November 8, 2017

The Imperials and Jimmy Dean

In 1968, just when the Imperials were considering disbanding for lack of dates, we got a call from Jimmy Dean’s office in New York City. He had heard our recordings and decided to fly us up there for an audition. At that time, he had just come off a very successful ABC network show where he showcased many country music stars. He was now going to do tour dates and he was using 12 men from New York City as backup for him. They were called the Cimarron Singers. Each were highly educated in the music field and they were featured in his show, singing songs like “Maria” and “Shenandoah”. The sound with those male voices was amazing! We got to New York and into his offices. We met Willie, his personal assistant and Bob MuCulloch his manager. They placed music in front of us and had us read the vocal charts the male chorus sang. Fortunately, my piano lessons paid off and we were able to read the music they put in front of us.  We were hired to do one three week show at the Theater in the Round in West Covina, CA. The supporting artists were the Lennon Sisters from the Lawrence Welk show. We thought we had arrived!

We replaced four of the Cimarron Singers and during the show Jimmy had us singing with eight of them on their songs. Later in the show he would announce us and we would step out and sing a feature. We chose a dynamic gospel song, He Touched Me with Joe Moscheo on the piano. There were rave reviews on the show. The critics had never heard a group like this. The reporter spoke of us as that group with those  “shotgun voices”. I guess we sang pretty loud, especially on the last chorus of the song but the reviews in the papers were really flattering. It didn’t take long before Jimmy decided he didn’t need the Cimarron Singers anymore so he fired them and from that point on, the Imperials were Jimmy’s supporting act.

November 4, 2017

The Jimmy Dean Experience

From graduation at the University of Memphis to three months later, singing with one of the top gospel groups in the nation was a big adjustment. I commuted to and from school to home for four years and now I’m riding a bus cross-country for months at a time. Our schedule was heavy, but the crowds approved of the new sound. We had new songs, a young sounding group with fresh, contemporary arrangements, and we appealed to a broad range of fans. We sang in high school auditoriums, city auditoriums, churches, and anywhere we could get a crowd. One date in particular stood out to me. We found ourselves singing for a big local food market in Beckley, W. VA. that asked us to come and sing for their grand opening. So, when we got there, we were escorted to the area of the grocery store where we were to set up our sound. It wasn’t very prestigious but there we were, singing our songs to eager grocery shoppers on opening day from a small stage in front of the fruits and vegetable section of that store!  Were they trying to tell us something?  We’ll never know.

The Imperials at that time were singing anywhere and everywhere we could because the dates just weren’t coming. After our first year it was so bad we weren’t sure we would survive a second year. It was during that time, between album one, New Dimensions, and album two, Imperials Now, that we got a call from New York and the offices of Jimmy Dean. He was a huge gospel music fan and knew of our group. It was that call that turned it around for the Imperials. It’s a great story and one that merits more time.

 

August 23, 2017

Being raised in Mississippi

The little “shotgun” house in which I was born in Choctaw, Co, MS was very similar to the one you will find in Tupelo, MS where Elvis was raised.
 My parents, Doyle and Lavez,  were renting that little house at the time and didn’t have the money for a hospital visit. Can you imagine naming your daughter Lavez Carmen? I can safely say there were no other girls named Lavez in the whole state of Mississippi! Her maiden name was Hawkins. More about this family on my mother’s side in another post. These little houses consisted of a front living room, kitchen, one bath and one bedroom in the back. I went to see Elvis’ house in Tupelo one time and it seemed to fit that pattern. The irony of all this is that though I was told that was where I was born, by the time I knew about it, they had moved the house to Ackerman, MS. Later on, when I was older, I looked for it to get a picture for my scrapbook but never found it. I was told later that it got demolished for a larger, more impressive home in Ackerman.
I don’t remember much of my childhood but I do remember that I enjoyed much attention from cousins and family until my little sister, Kaye, came along. That’s when I learned I had to share that attention with someone smaller and cuter.  She had blond hair and deep blue eyes that sparkled at everyone who attended her. I was no longer the only one who got attention from family and friends. We had many good times together and she was the only girl in the Blackwood family.  All second generation Blackwoods were boys.
My first recollection of my childhood and life in the Blackwood family was when we lived in Shenandoah, IA. My father, Doyle, and the entire Blackwood family had moved there from Mississippi. Three brothers, Roy, Doyle, and James were born to Emmit and Carrie Blackwood. My uncle, Roy, was 11 years older than my father, Doyle. Then came James eight years later. So by the time my uncle James was born, uncle Roy had married and had a son they named RW. He was about the same age as his uncle James. Those four men made up the original Blackwood Brothers Quartet.
These men developed a huge following in MS and they wound up on the radio doing a live radio show every morning. At night they would travel around the state giving nightly concerts. Advertising those concerts consisted of fastening a loud speaker on the top of their car, driving around the town, and announcing their concert that night to the local citizens. Tickets sold for 10 cents!

September 2017 Special 3 albums for $20
September 2017 Special 3 albums for $20
Special for September!!! Three CD's for $20 and I pay postage. My Hymns and Classics CD, A Blackwood Homecoming CD, with uncle James' last recording, and the latest release of Imperials CDs, New Dimensions. It was the first release I did with the group and I've shared a couple of great songs from that cd on here recently.

 


August 9, 2017

The Story Begins

Welcome to my world! We will explore a past filled with unexpected twists and turns in my life I could never have planned.  I will start more at the end and we will resume the early days of my experiences in later chapters. I will go back to the beginning and tell you how I started out and how I know God had led me all the way to where I am today. As we approach Elvis week in Memphis, it’s noteworthy that I am still very active singing and sharing my life now more often with Elvis fans who loved him and because I sang behind him, that love has been transferred to those of us who sang with him.  I am humbled by it but I love the opportunity to meet and greet Elvis fans from all over the world. As a shy kid who never would have even considered singing in public before a crowd, I can truly say that God has brought me a mighty long way!

This week will be a seminal week for Elvis fans for we are celebrating the life of the man most would say affected the music world like no other. Knowing him and working with him, I can truly say I saw the real man with his amazing talent but the tentative little boy who always sought the approval of others to validate that talent. I saw many of the same traits in me though I never achieved his level of success. I saw a man who overcame many obstacles and in spite of them all, he did it HIS way. He changed the course of rock and roll music by his bold courage to be different. I always admired that. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was a man of stunningly good looks. That charisma with the voice and the looks, the humble attitude that accompanied his talent, was wrapped in a package too big to contain. He exploded onto the music scene long before my involvement with him but his talents left an indelible mark on the world.

This week we will celebrate his life, his music and the man himself. The Imperials were very fortunate to have been there that opening night, July 31, 1969 at the Las Vegas Hilton International Hotel. It was a night I will never forget.e end and we will resume the early days of my experiences in later chapters. I will go back to the beginning and tell you how I started out and how I know God had led me all the way to where I am today. As we approach Elvis week in Memphis, it’s noteworthy that I am still very active singing and sharing my life now more often with Elvis fans who loved him and because I sang behind him, that love has been transferred to so many of us who worked with Elvis.. I am humbled by our fans, but I love the opportunity to meet and greet Elvis fans from all over the world. As a shy kid who never would have even considered singing in public before a crowd, I can truly say that God has brought me a mighty long way! This week will be a seminal week for Elvis fans for we are celebrating the life of the man most would say affected the music world like no other.

Knowing him and working with him, I can truly say I saw the real man with his amazing talent but the tentative little boy who always sought the approval of others to validate that talent. I saw many of the same traits in me though I never achieved his level of success. I saw a man who overcame many obstacles and in spite of them all, he did it His Way. He changed the course of rock and roll music by his bold courage to be different. I always admired that. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was a man of stunningly good looks. That charisma with the voice and the looks, the humble attitude that accompanied his talent, was wrapped in a package too big to contain. He exploded onto the music scene long before my involvement with him but his talents left an indelible mark on the world. This week we will celebrate his life, his music and the man himself.

The Imperials were very fortunate to have been there that opening night, July 31, 1969 at the Las Vegas Hilton International Hotel. It was a night I will never forget.

Until next time,

Terry Blackwood