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Published on February 1st, 2018 | by Inspirations with Liz Black

28 Days of Gospel History “The Davis Sisters – Pioneers of a Style”

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The Famous Davis Sisters was founded by the eldest sister, Ruth “Baby Sis” Davis in 1945. Raised in the Mount Zion Fire Baptized Holiness Church in Philadelphia, the group contributed to pioneering a unique physical style of singing and visual way to present it. Their style, described as “Hard Gospel”, was highly emotive, pushing vocal chords to their limits with synchronized harmonies was punctuated with choreographed movements. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin in her memoir said of one of the group’s lead singers “I also considered Jackie Verdell of The Davis Sisters one of the best and most underrated female singers of all time.”

Here are some facts about the ground-shaking group:

    • The group was influenced by Ira Tucker of The Dixie Hummingbirds and Dinah Washington (Yes THAT Dinah Washington) of The Sallie Martin Singers.
    • The original group comprised of Ruth (17), Thelma (15), Audrey (14), Alfreda (10)
    • The sisters were mentored by Gertrude Ward, Mother of Clara Ward of the famed Clara Ward Singers. Gertrude influenced their style and assisted them in getting their first recording contracts.
    • Their song “Jesus Steps In” was recorded by the Queen of Gospel Mahalia Jackson.
    • The style they refined so well influenced secular musicians like Ray Charles who modeled his backup singers, The Raelettes after The Davis Sisters.

The Davis Sisters- I Believe I’ll Go Back Home

Ray Charles – I Believe To My Soul (LIVE) HD

  • In 1962, Ruth left the group after the sisters got into a disagreement. Ruth moved to New York City and formed her own group “Ruth Davis Specials of New York City”. After their pianist, vocalist and cousin Curtis Dublin died in a car accident, Ruth returned to the group.
  • The Davis Sisters toured with Reverend C.L. Franklin’s travelling troupe and asked Reverend Franklin if the troupe’s 15 year old powerhouse singer Jackie Verdell could be in theirs. He eventually obliged.
  • Richard Smallwood stated in 2013 that The Davis Sisters were his first influence in Gospel after seeing them at around age 6.
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