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. 

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.  

September 27, 2017

My Parents: Doyle and Lavez Blackwood

The values instilled in me are a direct result of my wonderful parents, Doyle and Lavez Blackwood, both of whom are deceased now. Both were raised in church and it was a vital part of their lives. Church wasn’t just a Sunday morning where friends gathered to share stories of the previous week. Everything revolved around their church life. They had friends outside the church but their close friends shared their faith and their lives with one another. Baptisms occurred often in the creek behind the church often but mostly in the summertime. January baptisms in that cold creek were an exception.

Mother and Daddy met in the town of Jackson, MS. Daddy (that’s southern for Father and that’s what I called him) had moved from Kosciusko, MS where the quartet had a daily morning live radio broadcast to the big city of Jackson, MS and a larger radio station that reached more people. Mother had left her home of two brothers and two sisters, her mother and father (Emmett and Orrie Hawkins) and upon graduating from high school she moved to Jackson where she began her classes at business school to become a secretary. Both lived in the same boarding house. Mother was actually engaged to another man but didn’t have a ring. My father saw her in the hall and it was love at first sight. He knew of her engagement but he told her that he would win her from her love interest and that he did. Their courtship wasn’t like today. He would pass by her room each afternoon and throw a note through the transom over the door inviting her to go to the mailbox to get the mail with him. How exciting that must have been. That little 5 ft, 3 inch man won her heart and their courtship began. He was a captivating personality and she just couldn’t resist his country charm. Their marriage involved a double wedding as my father’s brother, James, had met his sweetheart, Miriam, at a local concert. Two weddings for the price of one; that was another trait we southerners still possess. In fact, the family was so frugal we were accused of being Scotch! However, a recent DNA test revealed we were actually from Northern England!  I was just “gobsmacked” when I learned that. And that’s a word I DIDN’T learn down south in Dixie!