By Bob Marovich
The Reverend Joe Williams informed JGM this morning that Mr. Howard Carroll, longtime singer and guitarist with the Dixie Hummingbirds, and long considered the dean of gospel guitar, passed away this morning in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy community. He was 93.
“He did things with the guitar that no one ever did,” Williams told a crowd at Philadelphia’s Clef Club in 2016 during a presentation of the Gospel Guitar Award to Carroll. “No one ever did it in gospel music. He actually changed the way gospel music became because of the original things he did with the guitar. Then some of the rock and other popular guitarists started imitating him, like Chuck Berry.”
In the 1930s, according to Jerry Zolten’s Great God A’Mighty, a biography of the Dixie Hummingbirds, Carroll was a member of a musical trio called Ace, Deuce, and Trey. Carroll organized the Lamplighters vocal group in 1946. The Lamplighters initially performed in a variety of musical styles before settling exclusively on gospel and changing their group name to the Nightingales and, later, the Sensational Nightingales. Carroll also accompanied the Zion Harmonizers of New Orleans on one late 1950s recording session for Gotham.
JGM will forward homegoing information as it becomes available. In the meantime, we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family, friends, and many fans of Mr. Carroll. Citing a popular quartet song, Rev. Williams noted, “Mr. Carroll’s gone home on the morning train.”
Photo Credits: Jerry Zolten, Rev. Joe Williams