It’s Tuesday, January 22, and I’m in my hotel room, having just gotten back from breakfast. The weekend was amazing! If you’ve been on Facebook, you’ve seen shots and videos that will show you how wonderful it was. We introduced our new tenor, Will Shaw, and featured him on a song from The Journey CD, David’s Psalm. The song was taken from Psalm 27 and expanded into a beautiful narrative of dependence and reliance on God for all we have. The lyrics are:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is my strength and my Redeemer; whom shall I fear? If God is for us, who can be against us, for He, the Lord, is with us!”
We had recorded that song many years ago, around 1976, and at the time, Jim Murray sang it beautifully. Will is still learning our songs and blend but he has grabbed this song and claimed it as his own. The video sounds are not professional and yet I think you can see and hear the potential we have. We have introduced new material this year and will continue to do so in the months ahead.
We are past the halfway point in our stay in Europe and from Vienna we make our way to Bonn, Germany on Thursday. We covet your prayers for safety there. I know Germany is relatively safe and yet, there are stories coming out that are of concern.
Tomorrow is picture day as we will need to update our banner and promotional pictures. We will get shots with James Burton too, as we hope to get an invitation to a very special venue in the next month. I will keep you informed on it. James has become a dear friend, and his wife, Louise, is one of our biggest fans. She and James secured our visit on the Mike Huckabee Show on January 3, and it was beyond our wildest dreams for success. We cherish their friendship and realize what an international star James is. We NEVER take advantage of that but we do enjoy his company. I have never heard James say an unkind word to anyone. Some interrupt him in the middle of a meal, but he’s always very gracious to them. We Christians are commanded to do the same. All are equal at the foot of the cross. There are no rich, no poor, but all bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. If you are a child of God, remember how blessed you really are! Many are called but few are chosen. I’m so thankful that God chose me. Did He choose you? By accepting Jesus as Lord, you have been chosen and are accepted in the beloved and destined for eternity with God, your Heavenly Father.
The new year opened with a tremendous opportunity for the Imperials. On January 4, we made our debut with our new tenor, Will Shaw, on the Mike Huckabee Show on the TBN television network. What a reception! The Governor couldn’t have been nicer. He welcomed us with our good friend, legendary lead guitarist and rock and roll hall of Famer, James Burton. James and I were interviewed by the Governor and afterward, we went center stage for our first song, The Wonder of You was one we sang with Elvis many times. James played his familiar guitar licks and we sang the song. After a short break, we came back on with a song I wrote lyrics to, This Train, and James helped us out on the instrumental lead solo. A third song was added for their internet audience and James was featured throughout that song, Johnnie B. Goode. You may find all three of these songs on YouTube and I encourage you to watch. I would say we couldn’t have been more pleased with our reception, the sound, and the production. I have put two of the three songs on my Facebook page and they are exciting to watch and to listen to.
On January 9, we board a plane for Denmark to begin our three-week tour of Europe. Will Shaw will be with us for his first tour as tenor for the Imperials. We will introduce him to European audiences and I have a feeling they will love him. He’s an amazing singer and people will get to experience him firsthand. We will have many new songs and hope the tour is successful. Our host, Dennis Jale, has done a lot of work putting this tour together and I think it’s going to be a great one.
I know how hard change is for people. Life is full of changes. We change from birth to toddler, to the first day in school, to Junior High, High School, college for some, marriage for others. If we don’t change, we stagnate and get complacent. So, I challenge you to not resist changes in life but embrace them. Sometimes change is for the better and sometimes it’s for worse. However, complacency is not an option in life if you want to grow. In the Christian life, we are constantly changing and being molded into the image of our savior, Jesus Christ. He will not allow us to become complacent. May 2019 be a year of growth for you and for me. I want more of God’s best that can only be realized when we follow His lead and walk obediently in His footsteps.
Happy 2019! I hope your 2018 was a good one. As is the case with all of us, there were ups and downs. That’s life, whether you are a Christian or not.
I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams, and I ’ve said many times, I don’t believe in luck. I believe success is the result of hard work and perseverance. It helps to have some talent, too! I worked hard as a teen, as my piano instruction lasted up through college. I practiced piano when other boys were out playing ball. I HATED practice but my teacher told me I had talent and my daddy made sure I practiced. This was before video games! I happened to be blessed to have the last name of Blackwood. My father and his brothers had become very successful and I benefited from their success. Had my last name been Smith or Jones, I would never have been offered the job with the Imperials.
On Friday, January 4, 2019, the Imperials will be featured with legendary guitarist and rock and roll Hall of Famer, James Burton, on the Mike Huckabee Show. I’m not sure when it will be aired so check with your local station for dates and times. It’s shown all over the world on the TBN Network. James and I will be interviewed about our years with Elvis and we will sing our songs with James on guitar. We will be introducing our new tenor, Will Shaw. It will be his first appearance with us and we are excited about having his exceptional talent and dedication as an addition to our group.
The year 2019 will be challenging for us all. This world is a temptation for us as Christians but we don’t have to let it form us into its mold. We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds and the power of God’s Holy Spirit to become a light in this dark world. The darker it gets, the more the light of God’s love can make a huge difference in the lives of people who haven’t yet made that decision to follow Christ. I can’t make someone believe as I do, but I can tell them what God has done for me. I’m not the harvester, just the seed planter. That decision is one with eternal significance and all other decisions pale in comparison to it.
Go out and make 2019 a great year!
The year 2018 is almost gone and a new year is fast approaching. This year has brought both disappointments and encouraging developments. We started off the year with a month-long TCB tour with Dennis Jale as we visited many European countries. The Imperials had our first appearance at GaitherFest in Gatlinburg, TN on Memorial weekend. Bill Gaither does this every May and we were honored to be there. He couldn’t have been nicer to us and has invited us back again this May for another weekend. I hope you can be there in 2019. You can go to Gaither.com for any questions you might have.
In August, we had two major events. We did a concert with our friends, the Stamps Quartet, across from Graceland. What a great crowd we had, and Donnie Sumner was his usual hilarious impromptu self. After Memphis, we drove back to Nashville and boarded a flight for Denmark. Our friend and promoter, Henrik Knudsen, had his first European Elvis festival and it was a smashing success. We will be back next year for another festival.
In October we were invited to the TCB cruise from Barcelona, Spain with stops in Naples, Rome, and Florence, Italy, Cannes, France and a final stop in La Palma, Spain.
It was a celebration of 25 years of marriage with my wife, Tina, who deserves a medal for putting up with my schedule. Also aboard that ship was Priscilla Presley, Jerry Schilling, James Burton, Ronnie and Donna Tutt, Glen Hardin and our host, Dennis Jale who did all the hard work to put this cruise together. We had concerts in Barcelona and then two shows with Dennis and one gospel show with the Imperials while aboard ship.
In November we did a ten-day tour with Morgan Voein in Norway. The tour was a great success and we made many new friends. Our hope is that we will return sometime in the future for another tour.
December found us back for our Christmas tour with Dennis Jale as we started out in Basel, Switzerland and ended up two weeks later back in Vienna, Austria for our ninth anniversary of Christmas shows with Dennis.
In 2019, we will begin the year with our new tenor, Will Shaw. He comes to us highly recommended and we are excited to see what doors God opens for us. We wish Royce great success as he pursues his own schedule with the Vogues, and solo concerts.
Our very first event will be a TV show with Mike Huckabee on the TBN television network. James Burton will play guitar with us on our songs and he and I will be interviewed by Mike about our work with Elvis. We film it January 4 and I don’t know when it will air. I hope you will be watching it.
May it be your BEST year yet!
The tour of Norway is over and I’m back home. THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME! I loved the Norwegian people and everyone was so kind to us. We saw some amazing sites on this journey, and I hope to get some pictures for you. The last blog was through our second concert. Our third appearance was in Alesund, Norway at a lovely church. We were touring with a 40 piece orchestra and the sounds in that church were amazing. I heard this comment more than I can count – “Your songs brought tears to my eyes”. I hope they weren’t experiencing pain! I do think they were expressing their emotions at the sound of the gospel being presented to them.
Alesund is a beautiful city, and we will always remember the warm reception we received there. We got there on a ferry from Molde, Norway, where we were staying. We boarded the ferry for the short 30-minute boat ride to Alesund. Then we had an hour’s drive to the city. After arriving, James Burton and I were driven to the radio station for a live interview that broadcast all over Norway, and we spoke of our times with Elvis. From there we went to the church, where a sound check was in progress. After the concert, we drove back to the ferry and boarded the ferry for the return to Molde.
Our final concert was in this city and the cathedral was absolutely beautiful. We sang to a packed house that final night as well. The next day we flew to Oslo and spent the night there at the airport hotel. The next morning, Monday, November 5, we boarded the plane for our flight home.
I am grateful to Pal Granlund, our sponsor, Tom Andresen, tour organizer, Morgan Voien, the vocalist who has wanted this for a long time. His dream came true. He got to sing with the Imperials and the legendary James Burton, Elvis’ lead guitarist. Also, thanks to Steffi Besenrieder, who helped in all phases of the tour. We were amazed at the crowds and the reception of the Norwegian people. God bless them and we hope we planted some seeds that will bear fruit in the future for the kingdom of God. That’s really why we sing.