Dixie Hummingbirds biographer takes flight to Nashville

Jerry Zolten, associate professor of communication arts and sciences, will travel to Nashville, Tenn., to speak at the Feb. 2 Gospel Music Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony and dinner. Zolten will speak on behalf of the Dixie Hummingbirds, who are being inducted along with Dolly Parton, Michael W. Smith and others.

Zolten penned the book "Great God A'Mighty - The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music." The book received much praise and was reviewed in the New York Times.

Formed in 1928 in Greenville, S.C., by James B. Davis and his classmates, the Dixie Hummingbirds sang in local churches until they finished school, then started touring throughout the south. Lead singer Ira Tucker joined the group in 1938 at age 13, and they signed with Decca Records. The group relocated to Philadelphia in the 1940s.

The group recorded for a number of different labels over the years, while touring the circuit of black churches and gospel extravaganzas. They occasionally came to the attention of white listeners -- at Café Society, the integrated New York nightclub favored by jazz cognoscenti, in 1942, at the Newport Folk Festival in 1966, and as backup for Paul Simon on the 1973 single "Loves Me Like a Rock." The group now consists of Ira Tucker (lead vocals), William Bright (vocals), Carlton Lewis, III (vocals), Cornell Mcknight (bass), Torrey Nettles (drums/vocals), and Lyndon Baines Jones (guitar & vocals).

In February 2008, "The Dixie Hummingbirds: Eighty Years Young," the first feature length documentary/concert film featuring the life and history of the Dixie Hummingbirds was released in commemoration of their extraordinary longevity as performers. The film has been shown on the Gospel Music Channel and has played at numerous film festivals.

 

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Last Updated March 19, 2009