Jimmy Blackwood announces retirement
The Blackwood Brothers announced at 4 A.M. Eastern Time on their Facebook page that Jimmy Blackwood is retiring.
Jimmy Blackwood is the son of the late James Blackwood. (James, who had one of Southern Gospel’s most legendary voices, co-founded the Blackwood Brothers in 1934 and was a 1974 inductee into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and a 1997 inductee into the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame.)
Jimmy got his start in Gospel Music in 1965, when he joined J.D. Sumner and the Stamps as their baritone, and sang with them through 1969. In the early 1970s, James Blackwood had health issues which forced him to step back to a less active role in the Blackwood Brothers, and Jimmy joined as their lead singer. He stayed with them for about a dozen years, through about 1985. During his years with the Blackwood Brothers, they won five of their eight Grammy® Awards—”Best Gospel Performance (Other than Soul Gospel) in 1972 for L-O-V-E and in 1973 for Release Me (From My Sin), and “Best Gospel Performance, Traditional” in 1979 for Lift Up the Name of Jesus, in 1980 for We Come to Worship, and in 1982 for I’m Following You. He was also with the group for their mega-hit “Learning to Lean,” which was #1 from August 1976 through October 1977 on the Singing News radio charts.
After several decades off of a quartet bus, he joined the Blackwood Gospel Quartet in about 2003 for a brief period, before bringing the Blackwood Brothers name back in 2004. During his eight years at the helm, he brought the group name back to the forefront of Southern Gospel; highlights included a recording contract with Daywind Records and a return to the mainstage of the National Quartet Convention, a group that Blackwood Brothers members co-founded.
His brother, Billy Blackwood, played drums for the group in the 1970s. He rejoined, stepping into the baritone position, in 2009, and will carry the group name forward.
The announcement, which stated that the group announced Jimmy’s retirement last night at the Bartlett Performing Arts Center in Bartlett, Tennessee, went on to say: “New singer is Mike Helwig. He has a great voice and will be a great asset to the quartet.”
Helwig got his start in Gospel Music at 19. A Canadian native, he sang for Canadian groups The Torchmen and Unashamed; he won a Dove Award for Favorite Tenor from the Canadian division of the Gospel Music Association in 1997. Several years later, he moved into the United States Gospel Music scene. He has been a member of the Wilburns, the Stamps, the Williamsons, and the Dixie Echoes. In June, he left the Dixie Echoes to join Promise, staying with them for about three months before moving to the Blackwood Brothers.
When he joined the Dixie Echoes, we featured a “Past the Press Release” interview with him here.