Music Notes

Witness history and great Gospel music at the Samford Wright Center June 30. The evening will be a tribute to Gospel greats RW Blackwood (front R) and Bill Lyles (front L) who died in a plane crash June 30 1954.

Gospel music fans and anyone with an interest in music history are in for an incredible treat Friday June 30 at the Samford Wright Center. The Blackwood Quartet, featuring Ron and Mark Blackwood, will present a “Blackwood Brothers Memorial Concert” remembering RW Blackwood and Bill Lyles.

June 30 marks 63 years since the plane crash in Clanton, Ala. that killed RW Blackwood and Bill Lyles, half of the famous Blackwood quartet, whose success included being the first Gospel group to be on national television. Ron Blackwood, son of RW, will be on stage to participate in the special tribute. He was only 13 when his father died. “It created a lot of anger in my life for many years. I was mad at God. I could not understand it. My dad was my hero. I’m 76 now, and I was in my 60s before I could control that feeling inside of me,” explains Ron, “but through prayer and my wife, I began to realize that God has a plan. The anger began to leave. Today I know that my father’s memory is still alive after all these years. Bill Gaither told me, ‘There is not a name in Gospel that is more well-known than your daddy and your family.’”

After the crash, RW Blackwood’s nephew, Cecil, took his spot as baritone and was joined by JD Sumner who took Bill Lyles place singing bass. Ron founded the Blackwood Quartet in 1964 and in addition to performing became a manager or booking agent for many stars such as Hank Jr, Tanya Tucker, Vern Gosdin, Billy Walker, The Imperials, Carman, Larry Gatlin, the late, great, J.D Sumner and many more. Although he retired from the group in 2010, the Blackwood music lives on. Members include Mark Blackwood, Casey Shepherd, Joe Armstrong, and Chuck Pettyjohn. The group is putting the finishing touches on a Gospel album with Willie Nelson (produced by Mark Blackwood) and a project with Bob Dylan is also in the works. Ron Blackwood sees this as a great opportunity to “get our message out to people beyond the church walls.”

At the historical concert event June 30, expect to see vintage video and hear a lot of songs the Blackwood Brothers made popular over the years- garnering members 8 Grammys. “You will hear and see things you never knew about Gospel music. It will be both a blessing and very entertaining,” says Ron Blackwood. The special tribute begins at 7pm. For tickets visit or call 205-726-2853. †

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