The Jones Sisters

Acapella Gospel Group, Oxford

The Jones Sisters are a gospel group from Oxford comprised of five sisters who span eight years in age; in early 2005 they ranged from 18 to 25. The oldest sister, Tambra, began singing when she was just three and was soon joined by her sister Tara, two years her junior. In order, the others are Tawanda, Dorothy, and Brittany.

“Tambra and Tara started singing first, twenty-two years ago,” explains Tawanda. “It started off first with Tambra. She couldn’t remember her Easter speech, so she sung a song. And then Tara started singing with her. I was five and Dorothy was four when we started singing with them. And Brittany started singing when she was thirteen.” “I waited because they traveled so much,” says Brittany.

The girls didn’t receive any formal musical training but came from a musical family. “My dad’s side, they could sing,” says Tambra. “And my mom’s side, they could sing. I guess it’s just a gift that everybody doesn’t have.”

Although the Jones Sisters perform much traditional material, they don’t recall any specific influences. They explain their unique harmonies as resulting from living together for many years. “We’re blessed like this,” says Tambra. “It’s easier when you’re with each other all the time.”

They began performing at an early age, and sometimes encountered audiences who were skeptical of the little girls’ abilities until they heard their big voices and graceful harmonies. They soon became well known in the region. “We used to have people ask us to sing at the grocery store,” says Tara.

Most of the Jones Sisters’ songs are performed in four-part harmony. Dorothy sings alto as well as lead vocals; Tambra sings soprano, alto, and lead vocals; Tawanda sings bass parts; Brittany sings soprano and lead, and Tara sings soprano. Brittany and Tara occasionally double up on parts, and often one will sit out a song. Dorothy often sings unaccompanied solos. They have over 100 songs in their repertoire.

They are lifelong members of the St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church in Sardis, and occasionally sing there at special events. They often perform acapella, but occasionally use the church band to back them up.

They have performed on the regional gospel circuit for many years and occasionally travel long distances to perform, including as far as Oklahoma City and Muskegon, Michigan. Although Tambra is married and currently living in Brownsville, Tennessee, she always appears at scheduled performances.

In Oxford, the group has performed at events including openings at the Southside Gallery, the Southern Foodways Symposium, Thacker Mountain Radio, and the Oxford Film Festival.

The Jones Sisters’ music has been featured in two feature films, A Time To Kill and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. In 2003 they recorded their first CD, Life’s Not Easy, which was recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, where Elvis made his first recordings. The CD contains 11 songs performed acapella, including five originals written by Dorothy, Tawanda, and Tambra.

-Scott Barretta


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