The Short Career and Music of The Dixie Belles


Introduction to The Dixie Belles

Dixie Belles were short-lived, 60s music era all-girl group originating from Memphis, Tennessee. They appeared fleetingly on the music scene during the early 1960s with hits “(Down At) Papa Joe’s” and “Southtown USA.” On the record, they were members of the Anita Kerr Singers, an all-white group; on the tour however, an all-black group was formed instead for live gigs and promotion, for publicity purposes. Bill Justis, who had also worked for Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, produced both of the Dixie Belles hits which were released on the Monument label. The group released an LP later on, but their third single “New York Town” failed to chart on the Hot 100. Monument dropped them from their roster, and soon after the Dixie Belles disbanded.

Meet The Dixie Belles

The American girl group The Dixie Belles had a short-lived existence and popularity in the music business. Formed in the early 1960’s in Memphis, Tennessee, the all-girl trio consisted of Mary Hunt, Mildred Pratcher and Shirley Thomas. Before being known as The Dixie Belles, they were initially called as The Tonettes who had released one single in 1962 for Stax Records (Volt subsidiary). Also during the same time they also worked as backup singers around the South area.

Signing to Monument Records with their smash hit “(Down at) Papa Joe’s”

The Dixie Belles’ fate started to change in 1963 when they met Bill Justis, a record producer who also handled the big names like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Justis himself had also a hit of his own through his classic rock-and-roll instrumental “Raunchy.”

Signing to Monument Records later that year, the girls subsequently recorded the unusual song “(Down at) Papa Joe’s” as their debut single. While recording the song, they were still performing with the Anita Kerr Singers, an all-white vocal group. However, an all-black group was formed for promotion purposes and for live tours.

Engineered by Billy Sherrill (producer, songwriter and A&R man), “(Down at) Papa Joe’s” climbed to #9 on the national charts in late 1963.

The following year, it was followed by another successful single with “Southtown, U.S.A.” which peaked at #15 on the same chart as well. The third single “New York Town” was issued afterwards but it failed to repeat the success of the first two singles. The Dixie Belles released a full-length album for Sound Stage 7 imprint which was titled after their first single. The album charted very low at #119 on the Billboard “Bubbling Under 100” chart. After that the group did not make any singles anymore which also resulted into their breakup.

The Dixie Belles’ list of songs (may be impartial)

  • (Down At) Papa Joe’s
  • Bo Weevil
  • Bourbon Street Parade
  • Down at Papa Joes
  • Forever, Forever
  • Goodnight Irene
  • I Told You So
  • New York Town
  • Papa Joe’s, (Down at)
  • Rock, Rock, Rock
  • Southtown, U.S.A
  • Swanee River (Where They Rock All Night)
  • Telling Lies
  • The Beale Street Dog
  • Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
  • Why Don’t You Set Me Free
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