The Drinkard Singers

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The Drinkard Singers
Genres Christian
Years active 1938–1967
Labels RCA
Past members Cissy Houston
Dee Dee Warwick (deceased)
Dionne Warwick
Anne Drinkard (deceased)
Nick Drinkard (deceased)
Larry Drinkard (deceased)
Marie Epps (deceased)
Ann Moss (deceased)
Judy Clay (deceased)

The Drinkard Singers were an American gospel singing group, most successful in the late 1950s and important in the careers of singers Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick, and Judy Clay.

Family origins[edit]

Nitcholas (aka Nitch, 1895-1951) and Delia Drinkard (née McCaskill, 1901-1941) who had eight children - sons William (b. 1918), Hansom (b. 1924), Nicky (b. 1929-1992), and Larry (b. 1931-2012), and daughters Lee (1921-2005), Marie (1922-2007), Anne (1927-2003) and Emily "Cissy" (b. 1933). [1] The Drinkard surname, although gained through a Native American ancestor, has British origins with a meaning that alludes to the running of water. [2]

Nitcholas Drinkard was born to a part Dutch, part African-American, mother Susan Bell Drinkard (née Fuller, b. 1876) and a full Native American father John Drinkard, Jr. (b. 1870).[1] He descended from a family of African-American landowners in Blakely, Georgia where three of his children where born. The Drinkards owned a substantial amount of farmland during a time when it was unusual for blacks to own large portions of land. The asset was gradually depleted as small portions of the land were sold, over time, to resolve continued legal troubles of a close relative. [2]

The family later moved to New Jersey during the Second Great Migration. [2] In 1938 mother, Delia, suffered a stroke and died of cerebral hemorrhage three years later. Nitcholas later died of stomach cancer in 1951.[3][4]

Musical career[edit]

The driving inspiration behind the Drinkard Singers was factory worker Nicholas "Nitch" Drinkard, who encouraged his children to form a gospel singing group in Savannah, Georgia, around 1938. The original group comprised Emily Drinkard (later known as Cissy Houston), her sister Anne, and brothers Nick and Larry. Another sister, Lee, served as the group's manager, and, as Lee Drinkard Warwick, became the mother of Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick.

By the early 1950s, the family had moved to New Jersey, and had added Marie Epps and Ann Moss to the group. Anne Drinkard left and was replaced by Lee's adopted daughter Judy Guions, who was later known as Judy Clay. Performing regularly in Newark, they recorded several singles. After an appearance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, they recorded the first gospel album to appear on a major label, the live album A Joyful Noise, for RCA Records in 1959.

After several personnel changes in the early 1960s, the remaining members of the group in 1967 became The Sweet Inspirations, who would sing background for the Warwick sisters, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b " Emily Houston (Drinkard)". April 13, 2011. Retrieved February 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Houston, Cissy (September 2, 2009). "Visionary Project Video Interview (bottom of page) - Cissy Houston: My Family, at the 0:54 mark". Retrieved February 11, 2012. 
  3. ^ " Delia Drinkard (McCaskill)". April 13, 2011. Retrieved February 11, 2012. 
  4. ^ " Nitcholas Drinkard". April 13, 2011. Retrieved February 11, 2012.