The current lineup of the Dixie Hummingbirds is: Ira Tucker Jr., Lyndon Baines Jones, Torrey Nettles, Carlton Lewis, Troy Smith, and Roy Smith.
PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 27, 2018) ― THE DIXIE HUMMINGBIRDS, one of the most enduring and influential gospel groups of all time, yesterday announced its “90th Anniversary Celebration: The Magnificent Flight of the Dixie Hummingbirds,” a yearlong series of related activity surrounding this unprecedented milestone among active musical groups.
The announcement was made during a press conference at the African American Museum in Philadelphia by Ira Tucker Jr., leader of the legendary group, whose late father, Ira Tucker Sr., became its lead singer in 1938 as the group signed with Decca Records and was first propelled to national prominence, ushering in the hard-singing style of gospel music's 1940s and 1950s golden age.
The initial round of activity combining live performances, special appearances, salutes and tributes, will include the following:
· A free, all-ages kickoff concert Wednesday (August 29) at World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia) as part of Philadelphia public radio station WXPN’s multi-platform “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” project. Doors will open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. performance. The event is SOLD OUT.
· An old-time, stompdown concert on, Sunday, Sept. 16, 3 p.m., at the Oak Grove Baptist Church (2853 N 21st St, in North Philadelphia). For ticket info, call (215) 226-5862.
· A gospel breakfast tribute to the Dixie Hummingbirds on Sunday morning, Sept. 30, 10 a.m., at Girard College in Philadelphia, hosted by Mighty Writers, as the final event of MightyFest, a four-day student literacy festival. Tickets are $75 at www.mightywriters.org.
A reissue of the 2011 CD, Gospel Praise Songs – Powered by Quartets, by The Dixie Hummingbirds and Friends, at a date to be announced this fall. The album contains 10 straightforward readings of the hits of Golden Era quartets with whom the ‘Birds shared the stage, in as close to the original harmonies and arrangement as possible.
Musical accompaniment is provided by Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) students with other “friends” the Crusaders for Christ Church Choir of West Philadelphia, and recently departed Philly soul legend Bunny Sigler. Proceeds will help raise money for the Ira & Louise Tucker Foundation as well as build greater awareness of the historic importance of gospel quartets.
· The 2019 U.S. Touring Stage Production: “From Streetlight to Spotlight.” a fully choreographed production with additional musicians, vocalists and dancers. Auditions will be held in September with Damian Smith, entrepreneur and longtime personal advisor to Stevie Wonder.
The press conference featured a list of prominent celebrities and officials, including Motown legend Stevie Wonder, who phoned in from Atlantic City, and has called the legendary group ``unsurpassed in the history of African American music.'' Wonder produced the 'Birds' 70th anniversary tour, which included the Staples Singers and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama.
Among the longest-lived and most successful groups of their era, the Dixie Hummingbirds are world renowned for their imaginative arrangements, progressive harmonies, and all-around versatility.
Their influence has spread not only over the world of spiritual music, but also inspired secular artists ranging from Jackie Wilson to Bobby "Blue" Bland to the Temptations. The Dixie Hummingbirds have been immortalized in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the American Gospel Quartet Hall of Fame.
The Dixie Hummingbirds were formed in 1928 in Greenville, SC. They made their recording debut in 1939 on Decca, and their singles include "Soon Will Be Done with the Troubles of This World," "Little Wooden Church," and "Joshua Journeyed to Jericho."
In 1942 the group relocated to Philadelphia, where founding member James B. Davis bought a house at 23rd and Girard Avenue, and used it as a rehearsal space. In 2017, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia commemorated the rich heritage of the Dixie Hummingbirds with a historical marker dedicated there.
The Dixie Hummingbirds are further immortalized in Philadelphia with a mammoth mural through the Mural Arts organization. The mural covers a building’s wall at 859 North 15th St., just a few blocks away from “Dixie Hummingbirds Way” at 15th & Poplar Sts. In 1988, the Dixie Hummingbirds were honored by the Philadelphia Music Alliance with a bronze plaque along the Walk of Fame.
Most people know the Dixie Hummingbirds’ melodious voices from when they backed up Paul Simon on his 1973 hit “Love Me Like a Rock,” and their own version of the song, recorded at Philadelphia’s legendary Sigma Sound Studios with Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, that later won them a GRAMMY® Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance.
The Dixie Hummingbirds were the subjects of the critically-acclaimed 1995 film directed by Ashley James, We Love You Like a Rock. In 2000, they were ceremoniously deemed a "national treasure" by the National Endowment for the Arts at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. That same year, the Dixie Hummingbirds’ 1946 recording of “Amazing Grace” was inducted into the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame. One of their uniforms and GRAMMY award is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.