Andrew Cheairs and the Songbirds
Dr. Andrew Cheairs and the Songbirds are known for their church-wrecking traditional quartet performances.
The group was organized in Grand Junction, Tennessee, more than a half-century ago. It started as a family-based quartet called the Seven Star Juniors. Since those humble beginnings Andrew Cheairs and the Songbirds have traveled across the country, sharing stages with such artists as the Canton Spirituals, Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs, the Rance Allen Group, Pastor Shirley Caesar and Walter and Edwin Hawkins.
As the Gospel Songbirds, the quartet made its first singles in 1971 for the Designer and Messenger labels. They made a series of albums in the 1970s and 1980s for other local imprints Gospel Express, J&B and T-Jaye, and signed with Blackberry Records around 1990.
The group’s first Blackberry release was The Family (1990), which produced the radio hit Move for the Lord. The single was also featured on the 1996 compilation album Blackberry’s Greatest Hits, Volume 2. While part of the Atlanta International Records roster, Cheairs and the Songbirds recorded Live In Mississippi (1997) and He Will Provide (1999).
Help Is On the Way, from He Will Provide, was included on the Williams Brothers and Bishop Paul Morton’s 2002 hurricane relief project for Blackberry, On Broken Pieces.
In the early 2000s Cheairs started his own record label, Emanuel Records. A live recording, I’ve Been There, came out in 2003. The title track of Make Up Your Mind, released in 2005, hit No. 21 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Songs chart.
Shortly before Christmas 2010, Cheairs was in an automobile accident that left him with a punctured lung and broken bones. His recovery was slow but he made it back to St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Byhalia, Mississippi, where he has been the pastor for more than 25 years.
In 2011 the group released Makeover, noted not only for its fiery traditional fare but also for its sepia-toned cover photo of an immersion baptism ceremony. The following year, the Gospel Music Workshop of America Quartet Division bestowed a Living Legend Award on the group.
Besides singing and pastoring, Dr. Andrew Cheairs organized the Mississippi Burning gospel music festival, held annually in Byhalia, Mississippi. The Songbirds currently consist of longstanding members Anjilena Cheairs, Priscilla Polk and Patricia Cheairs.