Cecil Blackwood, a second-generation member of the world-famous Blackwood Brothers gospel group, died of cancer this morning (Nov. 13) at a hospital in Memphis. He was 66 and had toured and recorded with the group for 46 years, remaining active until shortly before his death.
Cecil Stamps Blackwood was born Oct. 28, 1934, in Ackerman, Miss., the same year in which his father, Roy, founded the gospel quartet. Following the death of Cecil’s brother and founding member, R. W. Blackwood, in a plane crash in 1954, Cecil joined the act. After the Blackwoods moved their operations to Memphis in 1950, Cecil led a group, the Songfellows. Elvis Presley regularly attended the Blackwoods’ all-night singing sessions and eventually incorporated many of their Southern Gospel sounds into his own music.
During Cecil’s membership, the Blackwoods won eight Grammys and numerous Dove awards. In the 1950s and ’60s, they recorded for RCA Records and later for Skylite and Voice Box. By the mid-1950s, the Blackwoods had become so popular nationally that they earned a guest spot on Arthur Godfrey’s network television show. In all, the Blackwoods have recorded more than 300 albums. They are members of the Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame.
Besides being on the leading edge of Southern Gospel music, the Blackwoods also are credited with introducing the now-commonplace tour bus. A replica of the furnished bus they made in the 1950s from a standard passenger bus is now on display in the Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame at Dollywood.
For several years running, Cecil won Singing News magazine’s “Favorite Baritone” award. He was a co-founder — along with his uncle, James Blackwood, and the late J. D. Sumner — of the still-active National Quartet Convention. His mission work took him to countries all over the world, among them China and Russia.
Cecil Blackwood is survived by his wife Francine, son Mark and daughters Regina and Barbara (who is married to country singer Andy Childs). Funeral services will be held later this week at the First Assembly of God Church in Memphis.