Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.

Archive for the ‘Blackwood Quartet’

Things I Missed (7/6/13 Edition)

July 06, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, Promise, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It was a busy enough week that I didn’t have time to get to these stories when they hit, but here are some noteworthy news items that came about in the past few days:

1. The SG industry lost two men this past week that impacted it in various ways. The first was Harold Gilley, mostly known for his days singing bass with the Palmetto State Quartet and his impressions of various bass singers. I always thought he was grossly underrated, and I know that he had been in poor health for some time. The second is Furman Wilson, founding member of the Primitive Quartet. Although Wilson left the group in the late 1970s, there’s no question that the work he helped start has become a mainstay in SG, and that is not to be overlooked. Please keep the families of both men in your prayers.

2. David Mann, lead singer and co-founder of Promise, is stepping away from the group. It’s not often that you get a press release dealing with change that is this open and forthcoming, but David teased a change a couple of days ago on Facebook, and then posted this yesterday:

An Open Letter To Family, Friends, and Fans of Promise
By David Mann


“The only thing constant in life is change.” – François de la Rochefoucauld

The past two years have been a fun and exciting ride. It’s definitely had its ups and downs, but the progress we’ve seen, in spite of the obstacles we’ve faced, has always kept us optimistic. Because of that, making the decision to leave was one of the hardest ones I’ve ever had to make.

In August, I will be stepping down from my position as manager/lead singer for Promise. Starting a group, with next to nothing, is never an easy task. The past two years have taken a toll on me, both physically and emotionally. More importantly, the financial burden on my family has simply become too much. Everyone’s situation is different, but unfortunately, for me, it’s come down to choosing between my work with Promise, and the well being of my wife, and 3 young children.

The good news is, Promise is pressing on. TJ Evans will be stepping in and taking the reigns. I’ve known him for nearly 12 years now, and I have every bit of confidence that the group is left in good hands. Better hands. Promise will be keeping all it’s commitments, as well as continuing on. I’ve told the guys that, though I’m leaving, I still foresee a very bright future for this group. Please take a moment to show them your support. Encouragement goes a long way. My last date will be on August 4th, in Winona, Texas. This will be a special night for me, because my last date with Promise also happens to be where we held the very first concert we ever booked.

As far as my future plans are concerned, I will be taking a position, singing baritone, with the Blackwood Quartet. Most who know me, know I sang with Mark Blackwood and his group for a little over 2 years, from the fall of 2008 to the winter of 2010. I’m happy to be returning, and excited about the future. I’ll be starting with them, immediately following my departure from Promise.

Thank you for all your support and encouragement!

God bless,

David Mann

No real room for speculation there. I am excited that Promise will be continuing, as I have been impressed with them from their start and am looking for them to continue to rise in the industry from here. No word on a new singer for them yet, but be looking for a press release as August 4th approaches.

As far as the Blackwood Quartet, they are getting a solid baritone that knows the ropes. The first time I saw them was not long before David left, and even though it was the tenor’s first night and they had a fill-in bass, the sound was solid. Mark Blackwood has never had much trouble putting together a good quartet, and I look forward to seeing what plays out there in the future as well.

Side note: Be looking for a long overdue CD review on Monday. Hopefully I can actually get this thing finished!

The Blackwood Quartet and The Toney Brothers Merge

October 04, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Toney Brothers

When a change hit the Toney Brothers earlier this year that left bass singer and group owner Terry Toney as the sole full-time member, many wondered what the future held for the long-standing quartet. Over the past couple of months, I’ve observed some movements taking place in that regard, but tonight, an official statement was released from Mark Blackwood and Terry Toney about the situation:

Blackwood Quartet and Toney Brothers have joined forces!

The history of the Blackwood family and the Toney family goes all the way back to the 1940’s, when Alden Toney joined the Blackwood Brothers to sing tenor when the group was based in Shenandoah, IA. He stayed as tenor through the move to Memphis, TN in 1951 and together they introduced great songs such as, “Lead me to that rock”.

Some 30 years ago, Mark Blackwood and Terry Toney became friends and for many years have had a close working relationship. They have filled in for each other’s group in times of need, helped each other in scheduling, and have lended moral support to each other. Mark and Terry have often discussed the possibility of merging these two groups. The timing just was not right, until recently.

Effective immediately, the Toney Brothers and the Blackwood Quartet have merged. Mark Blackwood and Terry Toney will now bring their collective talents together as the Blackwood Quartet. Terry Toney says “Mark is a good businessman, strong vocalist, and great stage manager. I am really excited to join forces with him.” Mark says “Terry brings not only his strong bass voice, but 39 years of experience to the stage. Terry has a winning personality and provides great comic relief”.

A new project is underway. Be sure to check the group’s schedule so you can come see them soon.

As expected, the group is filling both dates that the Blackwood Quartet had already scheduled and dates from the Toney Brothers’ calendar. The current lineup is: tenor Derrick Boyd, lead/baritone Mark Blackwood, baritone Roger Robinson, and bass Terry Toney. This sounds like a strong enough group that I am looking forward to hearing the new project.

I wonder if Toney will bring over some songs from his group’s repertoire to sing. I, for one, would like to hear this quartet cover “Just As He Is,” a song recorded by the Toney Brothers that was never released on a project but is a strong enough song that it would provide good radio presence to the group if they singled it. You can still hear it at the Toney Brothers webpage, and interestingly enough, it features Blackwood Quartet members Derrick Boyd and Terry Toney, giving a preview of sorts for the new Blackwood Quartet sound.

Dixie Echoes Hire New Vocalists

August 10, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes

Last week, the news broke that the Dixie Echoes had filled the vacancy left by departing bass singer Trent Adams with a relative newcomer: Mike Jennings. See Daniel Mount’s post about the hire, which includes videos highlighting his sound, here.

Today, the announcement was made about a new tenor for the group following Wesley Smith’s move to the Palmetto State Quartet. In a surprising move, the group has hired a lead/baritone singer: Michael Helwig. You may remember him from groups such as The Wilburns, The Stamps, and The Williamsons (formerly The Homesteaders.) In all of those groups, he sang lead or baritone. Most recently, Helwig was the lead singer for the Blackwood Quartet. I was at the concert where he debuted with the group, though interestingly enough, he was the quartet’s new tenor, coming in after Dale Evans left. He did a fantastic job, but moved down to lead when David Mann went to Statement of Faith. Here are some videos of Helwig with the Blackwood Quartet:




Daniel Mount has linked to another video in his post about the move which highlights Michael’s tenor singing. Needless to say, Helwig has quite a range. I have been impressed with his vocal ability for quite a while and will be looking forward to hearing him as a Dixie Echo. I agree with Daniel: look for this lineup of the Dixie Echoes to generate buzz soon.

New Year’s Roundup

January 04, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, Gold City, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Statement of Faith, The Down East Boys

Though I’m a few days late, welcome to 2011, everybody!

I haven’t found the time to update the blog in the past couple of days, so here’s a roundup of what I missed:

1. Tony Jarman joins the Down East Boys – Daniel Mount has the scoop: the former Poet Voices, Legacy Five, and Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet tenor has joined the quartet after the end of Jason Runnels’ eight-year run. Jarman starts on January 13. I’ve thought for quite some time that the Down East Boys are one of the most underrated quartets out there, and this newest addition to the group may be what they need to produce some music that will give them some well-deserved attention.

Nate Pritchard has posted a video on Burke’s Brainwork of one of Tony’s big songs of his L5 days, but I’ll post one of my personal favorites: this performance of “Little Is Much” is taken from the Live At The Palace video that L5 did with Greater Vision, and features Jarman out front with piano as the only instrumentation, leaving that clear tenor to deliver the song unmarred by an overly loud track.

2. David Mann joins Statement of Faith – Right on the heels of the news of the trio’s former baritone heading to The Inspirations, they have announced that Mann will join his brothers-in-law. Mann comes from a stint of a few years with the Blackwood Quartet, and I have always been impressed with his voice. His talent, combined with those of Jacob and Joe Kitson, will make for a great trio in Statement of Faith. Their debut project already impressed me; their next should be even better.

Here’s a clip of him singing baritone for the Blackwood Quartet. The lineup at the time this clip is tenor Dale Evans, lead Mark Blackwood, baritone David Mann, and bass Chris West.

3. There are clips floating around of Craig West’s debut as Gold City’s lead singer. I won’t post them all, but here’s one of a Gold City standard: Midnight Cry. Craig’s voice possess the soul-tinged vocals of Michael English, while having the power of  Josh Feemster or early Ivan Parker. If this clip doesn’t convince you that West fits the group like a glove, I don’t know what will.

Dean Haskins Returning To The Blackwood Quartet

May 22, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In the second quick return to the Blackwood Quartet in the space of about a week, the group announced the return of pianist and road manager Dean Haskins:

(Free-Press-Release.com) May 20, 2010 —
Mark Blackwood and The Blackwood Quartet are very pleased to announce the return of Dean Haskins
as our Pianist and Road Manager. After a very brief personal sabbatical, Dean will once again be
assuming his multifaceted role in our group. For more than ten years, Dean has been an integral part of
our group; sometimes touring with us, and at other times, working behind the scenes. From singing
bass or baritone, playing piano, and arranging our vocals, to scheduling concerts, working as our road manager, and engineering in the studio, Dean has been both an important part of our group and a
faithful friend of the entire Blackwood family.

When asked about his return to the road, Haskins said, “I’ve only been off the road for a couple months,
but I’ve really missed working with Mark Blackwood, because he’s been such a loyal friend for so
many years, and it’s just great working with someone who is wholly committed to his group and his
fans. I’m also looking forward to performing again with David Mann and Dale Evans—both of whom I
consider to be among the best in our industry.” Of new bass singer, Chris West, Dean added, “I just had the privilege of working with Chris in a Nashville studio, and I don’t think there’s a better bass
singer out there. I believe this is truly a singular lineup—one that will always leave audiences wanting
more, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it.”

Mark Blackwood added to Dean’s sentiments by saying, “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys who
are so dedicated to furthering my family’s legacy, and who are also so committed to each other. We are
all such good friends, and over the years, I’ve learned that’s so important to our being able to get out
there and share the joy of Gospel Music and the love of Christ.”

The Blackwood Quartet doesn’t take it’s legacy for granted, and will continue to offer its best in
furthering the Gospel through the medium of music. We believe we now have the best possible roster
of musicians to be able to accomplish that. When Dean Haskins starts back with us later in May, all the
pieces will be in place for a group that lives up to what’s expected of the Blackwood name. We will
soon be releasing two new albums and we have renewed our partnership with The Singing News. God
is certainly blessing The Blackwood Quartet!

To stay abreast of everything that is happening with the Blackwood Quartet, please visit our website at

http://www.bgqmusic.com, or, better yet, become a fan on our Facebook page by visiting us at
http://www.facebook.com/blackwoodgospelquartet and clicking on the “Become a Fan” button.

For more information:

Mark Blackwood
P.O. Box 22128
Knoxville, TN 37933


The current vocal lineup of the Blackwood Quartet has great potential by itself, but adding Dean Haskins will take that potential even further. Haskins is quite the arranger and player, so it will be interesting to hear the effect of those qualities on their music.

In his previous tenure with the group, the group did most (if not the entirety) of each of their concerts with piano as the only instrumentation. Time will tell whether this trend will continue or not, but I would think that at least a portion of Blackwood Quartet concerts would be done in that style.

Dale Evans Returning To Blackwood Quartet

May 17, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In another case of former members making a quick return after leaving the group (a la Derrick Selph to BF&A), former Blackwood Gospel Quartet tenor Dale Evans is making his return to the group after the departure of Dan Keeton. Other changes for the group that are forthcoming include two new recordings and a new website:

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY: The Blackwood Quartet would happily like to announce the return of tenor singer, Dale Evans. Dale came off the road back in February for some much needed time spent with family, but the quartet is thrilled about his return. We would like to thank Dan Keeton for lending us his incredible talent during Dale’s absence. Dan is one of a kind.

However, Dale Evans’ return is not the only big news happening with the quartet. Two brand new projects are on the way, along with the group’s return to the Singing News Magazine and some very big events coming up. Stay tuned for a more detailed press release coming momentarily.

For those wondering how Dale sounds, here’s a couple videos of his first tenure with the group:

Workin’ On A Building

Learning To Lean

Various songs

Side note: Yes, I do know about the claims Dan Keeton is making, but Averyfineline has a thread for that. I won’t be talking about it here.

Stuff I Missed – March 2010 Edition

March 13, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, Ryan Seaton, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Triumphant Quartet

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life and other projects for this blog to work on, I missed several big news items in the world of SG.

1. Ryan Seaton Launches Solo Career – Many were wondering what path Seaton would take after his departure from Ernie Haase & Signature Sound in December. On Monday, that question was answered, when he announced that he was partnering with Innovation Management & Consulting to launch his solo career. This is an interesting move; most of Ryan’s presence has come in the form of being a quartet man (Dixie Melody Boys & Signature Sound), so it is worth watching to see how his sound will evolve in the solo realm. Best of luck to Ryan in this new endeavor! You can keep up with him through Facebook and his website.

2. Triumphant Signs With Mansion Entertainment – In another unexpected change, Triumphant Quartet announced that they are leaving their longtime record label, Daywind Records, and signing with Mansion Entertainment, with promises of a new live project from The Mansion Theater. Wayne Haun will be producing. Bill Traylor has a history of making great things happen when he is involved, and as president of Mansion Entertainment, he’s made a great move by signing this quartet.

3. Dan Keeton Joins Blackwood Quartet – Earlier this month, it was announced that Ron Blackwood was coming off the road, Josh Garner and John Rulapaugh were leaving the Blackwood Quartet as well, and Mark Blackwood was bringing tenor Dale Evans and lead David Mann and merging the quartets together for a reloaded Blackwood Quartet. The changes have not stopped there, though; it was announced Friday that Dan Keeton would be replacing Dale Evans, as Evans is coming off the road to spend more time with his family. Keeton filled in with the group on recent dates, and “everything simply came together,” as he put it.

With the lineup of Dan Keeton, Mark Blackwood, David Mann, and Chris West, this quartet is a stellar vocal group. Mann has promised big things coming for the group on various blogs, so stay tuned.

Playing Catch-Up

February 22, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Gospel Quartet, Blackwood Quartet, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

With the busy schedule I’ve seemed to keep for the past few days, I haven’t had much time to blog! Here’s some items I missed:

1. Blackwood Shake-Up Groups experience change in SG quite often, but few experience changes this drastic. Ron Blackwood, owner of the Blackwood Quartet, announced his retirement for health reasons on the advice of his physician, and announced that he was turning leadership of the group over to Mark Blackwood, baritone and owner of the Blackwood Gospel Quartet. On the heels of this announcement came the one that stated, effective March 1, tenor John Rulapaugh and lead Josh Garner were resigning their positions in the Blackwood Quartet and forming a quartet of their own. Thus, Mark Blackwood is merging the BGQ with Ron Blackwood’s group. The lineup is: tenor Dale Evans, lead Mark Blackwood, baritone David Mann, and bass Chris West.

I am very excited about this announcement, because, for one, the vocal lineup for the Blackwood Quartet is shaping up to be quite the powerhouse. David Mann and Mark Blackwood are great vocalists, and Dale Evans is one of the best young tenors I have ever heard. Throwing a young bass like Chris West in the mix is sure to make a great quartet.

Greater still, the fact that John Rulapaugh and Josh Garner are forming a group opens up exciting possibilities for a lineup. I wouldn’t mind seeing them pick up baritone Rick Fair and bass Brad Smith. An announcement should be coming sometime soon as to the lineup of this new quartet.

2. Videos of the Mark Tramell Quartet are now up. Check out Pat Barker singing what has becoming something of a signature song for him, “How Big Is God,” and a favorite song by the Mark Trammell Trio getting a quartet treatment on “Loving The Lamb.”

Be looking, probably sometime next week, for the first interview I’ve ever done on this blog. It was a great interview that I was privileged to be able to conduct, and I can’t wait to have it posted!

Update: For now, the videos of the Mark Trammell Quartet have been removed at the artist’s request. I’ll repost if they are put back up!

News From The Weekend

January 11, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, Brian Free And Assurance, Guy Penrod, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

1. Ron Blackwood Quartet Lineup Changes – There have been a few rumblings on various forums and blogs about changes for this group, but it’s official now: Chris West has joined the group as bass singer and Steve Warren will pull double duty as baritone and pianist. Both of these men have quite a resume in the world of Southern Gospel music, and Ron Blackwood has quite a lineup assembled now. The group’s first lineup had a good sound and great potential, but didn’t keep together before they signed with a record company. Hopefully, this lineup will fare better.

2. Brian Free & Assurance At Work On New Project – Via Burke’s Brainwork, Brian Free & Assurance is going to work on a new A Capella project, due out sometime in March or April. The latest example of a song in this style that the group has done is the opening track of their Worth It project, “There Is A Kingdom Coming.”

The group has often been criticized for sounding too artificial or digital on their more recent recordings, and that complaint has carried over more so when they did the aforementioned song on their project. However, Brian Free’s son, Ricky, will be producing the project and all projects from here on out for the group. Ricky produced the group’s Christmas CD a few years ago, and he produced and arranged their Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume II project as well; on those projects, the group sounds much more real and less digitized, and their future efforts will be better for it.

3. Guy Penrod Signs With Gaither Music Group – If nothing else puts to rest the rumors of bad blood between Gaither & Penrod since his departure, this press release will. Gaither Music Group will be re-releasing his Breathe Deep solo debut in the coming months.

Ron Blackwood Announces New Quartet

December 22, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music

I know, this is my third post today. I’m just full of things to say, I guess!

This wire from The Singing News says that The Blackwood Quartet will be on the on the road in 2009. The title of “The Super Group” that the article gives isn’t far wrong. Check out this lineup:

Tenor: John Rulapaugh – Won’t Roy Pauley be thrilled? All kidding aside, John is a great tenor, and will blend in great with the rest of the vocalists.

Lead: Josh Garner – Wow! It’s about time that Josh got back in a group. After he left The Florida Boys, he seemed to fall off the map. It’s great to see such an awesome lead singing with a group again.

Baritone: Tracy Trent – Honestly, I’m not too familiar with this guy. Perhaps some of you readers could tell me how he sounds.

Bass: Trent Adams – This barely 18 bass singer joined the Old Paths about three months ago. I had heard rumblings that he had left the group, but it’s nice to see him still remain singing. He’s a very good bass for his age; be on the lookout for him.

Piano: Joe Cox – Another Old Paths member, this pianist is a very underrated one. It’s a shame that he left The Old Paths, but he will fit right in with this group.

The article says Ron Blackwood will be the group’s emcee. Too bad this is not the Blackwood group that will be on NQC Mainstage on Monday night in 2009. I really hope this lineup can keep together; this will be a great quartet!