GOGR Music History -
This will be my final article in the Blackwood anthology. I have followed the Blackwood Brothers for several decades and I have the utmost respect for them. I havenít always agreed with their tactics, but I still respect them. Several years ago, I wrote a book about their recorded history and came to know several of the Blackwoods quite well. Through it all, I know that the name "Blackwood" is one of the most respected names in gospel music as well it should be.
After my last article, one of my friends commented "methinks you are the master of understatement." Perhaps he is correct. However, I never want to diminish the importance of the Blackwood Brothers and those who have attempted to carry on the name and the work the original Brothers started many years ago.
I have no desire to undermine the efforts of any person or group in my monthly writings. My musings have never been to disrespect any group or singer. I have nothing but praise for the Blackwood Brothers and the inroads they made into gospel music. They were gospel music innovators and I have the utmost respect for the Blackwood family. That being said, Iíd like for you all to know that Cecil Blackwood was a friend of mine. He allowed me to play the piano for his quartet and I treasure those memories. That being said, I will continue with this final article.
When James Blackwood left the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, they were a viable quartet. They werenít traveling the regular gospel music circuit, but they were still singing quartet music to people that enjoyed it. They always included many songs associated with the Blackwood Brothers from days gone by in their performances. Pat Hoffmaster, Jimmy Blackwood, Cecil Blackwood, Ken Turner, and Tommy Fairchild were a great quartet. James Blackwood was the icing on the cake. He only performed a few songs each night with the quartet. In the early 1980s, James left the group to join the Masters V. With that quartet, he could sing with his friends and shine his light every night.
Many promoters were wary about booking the quartet without James, but they soon found out that the Blackwood Brothers could still "tote the mail" without Dr. James Blackwood. They found out that Pat, Jimmy, Cecil, Ken, and Tommy were a great quartet. Tommy Fairchild presented great arrangements for the quartet and they did a great job singing those arrangements.
Pat Hoffmaster left the Blackwoods for a short hiatus and was replaced by John Cox. The quartet recorded a few albums during this time. Pat returned to the Blackwoods about a year later. Pat passed away on New Years Eve, 1988 after a bout with cancer. When Tommy Fairchild left the group, Jeff Stice joined the quartet. Jeff was a great quartet man then and continues to be so now with the Triumphant Quartet.
As time passed, several changes took place in the Blackwood Brothers. R.W. Blackwood, Jr. joined the quartet. So did Jerry Trammell. Cecil Blackwood accepted the management of the quartet in the early 1970s and he always had capable people singing with the quartet.
JD Sumner is on record as saying "the Blackwood Brothers ceased to exist when James Blackwood left the quartet," but I choose to differ. Cecil Blackwood may have had his promotional faults, but he almost always had a quality quartet on stage as the "Blackwood Brothers." Did they possess the same qualities that the quartet had with James in the group? I must ask this: Is there anyone that can replace James Blackwood? I think not.
James Blackwood spent several years with the Masters V before health considerations demanded his retirement. James could never be satisfied with retirement. After the Masters V disbanded, he organized the James Blackwood Quartet with Larry Ford, Ray Shelton, Ken Turner, and Brad White. This quartet made several quality products and also performed on several great gospel concerts. The James Blackwood Quartet focused their efforts on their namesake and their tenor Larry Ford. Ken Turner was comedic relief for the quartet and Brad White was an excellent pianist along the lines of former Blackwood pianists Wally Varner and Jackie Marshall.
When James left the Blackwood Brothers, Cecil continued to keep the Blackwood Brothers Quartet on the road. Iíve always referred to Cecilís group as the "Cecil Blackwood Brothers." Cecil Stamps Blackwood was the ultimate salesman. His quartet did a great job in many churches, but as one who was there, I didnít enjoy Cecilís money pitches. Although he was a great quartet man, he turned off many people with his constant pleas for support for the Blackwood Evangelistic Association. Nevertheless, they did great works on the Russian mission field in addition to their work in the United States.
The "Cecil Blackwood Brothers" had many great folks in their fold through the years. Cecil Stringer, Francine Blackwood, Mark Blackwood, Donna Blackwood, Mike LoPrinzi, Tommy Fairchild, Penny Burke, Steve Warren, Rick Price, Paul Acree, Chris Blackwood (Cecilís grandson), and Eric Winston are some of the names that I recall. I know there were others, and I apologize to the ones that I have neglected to mention. Cecil Stamps Blackwood was the constant force in the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. From the time he joined the quartet in 1954 until his death in 2000, he never missed a recording session and only missed concert appearances when his cancer became too much for his body to allow. Cecil normally sang baritone, but he moved to lead or bass whenever the situation called for it. Cecil was the consummate gospel music performer and always knew that the "show must go on."
Cecil Blackwood passed away November 13, 2000 after a heroic bout with cancer.
Cecilís son, Mark Blackwood, has become a dear friend of mine. Mark produced some of the later Blackwood Brothers recordings. He now is the manager of the Blackwood Gospel Quartet. This quartet never ceases to put a great quartet on the stage in keeping with the Blackwood legacy. He even allowed me to play the piano with his quartet. For this, Iím eternally grateful. Burman Porter, Bryan Hudson, Jonathan Sawrie, Paul Lancaster, James Clark, Derrick Boyd, among others have sung with Markís quartet. Although the Blackwood Gospel Quartet has had some personnel challenges in recent months, Mark always does his best to put the finest individuals available on stage as the Blackwood Gospel Quartet. Mark has learned how to work a crowd from his dad and his uncle, and he is a great emcee as well as a wonderful quartet manager. This group has also used the name "Classic Voices." For current information about Markís group, check their web site: http://www.blackwoodgospel.com.
James Blackwood, Jr. is now the manager of what is known as the current "Blackwood Brothers Quartet." The other members of the quartet are Wayne Little, Randy Byrd, and Brad White. Brad traveled with the James Blackwood Quartet for several years, and has a great love for the history of the Blackwood Brothers. I havenít heard this quartet in concert, so I canít give an educated review of their performances. You can check out the latest news from the Blackwood Brothers at this web site: http://www.blackwoodbrothers.com.
Last year, Charlie Waller staged the Blackwood Reunion Quartet with Bill Shaw, Jimmy Blackwood, Mark Blackwood, and "Big" John Hall. It was interesting to see them take the stage at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion. You can check out the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion product page to purchase a recording of that performance.
R.W. (Winston) Blackwood, Jr. and Ron Blackwood now perform at the Black Bear Jamboree in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. They have recently hired the great gospel tenor John Rulapaugh for their programs. They perform under the stage names of "The Blackwood Quartet" and the "Blackwood Singers." R.W. Blackwood and his brother Ron perform gospel classics for their fans at the Black Bear Jamboree at the breakfast buffet. These two brothers have been singing together for many years. Others in the Blackwood show include Paul Hyde, Shelly Layne Blackwood, and Donna Blackwood. Their program consists of gospel music classics, patriotic songs, and other popular tunes. They claim to have been a part of 27 Dove Awards, 8 Grammy Awards, and 5 All-American Music Awards. These claims may be a bit of a stretch, but Ron and R.W. Jr. are the sons of the late R.W. Blackwood and they do have a direct kinship to the original Blackwood Brothers. Their current group has little to do with the awards that they profess in their promotional material, but they are of the lineage of the award winning Blackwoods, so I suppose their claims have some validity and they do present a quality program. For more information on this group, check out this web site: http://www.theblackwoods.com.
Ron and R.W. have probably spent more time together in gospel groups than any other members of the Blackwood family. They were members of the Junior Blackwoods, the Premiers, the Ron Blackwood Quartet, the New Harvesters, the Blackwood Singers, and no doubt others that Iíve neglected to mention.
The Blackwood name continues to thrive today. Several of the current aggregations hold true to the history of their forefathers. The Blackwood Gospel Quartet web site says it better than I can:
"The Blackwood Gospel Quartet does not take their heritage in gospel music lightly, nor the responsibility of integrity that goes with it. It is the sincere desire of the Blackwood Gospel Quartet that the people who hear them will be moved to a deep spiritual commitment and give all the glory to the Lord Jesus."
I trust that you will support the legacy of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet whenever you have the opportunity. I hope this article was an educational experience for you as Iíve tried to sort out the various incarnations of the groups sporting the name "Blackwood."
If you have any questions or comments, please post them at this web site or send them to me at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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