Dixie Cups still ‘Going to the Chapel’

Dixie Cups still ‘Going to the Chapel’

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When the Dixie Cups first heard “Chapel of Love,” they hated it.
The trio, one of the original 1960s girl groups, was in New York making the rounds, looking for a break. And the song, written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich with Phil Spector, was one of several played for them to consider recording.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘Do we have to sing it like that?”’ Barbara Hawkins said on Wednesday. “It sounded like a country and western song.”
“So we went over in the corner and worked on it and came up with the song that was the hit,” Rosa Hawkins said, finishing her sister’s story.
The pair, along with cousin Joan Johnson, became the first American artists to knock the Beatles out of the No. 1 spot on the charts.
“Chapel of Love” sold over 3 million copies in six weeks.
“It’s been buying our groceries ever since,” Barbara Hawkins said with a laugh.
Not all the time.
Like many of those early artists, the Dixie Cups finished the 1960s with a string of hits — “People Say,” which earned a second gold record for the group, “You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me,” “Little Bell,” and “Iko Iko” — but little money.
“We were like a lot of people that you’d look at and think with all those hits they must be rich,” Rosa Hawkins said. “But we didn’t start getting royalties until the 1980s. We were always working at day jobs.”
But thanks to oldies radio, the sisters say, their careers have taken an upturn.
“God bless them,” Rosa Hawkins said. “They keep playing our music and now we’re reaching a whole new group of people.”
“Our fans are from 60 down, not 60 up now,” Barbara Hawkins chimed in.
Athelgra Neville, sister of the Neville Brothers, has been the third member of the Dixie Cups for the past seven years, fitting right in with the three-part harmony that has always been their trademark.
The Dixie Cups, who will perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Saturday, also find themselves doing their biggest hit a lot of weddings these days.
“We did it at my son’s wedding,” Rosa Hawkins said. “I started tearing up and told my son, I never would have dreamed all those years ago I’d be singing that song for my own son at his wedding.”
These days the sisters, who will only acknowledge they are in their 60s, but look much younger, consider themselves survivors of both the music industry and New Orleans.
Both lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.
They have resettled in Tampa, Fla., and their return to New Orleans is doubtful.
“We lived in neighborhoods where we knew everyone,” Rosa Hawkins said. “Now you don’t know who your neighbor is going to be. You don’t even know if you’re going to have a neighbor. Some places are still like ghost towns.”
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On the Net: www.thedixiecups.org
Published in The Messenger 5.8.08

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