In the 1940s, Black gospel groups like the Blind Boys of Alabama traveled the highways of the segregated South, spreading an a cappella message of entertainment, hope and salvation.
Singer Jimmy Carter joined the Blind Boys more than sixty years ago.
(Carter: That’s right, we started out June 10, 1944. I’m the only active original member right now.”)
In the early years, the Blind Boys traveled light, six or seven guys together in one car. They sang for largely black audiences at local churches, schools and auditoriums. But gradually, during the 80s, the Blind Boy started touring nationally as they moved from the gospel circuit into the musical mainstream.
(Carter: “We graduated from a car to a van, and now we fly.”
These days, the Blind Boys perform for a new generation. They’ve won Grammy Awards, and appeared on The Tonight Show. They draw huge crowds at universities, where the students are predominantly white and Asian. But the old gospel standards have crosscultural appeal, including this number, which the Blind Boys are sure to sing Thursday.
(“Well, tell me, when was Jesus born? Last month of the year…” )
A show by the Blind Boys is still a mix of entertainment, hope and salvation – just like it was in Southern churches, decades ago.
(Carter: “I want to let the people of UC Davis know that the Blind Boys are on their way there, and when we leave Davis, it’ll never be the same. And that’s a good thing.” )
Jeff Hudson, KXJZ News. (Music, out: “Free At Last”)