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On this date we celebrate the beginning of Clarence Fountain and The Blind Boys of Alabama in 1931. They are a gospel singing group who’ve been singing God's music for over 90 years.
Since the group's beginnings in the 1930s, as fellow students at the Talladega Institute for the Deaf and Blind, in Alabama, to the present, they've had one goal--to sing gospel. From one century to the next, they've traveled the distance. They adopted the style of gospel singing known as jubilee and took their show to the road, playing in such small venues as tent shows and also playing in the Grammy Awards ceremony. Along the way they've changed and added members, but remained true to their goals.
Their sense of survival is reflected in the title of their 2002 album, "Holdin' On." The original group was called the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and consisted of Fountain, Johnny Fields, JT Hutton, Ollice Thomas, George Scott, and the late Velma B. Traylor.
All but one member of The Blind Boys of Alabama was visually impaired, and the group turned that into a huge marketing point. The group began recording in 1948, and has released albums regularly since then. In the 1950s, The Blind Boys had gospel hits with "Oh, Lord Stand by Me," and "I Can See Everybody's Mother But I Can't See Mine." They didn't taste mainstream success until 1988, when they starred in the Obie Award winning Broadway musical, "Gospel at Colonus."
That exposure opened new avenues for The Blind Boys of Alabama, and brought them a wider audience. In 1994, the group was awarded the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, presented by Hillary Rodham Clinton. From this success, they were able to sing on the bills of such high profile festivals as the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, the Beale Street Music Festival, and more. On television they were featured on the BET series, "On Jazz." They have even been seen on Beverly Hills 90210. Their most recent release is "Holdin' On." From cut to cut, it takes the listener on a new inspirational experience.
The Blind Boys of Alabama was awarded its first Grammy at the February 27, 2002 ceremony, when "Spirit of the Century" won in the Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album category.
ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980