Grammy-winning James Blackwood, last founding member of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet and one of the giants of Southern gospel music, died of complications of a stroke Sunday Feb. 3 in Memphis, Tenn. He was 82 and had suffered several health problems the past few years, including colon cancer.
The Blackwood Brothers Quartet recorded more than 200 albums, toured the world and helped form the Gospel Music Assn. in 1964.
They were a favorite of Elvis Presley, who sang briefly with James’ nephew Cecil in another quartet, the Songfellows.
The brothers’ group — formed in 1934 by James, his brothers Roy and Doyle, and Roy’s son R.W. — toured until World War II. After the war the Blackwoods regrouped.
In June 1954, the quartet appeared on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” and won the TV competition, but two weeks later, R.W. and bass singer Bill Lyles died in a plane crash in Alabama. The surviving Blackwoods regrouped again, adding Cecil Blackwood and J.D. Sumner. In 1970, James Blackwood retired because of health problems and was replaced by his son Jimmy.
When his health improved, James Blackwood would occasionally perform with the group, and he founded two other quartets, Masters Five and the James Blackwood Quartet.
The Blackwood Brothers Quartet won eight Grammies from 1966-1982, some for backup singing for country stars such as Barbara Mandrell and Porter Wagoner. James Blackwood was named best male vocalist by the GMA seven times.
He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1974 individually, then again in 1998 as part of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Miriam; two sons’ six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.