The Dixie Cups originally consisted of Joan Johnson and her cousins, Barbara and Rosa Hawkins. They were pursuing a singing career in their native New Orleans under the name The Meltones when singer Joe Jones ("You Talk Too Much") discovered the girls at a talent show.
Jones rought the trio to songwriter-producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller at New York's Brill Building. Leiber and Stoller liked what they heard, and decided to sign the girls to a recording contract on a label Red Bird Records. The powerhouse songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who'd been working with Leiber and Stoller, joined Red Bird as composers/producers.
"Chapel of Love," written by Barry and Greenwich with Phil Spector, had previously been recorded by The Ronettes and The Crystals, but neither version was released as a single.
The girls recorded "Chapel of Love" under their new name, The Dixie Cups (another name that had been briefly considered for the trio was Little Miss and The Muffets; the moniker decided upon was a nod to the girls' New Orleans roots).
Red Bird partner George Goldner heard The Dixie Cups' master of "Chapel of Love" and declared it to be a sure-fire hit. After augmenting the track with a Dixie-flavored brass section, Leiber and Stoller released "Chapel" which ascended swiftly to #1 in the spring of 1964, knocking The Beatles' "Love Me Do" out of the top spot and earning the girls their first gold record.
The Dixie Cups became the first American group to "take back" the U.S. Cash Box and Billboard charts from the British Invasion.
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NOTE: The percussion on "Iko Iko" came from drumsticks on ashtrays. tthe Dixie Cups didn't know the tapes were running, later the bass was cut in to make a complete song. Music Lover
The Dixie Cups' next release, "People Say," garnered a second gold record for the group. Other hits would follow, like "You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked At Me," "Little Bell," and the chant "Iko Iko."
Barbara Hawkins had heard her grandmother sing the song, first recorded in 1954 as "Jock-a-Mo" by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford. Barbara Hawkins: "We were just clowning around with it during a session using drumsticks on ashtrays. We didn't realize that Jerry and Mike had the tapes running". Leiber and Stoller overdubbed a bassline and percussion, and released it. It was The Dixie Cups' fifth and last hit. Along with "Chapel of Love," Iki Iko" has become the group's signature tune.
In 1965, The Dixie Cups' manager tried moving the group to another label, ABC-Paramount. Within a year or two stress from traveling led Joan Johnson to retire from the group.
Barbara and Rosa brought in another alto and continued to tour and entertain. However, legal problems caused by The Dixie Cups' migration to the new label were enough to stall the trio's career and cause their records to be dropped from the charts. Despite having a couple of Top Forty hits, the group was unable to recapture the success they'd enjoyed at Red Bird and their recording career came to a halt.
During the 80's and 90's, thanks largely to renewed interest in the songs they'd recorded for Red Bird, The Dixie Cups (still minus Joan) enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. In 2002, The Dixie Cups were Rhythm & Blues Foundation nominees; then, in 2003, the Foundation honored The Dixie Cups with their Pioneer Award.