BATON ROUGE, LA (CelebrityAccess) – Clarence Fountain, founding member and longtime leader of the iconic gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama passed away on Sunday, June 3rd in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was 88.
Born in Tyler, Alabama on November 28th, 1929, Fountain grew up in a churchgoing and musical family in Selma. After loosing his sight as a small child, at age eight Fountain was enrolled at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega. There he joined a large boys choir. Inspired by weekly radio broadcasts of the Golden Gate Quartet, he and five friends decided to start their own singing group called the Happyland Singers before soon changing their name to the Blind Boys.
The group left school in 1944 while still teenagers, and eventually became forerunners of the “hard” gospel sound.
By the late 1940s, the Blind Boys were touring full-time, performing for segregated audiences in churches and schools, and under Fountain’s direction, had their first hit recording in 1948 on the Vee-Jay label with the song, “I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine.”
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, Fountain stopped touring with the band in 2007, but did contribute vocals to the Blind Boys’ latest album, Almost Home, which was released in 2017.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara.