The Impact of The Dixie Hummingbirds

Who are the Dixie Hummingbirds?

The Dixie Hummingbirds are a famous African American gospel music group playing styles from jubilee quartet of the 1920s to hard gospel from the 1950s. The Dixie Hummingbirds consist of 5 members; James B. Davis, Fred Owens, Wilson Baker, Barney Parks, and Jimmy Bryant. They began their music career in Greenville, SC in the 1930s as a jubilee act. When they moved to Philadelphia in 1942 the Hummingbirds popularity grew and engaged audiences by their theatrics. The Hummingbirds have received much recollection throughout their career from several Grammy nominations; Best Traditional Gospel Album to actually winning Best Soul Gospel Performance Grammy for “Loves Me Like a Roll” in 1973. They were also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000 for their song “Amazing Grace”. Although the original 5 took the group to much success there were many replacements throughout their career. The first member to leave was James Davis but he was replaced by Rev. Joseph Williams. Once Williams left the group in 1987 he was replaced William Leon Bright until the group ended.

What is Jubilee Quartets?

The Jubilee Quartet period began in the late nineteenth century. Beginning at Fisk University with The Fisk Jubilee Singers. The Fisk Jubilee Singers are an influential musical group that has impacted the way we view Negro Spiritual music to this day. Founded in 1871 at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee the group’s sole purpose was to raise money for the school. After facing financial crisis George L. White, the Fisk treasurer brought together nine chorus members from the school to save the school. Once other institutions noticed the success from the Fisk Jubilee Singers other HBCUs such as created jubilee quartets. Quartets consist of either male and/ or female singers who ensemble together of four to six voices that perform in close four-part harmony. In the 1940s originated quartet competitions were formed. These competitions were to promote quartet performances and uplift the black community. Competitions were held in churches, high schools, universities and community centers. Most often seen groups were The Fairfield Four, The Golden Gate Quartet, and The Dixie Hummingbirds. 

There were many elements that fall into the jubilee quartet style. Quartet consist of religious and secular songs having a big gospel influence. Jubilee originated from college choirs and was used to rejoice. Each group had an individual sound consisting of four different vocals; baritone, bass, lead and tenor. In the beginning of jubilee styles they consisted close harmonies and “flatfooted” style of singing. 

The majority of quartet groups were male-dominated and defined by a lead (tenor), second tenor, baritone, and bass. Many quartets grouped not have the proper singing training but came together to create complicated rhythms, lively tempo, and chords. 

How have the Dixie Hummingbirds Effected Music Today?

The Dixie Hummingbirds along with the jubilee quartet style had a huge impact on music today. in the jubilee means to rejoice and with this style of music that is what people came together and did. with groups like The Dixie Hummingbirds, it inspired other musicians and allowed this genre of much to grow it did. The Dixie Hummingbirds receiving recognition on a national level as well it really gave blacks the exposure they truly needed.

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