The group hit the top of the charts in 1964 with "Chapel of Love," a song that Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich had originally written for The Ronettes. The trio consisted of sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins; plus their cousin Joan Marie Johnson, from the Calliope housing project in New Orleans. They first sang together in grade school. Originally they were to be called Little Miss and the Muffets, but were named The Dixie Cups just prior to their first release.
By 1963 the trio had decided to pursue a career in music and began singing locally as the Meltones. Within a year Joe Jones, a successful singer in his own right with the Top Five 1960 single "You Talk Too Much," became their manager. After working with them for five months, Jones took them to New York, where record producers / songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller signed them to their new Red Bird Records.
Their first release, "Chapel of Love," proved to be their biggest hit, although they had other hits with "People Say" (#12, 1964), "You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me" (#39, 1964), "Iko Iko" (#20, 1965), and "Little Bell" (#51, 1965).
"Iko Iko", a New Orleans R&B standard, was recorded early in 1965. Barbara Hawkins had heard her grandmother sing the song, first recorded in 1954 as "Jock-a-Mo" by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford. Barbara Hawkins: "We were just clowning around with it during a session using drumsticks on ashtrays. We didn't realize that Jerry and Mike had the tapes running". Leiber and Stoller overdubbed a bassline and percussion, and released it. It was The Dixie Cups' fifth and last hit.
In 1966, the Dixie Cups were moved to the ABC-Paramount record label and later temporarily retired from the record industry.
In 1969 the Hawkins sisters moved from New York to New Orleans, where Rosa Hawkins began a successful modelling career. Both Rosa and Barbara also worked as make-up artists. They continued to tour and make personal appearances, with Dale Mickle replacing Joan Johnson who became a Jehovah's Witness and abandoned her music career.