The Blind Boys of Alabama

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The Blind Boys of Alabama
The Blind Boys of Alabama performing at Cosmopolite Scene Oslo in 2018.
The Blind Boys of Alabama performing at Cosmopolite Scene Oslo in 2018.
Background information
OriginTalladega, Alabama, U.S.
GenresGospel, traditional black gospel, blues, soul
Years active1939–present
Associated actsFive Blind Boys of Mississippi
Websiteblindboys.com
Members
Past members
  • Clarence Fountain
  • Johnny Fields
  • George Scott
  • Olice Thomas
  • Vel Bozman Traylor
  • J.T. Hutton
  • Bishop Billy Bowers
  • Caleb Butler
  • Samuel Butler Jr
  • Roscoe Robinson
  • Charles Porter
  • Dwight Fields
  • Paul Beasley
  • Stephen Raynard Ladson
  • Peter Levin

The Blind Boys of Alabama, also billed as The Five Blind Boys of Alabama and Clarence Fountain and the Blind Boys of Alabama,[1] is an American gospel group. The group was founded in 1939 in Talladega, Alabama and has featured a changing roster of musicians over its history, the majority of whom are or were visually impaired.[1][2][3][4]

The Blind Boys found mainstream success following their appearance in the 1983 Obie Award-winning musical The Gospel at Colonus.[1][5][6] Since then, the group has toured internationally and has performed and recorded with such artists as Prince, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, Ben Harper, Bon Iver, and Amadou & Mariam.[1][2][5][7][8] The group's cover of the Tom Waits song "Way Down in the Hole" was used as the theme song for the first season of the HBO series The Wire.[2][7]

The Blind Boys have won five Grammy Awards in addition to being presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.[9] They were endowed with a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994,[10] they were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2003[11] and they were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2010.[12] The group was also invited to the White House during the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations.[5][13]

Group member Ricky McKinnie said in a 2011 interview with the magazine Mother Jones: "Our disability doesn't have to be a handicap. It's not about what you can't do. It's about what you do. And what we do is sing good gospel music."[5]

History[edit]

1930s & 1940s[edit]

The Blind Boys of Alabama first sang together in the school chorus in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Alabama.[1] The founding members were Clarence Fountain (1929–2018), George Scott (1929–2005), Velma Bozman Traylor (1923–1947), Johnny Fields (1927–2009), Olice Thomas (b. 1926, d. unknown), and the only sighted member, J. T. Hutton (c. 1924–2012.)[1][14][note 1]

Early influences of the Blind Boys include the Golden Gate Quartet, The Soul Stirrers and The Heavenly Gospel Singers.[19] While the boys were not allowed to sing black gospel music at their school (which was run by an all-white faculty), they were able to hear it on the radio.[19]

The earliest version of the group was known as The Happy Land Jubilee Singers and their first performances were for World War II soldiers at nearby encampments, where the boys sung for pocket change.[7][14][19] The group's first professional performance was on June 10, 1944 during a broadcast from radio station WSGN (currently WAGG) in Birmingham, Alabama.[2] The following year, the members dropped out of school and began touring the gospel circuit.[14] In 1947, lead vocalist Traylor died in a gun accident.[1][7]

In 1948, a Newark, New Jersey promoter booked the Happy Land Jubilee Singers along with a gospel act from Mississippi known as the Jackson Harmoneers, whose members were also visually impaired, and advertised the program as the "Battle of the Blind Boys."[1][7] The two acts soon changed their names to the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and often toured together.[1] The Blind Boys' early sound was also influenced by the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi who were singing in the "hard gospel" style that was becoming popular at the time.[7][20] Hard gospel often involved a shrieking and screaming style of singing and during performances some audience members reportedly would get so excited that some would have to be sent to the hospital.[7][20]

The Blind Boys also made their first recordings in 1948 on the Coleman label and their first national hit was "I Can See Everybody's Mother But Mine" released in 1949.[21] Their success led to a series of recordings on various record labels.[21]

Reverend Paul Exkano of the King Solomon Baptist Church in New Orleans joined the group shortly after they changed their name to Five Blind Boys of Alabama and was present during the group's first recordings in 1948 and 1949, but he left the group after two years and was replaced by Percell Perkins of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, later replaced by Joe Watson.[19]

1950s[edit]

During the 1950s, black gospel music was popular and the Blind Boys were one of the better known groups.[1] Artists from pop and rock genres began to include aspects of black gospel music in their arrangements and black gospel artists such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke began crossing over to pop and rock music.[1][14] Ray Charles's manager offered the Blind Boys a big touring deal if they would cross over to other genres, but the group decided to stick to their gospel roots.[7][14] They signed with Specialty Records in 1953, but left after five years after again being pressured to sing secular music.[7]

While the Blind Boys were selling records in the 1950s, they did not make much money. In an interview with Ebony magazine in 2003, Fountain stated that they signed contracts that took advantage of them and that they were each paid $50 per album side and the record company kept the rest.[22] By 1953, each member made $100 per side and, as per Fountain, "That was good money in that day. We didn't know what we were worth."[22]

1960s & 1970s[edit]

Into the 1960s the popularity of traditional gospel music was on the decline and soul music gained favor as a new type of secular black music.[1][9] At the same time, rhythm and blues and rock musicians began to incorporate traditional gospel sounds into their music.[1][2] The term soul was originally used by gospel musicians in the 1950s to identify the spiritual nature of their music.[23] By the late 1960s, the term being used more commonly to describe all popular music by African Americans.[23]

During the 1960s, the Blind Boys performed at benefits for Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.[9] They also continued to resist offers to sing more secular music. Fountain attributed their resistance to selling out to their lack of need, noting that they were happy and well-fed as they were and wanted to enjoy performing the music they sought to perform, as opposed to recording popular music solely for a paycheck.[24]

In 1969, Fountain left the group in order to pursue a solo career.[1] Neither the Blind Boys nor Fountain found much success into the 1970s.[1] In 1972, guitarist Samuel Butler Jr. (son of the guitarist of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi) joined the group.[25] Fountain returned to the group in 1977.[1]

1980s & 1990s[edit]

During their first 40 years, the Blind Boys had primarily played for black gospel audiences, mainly in churches and school auditoriums.[2][5] The 1980s would mark the group's exposure to a wider audience.[1][5]

By the early 1980s, singer Clarence Fountain had taken the role as the group's frontman.[1][21] It was also at this time that the group was joined by vocalist Jimmy Carter, whose first recording with the group was on their 1982 record I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord.[16][25] Carter was also a student of the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind when the group was originally formed, but was too young to join the group when they began touring.[25][16] Carter also sang with the Dixieland Blind Boys as well as the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, prior to officially joining The Blind Boys of Alabama.[25]

In 1983, the group (billed as Clarence Fountain and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama) was cast in the theatrical production The Gospel at Colonus, an African-American musical version of Sophocles' tragedy, Oedipus at Colonus.[1][5] In the play, the Blind Boys collectively played the part of blinded Oedipus.[7] The cast also included Morgan Freeman as well as members of The Soul Stirrers.[7][26] The Gospel at Colonus won an Obie for Best Musical in 1984 and the production moved to Broadway in 1988.[1][7] The play's success led to the Blind Boys' exposure to a wider mainstream audience and marked a turning point for the group.[1][5][6]

In 1990, vocalist and percussionist Ricky McKinnie was invited by Fountain to join the Blind Boys.[4][27] McKinnie had actually met the Blind Boys when he was about five years old.[4][27] McKinnie's mother, Sarah McKinnie Shivers, was a singer who would often cross paths with the Blind Boys while she was on tour.[4][27] McKinnie lost his sight due to glaucoma at age 23, but had been playing drums for over a decade prior.[4][27]

The Blind Boys released Deep River in 1992, which was nominated for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards.[28] The album was produced by Booker T. Jones, and featured a version of Bob Dylan's "I Believe In You."[1][9] In 1993, they also appeared as musical guests on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.[5][29]

In 1994, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded a National Heritage Fellowship to Clarence Fountain and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama.[30] The award was presented to the Blind Boys by First Lady Hillary Clinton.[31]

In 1995, the Blind Boys became the first artists to be signed to the new House of Blues gospel label, for which they recorded their first live album I Brought Him with Me.[6][21] The album also featured an appearances from blues singers Koko Taylor and Solomon Burke.[6] In December 1996, the group appeared in the Christmas episode of TV series Beverly Hills, 90210 titled "Gift Wrapped".[31][32] The Blind Boys continued experimenting with contemporary popular music on their 1997 release Holding On, also released on the House of Blues label.[31] The album contained elements of funk and reggae.[31][33]

2000s to present[edit]

The Blind Boys of Alabama enjoyed even further exposure and success in the 2000s and 2010s, including collaborations with many high-profile musical artists. Their songs were featured on soundtracks of television series, such as Boston Public, Lost, and Criminal Minds, as well as films, such as Madea Goes to Jail, Alpha and Omega, and Hop.[29] The Blind Boys also made an appearance in the film The Fighting Temptations and were featured on such television series as 60 Minutes II and The Colbert Report, as well as on multiple episodes of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with David Letterman.[29] They were also invited to perform at the White House in both 2002 during the presidency of George W. Bush for a celebration of gospel music, and in 2010 during the presidency of Barack Obama for a celebration of music from the civil rights movement.[13][34]

In 2001, the Blind Boys released Spirit of the Century on Peter Gabriel's Real World Records.[1] The album won the award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards.[35] The album included a version of "I Just Want to See His Face" by The Rolling Stones as well as a version of the song "Amazing Grace" arranged to the tune of "The House of the Rising Sun".[3]

In 2002, they released Higher Ground, an album that combines traditional gospel lyrics with the music of other artists.[22] The title song is a rendition of the Stevie Wonder hit, but some of the lyrics were changed to make it a gospel song—for example, the line "Lovers, keep on lovin'" became "Prayers, keep on prayin."[22] Other songs covered on the album include "People Get Ready" by Curtis Mayfield, "Spirit in the Dark" by Aretha Franklin, "The Cross" by Prince, and "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" by Funkadelic.[22] The album won the Blind Boys another Grammy for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album and also won them a GMA Dove Award for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year.[36][37] The Blind Boys also performed on the steps of the Library of Congress in 2002.[21]

In 2003, the Blind Boys released Go Tell It on the Mountain.[38] The album contains renditions of mostly Christmas-related gospel songs and features guest artists Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Michael Franti, Chrissie Hynde, Richard Thompson, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, Shelby Lynne, George Clinton, Robert Randolph, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Les McCann.[38] The album went on to win the Grammy for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album.[39]

The Blind Boys performed live twice with Lou Reed: In 2004, they performed together at a private concert on the floor of the UN General Assembly for the Landmine Survivors Network and in 2010, they appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and performed "Jesus", a song originally released by The Velvet Underground on their self-titled album.[40]

The Blind Boys also collaborated several times with Ben Harper: Harper played guitar on the Blind Boys' albums Higher Ground and Spirit of the Century.[41] The Blind Boys again collaborated with Harper on his 2004 album There Will Be a Light and toured with him throughout Europe that year.[5][19][41] The majority of the songs were Harper originals, but the album also included a cover of Bob Dylan and Danny O'Keefe's "Well, Well, Well."[41] There Will Be a Light also won the Grammy for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album.[42] The following year, Harper and the Blind Boys released Live at the Apollo, a recording of their live performance from the Apollo Theater in October 2004.[43]

The Blind Boys also released the album Atom Bomb in 2005.[44] The album features cover versions of songs such as "Demons" by Fatboy Slim and Macy Gray, (a track that also featured a guest appearance by rapper Gift of Gab); Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord," featuring soul musician Billy Preston; and a cover of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky," featuring David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and blues musician Charlie Musselwhite.[44] The album was awarded the prize for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year at the 37th GMA Dove Awards.[37]

On March 9, 2005, at the age of 75, vocalist George Scott died of complications from diabetes and a heart condition.[45] In 2006, vocalist Ben Moore was invited to join the group by Carter.[46] Moore had previously performed under the name "Bobby Purify" as part of the R&B duo James & Bobby Purify and continued to use the name as a solo artist after the due broke up in the 1980s.[46] In 2007, Fountain stopped touring with the group due to complications from diabetes.[7]

In 2008, the Blind Boys released the album Down in New Orleans.[47] The album was recorded in New Orleans, which was a first for the group,[48] and includes songs written by or made famous by New Orleans musicians along with updated gospel standards.[47] Many tracks also feature guest musicians from the city.[47] Tracks include a jazzy version of the popular gospel song "Uncloudy Day", backed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; blues song "Make a Better World" written by musician Earl King), backed by the Hot 8 Brass Band; as well as a bluesy version of "If I Could Help Somebody" by Mahalia Jackson with Allen Toussaint on piano.[47] The album also won the GMA Dove Award for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year.[37]

The Blind Boys released their album Duets in 2009.[49][50] Each song features a duet between the Blind Boys and another artist; some of these artists include Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt, and John Hammond.[49][50] Earlier that same year, the group was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards and in 2010, the Blind Boys were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.[12][51]

The Blind Boys of Alabama performing at the West Coast Blues & Roots Festival in 2011.

Vocalist Billy Bowers left the group in 2011 when he was injured and underwent back surgery.[4][52] Bowers' role as vocalist was filled by Ricky McKinnie, who was also the groups' percussionist for many years.[4][52][53] Bowers died July 2, 2013 of heart failure in Montgomery, Alabama at the age of 71.[52]

In 2013, the Blind Boys released I'll Find a Way, produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.[54] The album also features guest appearances by Sam Amidon and Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards.[54] The following year, the Blind Boys released Talkin’ Christmas! in collaboration with blues musician Taj Mahal.[55]

In 2016, the Blind Boys contributed to God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson, a tribute album recorded in honor of gospel musician Blind Willie Johnson.[56] The Blind Boys performed the song "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time", a performance that was nominated for Best American Roots Performance at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.[57] The album was also nominated in the category of Best Roots Gospel Album.[57]

In 2017, the Blind Boys released the album Almost Home on BBOA Records in collaboration with Amazon Music.[58][59] Fountain also rejoined the group for the album's recording.[7] The songs on the album were written for the Blind Boys by writers including Marc Cohn, Phil Cook, John Leventhal, and Valerie June.[58][60] The Blind Boys' manager, Charles Driebe, recorded interviews with the members of the group then shared them with the songwriters who wrote songs reflecting the Blind Boys' personal stories.[60] The song "Let My Mother Live" from the album was nominated for Best American Roots Performance at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.[61] Written by Leventhal, the song is about Carter as a young boy at the Alabama Institute and "how scared I was, and that I wanted my mother to live until I got grown."[60]

On June 3, 2018, Clarence Fountain died of complications from diabetes at the age of 88 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.[62] His final performance with the Blind Boys of Alabama was on May 16, 2018 at the Manship Theatre there.[62]

September 2018 saw the release of the Muscle Shoals tribute album, Small Town, Big Sound.[63] The Blind Boys, along with blues musician Mike Farris, performed a cover of the song "Respect Yourself."[63] The album also featured cover songs by such artists as Steven Tyler, Willie Nelson, Grace Potter, Chris Stapleton, and Kid Rock.[63]

In January 2019, the Blind Boys performed with Marc Cohn at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.[64] The performance was broadcast on the PBS live music series The Kate that spring.[65]

Over the summer of 2019, the Blind Boys toured Europe with blind Afro-pop duo Amadou & Mariam.[8] Similar to the Blind Boys, the husband-and-wife duo originally met in 1975 at the Bamako Institute for the Blind in Mali.[8] During the tour, the two groups of vocalists would provide vocal accompaniment to performances of each group's songs.[8] They would also perform original material that they had created together, such as the songs "Bamako to Birmingham" and "Two Cultures, One Beat."[8]

In August of that same year, the Blind Boys released a collaborative album with Marc Cohn titled Work To Do.[66] The album features Cohn and the Blind Boys performing new and older material by Cohn in addition to renditions of traditional gospel songs.[66][67] Seven of the tracks are recordings from their performance on The Kate earlier that same year, including Cohn's hit "Walking in Memphis", as well the Blind Boys' version of “Amazing Grace” to the melody of "The House of the Rising Sun".[66][67]

In a 2019 exposé, The New York Times Magazine reported that The Blind Boys of Alabama were among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire.[68]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominated Work Category Award Result
1994 Deep River Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album Grammy Awards Nominated
2002 Spirit of the Century Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album Grammy Awards Won
2003 Higher Ground Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album Grammy Awards Won
2003 Higher Ground Traditional Gospel Album of the Year Dove Award Won
2004 Go Tell It on the Mountain Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album Grammy Awards Won
2005 There Will Be a Light Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album Grammy Awards Won
2006 Atom Bomb Traditional Gospel Album of the Year Dove Award Won
2009 Down in New Orleans Traditional Gospel Album of the Year Dove Award Won
2009 "Free At Last" Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year Dove Award Won
2009 Down in New Orleans Best Traditional Gospel Album Grammy Awards Won
2009 Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy Awards Won
2016 God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson Best Roots Gospel Album Grammy Awards Nominated
2016 "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time", from the album God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson Best American Roots Performance Grammy Awards Nominated
2017 "Let My Mother Live", from their album Almost Home Best American Roots Performance Grammy Awards Nominated

Other honors[edit]

Year Honor Presenter
1994 National Heritage Fellowship National Endowment for the Arts
2003 Hall of fame inductees Gospel Music Hall of Fame
2005 Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award American Foundation for the Blind
2005 First Niarchos Prize for Survivorship Queen Noor of Jordan on behalf of the Landmine Survivors Network
2010 Hall of fame inductees Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Current members[edit]

Name Years active Instruments
Jimmy Carter (c. 1932)[69] 1982–present[25][70] Vocals
Ricky McKinnie (c. 1952)[4] 1990–present[27][70] Vocals, percussion
Ben Moore (c. 1942)[46] 2006–present[46][70] Vocals
Joey Williams ?–present[70] Vocals, lead guitar
Paul Beasley ?–present[70] Vocals
Peter Levin ?–present[70] Organ
Stephen Raynard Ladson ?–present[70] Bass

Founding members[edit]

Name Years active Instruments Notes
Clarence Fountain (November 28, 1929–June 3, 2018)[62] 1939–2007, 2017–2018 Vocals
George Scott (1929–2005)[45][71] 1939–2005 Vocals
Vel Bozman Traylor (1923–1947)[71] 1939–1947 Vocals
Johnny Fields (1927–2009)[71][72] 1939–? Vocals
Olice Thomas (b. 1926, deceased)[71] 1939–? Vocals Date of death unknown.
J. T. Hutton (c. 1924–July 27, 2012)[73] 1939–? Vocals The only sighted original member.

Past members[edit]

Name Years active Instruments Notes
Bishop Billy Bowers (c. 1942, d. July 2, 2013)[52] 1968–2011[52] Vocals
Caleb "Bobby" Butler 1979–2008[25] Vocalist, bass[25][22] Butler is sighted.[22] No relation to Samuel Butler Jr.[25]
Samuel Butler Jr. 1972–1994[25] Vocals, rhythm guitar, songwriter, arranger, manager[citation needed] No relation to Caleb "Bobby" Butler.[25]
Roscoe Robinson[citation needed] Vocals
Charles Porter[citation needed] Vocals
Dwight Fields (deceased)[citation needed] Vocals

Discography[edit]

As main artists[edit]

  • 1949 – I Can See Everybody's Mother But Mine – Coleman Records
  • 1950 – Sweet Honey in the Rocks – Palda Records
  • 1950 – Livin' On Mother's Prayers – Palda Records
  • 1950 – Come Over Here The Table Spread – Palda Records
  • 1953 – The Sermon
  • 1953 – When I Lost My MotherSpecialty Records
  • 1954 – Marching Up To Zion – Specialty Records
  • 1954 – Oh Lord, Stand By Me – Specialty Records
  • 1958 – My Mother's TrainVee-Jay Records
  • 1959 – God is On the ThroneSavoy Records
  • 1959 – The Original Blind Boys – Savoy Records
  • 1963 – (1957) You'll Never Walk Alone – HOB Records
  • 1963 – Old Time Religion – HOB Records
  • 1963 – True Convictions – HOB Records
  • 1965 – Can I Get a Witness? – HOB Records
  • 1967 – Church Concert in New Orleans (Live) – HOB Records
  • 1969 – Fix it Jesus Like You Said You WouldKeen Records
  • 1969 – Jesus Will Be Waiting
  • 1970 – In the Gospel Light
  • 1970 – The Five Blind Boys From Alabama
  • 1970 – The Soul of Clarence Fountain
  • 1973 – Best of Five Blind Boys of Alabama
  • 1974 – Precious Memories
  • 1978 – The Soldier Album – PIR Records
  • 1981 – Faith Moves Mountains – Messiah Records
  • 1982 – I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord
  • 1987 – In the Hands of the Lord
  • 1989 – I'm a Changed Man – Wajji Records
  • 1989 – The Five Blind Boys of Alabama
  • 1990 – Brand New – Wajji Records
  • 1990 – I'm Not That Way Anymore – Atlanta International Records
  • 1991 – I am a Soldier
  • 1991 – Oh Lord, Stand By Me / Marching Up to Zion
  • 1991 – The Best of the Five Blind Boys
  • 1992 – Deep RiverElektra/Nonesuch Records
  • 1993 – Bridge Over Troubled Waters
  • 1994 – Alive in Person
  • 1994 – Blessed Assurance
  • 1994 – Don't Forget To Pray
  • 1994 – In the Gospel Light
  • 1994 – Soul Gospel
  • 1994 – Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  • 1995 – 1948–51
  • 1995 – I Brought Him With Me – House of Blues Music Company
  • 1996 – All Things Are Possible
  • 1996 – Golden Moments in Gospel
  • 1997 – Holdin' On – House of Blues Music Company
  • 1998 – Have Faith: The Very Best of the Five Blind Boys of Alabama
  • 1999 – Best of Clarence Fountain and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama
  • 1999 – Hallelujah: A Collection of Their Finest
  • 2000 – My Lord What a Morning
  • 2001 – Spirit of the CenturyReal World Records
  • 2001 – You'll Never Walk Alone / True Convictions (reissue)
  • 2002 – Higher Ground – Real World Records
  • 2003 – Amazing Grace
  • 2003 – Go Tell It on the Mountain – Real World Records
  • 2004 – There Will Be a Light (with Ben Harper) – Virgin Records
  • 2005 – Live at the Apollo (with Ben Harper)
  • 2005 – Atom Bomb – Real World Records
  • 2006 – Just a Closer Walk with Thee, a compilation of work ranging from the years 1963–1965
  • 2008 – Down in New OrleansTime LifeGrammy winner
  • 2009 – Enlightenment – The Great American Music Co. (2 CDs)
  • 2009 – Duets (compilation of collaborations with other artists) – Saguaro Road Records
  • 2010 – Faith Moves Mountains (reissue)
  • 2011 – Take the High Road – Saguaro Road Records
  • 2013 – I'll Find a WaySony Masterworks
  • 2014 – Talkin' Christmas! (with Taj Mahal) – Sony Masterworks
  • 2017 – Almost Home – BBOA Records
  • 2019 – Work To Do (with Marc Cohn) – BMG Records

As featured or guest artists[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ While current band member Jimmy Carter is often credited as being the only remaining "original" or "founding" member of the group, he was actually too young to join the group when they began touring, but he was attending the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind when the group was originally formed.[15][16][17] He did not officially join the group until the 1980s, having previously worked with the Dixieland Blind Boys as well as Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.[15][18] Carter's first recorded performance with the Blind Boys was on their 1982 record I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Kenneth Roberts, Charles (June 5, 2018). "Blind Boys of Alabama". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Alabama Humanities Foundation. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Catlin, Roger (March 17, 2017). "After 75 years of touring, the Blind Boys of Alabama are still reaping blessings". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Aiges, Scott (April 7, 2001). "Blind Boys and Real World Give Contemporary Voice to Old-time Gospel". Billboard. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ruggieri, Melissa (July 9, 2012). "Ricky McKinnie is keeping the faith with the Blind Boys of Alabama". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta, Georgia. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Levintova, Hannah (November 21, 2011). "2-Stepping With the Blind Boys of Alabama". Mother Jones. San Francisco, California. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d "Picks and Pans Review: I Brought Him with Me". People. United States. September 25, 1995. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Clarence Fountain, Founding Member of Blind Boys of Alabama, Dies at 88". Billboard. New York City. Associated Press. June 4, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e Denselow, Robin (July 14, 2019). "Amadou and Mariam; the Blind Boys of Alabama review – soulful energy". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Kreps, Daniel (June 5, 2018). "Clarence Fountain, Blind Boys of Alabama Leader, Dead at 88". Rolling Stone. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  10. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships: Clarence Fountain & the Blind Boys". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "2003 Inductees Blind Boys of Alabama". Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Inductees". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  13. ^ a b "The Blind Boys of Alabama perform in the East Room". The White House. February 14, 2002. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e Kohn, David (August 4, 2003). "Five Blind Boys Of Alabama". CBS News. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Hildebrand, Lee (June 29, 2008). "Blind Boys of Alabama battling". SF Gate. San Francisco, California. Retrieved December 1, 2019. Dispute over origins: Fountain is also disturbed by claims made by Carter that he was an original member of the Alabama Blind Boys and, hence, the only original still performing with the group. Carter was, in fact, a student at the school when the group was formed in 1938. According to Fountain, he did sing with other members of the group in the school's choir, but not with the group itself. "We didn't like his voice, so we didn't invite him in," Fountain said. "I was an original Blind Boy of Alabama, but when they left school in 1944, I didn't go," Carter, 77, said after a concert in Modesto. "I was too young. I went back to school." Carter's first recorded appearance with the Blind Boys of Alabama was in 1982 on "I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord." Before joining them for that album, he had spent more than a dozen years with the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and, before that, sang with the Dixieland Blind Boys.
  16. ^ a b c d Kenneth Roberts, Charles (June 5, 2018). "Blind Boys of Alabama". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Alabama Humanities Foundation. Retrieved December 1, 2019. Jimmy Carter is billed as the only founding member of the band still performing. Although he was enrolled at the school and a member of the chorus, he was too young at the time to join when the group first began touring. Despite some controversy, Carter is still described as a founding member of the band, though he did not appear in a recorded performance with the Blind Boys until the 1982 record I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord.
  17. ^ Ruggieri, Melissa (July 9, 2012). "Ricky McKinnie is keeping the faith with the Blind Boys of Alabama". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta, Georgia. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2019. Jimmy Carter, billed as an original member since he was enrolled in the Alabama institute when the group started performing, but was too young to join them, is the elder statesman and lead singer.
  18. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. London, United Kingdom: Omnibus Press. pp. 1143–1146. ISBN 9780857125958. Jimmy Carter finally became a permanent fifth member of the group in the early 1980s (again after an apprenticeship with the Mississippi 5.)
  19. ^ a b c d e Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. London, United Kingdom: Omnibus Press. pp. 1143–1146. ISBN 9780857125958.
  20. ^ a b Moore, Allan (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel Music. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 105–112. ISBN 9780511998713.
  21. ^ a b c d e "The Blind Boys of Alabama Perform at Library of Congress June 5" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. May 23, 2002. ISSN 0731-3527. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Gilbert, Marsha (June 2003). "The Blind Boys of Alabama: Still Thrilling Audiences and Winning Awards after 66 Years". Ebony. Los Angeles, California: Johnson Publishing Company. Retrieved December 1, 2019 – via Questia.
  23. ^ a b Kernodle, Tammy Lynn; Maxile, Horace Joseph (2011). Encyclopedia of African American Music, Volume 1. Asheville, North Carolina: ABC-CLIO. p. 892. ISBN 9780313341991. Soul originally was used by gospel quartets in the 1950s to identify the spiritual nature of their music. In the 1960s, it was used by jazz musicians to categorize contemporary hard bop, also linked to spiritual expression. Its use over the years led to the term being used more commonly to describe all popular music by African Americans. Billboard magazine, who had in 1949 changed the music category it used for black popular music from race music to rhythm and blues, now changed rhythm and blues to soul in 1969.
  24. ^ Flanagan, Andrew (June 4, 2018). "Clarence Fountain, Leader And Founding Member Of Blind Boys Of Alabama, Dies At 88". KTEP. University of Texas at El Paso. NPR. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hildebrand, Lee (June 29, 2008). "Blind Boys of Alabama battling". SF Gate. San Francisco, California. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  26. ^ "The Gospel at Colonus". Playbill. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  27. ^ a b c d e Kocher, Chris (February 21, 2017). "Blind Boys of Alabama bring 8 decades of gospel to Corning". Star-Gazette. Elmira, New York. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  28. ^ "36th Annual Grammy Awards". grammy.com. Recording Academy. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  29. ^ a b c The Blind Boys of Alabama on IMDb
  30. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 1994". Arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
  31. ^ a b c d "Blind Boys of Alabama". The World. Coos Bay, Oregon. March 27, 1999. p. C1. Retrieved December 1, 2019 – via Newpapers.com. In 1994, the group was awarded the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, presented by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. . . . They even performed on the popular Fox Television show, "Beverly Hills 90210." That year also broth the group's debut on the House of Blues Music Company. A live album, "I Brought Him With Me," showcased the group's ability to musically change with the times, while remaining true to their basic style, That is obvious on the latest HOB Music Company release, Holdin' On." From cut to cut, it taes the listener on a new inspirational experience. Beginning with the encouraging title track, from the funky "Sacrifice." to the closing tune, "The Spirit of the Lord is Coming Down," it promises to bless hearts and soul. Of "Holdin' On," Fountain says, "We tried to get all phases of the music on the album. We've got tunes that I think will fit any audience."
  32. ^ The Blind Boys of Alabama on IMDb
  33. ^ "New Album Releases". The Atlanta Voice. Atlanta, Georgia. August 30, 1997. p. 12A. Retrieved December 1, 2019 – via Newpapers.com. "Holdin' On" is the latest release by The Blind Boys of Alabama. It continues the group's gospel tradition of gospel music while encompassing a broad range of styles such as reggae.
  34. ^ "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: WETA-TV. Retrieved December 14, 2019.
  35. ^ "44th Annual Grammy Awards". grammy.com. Recording Academy. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  36. ^ "45th Annual Grammy Awards". grammy.com. Recording Academy. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  37. ^ a b c "GMA Dove Awards - Past Winners". doveawards.com. Gospel Music Association. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  38. ^ a b Hicks, Robert (December 16, 2003). "Blind Boys of Alabama keep gospel spirit in Christmas". Daily Record. Morristown, New Jersey. p. D5. Retrieved December 1, 2019 – via Newpapers.com. For its 2003 Christmas project, the group worked with producer John Cherlew and executive producer Chris Goldsmith, who recruited a stellar cast of guest singers and musicians, including Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Michael Franti, Chrissie Hynde, Richard Thompson, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, Shelby Lynne, George Clinton, Robert Randolph, Me'shell Ndegeocello and Les McCann, for its Grammy-nominated recording "Go Tell It on the Mountain". On Thursday at the Community Theatre in Morristown and on Friday at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, the Blind Boys of Alabama will perform Christmas songs as well as songs from their two previous Grammy-winning albums, 2001's "Spirit of the Century" and 2002's "Higher Ground."
  39. ^ "46th Annual Grammy Awards". grammy.com. Recording Academy. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  40. ^ Turner, Gustavo (January 21, 2010). "Screw Coco! We're With Jesus, Lou Reed, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and David Letterman!". LA Weekly. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  41. ^ a b c Kuipers, Dean (November 14, 2004). "Ben and the Boys go soul searching". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. p. E68. Retrieved December 1, 2019 – via Newpapers.com. But when Harper lent that guitar to gospel hybridizers the Blind Boys of Alabama on two of their albums, Higher Ground and Spirit of the Century. . . .the majority of the album's songs are Harper originals. . . . subtly shifts into the Bob Dylan-Danny O'Keefe tune Well, Well, Well.
  42. ^ "47th Annual Grammy Awards". grammy.com. Recording Academy. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  43. ^ Rashbaum, Alyssa (October 13, 2004). "Ben Harper And The Blind Boys Of Alabama Bring The Gospel To The Apollo". mtv.com. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  44. ^ a b Wild, David (May 5, 2005). "Clarence Fountain, Blind Boys of Alabama Leader, Dead at 88". Rolling Stone. New York City. Archived from the original on May 21, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  45. ^ a b "Obituaries". The Crisis. Vol. 112 no. 3. Baltimore, Maryland: NAACP. May–June 2005. Retrieved December 1, 2019 – via Questia. George Scott, 75, singer, died of complications from diabetes and a heart condition March 9 in Durham, N.C. Scott was a founding member of the Grammy-award winning Blind Boys of Alabama gospel group.
  46. ^ a b c d Capouya, John (April 14, 2014). "How one of the Blind Boys of Alabama regained his soul (w/video)". Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay, Florida. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  47. ^ a b c d Denselow, Robin (January 25, 2008). "The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  48. ^ Gill, Andy (February 1, 2008). "Album: The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans (Proper)". The Independent. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  49. ^ a b Orshoski, Wes (November 6, 2009). "The Blind Boys of Alabama, "Duets"". Billboard. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  50. ^ a b Bambarge, Bradley (October 29, 2009). "Duets - Blind Boys of Alabama". NJ.com. Iselin, New Jersey: Advance Publications. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  51. ^ "52nd Annual Grammy Awards". grammy.com. Recording Academy. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  52. ^ a b c d e Harmon, Rick (July 16, 2013). "Vocalist Billy Bowers of Blind Boys of Alabama dead at 71". USA Today. McLean, Virginia. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  53. ^ Everett, Todd (August 22, 1995). "Five Blind Boys of Alabama". Variety. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  54. ^ a b Decurtis, Anthony (November 1, 2013). "The Blind Boys of Alabama 'I'll Find a Way' Review". Rolling Stone. New York, New York. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  55. ^ Marchand, Francois (December 17, 2014). "Album of the Week: Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal, Talkin' Christmas!". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, British Columbia. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  56. ^ Miles, Milo (August 29, 2016). "Musicians Pay Tribute To Blind Willie Johnson On 'God Don't Never Change'". NPR. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  57. ^ a b Unterberger, Andrew (December 6, 2016). "Here Is the Complete List of Nominees for the 2017 Grammys". Billboard. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  58. ^ a b Allen, Jim (August 10, 2017). "Review: The Blind Boys Of Alabama, 'Almost Home'". NPR. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  59. ^ Horn, Rachel (June 23, 2017). "Blind Boys Of Alabama Announce 'Almost Home' — Hear Four Songs". NPR. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  60. ^ a b c Dauphin, Chuck (August 11, 2017). "The Blind Boys of Alabama Reflect on Their 7-Decade History & What's Left for Them to Achieve". Billboard. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  61. ^ Lynch, Joe (November 28, 2017). "Grammys 2018: See the Complete List of Nominees". Billboard. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  62. ^ a b c "Obituaries". The Advocate. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. June 9, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  63. ^ a b c Ginsberg, Gab (August 30, 2018). "Album to Feature Steven Tyler, Willie Nelson, Grace Potter & More: Exclusive". Billboard. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  64. ^ "Marc Cohn with Special Guests The Blind Boys of Alabama!". Kate.tv. PBS. December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  65. ^ "Season 4, Episode 403: Marc Cohn with Blind Boys of Alabama (Full Episode)". Kate.tv. PBS. May 24, 2019. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  66. ^ a b c Beaudoin, Jedd (August 8, 2019). "Marc Cohn and Blind Boys of Alabama Have "Work to Do" (album stream) (premiere)". PopMatters. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  67. ^ a b Horowitz, Hal (August 7, 2019). "Marc Cohn & Blind Boys of Alabama: Work To Do". American Songwriter. Nashville, Tennessee: ForASong Media. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  68. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  69. ^ Dauphin, Chuck (August 11, 2017). "The Blind Boys of Alabama Reflect on Their 7-Decade History & What's Left for Them to Achieve". Billboard. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2019. "It’s something that we’ve never done before," stresses the group’s Jimmy Carter, 85, to Billboard.
  70. ^ a b c d e f g Faith, Blind (December 12, 2019). "Blind Faith". Tucson Weekly. Tucson, Arizona. Retrieved December 14, 2019. Carter, and fellow Blind Boys Eric "Ricky" McKinnie, Ben Moore and Paul Beasley (who are also blind), and Joey Williams, Stephen Raynard Ladson and Peter Levin will be hitting Tucson to spread some holiday cheer next week.
  71. ^ a b c d Boyer, Horace C. (1995). How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel. Montgomery, Alabama: Elliott & Clark. p. 201. ISBN 9781880216194. In 1937 Clarence Fountain (b. 1929) was an elementary school student singing in the Talladega Institute for the Deaf and Blind Glee Club. Fountain and a friend, Johnny Fields (b. 1927), selected George Scott (b. 1929), Olice Thomas (b. 1926), and Velma Bozman Traylor (1923–47) from the Glee Club and formed the Happy Land Jubilee Singers.
  72. ^ Irvine, David (November 19, 2009). "Fields' funeral today". The Daily Dispatch. XCV (271). Henderson, North Carolina. p. 1A. Retrieved December 1, 2019. Henderson lost one of its shining stars when Johnny Fields died on Nov 12.
  73. ^ "Obituaries". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2019. J. T. Hutton, age 88 , a native of Birmingham, passed away July 27, 2012.

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