By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The father of gospel guitar just celebrated his 91st birthday at his home in Philadelphia’s Germantown section.
Howard Carroll of the Dixie Hummingbirds originated the distinctive style that other gospel groups imitated.
Like virtually all the gospel groups of the ’20’s and ’30’s, the Hummingbirds sang a capella, but when they moved to Philadelphia in the ’40’s, they added a guitar.
Howard Carroll, could play any kind of guitar but he says he wanted to create something new for gospel.
“You don’t have to hear words to know what kind of music it is.” said Carroll. “You know blues without the words. You know jazz without the words. Gospel didn’t have any sound when it left the organ in the church. It didn’t have an identity, music-wise.”
It did when Howard Carroll started to play. That’s why Paul Simon wanted the group on his hit, “Love me like a Rock.”
He envisioned it as a gospel tune, though it wasn’t exactly. The Hummingbirds later did their own version.
4″We turned it into what a gospel really sounds like.” said Carroll.
And whose did you think was better?
“Oh, I didn’t have an opinion.” said Carroll. “The better one was the one that made the money.”
Carroll is the oldest surviving member of the group. Due to health issues, he no longer plays or sings, but he has great memories of walking on stage, to the roar of the crowd: “Makes you feel good. Somebody likes me.”
Listen to the full story (runs 4:18)…