The Life and Music of the Dixie Cups

Introduction to The Dixie Cups

The Dixie Cups were one of the more well-known all-girl groups to ever emerge in the 60s music era, with their fame resting on their successful single “Chapel of Love” in 1964. The group’s origins stemmed from New Orleans, Louisiana and consisted of sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins and their cousin Joan Marie Johnson, who all sang together during their grade school years. The trio’s first single “Chapel Of Love” was also the group’s highest charting hit. The Dixie Cups also scored other hit such as “People Say,” “You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me” and “Iko Iko,” which were all Top 40 singles. In 1966, the girls recorded for ABC Paramount for a while before withdrawing from the music business temporarily; at the time each of the members was going for separate interests. The Hawkins sisters and Johnson returned to New Orleans from New York. Dale Mickle eventually took the place of Johnson, who had converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. One of the most popular girl groups who have done memorable contributions for their home state’s music and culture, the Dixie Cups were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007. The Dixie Cups are still active up to this day, with the Hawkins sisters along with current member Athelgra Neville, the sister of a funk/soul group of musical siblings the Neville Brothers.

The formation and early days of The Dixie Cups

The Dixie Cups formed in 1964 in New Orleans, California. The original lineup consisted of Barbara Ann Hawkins, Rosa Lee Hawkins and Joan Marie Johnson, who was Barbara’s and Joan’s cousin. The first formation of The Dixie Cups were already performing during their grade school days, once being called the Little Miss and the Muffets. The trio’s professional music career started in 1963 as The Meltones which was soon managed by singer Joe Jones (known with the 1960’s Top Five pop hit “You Talk Too Much”). Five months later, they flew to New York where they signed to the newly-established Red Bird Records which was founded by producers/songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Leiber and Stoller, of course, were principally known for writing many of Elvis Presley’s hits.

Their recording journey as The Dixie Cups

In the summer of 1964 the Dixie Cups achieved their first hit “Chapel of Love,” which was writen by Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector. Released on Red Bird, it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling over a million copies that led to the trio’s first gold disc. “Chapel of Love” was later included on the “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list by the music magazine Rolling Stone (at #279).

The Dixie Cups made a handful of more hits such as “People Say” (#12, 1964), “You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me” (#39, 1964), “Little Bell” (#51, 1965) and a traditional song of New Orleans called “Iko-Iko.” (#20, 1965). “Iko-Iko,” a favorite song of Barbara’s grandmother, was first recorded in 1953 by New Orleans-native James “Sugar Boy” Crawford.

The Dixie Cups’ later and recent career

Switching to ABC-Paramount in 1965, the Dixie Cups later released “Gee the Moon Is Shining Bright” which was co-written by Spector, Greenwich and Jeff Barry. The song bubbled under the Hot 100 at #2. Following the song’s failure to make it big, the band temporarily went on a hiatus. After years of staying in New York, the Hawkins sisters went back to their hometown where they would become successful models and make-up artists. The Dixie Cups resumed their touring but Johnson, who became a Jehovah’s Witness member, left the trio. She was replaced by Beverly Brown who was also a recording artist in the 1960’s. In the early 1980’s, Brown left and Dale Mickle filled in her position. The trio is still in the music circuit with the Hawkins sisters and Neville Brothers’ sister Athelgra Neville.

The Hawkins sisters are now residing in Florida after Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana area, while Johnson moved to Texas. For their contribution in the music industry in Louisiana, The Dixie Cups was inducted in The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in April 2007.