An almost unbelievable week for The Blind Boys of Alabama climaxed Sunday when the 80-year-old gospel group won a Grammy Award in the "Best Roots Gospel Album" category for their 2023 LP release "Echoes of the South."
The album was an all-Alabama production. It had been recorded in the Muscle Shoals area's studio, The NuttHouse in Sheffield, on Single Lock Records, a recording label also based in the Shoals.
The Muscle Shoals area is a long-standing recording center. The Blind Boys of Alabama are just the latest national-known group to record in the Shoals area. The Shoals area includes the Alabama cities of Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Florence and Cherokee.
Earlier in the week, The Blind Boys had showcased the premiere of their new made-for-TV movie at the Alabama Theater in Birmingham. The Thursday night premiere was the first showing of "A Symphony Celebration: The Blind Boys of Alabama."
The Blind Boys of Alabama are a gospel singing group founded in 1939 at the Negro Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, long since merged into the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega.
They have now won six Grammy Awards. They had been nominated for two additional Grammys on Sunday.
They were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Their hit, "Way Down in the Hole," by Tom Wait, was adopted as the theme song of the HBO series "The Wire."
In the new film, The Blind Boys were backed up by The Alabama Symphony Orchestra and a 300-voice choir from Alabama's Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Miles College, Tuskegee University and Talladega College, joined by choirs from Birmingham Southern College and UAB.
This film is an all-Alabama cast.
Jimmy Carter, the 91-year-old member of the Blind Boys of Birmingham, retired recently. He did not appear at the Grammy Awards show but did sing on the recent album which won the Grammy.
Their movie, "A Symphony Celebration," will begin airing nationwide on PBS later in February. Check back with 1819news.com for a schedule of TV showings and local channels. Alabama folks were the first to experience the film in the classic setting of the Alabama Theatre.
Blind Boys' singer Ricky McKinnie said in a 2011 interview with Mother Jones Magazine: "Our disability doesn't have to be a handicap. It's not about what you can't do. It's about what you do. And what we do is sing good gospel music."
Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].