GRAND OPENING Don't Miss Out! Andrus, Blackwoos & Co : By Phillip Mayaab
When it comes to musical upbringing, Sherman Andrus and Terry Blackwood could not have came from much different worlds. Terry came from one of the most iconic Southern Gospel families ever, being the son of Doyle Blackwood, who was a founding member of the legendary Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Strangely enough, Terry would begin his singing career with one of the Blackwoods' chief rivals on the quartet circuit, the Stamps Quartet. Sherman started his career on the west coast, as a founding member of Andrae Crouch & The Disciples in the 60s. The Disciples were of course, known for their mixture of gospel soul and R&B music, but they still managed to strike a chord with traditional gospel music audiences all around the U.S.
You might not think that Southern Gospel and Gospel R&B singers would make a good pairing together, but that is where you would be wrong. Terry and Sherman began their musical journey together in early 1972, when Sherman was invited to join one of Gospel music's most prestigious and non-traditional groups, The Imperials, as their new baritone singer. The combination made the Imperials the first interracial act in the history of Christian music, and Andrus' voice and vocal styling took the Imperials sound to heights it had never seen before. The lineup of Andrus, Blackwood, Armond Morales and Jim Murray is still widely regarded as one of the best sounding editions the group has ever put on stage.
But all good things must come to an end...Terry Blackwood left the Imperials in May of 1976, after being the group's lead singer for 9 years. Sherman Andrus would stay for less than six months, himself leaving the group in the fall of 1976. The two men made several solo appearances for the first few months after they left their former group, but it was actually The Imperials who played a large part in the two singers getting back together. In 1977, the Imperials left the Benson Company's Impact Records, after a 12 year stint, and migrated to Word Incorporated's brand new DaySpring Records label. Not long afterward, executives at the Benson Company began to talk about wanting to bring the two very popular former Imperials back together to record one album, and see how things went.
Which is where we come in...our Vinyl Revival album the week is Andrus, Blackwood & Company's outstanding 1977 debut LP, appropriately titled Grand Opening. The pair got off to a great start in the studio, mostly because they were so familiar with each other, stemming from their years with the Imperials. They were placed on Benson's new Greentree records label, and were assigned up and coming producer Phil Johnson to call the shots for their first album. That worked out very well, because Johnson had also produced the final album that Sherman and Terry did with the Imperials, which of course was 1976's Just Because. But Johnson would prove to be invaluable to the new group, as he would also provide the tenor harmony parts on the album, parts that would later be sang by two female singers, Kelly Willard (briefly) and Karen Voegtlin.
Terry recently revealed to me that Phil Johnson had a much more easy going, laid back style of producing than that of former Benson super producer Bob MacKenzie, who had produced all but one of the Imperials albums. Where MacKenzie was a more authoritative presence in the studio, Johnson actually encouraged Sherman and Terry to add their input to the creative process. Terry was even allowed to arrange the vocal parts, something which most Christian singers did not do at the time. So the recording process went quite smoothly, and also made for a wonderful debut LP. Andrus, Blackwood & Co's sound was a throwback to the Imperials lineup they had sang with for four years. Terry says while the Imperials were changing vocal styles with Russ Taff and Dave Will, featuring more of a lead singer with background vocals, we stayed with an all around harmony based sound, just as we had done for the previous four years. The choice of vocal style was perfect for Sherman and Terry, and served them very well over the course of the nine years that they sang together.
As for the songs, there are certainly selections on Grand Opening that most AB&C fans will remember well. The album starts with Nancye Short's rousing anthem I'm Gonna Rise, which was also recorded by Short's former group the Archers. It seems that she had been trying to get the Archers to record the song for close to a year, and was assured that they would record it. However it still had not been cut when the sessions for Grand Opening began. Phil Johnson had heard the song, and had asked Nancye if the Archers hadn't recorded it yet, would she let Sherman and Terry put it on their album, to which she agreed. As it turned out, Andrus, Blackwood & Co. actually released the song first. Other songs such as Never Be, You Are My Everything, Rescue Me, and Oh What A Day were longtime concert staples for Sherman and Terry, some of which they sang until they disbanded in 1986. The rest of the album is a very strong set of songs as well, such as All That I Want To Be, and Something Right, which Sherman sang, and Filled To Overflowing, which Terry took the lead on. Two of the most powerful songs on the album have to be the Phil Johnson penned Steve, which is about a homeless little boy, and is sang beautifully by Terry, and Questions , sang by Sherman, which will challenge listeners to think about what they have done for the Lord at the end of the day. There is not a bad track on this album, which Terry said he regards as a great debut LP. Johnson hand-picked some of Nashville's best studio musicians to provide the musical backing, which proved to be the perfect accent to the stellar vocal work by Andrus and Blackwood.
Even though this album was supposed to be a one shot deal, it opened the door for the longtime friends to work together for a total of nine years. During that stretch, Andrus, Blackwood & Co. would release a total of six albums, plus a Best Of LP. They became one of the most popular vocal groups during the early years of Contemporary Christian music, and are still loved by fans all around the world, 34 years after the release of their final album. Their biggest hit of all time, the live version of Jesus, You're So Wonderful is still considered to be one of the most iconic songs in the history of CCM, and their popularity is only solidified by the numerous award nominations they received during their career. We hope that you enjoy Andrus, Blackwood & Co's Grand Opening with us this week on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival.
1. I'm Gonna Rise
2. Never Be
3. All That I Want To Be
4. Something Right
5. Oh What A Day
6. You Are My Everything
8. Rescue Me
9. Filled To Overflowing
One extra note...for those of you who still love and enjoy the music of Andrus, Blackwood & Co, you can now purchase their entire catalog on CD from Terry Blackwood's website, which is terryblackwood.com. I encourage you to go there, and help keep this wonderful music alive, by purchasing your own copy of Grand Opening, or any other AB&C recording.
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