J.D. Sumner was, in fact, the greatest gift to a gospel quartet that has ever been given. He was a friend to many and a provider for his listening audience to keep them smiling throughout his every performance. He had the ability to run a piano off the keyboard, so to speak, and still get notes further down.
He provided the industry with many winning songs over his career. He was instrumental in getting his own groups together and traveled with some of the greats in Gospel in a 50-year span.
Here are a few known facts about J.D.
Born John Daniel Sumner in 1924, J.D. grew up in the sunny state of Florida. He began his Southern Gospel singing career in 1943, when he joined a group called the "Sunshine Boys." He began singing with the Blackwood Brothers in 1954 and continued until 1965.
He and his group, "The Stamps Quartet," began performing with his long-time friend, Elvis, in 1970.
On many occasions, Elvis would invite J.D., also known as "Big Daddy," or "Jim Dandy," home after a concert to sing Gospel. Elvis would sit at the piano while they harmonized for hours.
J.D.'s award-winning voice earned him a Grammy, as well as a spot in the prestigious GMA Hall of Fame.
J.D.'s famous voice, plunging into a double low C, placed him in the Guinness Book of Records as the World's Lowest Bass singer.
Mary, his lovely wife of 51-years, passed away in 1992. J.D. never stopped talking of the love they shared.
J.D., coming in with his famous slide endings and combined with the remarkable talents of Elvis Presley, made an unforgettable combination of sounds.
The onetime holder of a Guinness world record honoring the lowest bass note ever reached, Gospel pioneer J.D. Sumner was the driving force behind the Stamps Quartet, which earned secular renown as the longtime vocal support for Elvis Presley. Born November 19, 1924, Sumner became the Blackwood Brothers' bass vocalist in 1954, remaining with the group for a dozen years. At his suggestion, in 1955 the Blackwoods became the first touring act to travel from show to show in their own customized bus, a practice since followed by virtually every live performer. Sumner also befriended the young Presley, then still a high school student who attended the Blackwood Brothers' Memphis-area performances each Saturday night. In 1962, Sumner and band mate James Blackwood jointly purchased a Dallas-based music publishing company which included among its holdings the rights to the name of the Stamps Quartet, a vocal group originally formed in 1924; within two years, Sumner left the Blackwoods to assume leadership of the Stamps, remaining at the helm for over three decades. The Stamps worked regularly with Presley from 1970 onward to the King's 1977 death, backing him live as well as appearing on hit records including "Burning Love." In the wake of Presley's death the group regularly contributed to Graceland's annual Elvis memorial celebrations in addition to maintaining their own rigorous recording and touring schedules; during a concert stay in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sumner died in his sleep on November 16, 1998, just three days short of his 74th birthday.
This was the obituary proclaiming his passing.
Tue. November 17.1998 12:00 AM EST
Gospel Great Dies At 73
Southern Gospel legend and Opry regular J.D. Sumner passed away Monday morning, three days before his 74th birthday, at a condominium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. With his gospel group, The Stamps, the Nashville-based singer was performing dates at a Myrtle Beach theater when he suffered a heart attack. Known to have the world's lowest bass voice, Sumner and his band were Elvis Presley's principal backing vocalists from 1972 until Presley's death in 1977, contributing to Grammy-winning performances in 1972 and 1974. The native of Lakeland, Florida worked with numerous Southern Gospel combos, including the Sunny South Quartet, the Sunshine Boys and the renowned Blackwood Brothers. Sumner helped found the Gospel Music Association. He was inducted individually into the GMA's Gospel Hall of Fame in 1983, and last spring he was inducted again as part of J.D. Sumner and the Stamps. Sumner also helped form The National Quartet Convention. He wrote more than 500 songs, among them such Southern Gospel favorites as "The Old Country Church," "Crossing Chilly Jordan" and "He Means All The World To Me."
J.D. was a close personal friend of my Uncle Basil, who lives in Silver Springs, Florida. They often exchanged phone calls and shared a love of music and respect for each other. I recently sent Basil some CD's with J.D. and others on them to enjoy while he putters around in his glass out in his shop. He is retired now but still hand crafts some of the most beautiful glass items made since Louis C. Tiffany.
Once, during a concert date near his home, Basil took my grandmother's Bible and had the entire group endorse it to his ailing mother. J. D. simply wrote the words "Mom, Get Well Soon J.D." She treasured that Bible until the day she passed away and often looked at the signatures of the men she praised so highly every chance she could. That Bible is something that I hope will be passed down to me some day.
J.D. Sumner Husband, father, brother, grandfather-"Big Daddy", Friend!Percival A. Friend, Retired
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