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Sister Act Hit Hard By Katrina

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Sister Act Hit Hard By Katrina

Sister Act Hit Hard By Katrina

Sister Act Hit Hard By Katrina

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Sisters Barbara and Rosa Hawkins were the core of a '60s girl group called the Dixie Cups. Best known for the 1964 hit "Chapel of Love," the New Orleans natives lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.


Among the many artists who raised money for hurricane relief at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall this week were the darlings of New Orleans, a pop music trio known as the Dixie Cups.

(Soundbite of "Chapel of Love")

DIXIE CUPS: (Singing) Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married. Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married. Gee, I really love you and we're gonna get married...

SIMON: Sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins and their cousin, Joan Marie Johnson, were the young women who put "Chapel of Love" on the top of the charts in 1964. The Dixie Cups were performing in Las Vegas when Hurricane Katrina flooded their homes in New Orleans. That loss puts them on tour indefinitely. Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins join us now from the studios of member station WUSF in Tampa, Florida.

Thank you very much for being with us.

Unidentified Guest #1: Thank you for inviting us.

Unidentified Guest #2: Thank you for having us.

SIMON: Oh, my word. How do you interview two sisters who have voices that sound so much alike--well, may I ask you, every now and then say, `This is Barbara Ann Hawkins,' or `This is Rosa,' or I could cheat and just call you both Ms. Hawkins, couldn't I?

Unidentified Guest #1: That's OK.

Unidentified Guest #2: That would be cheating.

SIMON: Yeah. How did you folks wind up in Tampa, may I ask? Barbara Ann?

Ms. BARBARA ANN HAWKINS (Dixie Cups): OK, Rosa's son, my nephew, lives here with his family. So we came here to see about him.

SIMON: And how are your families, Rosa Lee Hawkins?

Ms. ROSA LEE HAWKINS (Dixie Cups): They're doing a lot better than we are. We're kind of floating in the air right now.

SIMON: Yeah. May I ask, do you know what condition your homes are in?

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Well, the area that we live in, New Orleans East, was underwater. We don't know how much but it was under.

SIMON: I'm just guessing you have pictures and memorabilia and programs.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Had, past tense, had pictures and memorabilia.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: All of that...

Ms. R. HAWKINS: All of that is in our home--is still in our home.

SIMON: Oh, my. And you just...

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Yes.

SIMON: ...have no hope...


SIMON: ...that any of it survived, maybe on an upper floor or something?

Ms. R. HAWKINS: If it got to the second floor--this is Rosa speaking--I did pack up a lot of the photo albums and CDs and everything in one of these crates that you get from Wal-Mart and I had a top on it. You know, we're in the same boat, you might say, that every other New Orleans person is in just about.

SIMON: Let me ask, you played at a benefit concert along with...

Ms. R. HAWKINS and Ms. B. HAWKINS: (In unison) Correct.

SIMON: ...Jimmy Buffett, John Fogerty, Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, The Neville Brothers. I mean, I don't think it's any secret. Elton John and Paul Simon, they can afford to do benefits.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Correct.

SIMON: But...

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Look at some of the others.

SIMON: But a lot of New Orleans musicians need to work for a living, don't they?

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Yes, we do.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Exactly.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: And we've done weddings. We've sang for the bride to walk up the aisle. We do have a band and we know where everyone is. So we need work, really.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Except our horn player, Joseph Salisbury.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Joseph Salisbury.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: We're still trying to find him.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: We're still trying to find him. We can't find him.

SIMON: He was in New Orleans?

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Yes.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Yes.

SIMON: And how many times would you estimate you've sung "Goin' to the Chapel"?

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Oh, my gosh. I can't. I can't count.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Never enough times.

SIMON: So is it hard for you to watch the news?

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Let me tell you what I really thought about. I said, `You know, most of the people are out of New Orleans. It's ruined already.' I said, `I would not mind if the hurricane would go to New Orleans so that the people in Texas would not end up the way we are, devastated, losing things, losing lives.'

SIMON: May I ask, by the way, I don't want to lose sight of your cousin, Joan Marie Johnson. She left the group a while back?

Ms. B. HAWKINS and Ms. R. HAWKINS: (In unison) Yes.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: She was ill and she could no longer travel.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: We heard from her. We know possibly where she is.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: She's in Texas.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: I think she's in Texas right now.

SIMON: And Athelgra Gabriel who sings with you now.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Athelg--yes.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Yes.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Athelgra Neville Gabriel, she's a sister of The Neville Brothers.


Ms. B. HAWKINS: The Nevilles and the Hawkins are kind of connected because we used to live near each other in the Caleo Project(ph) before they moved uptown to Vallant Street(ph).

SIMON: I want to ask you about the song--probably go out on this song--"Iko Iko." The story I heard is that you were in a recording session.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Correct.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Yes, we were.

SIMON: What happened exactly?

Ms. R. HAWKINS: We were.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Well, the band was taking a break and we were in there--Joan, Rosa and myself--and there was an aluminum chair, some drumsticks, Coca-Cola, which all of these years, Coca-Cola should have come up and helped us out, you know, because we talk about them all the time.


Ms. B. HAWKINS: We use their Coke bottle, drumsticks and ashtray and we started drumming and singing. We didn't know that Jerry and Mike were still in the control room. So...

SIMON: These are Jerry...

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

SIMON: Yeah, these are famous guys.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: They were the producers of Red Birds(ph).

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Yeah.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Exactly.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: So they were still in there and they turned the tapes on and they said, `Hey, girls, do that again.' So we did. So before you knew it, that's how "Iko" was born.

(Soundbite of "Iko Iko")

DIXIE CUPS: (Singing) My grandma and your grandma were sitting by the fire, my grandma told your grandma, `I'm gonna set your flag on fire.' Talking about, hey now, hey now, hey now, Iko! Iko! an de'. Jackomo fe no nan e'. Jackomo fe nan e'.

SIMON: A delight talking to both of you. Thank you so much.

Ms. B. HAWKINS: Thank you so much for having us.

Ms. R. HAWKINS: Same here. Thank you for having us.

SIMON: Barbara and Rosa Hawkins, the Dixie Cups, speaking with us from Tampa.

(Soundbite of "Iko Iko")

DIXIE CUPS: (Singing) I bet you $5, he'll kill you dead! Jackomo fe no an e'. Talkin' 'bout hey now, hey now, hey now, hey now, Iko! Iko! an de'. Whoa! Jackomo fe no an e'...

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