The famous news anchor, Walter Cronkite (1916-2009), had a famous sign-off saying that went, “And that’s the way it is: these are the events that tend to alter and illuminate our times, and you were there.” The reason I share this is because there was another event where famous people were involved, and I was there. I am talking about a recent concert at our church, where Janis and I were blessed to be in attendance. We had the famous Blackwood Brothers Quartet perform for us, and it was such a blessing that I would like to tell you about it. In the event they appear in your area, you might want to go see them.
And it is not just me who says they are famous, as they have the commendations, history and awards to prove it. In all of Southern Gospel Music there is no name bigger than the Blackwood Brothers. They are eight-time Grammy Award winners in addition to winning a good number of Gospel Music Dove Awards, and five All-America Music Awards. They are also members of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
The quartet was formed in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression, when preacher Roy Blackwood (1900-1971) moved his family back home to Choctaw County, Mississippi. His two brothers, Doyle and James, were part of the original group as well as other family members. They began to travel across the country to perform, and in 1950 relocated to Memphis, Tennessee. Then tragedy struck. Due to demand for their performances they began flying to shows in their own private plane. They were using their plane when they flew to New York to appear on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, which they won.
However, on June 30, 1954, the group was scheduled to perform with the Statesmen Quartet in Clanton, Alabama, during the town festival. Prior to the start of their show; R.W. Blackwood, Bill Lyles and Johnny Ogburn, a local friend, decided to take a quick ride on the plane around dusk. Soon after takeoff the plane got caught in an upward position and could not pull out, and then it fell to the ground and killed everyone on board. After the funerals and a lot of sad times, the group decided to continue, and a lot of changes had to be made. While the Blackwood name has always been the centerpiece and at least one member of the family has been part of the group, they still perform and bless people everywhere they go.
When they came to our church several weeks ago, the group consisted of Billy Blackwood, Wayne Little, Butch Owen and Jonathan Mattingly, and trust me, they were good. After their performance they had tables set up for people to purchase their CDs and other products. It was here that I had the opportunity to meet Billy Blackwood and to tell him that I wanted to do a column about their appearance so my readers who are not familiar with them might wish to attend one of their performances. Over the next few days we exchanged e-mails and I will send him this column.
Here is another very important reason I wanted to share this with you. We purchased several of their recordings, and I listen to them very often as I travel in my car. To be sure, Southern Gospel music is my favorite because it is the gospel message in song, and there is nothing better when performed by a fantastic group like the Blackwood Brothers. With all the negative things happening in our country, I need hope and encouragement, and this provides it like nothing else can.