1964 Dixiebelles – Southtown, U.S.A.

1963 Dixiebelles – Southtown, U.S.A.

Mary Hunt, Mildred Pratcher, and Shirley Thomas formed the Tonettes in Memphis in 1962. Stax/Volt Records released two singles from the group, and recorded material for at least four more singles that went unreleased. The records didn’t get their career started.

Several members of the all-white Anita Kerr singers sang in the studio production of the song [Down At] Papa Joes. Nashville-based Sound Stage 7 Records released the single and credited it to The Dixiebelles with Cornbread & Jerry. When the record started climbing up the charts, the record company wanted to send a group called the Dixiebelles on the road to promote the single. For some unspecified reason, the record company wanted a trio of African-American women, and the Tonettes were a perfect fit. A simple name change, and the group began to tour.

The record reached #9 on the Hot 100 in 1964.

Another studio recording was released later that year as the group’s second single, Southtown, U.S.A. That record peaked at #15 on the Hot 100.

The third single the company released failed to chart, and the label dropped the group.

Mildred left the group, and the other two went back to Stax/Volt and worked with Isaac Hayes. He recruited two more singers for the group and they recorded as The Charmels and then the Charmelles between 1966 and 1968. None of the group’s singles charted.


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