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. 

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.

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.
January 18, 2019

All Things Are Possible

As I sit here in a hotel room in Vienna, Austria I am reflecting on the recent two concerts in Denmark and Norway.  Both venues were packed with friends and fans who came to hear Dennis Jale, the TCB band and the Imperials, along with Dennis’ band, the Jam Gang. The receptions were amazing and the love expressed to us was genuine. We have been given a great opportunity and it comes a with responsibility, to be honest in who we are off stage as well as on stage. 

We had a long flight from home and with no sleep on the plane, we arrived in Aalborg, Denmark and had an hour-long drive to Randers. With two hours of sleep, we had to make our way to the Memphis Mansion, owned and operated by our good friend, Henrik Knudsen.  As usual, the crowd was waiting for us and welcomed us with open arms. After the reception, we got the chance to sing Sweet Spirit into the phone of a man whose mother was sick and unable to be there. She was crying over the phone as we sang. 

Our first concert was in Randers and the crowd loved the show. The hour was late when we got back to the room, and we had an early flight so with very little sleep we made the one hour drive back to the Aalborg airport and flew to Oslo. We got to the hotel around three o’clock and left at four for the venue and sound check. After the show, we had a meal at the hotel. I had made a get-well video for a lady named Lisa and, as I was leaving the gathering, her husband was there and had brought Lisa with him. She was in a wheelchair, and as I spoke to her, she told me with tears in her eyes, that the doctors had given her two months to live! I felt impressed to pray for her right there in the lobby of the hotel.

I’m no saint, but I recognize when God says “pray” and I did. At breakfast the next morning, they were there, and their friend came over and said she had felt the warmth through her body as I prayed for her. She slept through the night, which was not normal for her. Would you pray that God would touch Lisa in Norway and confound the doctors who had given her no hope? All things are possible with God and healing was paid for on the cross of Calvary over 2000 years ago. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you”. I simply asked and we will see what God will do. Thank you for your supporting prayers and know that I can’t do this alone. 

December 27, 2018

2018: The Year in Review

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! 

December 21, 2018

Remember the Reason for the Season

I am back home from a two week Christmas tour of Switzerland and Austria. It was an amazing and fast-paced tour with receptive crowds everywhere. We wound up in two beautiful churches; one in Judenburg, Austria and the last one in a beautiful church in Vienna called Votiv Church. Vienna has a large cathedral in the center of the city called St. Stephens church that was built in the 1200s. It was semi-destroyed at one time and was rebuilt. Votiv Church is a smaller replica of that huge St. Stephens church. The unique thing about these churches is, the ceilings are so high, they can’t heat them! So at the church in Judenburg, we wore scarves and gloves while the audience wore their warm clothes as we sang. The Votiv Church in Vienna was even colder but they did provide a small heater on the stage so we didn’t freeze in place.  Would you believe the Votiv church on Saturday night was full and the temperature in that beautiful but cold sanctuary was below freezing? As we sang, I could see our breaths escaping from our mouths. That gave me the assurance I hadn’t frozen to death!

Sunday morning we left the hotel at 6 am for the Vienna airport and boarded the plane at 8:10 am and sat on that plane for one and a half hours waiting on the wings to be de-iced. I was ok with them taking as long as necessary to be sure we lifted off the ground. I even lifted my feet on takeoff to help the pilot. So, we took off around 10 am, bound for Frankfurt, Germany, where we transferred to our Lufthansa flight to Chicago on a 747 double-decker. I must say that was the most uncomfortable plane I’ve been on. The seats were too small and as tired as we were and as busy with up and down travelers going to the bathroom, sleep was impossible. We arrived in Chicago around 3 pm and because of the delays in Vienna, we missed our connection and were put on a later flight. By the time we arrived home, it was 9 pm Sunday night. We had been up for 36 hours!  

So now it’s Christmas time for us and we look forward to spending time with family. Merry Christmas to all of you and remember the reason for the season.

December 6, 2018

A Really Wise Man

Thoreau is quoted as saying, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” I have paid a very high price for the amount of time and effort I have given to music and ministry. Sometimes I feel maybe I haven’t given enough, but other times I feel it’s cost me too much. I sit here in a hotel room in Vienna, Austria, away from my wife and my children and I hope and pray daily they are safe, happy, and provided for as I pursue this costly adventure I have chosen for my life. What about you? Do you feel your life matters to someone else? Are you in a job you hate, yet you have to feed your family, so you plod on in a dutiful way in a boring job that takes you nowhere? I am not saying you should quit. I am saying you should evaluate the cost of what you are doing against the benefits you are receiving. What is it you feel called to do?  Do you have a passion for something you never pursued, but had to settle for a lesser challenge because you had to feed your family? 

I was a reluctant warrior at the start. Graduation from college didn’t teach me anything but how to budget my time and maximize my efforts in preparation for life. I had prepared for music but had a back-up in business. While in that state of confusion, the Imperials called. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to leave the cocoon I had been in because I was comfortable there. However, there was an opportunity calling to make a real difference in the world, so I made the “exchange.” I traded the comfort of home for an unknown, uncertain world. I have had many ups and downs and made many mistakes, but I have never looked back in regret. Jim Elliot, the missionary who was murdered in South America as he tried to take the gospel to a primitive tribe, is quoted as saying, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep gaining what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot paid the ultimate price to take the message of the gospel to people who never had heard. He was instrumental in that entire tribe coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Was it worth it? Some would say how foolish to die so young and miss out on raising a family with children and grandchildren to enjoy. I say Jim Elliot gave what he couldn’t keep gaining what he couldn’t lose; an eternal reward. This was a really wise man! 

November 29, 2018

The Fateful Decision to Leave Elvis

In the fall of 1971, the Imperials made the fateful decision to leave Elvis and concentrate on working more gospel concerts and touring with Jimmy Dean instead. Smart move, huh?  We left Elvis just months before the biggest tv show by far up to that time, Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii, in January of 1972. It was a live show by satellite to the world! That show was viewed by over one billion and a half people! Did you get to see it?  Sweet Spirit was introduced to that huge audience by the group that followed us, The Stamps Quartet. We had recorded the song in 1969 and had sung it for Elvis in his penthouse. However, we never got to do it on stage with his audience. That song has touched millions of people around the world and continues to do so. I remember singing it over 30 years later to an audience in Paris in around 2003. We were there singing with Frank Michael, a famous French singer in the world famous Olympia Theatre. Every night, for three weeks we sang that song and every night it touched that audience. The French are a very proud people and pride themselves on not speaking much English, but during that song, though they didn’t understand a word we were singing, there were tears in the eyes of many of the people. The spirit of God touched them in a profound way. They wouldn’t have gone to a church to hear a minister but they came to the Olympia Theatre in Paris to hear Frank Michael and the Imperials and they were deeply touched.

After leaving Elvis, we were still very busy with Jimmy Dean shows, Pat Boone and Carol Channing shows, and supplementing them with gospel concerts around the country. For me, a single guy, it didn’t matter how long I was gone. I was the only single guy in the group! There was no one to go home to except my parents, who still lived in Memphis. I was extremely close to them and honored them as best I could. My father had a huge impact on my life. My mother found no fault in me ever! I never bothered to tell her any different. I like to think that some of his blessings he received for being faithful were passed on to me. I passed them on to my children. There is something to this pronouncing blessing on your children as God takes delight in blessing faithful children. Are you blessed?  The prayer of Jabez applies: 1 Chron 4:10 “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” He’s just a prayer away!