April 24, 2020

Our Best Protection

In response to this global pandemic, I felt I needed to offer a few words of encouragement. There has not been in my lifetime such a challenging threat to our nation, our citizenry, and our sovereignty.

As bad as it is, there is still hope. God is in control of this pandemic. 

 We now see the value of the things we so often ignored.  If God is our strength, we have developed more love and time for others, more inner strength, more empathy and patience. Faith is rising and doubt and fear are the enemy. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love and a sound mind”. 

We are all in this together; rich and poor, male and female, and all races face this same pandemic which is no respecter of persons. The kind of car you drive doesn’t matter as it sits in your garage and gathers dust. Supermarket shelves are empty and hospitals are in panic mode.

We return to our origin, realizing that with or without money, the important thing is to survive. Today, health is the main thing, not the size of your bank account.

Our overthrown gods: Money, Sports, Fame, Self

What the corona-virus is teaching us:

Our best protection: God

Our best refuge: Home

Our real-time: Today

We do not have the power to control anything. That power is vested in God alone.

Thank you for your kindness and I pray you are all doing well.

As Always,

Terry Blackwood

February 11, 2020

He Didn’t Know…

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Vienna, Austria, reflecting on the last couple of days with the 2020 group that came with us to Vienna. Our host, Dennis Jale, the Imperials, Glen D. Hardin, the Holladay Sisters, Donna Presley, Elvis’ cousin, and Paul Leim, one of the really great drummers still making it happen on stage. He’s here with his beautiful wife of 51 years, Jeannie. As we sat around the top floor of the Intercontinental Hotel, we shared stories, we listened to Glen D Hardin tell of his arranging history. He told us he developed an interest in orchestration long before working with Elvis. He went to the book store and bought a book for $1.25 on the instruments he would arrange and their ranges. He didn’t know what Coda or the D.S sign meant so he looked them up in that little book. After learning the definitions of the terms used, he went through the L.A. phone book looking for a musician who could help him. He finally found one. The man said I’ll teach you the basics in an hour. So one Saturday. He went to his home, they sat down, and this musician began giving him loads of information on chords, terms to be used for charting, and valuable points to consider when scoring a chart for orchestra. 

Glen D. Hardin

It wasn’t long after that, he began writing for orchestra and without one lesson from a university professor! I’m sure there would be one somewhere who might have been able to help, but Glen didn’t need a semester learning from a professor who knew the same things that little book had already told him. The best instruction you will ever have is sitting under or behind one who has done it well. Experience has always been a better teacher than a classroom professor who couldn’t make it in the real world of music. If you have the talent, you can take it from there. 

By the time he wound up with Elvis, he had already begun to do orchestrations for many artists. One of his first was for the First Edition where he arranged the song, “Ruby”. 

Glen playing for Elvis

We had been in rehearsals with Elvis for several weeks in Los Angeles before the big opening in Las Vegas.  Glen wasn’t in the first month with us. A man named Larry Muhoberac was our first pianist. Our second month-long stay in Vegas, Glen D came on board. We were hashing out a few mistakes in rehearsal and Elvis said to the band, “I sure would like to cut Let It Be Me. We don’t have a chart on it but maybe soon I’ll hire someone to write one out”. Glen told us he went up to his room, took out his pencil and manuscript paper, and wrote the arrangement to that song in four hours! The next night when Elvis came down for soundcheck before the show, Glen passed out his arrangement to the orchestra, and as Elvis walked into the showroom, Glen hit the downbeat to the song for Elvis to hear. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! From that night on, Glen orchestrated all of Elvis’s songs. 

Glen D. Hardin is a very talented and humble man who merely decided he wanted to do something, so he did it! What a great lesson in that for all of us to learn. We are only limited by our minds. If we think we can do it, we probably can. You never know until you try. Study your craft and be the best you can be and you never know the doors God will open for you. 

January 13, 2020

Attention Please. It’s 2020!

It’s January 2020! The new year has come with new challenges and new opportunities. The past year had many exciting days and disappointments as well. We were guest singers on the Mike Huckabee show on January 4 with our friend, James Burton. 

January 9-February 2 was our European tour with Dennis Jale. Dennis is always such a great host and the tour was awesome! 

On March 31, I was a guest for the Franklin Elvis Festival in Franklin, TN. I shared my gospel songs from the piano and the EAS Band from Chicago accompanied me. They are such fine musicians and genuinely good people who just want to make good music. It was a great weekend. 

On May 24 the Imperials traveled to Gatlinburg, TN for GaitherFest. We shared the stage with the finest singers/musicians you will ever hear. Bill Gaither always assembles the finest group of singers/speakers in the nation.  I was challenged by two great speakers that weekend to be the best I can be for the kingdom of God. 

We flew to Denmark on July 31 and were there for Henrik Knudsen’s Garden Party until Aug 5. On August 10, we flew to Wichita, KS, rented a car and drove to Arkansas, Kansas for a gospel concert. They pronounce it Arkansas and they will remind you of its correct pronunciation. I pronounced it like I thought it should be and I immediately got a response from the audience. After begging for mercy, they stopped throwing objects at us.  Seriously, they were very nice to us and the concert went without a problem.

We drove to Memphis on August 15 for the Elvis weekend. The big-screen show was on Friday and our gospel concert was on Saturday night. 

We helped our son, Jesse, move into his dorm on August 22. He is a freshman at Tennessee Tech U and has a roommate, Dale Fox, whose home is not more than 5 miles from ours.  

On October 12, Tina, Leah, and I drove to Murray, KY where we checked into the hotel for the night. Sunday morning early I sang special music for the First Baptist Church. I did a mid-afternoon concert at the church. Mostly seniors came but the response was gratifying. I shared my heart and my music. One elderly lady told Tina that she used to listen to Christian music but had put it aside. After the concert, she said to her that she has a renewed interest in listening again and she purchased several of CDs for her home. If you fill your house with Christian music, you will be encouraged in your walk with Christ. There are many to choose from. It doesn’t have to be mine. Just DO IT! That’s not an ad for Nike! You will be glad you did.

On November 13, the Imperials were a part of the James Burton Foundation concert at the Nashville Shermorhorn auditorium downtown. We shared the stage with Jason Scheff of Chicago who asked us to sing 25 or 6 or more, with Larry Stewart of Restless Heart, where we sang with him on one of his hits, I’ll Still Be Loving You, and also a Glen Campbell medley of Wichita Lineman and Gentle on My Mind. The last segment of the show was the Elvis segment and we sang The Wonder of You with James Burton and Ronnie Tutt. The finale was with all those who sang that night. Tanya Tucker came out and was featured on Burning Love. I have to say it was a night to remember. I am hopeful it will be a PBS special this year. 

Last month we flew to Austria for our Christmas shows with Dennis Jale. Tina was able to go this time. So we left home and spent two weeks in and around Vienna, Austria. Tina got to the shop and the group got to sing. We did a state-run TV show for the first time. On our last day there, we took a train to Salzburg and spent the day touring that beautiful city. We visited Mozart’s birthplace and toured the beautiful church that was used in The Sound of Music. We also toured Salzburg Fortress began in the 1200s.  Many pictures and memories were made. 

I pray 2020 is a great and glorious year for you. Many are hurting. Remember to be thankful for health and provision. As the song says, “Give thanks with a grateful heart”.  Happy New Year!

December 18, 2019

Time with Friends and Fans

It’s Thursday evening here in Vienna and I’m recollecting the amazing events of the almost two weeks in Austria. It’s been an exciting time for us as Tina came with me and got to shop and I got to sing! 

We’ve had many opportunities to spend time with friends and fans and to sing our gospel songs to many Austrians and Germans who came to Vienna to see the shows. One special friend came all the way from Paris. Genevieve is very supportive of our music and we always enjoy seeing her. Another friend came and sat on the front row, enjoying the music. She lives with a painful hip which will eventually have to be replaced but you would never know she’s in pain unless you ask her. God bless her and heal her of this debilitating malady. 

We’ve sung for Christmas parties, Lion’s Club dinners, as well as a few concerts. 

While here, we ran into Brian Sullivan, anchor and Senior National Correspondent for CNBC Business News. We were in the hotel and he found out we were there. He is a huge Elvis fan and knew of the Imperials. He was so very appreciative of meeting us. He knew we had sung with Elvis and just wanted to hear some Elvis stories. We took a picture with him and he invited us to tour CNBC if we ever came to NYC. He said he would be sure to tell his Dad he met me. His Dad is a huge Imperials fan. 

One highlight was the concert at the Minoriten Church in downtown Vienna. In the past, we’ve sung in huge cathedrals with high ceilings that couldn’t be heated. That was the case last year. I wore gloves onstage. This church has beautiful gothic architecture and was packed. We sang with only the piano and the acoustics were amazing! We learned Silent Night in German and the Austrian people loved our attempts at learning their language. Singing Sweet Spirit in that church without the microphones was a very special moment too.

Our host, Dennis Jale, secured an interview on an Austrian television show for us and him. The host interviewed us on my association with Elvis and our history of singing the gospel with Elvis in his penthouse. 

If I get over this cold, on Sunday, our last day here, Tina and I, Will and Shavona Shaw will take the train to Salzburg, Austria, for the day. 

So Monday morning early we board the plane for home. I must say the Austrian people are so warm and friendly. You can walk down the streets of Vienna at night and never fear for your safety. 

Thanks to Dennis Jale for always being such a great host and for Maren who always helps to work out the details for Dennis. 

November 27, 2019

This Show was so Good!

The James Burton and Friends concert was held November 12 at the Schermerhorn in Nashville, TN. There were legendary performers from around the world, all invited to share their talents with that audience. There was Jason Scheff, son of Jerry Scheff, Elvis’ bassist, and long-time lead vocalist of Chicago, rock and roll royalty, Brian May, of “Queen”, Larry Stewart, lead vocalist of Restless Heart, Joe Walsh, guitar legend of the Eagles, Albert Lee, Marty Haggard, son of the great Merle Haggard, John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker, Paul Schaffer of the CBS Late Show, and the Imperials. 

Guitar signed by all of the participants in the show.

This was a concert that exceeded my wildest imaginations! From the first rehearsal to the show, I knew it was going to be a night to remember. Jason Scheff had heard of us from his father, Jerry, so when he heard us sing, he came up to me and we had a nice chat. He asked me if we would back him on 25 or 6 or More. I went to that hall expecting to rehearse our songs, and Jason asked us to back him. Of course, we said yes. 

Brian May of “Queen” heard us in rehearsal and enquired of the man sitting in front of him, “Who are those guys”? He knew us so he told him. Later, I had a photo taken with him backstage. Brian hopes to take this show to London next year. 

Larry Stewart of Restless Heart shared the stage with us for a Glen Campbell medley of “Gentle on my Mind” and “Wichita Lineman”, and we backed him on their hit, “I’ll Still be Loving You”. He knew of the Imperials since childhood. His father, Buddy, had an auto dealership in Paducah, KY, and used to sell cars to many of his gospel heroes. 

Larry Stewart, Restless Heart

There were so many great moments that occurred with the guitar jam sessions. The Elvis segment was last. We came out with Jason and did his song. I introduced “The Wonder of You” and the Imperials sang it, with James Burton playing the lead guitar and Ronnie Tutt playing drums. Jason Scheff came on stage to play bass for us just like his father would have done. 

It ended with several Elvis tunes and a stage full of all the performers singing songs by the king of rock and roll. I guess the only three people on that stage that actually worked on stage with Elvis were James, Ronnie, and me. 

This show was so good, I have a feeling you will see it on PBS sometime next year. You will want to get a DVD of it. It’s that good! 

Brian May of Queen

God placed me in the Imperials for a reason. He had a plan from the foundation of the world. I’m part of that plan. I don’t know what the future holds but He does. I will go wherever He leads and sing to anyone who will listen. 

I think 2020 may be even more exciting than this year! I can’t wait! Thank you, Lord. 

November 8, 2019

James Burton Foundation Event

We just returned from a wonderful week in Panama City Beach, FL, where Tina, my wife, Leah, our daughter, and I spent some great times on the sunny beach of our condominium rental. Leah had combed the available units until we found one that looked good and priced right at the time we needed it. 

On Sunday, October 19 we loaded up the van and made the 7-hour drive to the beach. We had a lovely drive going down and no one got in our way! There were no freeway parking lots and no accidents along the way. Cars and trucks were actually passing me and I wasn’t going slowly. We arrived Sunday night, stopped off at the Fresh Market for eggs, bacon, and fruit, before heading to the condo. We arrived in loud oldies rock music from the beach. A band had set up their stage and the people were there enjoying the VERY LOUD music! I could have taken it more easily if it had been Elvis music. This week was also the annual biker’s convention so all up and down the front beach road there were thousands of Harleys and Yamahas of every shape and size. Have you ever been around a Harley? The DB level will part your hair! 

Every day was sunny so after breakfast, we made our way to the beach where we baked ourselves along with everyone else, before wading into the ocean waters and collecting shells. I noticed every step I took I made a good impression in the sand for about 15 seconds and after three of our four waves, my footprint was totally wiped out! It reminded me of the brevity of life and how important it is to make a lasting impression that can’t be washed away.

We saw sharks, stingrays, and seagulls all doing their thing. While down there, we celebrated my birthday and even had a friend of our friend, Kathy, who blew the Conch shell on the pier. It’s a sea shell that has been cut off to achieve that certain sound that only the Conch can produce. 

On Saturday afternoon, we were at early dinner sitting next to a table of Alabama Crimson Tide football ladies. During a lull in the action, one of the ladies looked at me and said, “Aren’t you Terry Blackwood”? I said yes, of course. She said, “I saw you two months ago during Elvis week in Memphis”!

Coming up on November 12th,  is a big James Burton Foundation event at the Schermerhorn Auditorium in downtown Nashville, TN.  Friends like Joe Walsh, Albert Lee, Jason Scheff, Jerry’s son, who sang in the great group, Chicago, Late Show bandleader, Paul Shaffer, the Imperials, John Carter Cash, and many more will take to the stage in this beautiful facility for a night of music. It should be a great event. Proceeds go to the James Burton Foundation, which gifts children and veterans from all over the nation with guitars. Hope to see you there!

October 23, 2019

Happy Birthday Terry

My birthday is today! We are celebrating tonight here in PCB Florida and I’m thankful for faith in God and family that loves and supports me. 
Last Sunday was a very special day for me. I had been invited to sing for a long-time friend, Mike Rose, Minister of Music at First Baptist Church, Murray KY. Tina and I and our daughter, Leah, arrived in Murray on Saturday night. The early service on Sunday started at 8:30 and I had to be there at 7:45 for soundcheck. The audience was mostly seniors because as you know, seniors get up early. They were there and I sang for them. Then, there was a more contemporary worship service at 11:00 for the young college students and younger couples. I sang and played a worship song I love, 10,000 Reasons. 

The afternoon concert started at 5 pm and I was ready! I had rehearsed my songs over and over that preceding week so I was prepared. I did new songs, old songs, and interspersed them with stories of my childhood, my college days, my experience of joining the Imperials, and my years with Elvis. The audience was very receptive. Mike had said the church doesn’t usually have an evening worship service so he was pleased with the crowd. 

I had no idea what I was going to say but I had prayed and asked God for help and He came through once again. We ended the concert with How Great Thou Art with the entire church body singing along with me as I played and sang it from the piano. 

Mike told me on Thursday after the Wednesday night service that he had so many “thank you’s” from members who told him how appreciative they were of my visit. One older lady asked him to ask me if I would send every cd I had so she could listen and pick out the ones she wanted to keep. She said my music had inspired her dormant musical past and rekindled her love for good Christian music. 

I can’t explain the feelings I had after Mike called. I have a renewed interest in pursuing my calling and singing to God’s people. I am also called to sing to the wonderful people in Europe who have the Imperials at least three or four times a year. 

The message I left with that crowd Sunday night was, “bloom where you are planted. Go through doors God opens. You never know what God will do with a willing servant.

September 26, 2019

The Imperials Travel

Exciting things are happening for the Imperials. In just a week we head to Bad Homburg, Germany for a great weekend of music. We will be there along with the Holladay Sisters, Elvis’ cousin, Donna Presley, Glen D. Hardin, Elvis’ pianist and arranger of many of Elvis’ greatest hits, drummer Paul Leim, one of the finest drummers you will ever hear, and our great host, Dennis Jale from Vienna, Austria, who put this all together. We will be staying at the Steigenberger Hotel, a place Elvis visited when he was stationed in the Army. Our last visit to the hotel we paid a visit to the same room Elvis was in and there’s memorabilia from the time he was there. We were there with James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, and Glen D Hardin, all from the original TCB band. This promises to be a memorable weekend with two shows headlining Dennis Jale along with his great band, the Jam Gang. The weekend will be capped off with a great gospel show on Sunday, October 6. There will be fans and friends from Austria, Switzerland, Germany and maybe even a few from the US.  I know of at least eight of us! 

I am including a few pictures of our first visit to this awesome hotel. We made photos in the same room Elvis occupied while there. We hope to see you there. 

September 5, 2019

Elvis Week

Elvis week is now in the history books. There were many highlights and the fans were there from all over the world. There were ETA’s galore, and many celebrities who performed. Some of the note, BJ Thomas, Ronnie Milsap, the Holladay Sisters, and the Memphis Boys, Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman who were on the famous Memphis sessions that produced Suspicious Minds, Don’t Cry Daddy, In the Ghetto, and Kentucky Rain, to name a few. There was James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, and Glen D. Hardin of the TCB band, Estelle Brown of the Sweet Inspirations, Andy Childs, who produced the big screen show and emceed many events of the week, and Terry Mike Jeffries, a multi-talented artist who has been singing for Elvis fans for many years. A surprise guest we got to meet in the lobby, Jose Feliciano, (Feliz Navidad) sat for a picture with us. 

The big event on Friday night featured all the original cast members from the 1969 opening at the Las Vegas Hilton International Hotel. Interviewees included James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, Glen Hardin, Jim Murray and me from the Imperials, and Estelle Brown of the Sweet Inspirations.  

Saturday morning I was interviewed with Jim Murray about our times with Elvis and we shared some insight into our life with the king of rock and roll.  

Our big event was Saturday night, Gospel night, with the Blackwood Brothers Qt and the Imperials. Larry Strickland and Ed Hill from the Stamps were there to sing with both groups some gospel songs we love and Elvis loved. We capped off the night with the audience singing How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace along with us. 

It was an amazing week for Elvis fans and it’s our hope that they took home with them some memories that won’t fade away over time. Rock and roll is fun music and we enjoy singing it but the high it gives you is temporary. Gospel music feeds your soul and can change your life forever if you let it. To many, it makes them feel good. To others and to us, it’s music that has eternal value. As the last verse of Amazing Grace says; “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no fewer days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun”!

August 28, 2019

Mother Teresa

My sister, Kaye and I had been invited as special guests to a Christmas celebration in Calcutta, India and as we approached the city I knew this was going to be a memorable two weeks. As we descended I noticed a dark haze at about 5000 ft or less. It looked like fog but it wasn’t. I learned later it was the smoke from the constant burning of cow dung over the years. In Hinduism, cows are thought to be sacred or deeply respected. Since money was scarce in Calcutta, they couldn’t afford to burn wood. We landed and were met by our missionary friend, Dr. Mark Buntain, and were escorted to our hotel. We were told not to drink the water and be careful about what we ate. I’ve never seen such poverty as was in Calcutta. There were beggars everywhere and people lived, ate, and went to the bathroom on the street. It was a shock to my system and I’ll never forget what I saw. As bad as the city was, when we got to the church, there were happy faces everywhere. They sang loudly, Dr. Buntain preached with much fervor, and they loved their life in Calcutta. These people didn’t have much but what they had was enough because they knew Jesus. 

We had a few days to get acclimated to the city before the concert series began. We were to be an extension of the outreach of the church to the Hindu officials who didn’t know Christ but came out to celebrate our Christmas concert with us. The week of concerts went very well and every night we sang to a packed audience of locals. After the week was up, we had a day to walk around town. We came upon a huge warehouse, walked inside and were shocked to see row upon row of cots for people who had been picked up from the streets and attempts were made to nurse them back to health. Many babies were there; some were surviving while others didn’t make it. Kaye held one tiny baby in her hand and that baby didn’t make it. It was heart wrenching and sobering.  The person in charge of these caregivers was a lady by the name of Mother Teresa. Her ministry had touched the lives of many in that town. As we left, we asked one of the nuns where Mother Teresa lived. She gave us the address nearby so we thought we would go by and just ask if she was there. When we arrived at her humble home, we knocked and someone came to the door. We asked if Mother Teresa was there. To our shock, they said yes. We asked if we could meet her. Not 5 minutes later, she walked out of the front door. She didn’t speak English but greeted us warmly. Someone just happened to have a camera and took the picture we will cherish for a lifetime. 

God works in mysterious ways and guides us daily if we ask. This day was a day we would never forget!