THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA FACTS:
Members: Jimmy Carter, Bishop Billy Bowers, Ben Moore, Eric "Ricky" McKinnie, Joey Williams, Tracy Pierce, Peter Levin, Clarence Fountain
Genre: Blues, Gospel
Hometown: Talladega, Alabama
Awards: 6 Grammys
Albums: 70+ between 1948 and 2010
Other: Music featured in TV shows such as Lost and The Wire.
There are really no other bands quite like The Blind Boys of Alabama. The group has been performing together for more than 70 years, and are among the most popular gospel acts of all time. All this, despite the fact that the three main vocalists, as well as the drummer, are blind. Though some of the founding members have since passed away, the original spirit of the band still shines through.
The band got its start while the founding members were attending a school for the blind in Alabama in 1939. Though they were performing throughout much of the next decade, it was not until 1948 that they managed to release their debut album, I Can See Everybody's Mother But Mine. Much of their ensuing records were gospel albums, but in the '50s they found considerable mainstream success, and by the next decade the original lineup became an ever-present part of the Civil Rights movement, even performing at events led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Despite their growth in popularity during the '50s and '60s, the 1970s were not as kind to The Blind Boys of Alabama. After a slow decade that saw some members turn to other means of supporting themselves, the group came back with a boom in the 1980's thanks to their performance in the musical The Gospel at Colonus. The production won an Obie Award and thrust the band back into the spotlight of gospel music.
After finding a larger audience thanks to their contributions to the musical, the band began to receive critical acclaim in the 1990s. Early in the decade they began to earn Grammy nominations for their work, and continued to be relentless performers, even appearing at the White House.
Surprisingly, the band's greatest successes have come in the last 10 years, an astonishing 60 years after they were founded. Between 2002 and 2005, The Blind Boys of Alabama won four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album.