Friday, October 05, 2012

Gene Lowery and the Dixie Four

The Dixie Four were a  gospel harmony group. The band name wasn't original. It had been used by other musical groups during the 1920s and the 1930s. Which might be why they were sometimes billed as the Stamps Dixie Four; a reference to their sponsorship with the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. they were also frequently billed as Gene Lowery's Dixie Four, but Gene was just their manager and a log time radio man. By his own accounting he had radio shows on 32 different radio stations.

He initially formed the group in Jackson Mississippi in 1938. Lowery did sing sometimes and even sang lead, but mostly to fill in for a missing member. Membership changed so often over the course of their career that I won't even try to track membership over the course of the story. [More here.] The Dixie Four broadcast daily on 1370 WJDX-AM.  I have no direct citation for that claim, but multiple sources claim they had a show in Jackson, and it was the only station in town at the time. Lowery started in radio in 1929 in Shreveport, MS so it's likely he already had a show and made the introduction. They relocated in 1940 to Memphis for a show on WMC-AM. They went on hiatus starting in 1942 when Lowery enlisted in the navy.

Lowery re-organized the Dixie Four in 1944. They started off with two programs, one "network program" sponsored by Faultless Starch, and another on a "local station" sponsored by a burial insurance company. Both of those factoids are from a short history written by Gene Lowery in 1948. Faultless Starch did have their own program "Faultless Starch Time" in 1952 on NBC. I cannot independently corroborate his claims. But in 1946 they did move to Indianapolis, where they became regulars on 1070 WIBC-AM. That's when things really picked up.They compiled and printed up at least four different song books at WIBC, and sold them on air. They all seem to substantially have the same short bio.

In 1947 WIBC became A Mutual Broadcasting System affiliate and their program was heard  on hundreds of affiliate stations. Lowery  emcee'd the program of course. They released dozens of sides on TruTone records and Gene Lowery’s own "Gospel Records" label. The Dixie Four continued to perform and record until they disbanded in about 1955. Gene tried again with a trio of studio singers called the Gene Lowery Singers that worked out of at Sun Studios in Memphis. They were nothing special but did back both Johnny Cash among others. He also organized the the Southland Quartet, and the Gene Lowery Quartet btu they were duds as well.