As I’m starting to blog each week now, one of the things that I want to do is introduce you to guitar players that you may not have heard of. One of the advantages of having large community of guitar enthusiasts here at ActiveMelody is that site members introduce me to lots of obscure guitar players, and I always end up learning something new.
Last week I got a call from a long-time site member named Russell, and he told me about a guitar player named Howard Carroll who played for the Dixie Hummingbirds, a black gospel group originally from South Carolina. I hadn’t heard of Howard Carroll, and I wasn’t familiar with the Dixie Hummingbirds, but on doing a little research, I found out that they were the vocal group behind Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like a Rock”. I had always loved that song, and the backup vocals, but had never researched who was singing behind Paul.
So I did a little digging around on YouTube and found out some old video clips of the Dixie Hummingbirds playing and fell in love with their sound. I’ve always been a sucker for southern gospel harmonies, and the vocal work from these guys is some of the best you’ve ever heard. They were very influential on artists like Jackie Wilson and James Brown. In fact, I’m convinced that James Brown got the falling to his knees part of his act from Ira Tucker (the lead singer from the Hummingbirds).
Beyond great vocals, they had one musician that would accompany them on stage in their live performances, and that was guitar player Howard Carroll. You can hear his work best if you listen to their albums. I’ve noticed that Spotify has a nice selection of their albums. Here are 2 “Best Of” albums that can introduce you to their sound:
Although there aren’t too many videos of Howard Carroll playing on YouTube, I did find a few, and I wanted to highlight one in particular. Check out Howard’s excellent guitar work on, “If You See My Savior”.
I thought this was so cool that I had to learn it, and wanted to share it with you. I’m not including any tabs for copyright reasons, but here’s what I heard Howard Carroll playing on the song “If You See My Savior”.
As far as I know, Howard Carroll is still alive and is in his 90s. There are several videos of his great-grandson playing guitar for him in what looks like an assisted living facility. I thought this video was interesting because it showed Howard verbally talking his great-grandson through a bluesy chord progression while he improvised a vocal melody on top of it.
I hope you find obscure guitar players like Howard Carroll as fascinating as I do. He played a small part in a popular gospel group that had a far greater influence than we may realize. Thank you Howard!