Previous Vocal Group Record of the Week
#917 (12/22/18)



"If I Could Just Make It In"/"Saviour, Don't Pass Me By"
Ernestine B. Washington
Acc. By Dixie Hummingbirds
on Manor 104-A/B
released in 1945

"The Lord Will Make A Way"/"I Thank You Lord"
Ernestine Washington
And The Southern Sons
on Manor 1084-A/B
released in 1947

Above: Ernestine Washington was a "high intensity" spiritual singer.

[Above photo courtesy of Paul Ressler.]

Above: The Dixie Hummingbirds at WCAU Radio in Philadelphia, with others, circa 1943, where they would sing as The Jericho Quartet. In 1942, they had performed at Cafe Society in New York as The Jericho Quartet and appeared on WCAU as the Swanee Singers.

At Left: Clipping from Philadelphia Inquirer dated 7/30/42 showing The Swanee Singers as part of "Dixiana". Note that Bon Bon, previously of The Three Keys, is also listed.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, October 27, 1942: ....The "Swanee Singers," Negro vocalists who have been heard locally on WCAU, have moved into the "big time." They opened last night at Cafe Society in New York....

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, December 14, 1942: ....SHORT SHORT STORY: It concerns a group of Negro singers, who for some time made a rather precarious living in Philadelphia. They sang at "gospel services" in churches here. They sang "a capella" and were unusually fine, but luck didn't seem to come their way. Finally, they got a break—they were discovered by WCAU and put on the air as the "Swanee Singers." Then came another break—they were signed for a trial week in New York's "Cafe Society Downtown." At the present writing, they are appearing as the "Jericho Quintet" in two Manhattan night spots—"Cafe Society Downtown" and "Cafe Society Uptown." And this afternoon, at 3:25, the Jericho Quintet will be heard on the air via the station which gave them their first chance—WCAU.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, April 1, 1943: ....Listeners who heard the Jericho Quartet on the Monday and Wednesday stanzas of WCAU's "Open House" may not have recognized the rich voices of those a capella singers. But they have sung on the station before—as the Swanee Singers. They were heard regularly from last July until they went to New York, where they scored a smash hit at both Uptown and Downtown Cafe Society. The group began its singing career as the Dixie Hummingbirds in Greenville, S.C., and their experience includes church work, radio, benefit performances for charities and night club appearances. Recently they have made a number of recordings for the Office of War Information which will be short-waved to our troops overseas. Two members of the group—a bass singer and a second tenor—are now in the army. In addition to their stints on "Open House," the Jericho Quartet also have a 15-minute program on Sundays at 1:30 P.M.

Everything, including Hollywood has its day. But religion goes on forever. That is the reason Mme. Ernestine Washington, church singer and minister's wife, gives for remaining tone-deaf to film offers. And these offers had come even before her recent sensational appearance at a Town Hall benefit, where she "sent" a predominantly jive-conscious audience, including Orson Welles, with something in spirituals for which the peculiar language of swing has no word.

With Bunk Johnson's Dixieland Style Band solid back of her, the Negro contralto stepped out on the stage, drove her right fist into her left palm several times to get into what—for the others—would be the groove, and sang hymns so movingly that she immediately held all the sophisticated hearers in those two punchy-gestured hands of hers. "Do you swing your spirituals, or----what?" "That's just 'jubilee' style," she explained. [Two selections with Bunk Johnson backing Ernestine can be heard further down on this webpage.]

Jubilee style is a technique acquired the hard way by the singer, who is the wife of the Church Of God, of Montclair, N.J. For all of the dozen or more years of their marriage, the Washingtons have "evangelized" up and down this country and Canada with Ernestine, the singer, doing her part.... "Would you sing other than religious songs, a ballad, for example?" she was asked. "If it had any religious meaning, yes...."

At the age of 3 in her native Arkansas the religious contralto began her career. "They called me 'the little singer' and they'd stand me on a table... when I was 19 I met my husband; he had studied at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and been ordained... At present, Mme. Washington is heard on the radio on WHOM Wednesdays and Saturdays, 11 to 12 P.M., and the church services are broadcast Sundays on WAAT...

Above Right: Clipping from The Evening News dated 4/16/48.

Above Left: Ernestine Washington from Indianapolis Recorder dated 9/11/48.

Above Middle: Bass singer and cellist Cliff Givens, founder of The Southern Sons and their mainstay through the years. They first recorded for RCA Victor's subsidiary label, Bluebird, in 1941. This picture of him is from his short stay with The Ink Spots, between October 1944 and March 1945.

Above Right: A picture of The Southern Sons when they were recording as The Melody Masters for Apollo Records in late 1946. Per Disco-File, members were Danny Owens and Pico Payne (lead tenors), James Waters (baritone), Cliff Givens (bass), and Eric Miller (guitar). This was the second of Cliff Givens' three Southern Sons formations. Owens is bottom left and Givens is in the center.

Above: The Dixie Hummingbirds circa 1949.

Above: The Dixie Hummingbirds circa 1952.

Above: The Dixie Hummingbirds circa 1954.

Above: Apollo clipping for The Dixie Hummingbirds from The Cash Box dated 7/22/46.
This picture of the group seems to be their mainstay line-up during the 1940s: (L-R) Beachey Thompson, William Bobo, Ira Tucker, and James Davis (Someone please correct me if any errors.)

LISTEN (using Windows Media Player): "My Record Will Be There" - The Dixie Hummingbirds - Apollo 108 - 1946.

Above: Regis Records clipping from The Billboard dated 12/9/44 showing that Manor 104 was first released on Regis 1007. Both labels were owned and operated by Irving Berman, Manor replacing Regis in 1945.

EXTRA AUDIO #1 (Windows Media Player):
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]
ABOVE LEFT: Label image for Bluebird 34-0734-B recorded on August 28, 1942, but not released until September 1945. Personnel on this recording are Cliff Givens, James K. Baxter, Charles Wesley Hill, William Langford, and Charles Howard Wilson.

ABOVE MIDDLE: Label image for Bluebird 30-0806-A recorded on October 27, 1942, and released in November of that year. Same personnel as for Bluebird 34-0734-B above.

ABOVE RIGHT: Label image for Bluebird B-8882-B recorded on October 29, 1941, and released in December of that year. The Knites Of Rhythm were the same group as The Southern Sons (with the same personnel as for the other two records above), but the pseudonym was used for secular (non-spiritual) songs. It was their only record using this name.

The Billboard Review (11/21/42):

THE SOUTHERN SONS — BLUEBIRD 30-0806.... Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition
The Petrillo impasse caught the label without an issue of Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition, which is soaring the song heights and figures on remaining there for some time to come. Attended by wide publicity, it bids to become one of the few lasting war songs of this conflict. The musical instrument frozen for the recording, Victor comes in with an all-vocal interpretation of the Frank Loesser classic. And with the song strong in spiritual leanings, it's a quartet of male spiritual singers to interpret it, and instead of an accompanying orchestra, there's the sound effects of machine guns, airplane dives and bombs bursting. Nothing musical about such sounds, but used effectively, they create a stirring battlefield background. Taking it at a moderate tempo and in strict rhythm, the Southern Sons start off singing the verse in unison and in close harmony for the first chorus. The Holy Roller effects are added to their singing for a second chorus. For a third chorus, the voices are modulated softly as one of the Sons talks the lyrics in gospel fashion, continuing his preachment for another refrain to finish out the side.

Already riding high along the phono networks, the new and novel interpretation is bound to attract a fair measure of the coins being harvested by this war song.

ABOVE LEFT: The Southern Sons/Knites Of Rhythm (L-R) Charles Wesley Hill (baritone), Clifford Givens (bass), James Kissler Baxter (tenor and guitar), Charles Howard Wilson (baritone), and William Langford (tenor). Langford (aka Landford) had been with The Golden Gate Quartet. This first Southern Sons group broke up soon after Baxter's death in 1944. Givens took Hoppy Jones' place in The Ink Spots upon Jones' death in 1944, staying less than a year. He later re-formed The Southern Sons. Langford joined The Selah Jubilee Singers, staying with them for several years.

ABOVE RIGHT: The Southern Sons (L-R) Clifford Givens, William Langford, James Kissler Baxter, and Charles Wesley Hill.

1. "When They Ring Them Golden Bells" - The Southern Sons - Bluebird 34-0734-B - 1945 [recorded 1942].
2. "Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition" - The Southern Sons - Bluebird 30-0806-A - 1942.
3. "Chattanooga Choo Choo" - The Knites Of Rhythm - Bluebird B-8882-A - 1942.
4. "Baby Won't You Fall In Love" - The Knites Of Rhythm - Bluebird B-8882-B - 1942.
ALL FOUR played in sequence.

EXTRA AUDIO #2 (Windows Media Player):

ABOVE LEFT/MIDDLE: Label images for Disc Asch 6039B and Melodisc 1101 released in 1947. Both sides of this record are spirituals with a dixieland jazz band backing.

ABOVE RIGHT: Bunk Johnson circa 1946.

1. "God's Amazing Grace" - Sister Ernestine B. Washington - Disc Asch 6039B - 1947. [Recorded 1946]
2. "Where Could I Go But To The Lord" - Sister Ernestine B. Washington - Disc Asch 6039A - 1947. [Recorded 1946]
BOTH played in sequence.

Above Left: Label image of Manor 104-A released in 1945. This record was first issued on Regis 1007 in 1944 and later released on Arco 1244 in 1950. Regis, Manor and Arco were all owned and operated by Irving Berman, who either liked the record or thought money was to be made in re-issues of it or both.

Above Right: Label image of Manor 1084-B released in September 1947.

NOTE: Most discographical information provided at this website is from Ferdie Gonzalez' Disco-File.

Listen to this week's selections featuring Ernestine Washington And The Dixie Hummingbirds/Southern Sons on Manor from 1945/1947 using Windows Media Player:
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]

          1. If I Could Just Make It In
          2. Saviour, Don't Pass Me By
          3. The Lord Will Make A Way
          4. I Thank You Lord
          ALL FOUR played in sequence
          played in sequence

          [To download audio files, right-click on song title
          link and then click "Save link (target) as..."]

          At Right: Manor Records Clipping
          From The Billboard 8/30/47

          At Middle Right: Dixie Hummingbirds
          From Tampa Bay Times 7/31/49
          At Far Right: Dixie Hummingbirds
          From Tampa Bay Times 11/30/52

THANK YOU to all who have helped with "Record Of The Week" during 2018, including the following:

Todd Baptista
Andrew Bohan
Austin Casey
Marv Goldberg
Ferdie Gonzalez
Pete Grendysa
Hans-Joachim Krohberger
Joe Marchesani
J.C. Marion
Jean-Christophe Piazza
Paul Ressler
Dave Saviet
Your assistance is truly appreciated!