Born Dorothy McGriff in Birmingham, Alabama, her early years were hard, (she later described them as “the same old thing”). Her minister father left the family when she was six, divorcing her mother thereafter. Dorothy began playing piano in the Baptist Church at age ten, then joined her sisters and brother in the McGriff Singers several years later.
Dorothy quit school to work “all the standard Negro jobs” available in Birmingham in the 1940s: scrubbing floors and working behind the counter in laundries and dry cleaners. She began singing with the Gospel Harmonettes— then known as the Gospel Harmoneers— in the early 1940s. She married Willie Love of the Fairfield Four, one of the most popular quartets of the early years of gospel, but divorced him shortly thereafter. She subsequently married Carl Czoates of the Sensational Nightingales over a decade later.bracelet