July 19, 2019

In the Spring of 1976

In the spring of 1976, I was nominated for the Dove Award for Best Male Vocalist. I was pitted in the same category as my uncle, James, who had won it several times previously. The Imperials had released another lp entitled Just Because and it was nominated for a Dove award as well. All was going so well and yet I was ready to leave. I had no plans but just that unsettled feeling that God was telling me to leave. So in the midst of such great success and throwing common sense out the window, I gave my notice to the group and in May of 1976, I left. Since I didn’t plan on joining another group, I needed a little time to adjust. I had always wanted to do an lp with my sister, Kaye, and now seemed like a good time to do that. I contacted Tony Brown, the producer of some really big country acts at a later date in his career. He had played piano for Elvis after we had left. We had roomed together when I first came to Nashville in 1967 and he said he would love to produce it. 

Kaye and I released our one and only lp we titled, Keep Holding On, in memory of our daddy, Doyle J. Blackwood, and a cd that I still sell on my web site at TerryBlackwood.com. Dates at churches were beginning to come in and the lp was getting some good airplay. The Moody radio station in Chicago played His Hand in Mine from that lp several times a day for months! Other noteworthy songs on that cd are, Rise and Be Healed, When God Dips His Love, More Than You’ll Ever Know, Gentle Shepherd, and an acapella song called I Sing of Thee. This cd was totally different from anything I had done with the Imperials but it was time for it. I went from huge venues with the Imperials to small churches overnight.  I was beginning to think I had made a mistake and had acted impulsively. Not too long after the lp was released, we were invited to sing at the national Assemblies of God convention in Oklahoma City, Ok and we accepted. After we sang, a missionary to India by the name of Mark Buntain approached us and said, “You must come to Calcutta”! I was taken aback by that request. He said just raise the money for your flights and be there for their Christmas outreach to the Hindu population that controlled the city. It was a two-week stay with a week of concerts of Christmas music and a week to explore the city. I promised him if we can get the financial support, we will come. I didn’t think we would go, but I announced the offer we had received at the close of the concert in the first church we sang in after that convention and to my utter surprise, a couple came up after the service and said, “We will sponsor your trip and pay for your flights” ! I was shocked and yet amazed at how quickly God worked. Be careful what you promise. You might have to deliver. 

The first of December, 1976, we boarded a flight from Memphis to Calcutta, India. It was to be a trip I will never forget!

June 21, 2019

GaitherFest

GaitherFest is held every Memorial weekend in May and it’s an experience for everyone who enjoys great music and fellowship. It’s held in Gatlinburg, TN and the surrounding hills make it doubly special and memorable. I’ve always loved the mountains and the Smokey’s are some of the most beautiful you will ever experience. Gatlinburg was teeming with vacationers that weekend and Bill Gaither’s gathering was part of that excitement.

Saturday morning I walked into the backstage area of the Convention Center to beautiful songs of praise. The singers had their eyes closed and their hands lifted as they shut out the troubling world around them to focus on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s presence. Bill Gaither led that special time of praise as songs were suggested and as one started to sing, everyone joined in, in beautiful harmonies. The spirit of the moments in that 30 minutes carried us into the arena where the huge throng of people were waiting. These precious souls come most every year and never seem to get enough. The morning program had various artists singing, including us, and a special speaker closed it out. Our song that morning was The Secret.  

The evening show began at 6 pm and a few new faces showed up for that program. A few names of note that impacted me were Larnelle Harris, who still is one of the greatest singers of all time, and he is totally unaffected by his talent. He sang “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked” and I felt His presence!  Buddy Greene sang and played his harmonica. The Isaacs, the Martins, the Booth Brothers, Karen Peck and New River, The Nelons, The Imperials, and many more.

Pictured along with this blog are two photos of the Imperials on stage at that event. They will do this again next Memorial weekend, the Lord willing, and while I don’t know if we will be there, you should make every attempt to come if you can. You will experience something unlike you’ve never experienced before.

April 26, 2019

The Imperials had so many opportunities …

after accepting Elvis’ invitation to work with him. One such opening was when Jimmy Dean asked us to sing with him. The picture accompanying this blog was taken at the Holiday House in Monroeville, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, in 1971. The Holiday House was a 900 seat auditorium with a huge stage for orchestra and band. We were there for three weeks with no nights off.

One night, about halfway through our stay, Greg Gordon and I happened to be sharing the same hotel room right over the showroom. At the time, the Carpenters were exploding onto the scene and they had a special tv show one night while we were there. Greg and I were sitting there in our underwear engrossed in the sights and sounds of Karen Carpenter and her beautiful voice and we lost track of time. We are on the edge of our beds watching the show when we heard the band play the introduction to the show.  We jumped up like we had been shot! We had about three minutes to get completely dressed and get down to the stage and the song was well underway. We had a shirt, tie, pants, coat, and socks and shoes and we had to be downstairs before Jimmy walked on the stage. It’s the very same suit in this photo. Fortunately, he always started in the audience making small talk with the people and he took his time this night. He would say things to a man who was thin in the crown of his head, “Where do you get those haircuts with the hole in the top”? An older man might be there with a much younger lady and he would say, “Nice of you to bring your granddaughter out tonight”. Everyone laughed but the people he was talking to.  Fortunately for us, he delayed his trip up to the stage that night. Had he gotten on stage and we weren’t there, we would have paid dearly! We made it to the stage just as he walked up from the audience. Everything was in place except the laces on our hightop brown and white patent leather shoes which we just didn’t have time to tie, but our pants covered them so no one ever knew how close we came to getting a lecture. We were standing there with the spotlight on us with untied shoes while we sang the first three songs. We were only able to finish tying our shoes when the spotlight moved back to Jimmy at center stage.

Such incidents like this always made for exciting times and you never knew what might happen the next night. Jimmy was complicated. I could write a novel on him. He loved what we did and we added so much to his show but it didn’t have the energy and excitement we had with Elvis. I will always regret leaving Elvis but life is full of decisions. You can never tell what the future holds but decisions have to be made. Not all of them are good ones and not all are bad. God redeems even those bad decisions and He blesses the good ones.

April 10, 2019

The Nashville Elvis Festival is now History

I didn’t know what to expect as I had never been there before. Tom Brown invited me to be there and I came on stage at 10 am Sunday morning just after Gary Chapman sang. He sang beautifully three gospel songs that were meaningful for him. Since I had never sung for this event, I was apprehensive and didn’t know what to expect. The audience was wonderful! I opened my set with I’ve Got Confidence, a song the Imperials had cut in 1970 and one that Elvis liked and recorded with us on his He Touched Me lp. As you can tell by the photo, I played for myself but the EAS Band from Chicago volunteered to accompany me. Although we never rehearsed, I was pleased and thankful for their help. I welcomed myself and the audience to the event. I told them, there were three male gospel groups who sang behind Elvis during his short career. The first group, The Jordanaires, then the Imperials, and lastly, The Stamps made that list. That meant about 15 male backup singers had the privilege of being on stage with him. I said I was pretty sure I wasn’t Elvis’ favorite back-up singer, (three other men claimed that title), but I’m quite sure I was in the top 15!

It was a fun morning sharing the stage with Gary Chapman, Tom Brown, and six ETA’s who sang gospel for an hour after my appearance on stage. They were all excellent. Of particular note was Dean Z, Diogo Light, and 16 yr old, Riley Jenkins, all of whom were very respectful and kind. They were all very good singers. The crowd loved the show and I was up there singing along with them all the songs I learned as a kid. My wife, Tina, and daughter, Leah, were at the table in the back where we sold the product. I talked to one lady who said she was really encouraged by what I had to say before I sang “Where No One Stands Alone”. The writer, Mosie Lister, also wrote His Hand In Mine, the title song from Elvis’ second gospel lp. We are never alone when we pray and ask God for guidance and wisdom. He said He would give that to us.

We are here for a brief time and we must make every minute count. Don’t waste it watching inane tv shows that offer no answers, only confusion. PLEASE turn off The VIEW!!!!!  Instead, go to that bible and read Psalms and Proverbs for REAL wisdom, eternal truths that have transcended nations and continues to provide answers to all of life’s questions.

April 5, 2019

The Nashville Elvis Festival is now history.

I didn’t know what to expect as I had never been there before. Tom Brown invited me to be there and I came on stage at 10 am Sunday morning just after Gary Chapman sang. He sang beautifully three gospel songs that were meaningful for him. Since I had never sung for this event, I was apprehensive and didn’t know what to expect. The audience was wonderful! I opened my set with I’ve Got Confidence, a song the Imperials had cut in 1970 and one that Elvis liked and recorded with us on his He Touched Me lp. As you can tell by the photo, I played for myself but the EAS Band from Chicago volunteered to accompany me. Although we never rehearsed, I was pleased and thankful for their help. I welcomed myself and the audience to the event. I told them, there were three male gospel groups who sang behind Elvis during his short career. The first group, The Jordanaires, then the Imperials, and lastly, The Stamps made that list. That meant about 15 male backup singers had the privilege of being on stage with him. I said I was pretty sure I wasn’t Elvis’ favorite back-up singer, (three other men claimed that title), but I’m quite sure I was in the top 15!

It was a fun morning sharing the stage with Gary Chapman, Tom Brown, and six ETA’s who sang gospel for an hour after my appearance on stage. They were all excellent. Of particular note was Dean Z, Diogo Light, and 16 yr old, Riley Jenkins, all of whom were very respectful and kind. They were all very good singers. The crowd loved the show and I was up there singing along with them all the songs I learned as a kid. My wife, Tina, and daughter, Leah, were at the table in the back where we sold a product. I talked to one lady who said she was really encouraged by what I had to say before I sang “Where No One Stands Alone”. The writer, Mosie Lister, also wrote His Hand In Mine, the title song from Elvis’ second gospel lp. We are never alone when we pray and ask God for guidance and wisdom. He said He would give that to us.

We are here for a brief time and we must make every minute count. Don’t waste it watching inane tv shows that offer no answers, only confusion. PLEASE turn off The VIEW!!!!!  Instead, go to that bible and read Psalms and Proverbs for REAL wisdom, eternal truths that have transcended nations and continues to provide answers to all of life’s questions.

March 28, 2019

This is an exciting week for me

My main focus is on Sunday, March 31, where I will be involved in the Elvis Festival in Franklin, TN. The festival starts on Friday and I won’t be there until Sunday morning at 10 am. The people will have heard two days and night of Elvis tribute artists and then I will be coming on stage. I have skinny short blond sideburns, blond hair, blue eyes, and led a very strict, sheltered life. I don’t look or sound like Elvis but I do have a focus and a message for those Elvis fans. I want them to understand why Elvis chose the Imperials. Yes, Elvis picked us in 1969 but God directed him to that choice. I’m still singing because of that open door that God opened for me through Elvis. My gospel songs will hopefully give hope and encouragement to them.

Just yesterday I witnessed the two and a half hour funeral service for Dave Kyllonen, emcee and baritone/bass for the dynamic Couriers from PA.  What a wonderful service, filled with testimonies from his four daughters, his son, his wife, and many of his former pastors. After the Couriers disbanded, Dave went on the mission field and continued to minister to people around the world. He had this deep, rich commanding voice and he spoke with such eloquence. I wished I could be that good. His close friendship with his family spoke volumes to me. Many families are broken, at odds with each other, have money issues, jealous, and envious of one who might get a little more success than they. This man’s life was such a bold witness and encouragement of what we should all aspire to be.

Sunday morning I will be on that stage before Elvis fans mostly. I will have some who came to see and hear me. I just want my appearance to be one they will remember; one that gives them more than music. It’s not about me anyway. I’m just the vessel I hope God uses. Thanks for your prayers. I will report back to you next week on the results.

Have a blessed week and remember you have a destiny that only YOU can fulfill. God is with you and a host of heavenly saints who’ve gone before are cheering you on toward the finish line. Finish strong!

March 22, 2019

Silence!

I don’t like silence, especially when you’re with someone. It’s awkward, isn’t it?  You feel like you need to say something clever or just anything to break the silence. Sometimes, my mouth jumps ahead of my brain and I say something stupid that I wish I hadn’t said. Is that you?  Are you uncomfortable with silence? It’s the antithesis of what God wants for us. He said, “Be still and know that I am God”. If you’re busy or you’re talking, you can’t be still and know. I want to work on being still. God never yells at us; He speaks in a still, small voice and we must be quiet to hear Him.

I happened to be in the bank yesterday and was there with my son, Jesse, who was celebrating his 19th birthday. There happened to be a sweet elderly lady sitting in the chair next to me. She smiled and we made light pleasant talk. She seemed fine. When the officer of the bank came up to her to talk to her, she broke down crying. She has so many physical problems from arthritis to cracked ribs and she was in constant pain. I didn’t even know as I spoke with her and listened to her talk. My heart went out to her and I told her as she was leaving that I would pray for her. She needs God’s touch in her life and I happened to be there at God’s appointed time. Our meeting was no accident. Our time together was pre-ordained.

Just this morning, I went to the gym to work out on the treadmill and do my physical activity for the day. No one was in there so I turned on CBN around 9 am and Pat Robertson was on there. I was watching as I was walking the treadmill and another gentleman came in and walked on the treadmill next to mine. He watched intently the gospel being presented right there in the gym. I didn’t say anything but just did my workout. He went to the other room 30 minutes later and worked the machines. I wonder if he took note of what he was seeing on TV? I can only do what I think is right for me. I won’t push my faith on anyone but I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation!

Be blessed today and just be silent at times and listen for God speaking to you. That sound like a good title for the song the Imperials cut many years ago. God Speaking To You. Great song! He’s all around us, He’s in us, and He works through us if we let Him.  

March 14, 2019

That Saturday Afternoon…

When I was about 10, my father, Doyle Blackwood, was asked to run for state representative from Shelby Co, Memphis. His group, the Blackwood Brothers Qt were quite popular in Memphis and Elvis was a fan even before he because famous. He accepted and not too long after that, the party told him they were going to have a parade on Main Street, downtown Memphis in two weeks. They wanted all the candidates to participate in the parade and ride downtown so my father agreed. There was just one problem. We didn’t own a suitable automobile. By that time, Elvis had already had several hits, had bought Graceland and had a few cars to his name. My father knew him because of his love for the quartet, so he called Elvis and made a request to borrow one of his Cadillacs for the parade. Elvis graciously agreed, so I rode out to Graceland with him, met Elvis, and we picked up the borrowed car. 

That Saturday afternoon we were in that parade, waving at people on the street. But we stood out from all the rest, as my father was the only candidate riding downtown on Main St in Memphis that day in a bright pink Cadillac! 

 In 1975 Elvis was shopping in Memphis at the Cadillac dealership and a black lady named Minnie Pearson happened to walk by and stopped to admire the beautiful cars in the showroom. The young black lady clearly was unable to afford such an expensive car but Elvis noticed her outside and he asked her to come inside. That day he bought her a brand new white and gold Cadillac which sold for $11,500. 

At that time, Cadillac was symbolic of success and Elvis, who was raised in poverty, wanted to show the world he was successful and Graceland and Cadillac were two symbols of having made a successful transition.  

It’s funny how times have changed, but human nature remains the same. We all want the good life, money, and fame if possible. However, as we have seen so many times, success doesn’t bring happiness.  Many wealthy people are still miserable because they discovered after achieving every goal they set, they still are empty. They have missed the MAIN THING!  Jesus said, “I have come to give you life and that more abundantly”. Go ahead and enjoy the good things life has to offer but remember who provided you the talent and the sense to acquire them.  

February 28, 2019

Home at Last!

Thank God we made it home safely. There were no missed flights, no turbulence, no unruly passengers next to us, and we got home with all our stuff! You know we all need our stuff. I came home with all the stuff  I started with and included boxes of candy I purchased in Bonn, Germany for Tina. She likes dark chocolate. Don’t ask me why. I just buy! German, Austrian, and Swiss chocolate, they’re all good and better than Hershey’s. Yes, it’s more expensive but I can’t come home empty-handed, can I?  Tina has been home with three teens for three and a half weeks and she deserves a medal. Medals are much heavier than chocolate and so I chose the latter. She was happy with my choice.

So I come home to three weeks of delayed chores and tasks that have been put off until my return. Life goes on whether I’m there or not. Bills have to be paid and I need to get caught up. The most pressing issues have to be addressed first. Then I work through the other issues later.

Travel is hard. Singing is the easy part. When you’re in a long line at the airport, waiting to get your bags searched and you have to rush to your gate to catch a flight to another city, it’s stressful. Once we are at the auditorium, it’s much easier. We always start the show and this time we came up with two new songs I hadn’t sung for many years. We opened with Spread a Little Love Around/God’s Mighty Peace, a medley we had recorded on an Imperial’s release called  Follow the Man with the Music, recorded in 1974. It was nominated for a Grammy and contains many great songs. The second song we sang was I’m Gonna Rise, a song we recorded as Andrus, Blackwood, and Company on the very first release we called Grand Opening. Sherman Andrus and I both left the Imperials in 1976 and a year later, we were asked to do an album together. This song was the first single on the first of many releases to come. It charted very high on the CCM radio stations. Both songs are available on my website at terryblackwood.com.

I know I’ve been called to sing and that involves travel. I wish I could get the people to come to my house and I could sing for them there, but that doesn’t seem to be very practical. My house is hard to find and really I don’t want to be “found.” My home is sort of a refuge for me and we all need a little privacy from time to time.

Have a blessed week. God is still on the throne and He knows what He’s doing. Rest in that assurance.

January 31, 2019

The tour is almost over!

It’s January 30 and we are at our final destination before our return home on Saturday. Bregenz, Austria, is a beautiful city nestled by the Austrian/Swiss Alps and situated by Lake Bodensee. I’m told the lake is not the largest but the deepest in all of Europe.
Some amazing events have taken place since I last wrote. We were in Bonn, Germany, for two shows, and a lovely little hotel situated right on the main promenade. So many people came to the shows and yet, our afterglows and meeting with the fans and friends took prominence. Renewing acquaintances and meeting new friends allowed us to share our hearts with them. These lovely people here in Germany in many ways are just like us in the US. They are reaching out to find the reality and significance of their lives. We know what brings that about.  Jesus Christ has come to give us life abundantly and every night we sing, we share that abundant life through our songs and through the time spent with fans and friends. When we stood in the center of that crowd and sang “There’s a sweet spirit in this place”, we meant it! The spirit of the Lord came down in a gentle way and the people there responded. Tears were shed and hearts were encouraged. We have been in touch with many of them since that time, and their stories would thrill you. Yes, we are performing Elvis songs, but we are also singing the gospel, the GOOD NEWS that actually brought us to Elvis in the beginning. We remain true to that calling.
From Bonn, we were driven to the beautiful, historical city, Bad Homburg, and the same hotel where Elvis actually took up residence for a while. A press conference had been scheduled there for the German media and during that press conference, Dennis asked us to sing Sweet Spirit to reporters. A visit to Elvis’ hotel room was filmed for German TV and newspapers carried an in-depth story of our upcoming visit in October. You may see pictures from that visit on my Facebook page or the Imperial’s page as well. I would imagine Dennis Jale, James Burton, and Donna Tutt, Ronnie’s wife, have it on their Facebook pages too.
So we end this amazing month with grateful hearts. We didn’t do this; God did!  Dennis Jale has a vision of what appeals to the Europeans here and the TCB band and the Imperials fit into that vision. Why us? Because we were willing to go and share our music and our lives with these wonderful people.
We thank Dennis Jale for the opportunity to come here and we thank God for opening the door and making this trip possible.