The Blind Boys of Alabama

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The Blind Boys of Alabama came up hard in the 1930s, out of the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind.

They found their way in gospel. In decades on the road. And just lately, into Grammy glory. Sessions with Ben Harper and Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel. Legend status.

Now they’ve taken it to New Orleans, where gospel meets Preservation Hall.

This hour, On Point: The Blind Boys of Alabama sing for New Orleans.

You can join the conversation. Have you followed their work? Their path? Their gospel?Guests:

Joining us from Norwich, Vermont, are three of The Blind Boys of Alabama:

Jimmy Lee Carter goes back to the group's original days. He was born blind, attended the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, and joined the group. He’s the last remaining original Blind Boy, others having died or stepped out because of illness. He’s been there as they recorded more than 60 albums, won 5 Grammys, and toured the world. He leads the Blind Boys of Alabama now.  They're new album is "Down in New Orleans."

Eric “Ricky” McKinnie plays drums, percussion, and sings with The Blind Boys. He joined 19 years ago, and has seen a few miles himself with the group since then.

Joey Williams is lead guitarist and back-up singer with The Blind Boys. He’s been with the group since 1992. He’s one of the younger members of the group and is one of the few members who is not blind.

Also joining us, from New Orleans, is Ben Jaffee, creative director of The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He’s the son of co-founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe and was raised in the French Quarter. He plays the tuba on The Blind Boys of Alabama’s latest album.

More links:

The Blind Boys' website has their current tour dates. Tonight they play with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Boston's Symphony Hall. Then they move on to Ithaca, NY, and Ottawa, Canada, before taking off for Australia and New Zealand.

Here are a couple of videos of The Blind Boys doing their thing. In the first, Prince jumps on stage with the band at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, CA:

And here's Ben Harper recording “Shall Not Walk Alone” with The Blind Boys:

Click here for more Blind Boys videos on YouTube.

This program aired on March 27, 2009.


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