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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 3, 2006

Dixie Hummingbirds in tune with gospel for 78 years

 •  Band invokes spirit of New Orleans

Advertiser Staff

Vocal ensemble The Dixie Hummingbirds count Bob Dylan, The Temptations and other musical luminaries as members of its fan club. Lead singer and baritone Ira Tucker joined the group at age 13 in 1938.

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Talk about two for the price of one for gospel fans ...

If The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is arguably the country's premiere New Orleans traditional brass band, The Dixie Hummingbirds is certainly our premiere modern gospel ensemble.

Lauded for its smooth-as-butter harmonies, inspired arrangements and (truth be told) sheer lifespan, the group has a fan club of the inspired that includes Bob Dylan, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and the late, great Jackie Wilson.

Love Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like A Rock"? Those were soaring, lived-in Hummingbird harmonies holding aloft Simon's delicious 1973 slice of gospel-lite.

Lead singer Ira Tucker, now in his 80s, has been a member for just under seven decades. Tucker was 13 when he joined the decade-old Hummingbirds in 1938, and already considered a second-to-few baritone.

The Hummingbirds bolted from its South Carolina base soon after to seek out gigs up north. From there, its legend grew as it began borrowing from blues, R&B, Cajun, folk and other influences to take gospel in new directions.

Hold that bathroom run until after the Hummingbirds' show-closing duet with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.