Seeing The Invisible

When Jimmy Carter met Clarence Fountain at then the Alabama Institute for the negro Deaf and Blind. They began a life together that only God would know the heights they would soar. Jimmy Carter (Birmingham, AL), then a nine year old, Clarence (Selma, AL) three years older began to sing their way out of their blindness and into the hearts of millions-from Presidents to Potentates, and farmers to former slaves. Everybody that had the opportunity to hear them sing was touched by the Gospel spiritual richness of the classmates eventually dubbed the Blind Boys.

In the seven decades since the Blind Boys of Alabama first began singing together, America has witnessed a World War, the civil rights movement, and the Summer of Love; the moon landing, Vietnam, and the fall of the Berlin Wall; JFK, MLK, and Malcolm X; the invention of the jukebox, the atomic bomb, and the internet.

Through it all, the Blind Boys’ music has not only endured, but thrived, helping both to define the sound of the American south and to push it forward through the 20th century and well on into the 21st. Praised by many in the music industry as “pioneers,” the group has transcended barriers of race and genre to become one of the most acclaimed and celebrated groups in modern music. From the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, where the original members met as children, all the way to The White House – where they’ve performed for three different presidents – the band’s story is, in many ways, America’s story. The Blind Boys went on to win multiple Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and an NEA National Heritage Fellowship, as well as being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and performing at the White House.

Due to declining health, Clarence Fountain stopped touring with The Blind Boys of Alabama band in 2007 but did contribute vocals to the Blind Boys’ latest Album, Almost Home released 2017. Jimmy Hoyson engineered several songs on the album.

Jimmy Carter is the only original survivor from the early days of the 5 Blind Boys of Mississippi and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Now Jimmy is going back to where it all began, to sing with the current students of AIDB (Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind).

Eighty-Two Years Later, The Blind Leads The Blind

Jimmy remembers what it was like when they played their first major show in 1944.

“I really wasn’t thinking anything when we started out. We were anxious to get out there and sing gospel music because that’s what we love to do, so we wasn’t thinking about anything but that”.

Now, eight decades later, and 64 albums, numerous awards later Jimmy Carter is going back to the school that gave him his start.

It all began with a chance meeting with John Mascia, Au.D. (President of AIDB) backstage of the BJCC (Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex) Concert Hall on August 24, 2018 at the Ronnie Milsap concert.

John, Jimmy and I discussed the possibility of Jimmy returning to AIDB. It was then Jimmy suggested we record the track “I Am With You Still” with the current students and the journey began. I had written the song titled “I Am with You Still” for Jimmy as a dedication for the loss of Clarence Fountain on June 3, 2018. Jimmy felt he would rather use the song for this purpose.   

I called The Blind Boys manager Charles Driebe and was granted permission to record this track with Jimmy as a solo Jimmy Carter track not as a Blind Boys of Alabama track.

Then in November 13, 2018, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet with Alan Parsons backstage of the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall to discuss Alan producing a few tracks of my solo project. Alan, a renowned audio engineer, singer, songwriter and record producer. Alan Parsons worked at Abby Road Studios and was instrumental in the production of the Beatles’ Abby Road and Let it Be. Albums, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat, and of course the Alan Parsons Project/Eye In The Sky.

Alan’s new album The Secret is due out in April 2019. It was a dream come true that Alan agreed to work with me, but we didn’t have any dates set to begin our said project.

I didn’t realize at the time that my meeting Alan would be for the inspirational AIDB/Jimmy Carter project. It was December 2018, and the recording of the track “I Am With You Still” needed to commence but The Blind Boys of Alabama were on their rigorous annual Christmas tour. Manager Charles Driebe said the only possible date to record The Blind Boys Band was December 17th, 2018 in Santa Barbara, CA. I accepted the date with Charles and immediately called Alan on a whim remembering that Alan’s new recording studio Parsonics was in Santa Barbara, CA.

It was then, I began to realize this was all to be Divine Intervention because the only possible date Alan had on his busy tour schedule was December 17th. I explained what I needed to do and Alan then agreed to record on that date and here’s where I feel the hand of God guided us- Alan said he wasn’t to be home but due to a schedule change he only had the date of December 17th available for the next several months.

Then, if all this was not enough for the RPM crew to know we are delivering the Lord’s message. The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh was recording on another one of my tracks for the Tree Of Life Tragedy /ADL Anti-Defamation League project at Audible Images, in Pittsburgh, PA. We had some time left after that recording so they did a few passes on “I Am With You Still”. Please see the link below.  They are Amazing!   Jay Dudt, owner of Audible Images (4 Grammys) engineered the session, he is the real deal!

We are to record the students in April 2019. I will keep you posted.

I also have included one of my paintings as a symbol to share how many hands it takes to lift a project to this inspirational level.