can hear that you know, after man guys can really sing. Harmony was just different. On stanton. The group's popularity grew and grew. So did demands for heavier touring and recording schedule. These pressures almost became a crisis. When our H hairs lift in nineteen fifty fortunately for the group, another singer waited in the wings. That. May. A loveless. At the end of a day. They were very impressed by this young man named Sam Cooke who was singing with the highway QC's in Chicago mob. Mayor vid says Sam Cooke, whose charisma, but he was you know, he was a young guy you're talking about trying to replace a venerable quartet giant with an unknown young person hadn't been done, SAM's debut biographer, Peter girl, Nick says wasn't as smooth as his voice I program he did with the sole stores. Pine bluff, Arkansas when he was just nineteen years old. He was blown off the stage by the pilgrim travelers in the five blind boys by their showmanship, by the way in which are cheap Brownlee and the two leads for the pilgrim, travelers, just shouted and he attempted to do that. And and failed. We're on says the managers of the pilgrim. Travelers and the sole stirs noticed they told him to relax rely on what he did best his strength is in the unique way in which you can draw the listener to you. You can draw the congregation to you, and that was the basis for SAM's gospel style was this kind of Kroening style. It was a seductive style. Sam took the advice and gracefully adapted. His seductive Serapio voice to the insomniacs, the sole stirs made their first recordings with him in nineteen fifty one. With Sam F elite the group achieved national stardom in the next five years that brings us back to the beginning. By the time of the soul. Stors sold out. Shrine Auditorium, performance in nineteen fifty five Sam had established himself as a gospel star because of his vocal chops and his fluency in pop sex appeal was as real in the church as it was in the world outside and Sam had it young girls would rush the stage just to breathe the same air record label executives wanted a piece of him to he saw an opportunity Bob mayor of age, he was making a few thousand dollars soul stirs. Somebody said you could make fifty thousand dollars over here. It's hard to talk to a gospel artist. Who was not offered that opportunity offered me a hundred thousand dollars. Saying that one pop song, and they fixed all kind of beautiful things for me to eat and took me to this, man. A mansion Marian Williams is considered one of the greatest gospel singers of all time early in her career. She was a member of the famous ward singers before she became a solo artist. She told NPR's Terry gross in nineteen Ninety-three about facing the same choices. Sam did and. I got into hotel. And the Lord began the deal with me. And that may no not to cross over. Said because of the gospel you've been singing Gaza. That's why folks love you because you're saying. Aspel, and then I begin to cry because the money sound extra good. It was hard turned into down. At the be truthful Labatt while Marian and many other gospel singer said no to the pop music money. Sam couldn't resist it months after the Shrine Auditorium concert. He was cutting his first, secular soul recordings lovable. My. We were in Saint Louis, Missouri. And we were at the church of Reverend Cleo Robinson pastor, Donald gay, SAM's, childhood friend from Chicago a local radio DJ invited. Donald and Reverend Robinson another gospel legend to the station and said, you gotta hear this puts this record on. He starts out with his signature if you knew it was Sam. Get going on reveron Benson that Sam. And he's God is not going to be happy with that. Neither were many people who love the soul stors, Bob mayor vich told us how could Sam do this. They loved Sam and very heartbroken when he did that in their minds understanding, maybe why he would do it, but didn't accept it. But there were very heartbroken it like he broke up with them, darling. Everything time what Sam did struck a generation of artists who grew up in the church as a revelation. We were going down highway. We were somewhere in the south the later Retha Franklin told NPR's Terry gross in nineteen ninety nine. How sad she felt when she learned Sam had crossed over and just out of the dark famous fabulous voice Sam and it was his first record. And he was singing you send me, and there was just pandemonium in the car my sister, and I just had a fit we really had to pull over and stop car and settled down on the kind of Sam Sam Sam inspired Aretha, Marvin Gaye Stevie Wonder and scores of other black musicians to pursue pop music. He pointed the way into a new promised land of worldly, riches and acclaim. After hundreds of years of slavery. Jim crow and oppression. If felt like the liberates that a black docile singer could become America's biggest popstar. But this moment also triggered a soul stirring question. Who are we singing for? With. That was part two of Saturday night and Sunday morning. The gospel roots of rock and soul. Thank you to our hosts CeCe Winans coming up in episode three as mainstream record companies began to take notice of gospel music artists like Sam Cooke face the difficult decision to cross over to secular music. He was really ostracized because of some point he wanted to go back and saying with the quartet, and he did it in some instances and the the audience would boy off the stage this episode of Saturday night and Sunday morning. The gospel roots of rock and soul was written and produced by Alex Lewis for more stories. Visit our website at X PIN gospel, roots dot O, R G gospel roots of reconcile has been supported by the pew center for arts and heritage the executive producers are Roger LeMay and Bruce Warren or senior producer is Alex. Lewis Whitney Jones is our assistant producer or editor is Cheryl divall audio mixing by Jeff town. Our production assistant is Rachel issue. Coa I'm Talia slang. Langer and this is world cafe. This message comes from NPR sponsor. Comcast business. Business has always been driven by innovators. That's why Comcast business is helping you with technology that provides better experiences. Comcast business beyond fast.