How they Got Over follows some of the most famous African American quartets of the twentieth century and how their music, rooted in sprituals from the slavery era, influenced secular music forms that came after. When radio and records came of age in the 1920s young black men singing gospel music took to the highway hoping to make a living on what came to be known as the 'chittlin' circuit.' The staid, acapella jubilee style evolved into 'hard' gospel with increasing use of musical instruments and dramatic performance styles which would later carry over into rhythm and blues, Motown and Soul. Included in the film are performance footage of the Dixie Hummingbirds and an interview with their lead singer Ira Tucker; the Blind Boys of Alabama and original member Clarence Fountain; the Fairfield Four and legendary bass singer Isaac 'Dickie' Freeman; the Sensational Nightingales and their high-spirited guitarist/tenor JoJo Wallace, and the Grammy-winning Mighty Clouds of Joy with gruff-voiced lead singer Joe Ligon. We also hear from Dennis Edwards of the Temptations, who started out in gospel, Spencer Taylor of the Highway QC's, Willie Rogers of the Soul Stirrers, Thomas Spann of the Brooklyn All-Stars and crossover singer Otis Clay.  

Funded by the Southern Humanities Media Fund; the Alabama Humanities Foundation, South Carolina Humanities Council, North Carolina Humanities Council, Mississippi Humanities Council and Humanities Texas, state programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Alabama State Council for the Arts, Hugh Kaul Foundation, Alabama Law Foundation and individual contributors.