J.D. Sumner and James Blackwood launched the National Quartet Convention in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1957. The event, which would come to define Southern Gospel in many ways, was originally held in the Blackwood Brothers’ home base of Memphis. With two exceptions (Birmingham in 1959 and Atlanta in 1960), it remained in Memphis until a 1971 move to Nashville. (It moved to its current Louisville location in 1993.)
The old Ellis Auditorium, which housed the National Quartet Convention through its Memphis run, has been torn down. A new auditorium, the Memphis Cook Convention Center, has been built on its original site.
A new major annual Southern Gospel event, the J.D. Sumner Quartet Show, will be launched at this location on June 19-22, 2013. This event is being assembled by several Southern Gospel group owners and concert promoters, including Jimmy Blackwood and Stewart Varnado. Blackwood is the son of NQC co-founder James Blackwood; Varnado is co-owner of the Dixie Echoes, and has promoted several Southern Gospel concert events in Florida and through the South.
Notably, the event will only include male quartets. Quartets already booked and announced include the Blackwood Brothers, Brian Free & Assurance, the Dixie Echoes, the Dixie Melody Boys, the Dove Brothers, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, the Florida Boys, Gold City, the Inspirations, the Kingsmen, the Mike LeFevre Quartet, the Mark Trammell Quartet, the Primitive Quartet, Archie Watkins and the Smoky Mountain Reunion, and the Triumphant Quartet. Other artists have made tentative agreements to appear, and will be announced once their bookings are official.
Unlike the brief sets at some major events, groups will have sets of a half-hour or longer.
There has been some discussion over whether large concert events like NQC simply need to have trios, mixed groups, and soloists to fill the seats—or whether quartets alone could pack the house. We will find out in June 2013!Read More