The Davis Sisters - A Short History





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Published on Nov 18, 2008

The Davis Sisters was a Gospel group founded by Ruth ("Baby Sis") Davis and featuring her sisters Thelma, Audrey and Alfreda. Imogene Greene joined the group in 1950, and was later replaced by Jackie Verdell when Greene left to join the Caravans. They are not to be confused with the 1950s country music act also known as The Davis Sisters (country), which launched the career of Skeeter Davis.

The core of the group were biological sisters but over the decades some were replaced by non-related performers.

*Ruth Davis - nicknamed Baby Sis, founded the group at age 17. She was the featured vocalist with a bluesy voice and could also play the piano but never did on stage. She was the creative brains behind the group's musical arrangements and was not afraid to try something new. Some of her gospel songs contain doo-wop vocal techniques culled from current rock and roll songs. One of her most unusual arrangements was "Earnestly Praying", whose music is a cover to a 1961 pop hit, "Tossing' and Turnin'". The Hammond organ's keyboard-instruments were cleverly used to fill in for other instruments used in the original song. Ruth died in 1970. Ray Charles' wife sang at her funeral, which was held at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA.

*Alfreda Davis - She was the long-time business manager of the group. She always collected the money from the promoter before the Sisters entered the auditorium and she led the group on stage. She was the youngest sister who had started singing with them at age 10. She died in June 1990.

*Thelma Davis - joined at age 15, one of the original Sisters. Her biggest hit was "Jesus is a Waymaker". Unfortunately she died in 1955 at age 26 leaving behind her 3 children& husband James Blassingame. Post-partum she developed pneumonia and, anxious to support the group's performances, had begun touring too soon after delivery. Her funeral was held at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA.

*Audrey Davis - another original Sister. She married Curtis' brother, Wilburn Dublin. She had four children from a previous marriage and with her touring with her sisters, the child care issue added stress to the relationship and they eventually divorced.

*Curtis Dublin - pianist, joined the Davis Sisters group in 1947 when he was 19 years old. He played piano with a strong jazz, bouncy rag-time influence which many early church-goers were slow to accept as religious music in the very early 1950s. He lived on the third floor of the Davis family home in Philadelphia. He died in 1963 in an automobile accident.

*Jackie Verdell - joined at age 15. She was from Camden, New Jersey. As a child she had witnessed her father kill her mother and this left her with a degree of symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Davis Sisters supported her emotionally and treated her as a blood-sibling. Originally she was singing with Rev. C.L. Franklin's traveling evangelistic troupe. The Davis Sisters were touring with Rev. Franklin and heard Jackie sing and were amazed at her powerful voice and delivery. At a program in Detroit, Michigan they asked Rev. Franklin to release her so they could hire her but he initially refused. They persisted and teenage Jackie Verdell became another Davis Sister and fit in perfectly. She had a solo career several times over the years and did some secular work. Her favorite song, "Kumbaya" was recorded on a Jesse Jackson program. She was nominated for a Grammy but did not win. She died in August of 1991.

*Imogene Green - soprano. Imogene was from Chicago, Illinois. She had sung with the Caravans, the Gospel All-Stars and another nationally-known gospel group. She died in July 1982.

*Leila Dargan- hailed from Baltimore, Maryland. She is the 2nd lead vocal on the song: "On The Right Road" in the version recorded on RCA Victor LSP 2851 in 1964. She died in a house fire in the 1980s.
Cynthia Young - vocals. She also occasionally played the piano for the group after Curtis died.

*Edna - She sang at concerts but was never with the group at a recording session. She is deceased.

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