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.

October 18, 2019

Memorable Moments

The Imperials just returned from our weekend in Bad Homburg, Germany where we were guests at the Steigenberger Hotel. Our host was Dennis Jale, and we had many memorable moments for the weekend. Other personalities, besides the Imperials, were Paul Leim, great drummer, Glen D Hardin, pianist and orchestrator of many Elvis tunes, the Holladay sisters, who were there for the very first time. They were on the Memphis sessions which included the great songs, Suspicious Minds, In the Ghetto, Kentucky Rain, Hunk of Burning Love and the Wonder of You, and many more. Ginger and Mary Holladay were a welcome addition to the show. Also, Donna Presley, Elvis’ cousin was there to tell stories of her times with her cousin, Elvis, as a young girl. The Jam Gang, Dennis’s band were great as usual. 

We arrived on Thursday afternoon to the hotel from 36 hours of no sleep. We got a two- hour nap before our dinner at 6 pm that night. On Friday, the fans came pouring in and it was bedlam from then until Sunday afternoon. We had a meet and greet, pictures taken, and interviews with the press that day. 

On Friday, we had an extended rehearsal in the afternoon, with just enough time to get ready for the show. We were on stage, rehearsed and ready for the 8 pm show. Some of the songs we had never sung before rehearsal so it was a challenge for all of us. The crowd loved the songs and the new format. We sang and played until around 10 pm with no intermission! Then we had another greeting for the rest of the fans who we hadn’t spoken to before. They all wanted pictures and signatures and we were happy to oblige. We were up until at least 1 pm that night and sleep was hard to come by as I had to be up at 7 am for breakfast and to get ready for the gospel concert at 11 am. 

It couldn’t have been better! We had a very receptive audience and many nice comments were made. I will include a few photos and comments from the weekend.  

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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!

August 16, 2019

This was a Converted Movie Theater

A good friend, Gary Evans, posted a piece of Imperials history last week on Facebook and it got more responses than I get on my posts so I thought I would explain that shot and its history. The photo pictured the Imperials on stage in St Louis, MO at the Kingsland Theater on Gravois Av in 1970. We had purchased some black military uniforms and were wearing them for this show. It appears from the background, the concert took place around Thanksgiving and as always, in St Louis, it was packed. This was a converted movie theater that seated around 1200-1500 and it had two bathrooms on either side of the lobby. Both had two stalls and one sink. Don’t ask me how I know this to be true in the ladies room. At intermission, there were maybe a dozen men at most in line outside waiting to get in and on the ladies side, the line was ten times as long! It seemed to be the case in every venue. There was always home-cooked baked goods in the lobby and such a warm and friendly bunch showed up every time we were there. 

The Imperials onstage with Elvis

This was the group personnel for the first three years I was there; Jim Murray, Roger Wiles, Armond Morales, Joe Moscheo on piano, and me. We had joined up with Elvis a year earlier and it seemed everything we did worked! We would sing with Elvis a month and then do our gospel concerts in between. We had just released a live lp from that same auditorium in the spring called Gospel is Alive and Well. I have it on my website at terryblackwood.com. The songs were an example of the new direction in which we were headed. I arranged the vocals and the group was really focused on excellence. We were doing Jesus festivals and college campuses and bridging the gap from southern gospel to contemporary. These festivals featured the likes of Larry Norman in tie-dyed t-shirts and barefooted, Randy Stonehill, a very folksy singer who connected, Keith Green, who sang songs he wrote from his heart and communicated so well. Andre Crouch and the Disciples were one of the top-performing groups as well as the Imperials. A new and exciting movement called the Jesus Movement was making its way across the nation and young people who were tired of the traditional church were moving in this direction. Our crowds got bigger and younger and it seemed we offended many seniors in the process. 

I remember going to a particular college in MO, and the president of the college gave us a rather lukewarm introduction and left the stage. The students loved us and the faculty endured us. Though they didn’t like our style and look, as our hair was pretty long, they couldn’t deny the impact our music had on their students. That seemed to be the typical response at every college where we were invited to sing. 

Now, I am in that class of people that used to look down on us. It gives me a better perspective and understanding of the new music I hear on the radio. Some of it I like and some I don’t, but if it speaks to the kids who have been in church all their lives or maybe never darkened the door of the church, then I’m fine with it. Kids must know that it’s not a church that saves; it’s faith in Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with Him that saves. A little more patience and understanding goes a long way to bridging the gap between seniors and teens and the body of Christ is one, as it should be.

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!

July 3, 2019

Summertime

We’re in the midst of summer now and the Imperials are taking a brief time off before it gets busy in August. I thought I would share with you my world after Elvis as there’s a lot of exciting and traumatic events that occurred in my life that followed. 

Doyle Blackwood

In 1974 we were singing in Las Vegas, NV with Jimmy Dean and I received a call from my uncle James that my daddy, Doyle, was gravely ill.  I needed to go home to see him and so I asked Jimmy if I could go. He reluctantly agreed and I boarded a plane for Memphis as soon as I could. I didn’t make it in time. He died before I could get there. He had been a tremendous influence in my life and this was a difficult time for me and my family. I can’t even recall the details of the funeral but I do remember it. My sister, Kaye, was devastated.  She was daddy’s little girl and now he was gone. Mother and daddy had bought a small farm in Hernando, MS and built a home there. He had around 12-15 head of cattle and he loved it down there. It was about an hour south of Memphis and he would make the daily commute to and from town to the farm. He would be what they called a gentleman farmer. He even had all his cows named. They were like pets to him. While feeding them one late afternoon in the pasture he had an aneurysm. It was a weekend mother had gone to Chicago to visit Kaye. He had made it back to the house and since no one was there, he lay on the floor for two days. By the time my mother got home, she rushed him to the hospital but it was too late. He died there in the hospital before I could get there. 

Everything changed after that. Lavez, my mother, was left alone at the farm and I was burdened with the thought that she didn’t need to be that far out of town by herself.  I decided to help her relocate into Memphis closer to her church. We were able to find a house two blocks from the church. I felt this was a much better situation for her and she loved being with her church family on a regular basis. She took trips with friends and simply loved her new home and being around friends. 

Lavez Blackwood

While helping her settle into her new home, I was beginning to have thoughts of leaving the Imperials. I didn’t know what I would do but with the loss of my daddy and mother left by herself,  my priorities began to change. To leave such a successful group after so many years was going to be difficult. 

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.