The life and legacy of the Jubilee Hummingbirds were celebrated last Sunday (Aug. 6) at the Church Ministries, 1219 Finley Rd.
The Jubilee Hummingbirds trace their roots back 85 years. The Rev. William “Redd” Watson has been part of the musical group for 41 years.
“The performance was a great thing,” said Watson. “We started to look over it, but by it being the 85th anniversary, we wanted to celebrate it with the people. We opened the doors just for the public.
“We appreciate all the support they have done for us down through the years.”
The Jubilee Hummingbirds helped to define a style of showmanship and enthusiastic shouting that became synonymous with the jubilee quartet genre. Secular singers, such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson, adopted the style of performing during their popular stage acts of the 1960s.
As for the future, Watson said, “We are just holding up the bloodstained banner.” He added a reference to the Jubilee Hummingbirds one day becoming the oldest quartet in Memphis.
The goal, said Watson, is to be “an enhancement for the children to come behind us.”
Last year at a Love and Benefit concert in his honor, Watson reflected.
“We were started in the ’40s by Clarence Johnson,” he said at the time. “We always honor him as our founder. In 1964, we recorded at Stax. In the fall of 1968, we started performing each week on ‘Songs of Praise,’ a local gospel program on WREG Channel 3.”
Watson recalled then that at their busiest the Jubilee Hummingbirds were singing through the week, twice on Saturday, and three times on Sunday.
“Those were wonderful days,” he said. “Not only did we go all over the Mid-South, we were singing in Chicago, just all over. Those were wonderful days. Now, many of the old guys have passed away.
“We want to tell these younger members about our history and what those members did back then to make Jubilee Hummingbirds what they are. Our history must be kept alive.”