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“D” is for Dixie Hummingbirds

“D” is for Dixie Hummingbirds. Started in 1928 by twelve-year-old James Davis and neighborhood friends Bonnie Gipson, Jr., Fred Owens, and Barney Parks, the gospel quartet—and later quintet (with the addition of Ira Tucker)—influenced scores of gospel, soul, and rock and roll artists. The group was singing professionally in churches and on the radio by the mid-1930s. In 1938 the group drove to New York and recorded twelve old-time harmony sides for the Decca label. Davis wanted to call the group the South Carolina Hummingbirds—but decided the name was a bit awkward. The group’s fans affectionately called them simply “The Birds.” The group moved to Philadelphia in 1942. Tucker became the group’s fiery and flamboyant lead singer. By their 1952 recordings for the Peacock label, the Dixie Hummingbirds were on the way to gospel stardom.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.