News Column

A 'Gospel Homecoming' with The Blackwood Quartet

October 23, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 23--Ron Blackwood has been working hard to keep The Blackwood Quartet gospel group, originally started by his father, alive and kicking, even though there have been changes to the group through the past few generations.

"It's like the Oak Ridge Boys. They change members throughout the years, and there's always change," Blackwood said. "The main thing we try to do is keep the same sound that made the Blackwoods known throughout the years to our fans."

The group will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Kathleen C. Cailloux City Center for the Performing Arts, 910 Main St.

The group always contains a member of the Blackwood family, and the current roster includes Mark Blackwood, Dave Emery, David Mann and Roger Smith. The quartet will perform along with another group of gospel mainstays, The Hoppers.

Ron Blackwood was once a singer in the group and now acts as a manager. Mark took the place of Ron's father, who was killed in a plane crash. According to Blackwood, everyone in the family is in some way involved in music, either as a performer or on the business side of things.

"If they aren't musically inclined we put rocks around their feet and throw them in the Brazos river," Blackwood joked.

Blackwood is proud of his families' contribution to gospel music and their influence on pop music, other artists and the world. You can tell simply from the excitement in his voice.

"There's so much bad news out there," Blackwood said. "But we're bringing the good news, happy news, and it's something the world needs."

"It's all gospel," Blackwood said of the upcoming performance. "It's happy. There's nothing wrong with going to church with a worshipful atmosphere, but there's also going to be comedy and excitement. People will laugh and it's going to be fun."

The Blackwoods originally started out back when the brothers worked the land as share croppers in Mississippi.

"They had to go out and pick cotton so they could live ... they worked the land" Blackwood said. "Back then they got on a little radio station in Mississippi, and next thing you know they went around the world and sold 60 million records."

According to Blackwood, Elvis was the singular biggest fan of the The Blackwood Brothers, along with the Statler Brothers and the Gatlin Brothers. Elvis purportedly used to sneak into the back of Blackwood Brothers concerts and even auditioned once for the group, but was turned down.

"Elvis' favorite music was gospel," Blackwood said. "He was in tears when he got signed to the contract with RCA, because he really wanted to sing with the Blackwoods."

The band also just finished performing at Farm Aid with Willie Nelson, another fan of the group's gospel sound.

"Willie is a big fan of our music," Blackwood said. "We sang with him in Sarasota Springs, and every year he calls me and says 'Let's go sing some gospel."

The Blackwood Brothers are even beloved by Bob Dylan, whom Blackwood once met backstage after a performance.

"We sang 'How Great Thou Art,' and walked off stage," Blackwood said. "My eyes hadn't adjusted from the bright lights of the stage, and someone put their hand in mine and said 'Mr. Blackwood I really enjoyed your music.' He said 'I'm Bob Dylan.' I gotta admit, that really floored me."

Perhaps the best thing about the sound of the Blackwoods is that they remain consistent and true to their origins as a gospel group.

"We keep the Blackwood sound," Blackwood said. "It's worked for so many years, and if it's not broke then don't change it. We have so many requests from churches (to perform) that we have to turn them down."

The group first had a pop hit with "Have You Talked to the Man Upstairs?" and was the first group in gospel music to have a real pop hit, according to Blackwood. They also performed now well-known songs such as their No. 1 hit "Put Your Hand in the Hand" and "Turn Your Radio On."

"We're not perfect, but the thing is what we have brings people a little more joy and happiness in their lives," Blackwood said. "It's music that you walk out feeling good about yourself."

At a glance

What: The Blackwood Quartet performs with the Hoppers

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26

Where: Kathleen C. Cailloux City Center for the Performing Arts, 910 Main St.

Tickets: Priced from $24 to $38

Info: Visit caillouxtheater.com/2013/gospel-homecoming

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(c)2013 the Kerrville Daily Times (Kerrville, Texas)

Visit the Kerrville Daily Times (Kerrville, Texas) at www.dailytimes.com

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