Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama will bring jazz and gospel to Southeast

Monday, October 15, 2012
Grammy winners Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct 18 at the Bedell Performance Hall. The two acts decided to tour together to recreate a concept that originated in the 1930s, when a series of concerts called Spirituals and Swing were at Carnegie Hall. Submitted photo

Grammy winners Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama will combine blues and gospel music in their performance at Southeast Missouri State University.

Chris Goldsmith, artistic producer for Solid Productions, said Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama decided to tour together to recreate a concept that originated in the 1930s, when there was a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall called Spirituals and Swing.

"Those concerts had gospel legends performing with the biggest swing bands of the time," Goldsmith said. "This tour was to recreate that kind of presentation of gospel and popular music side by side to create interesting music."

Goldsmith is the Blind Boys of Alabama's producer and has been involved with five of their Grammy Award-winning records. The Blind Boys of Alabama are recognized as legends of gospel music and have been a group for more than 70 years.

The members of the group met and began singing together at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939.

In the 1940s and 1950s, they became popular in the gospel circuit, playing in churches and auditoriums across the country. In the 1980s, they came back in the spotlight and were in a Broadway show called "The Gospel at Colonus."

"In 2000, they released 'Spirit of the Century,' which won them a Grammy and put them on a new path," Goldsmith said.

Around the 1950s, all the gospel groups were given opportunities in rock 'n' roll, Goldsmith said.

"Rock 'n' roll actually took its sound from gospel music," Goldsmith said. "The most famous example was Sam Cooke, who left the group Soulsters in order to pursue pop music and was successful. The Blind Boys felt like their place was always going to be with gospel music regardless of where commercial success might lie."

The Blind Boys were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and have performed at the White House three times. Their most recent album, "Take the High Road," was released in 2011.

According to Goldsmith, every Blind Boys album has a different sound to it, combining gospel with other types of music.

"Since 2000, they explored ways to merge gospel sound with other types of music," Goldsmith said. "'Take the High Road' was an exploration of country music and traditional gospel."

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Dr. John began his musical career in the 1950s.

"Dr. John has been an iconic figure in New Orleans," Goldsmith said. "He is an amazing piano and organ player. His most renowned album is called 'Nite Tripper.'"

Dr. John's album "Desitively Bonnaroo," released in 1974, is the inspiration for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which is an annual four-day music festival held in Manchester, Tenn., that includes jazz, indie rock, bluegrass and country music.

According to Goldsmith, this tour is a rare opportunity to see these two iconic artists together.

"It's not just one band and the other," Goldsmith said. "They are performing together and working out a repertoire of songs that will be unique to this tour and excite any music fan out there."

The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall. For tickets, contact the River Campus Box Office at 573-651-2265. Tickets for the orchestra and first balcony cost $39, and the mezzanine and second balcony tickets cost $33.

"Everybody involved in this tour is really excited about it because the music itself is going to be so great," Goldsmith said.