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Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At Last!

Sat May 06, 2017 11:45 pm

The other day I found a wonderful TV performance by the Blackwood Brothers Quartet that clearly is the antecedent for those infamous bass slides, or "dive-bombs," that Elvis requested of singer J. D. Sumner during his concerts in the 1970s.

It's like watching the "birth" of the Presley show dive-bomb!



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Blackwood Brothers Quartet "Rock of Ages" (Syndicated show "Singing Time in Dixie" - circa October 1964)
L-R: Bill Shaw (tenor), James Blackwood (lead), Cecil Blackwood (baritone) and J.D. Sumner (bass)
Listen out for the dive bomb ending from Sumner, starting around the 1:50 mark!
Sumner left the Blackwoods in July 1965, moving to the Stamps Quartet.
On piano is Whitey Gleason.



No doubt Presley witnessed songs like these when he attended all-night gospel sings at Ellis Auditorium as a teen-ager, and especially during sets by the Blackwoods. And he remembered.




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Elvis Presley "Amen" (Charlotte, NC - Sunday, March 20, 1976 ES)
The gospel song was popularized by the Impressions in 1964, their version hit #1 on the r&b charts.
Elvis tagged his performances of "I Got A Woman" with "Amen" a few years into his return to the stage.
In this rendition, Presley has Sumner do his bass slide TWICE.


Did anyone attending Presley shows in the mid-to-later seventies have any idea where it came from? That is doubtful. But this vocal tour de force remains a memorable, and hotly-contested subject of debate among Elvis fans today.

And it all began with the Blackwood Brothers, and their amazing bass singer.



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Elvis with Jackie Marshall (piano), unk, James Blackwood (lead), Bill Shaw (tenor), Cecil Blackwood (baritone) and J.D. Sumner (bass)
Photo backstage at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis - December 1956
Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Sat May 06, 2017 11:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sat May 06, 2017 11:49 pm

Another piece to the puzzle!

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sat May 06, 2017 11:55 pm

Fascinating, thank you.

I began to appreciate its inclusion better when concert attendees confessed that when JD hit that lowest note it literally shook the audience -- it was a physical experience.

But, yeah, cool post, thanks.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 12:11 am

another nice ''Dive-bomb'' relating thing could be found in ''Walk That Lonesome Road'' which (as far as i remember) was done since 1972 (for the elvis shows). where JD does the same bass slides.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 12:23 am

Johnny2523 wrote:another nice ''Dive-bomb'' relating thing could be found in ''Walk That Lonesome Road'' which (as far as i remember) was done since 1972 (for the elvis shows). where JD does the same bass slides.


That was a 1963 Blackwood Brothers Quartet number written by J. D. Sumner himself, but it was actually a brief feature spot in the Elvis show. The singer called for it several times during the summer 1972 Vegas stand, but just a few nights after that, most all from the last year, when he was too fatigued to deliver a full performance.

The "Amen" tag was done literally at hundreds of gigs after the Stamps Quartet joined the show in November 1971, probably more than five hundred performances ...

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 1:39 am

Nice post and I had the pleasure to experience the dive bomb live.
Not in a large US arena but it must have been somewhere in the '90's when the Stamps were in Antwerp.

As annoying as it is on recorded audio, as impressive the real thing was.
Also here I remember it felt the building was actually shaking.

It must have been painful for Elvis sound guys as no PA must have been built to survive such an atomic test.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 2:39 am

Whenever I heard George Klein introduce J.D. at a tribute concert, he'd pay tribute to Sumner by saying that Elvis loved those "1956 Endings."

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 2:56 am

Great share.Never heard a pre Elvis dive bomb.
So the question is did JD do the dive bomb in Elvis's show on his own or did Elvis ask him to do the dive bomb like he remembered hearing JD do ?

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 3:54 am

It's something J.D. liked to do to show off how deep his register was. It was his signature "thing".

It would be difficult to accurately determine one particular performance as being where it all began. One would expect that the dives generally became longer and more pronounced over time - to the point that they became ridiculously exaggerated.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 4:04 am

Domino wrote:Great share.Never heard a pre Elvis dive bomb.
So the question is did JD do the dive bomb in Elvis's show on his own or did Elvis ask him to do the dive bomb like he remembered hearing JD do ?



Elvis either explicitly or tacitly approved all song and vocal arrangements. If you listen to the concert recordings where the Stamps Quartet are with the show, starting in November 1971, you can hear a gradual increase in J. D. Sumner's vocal presence. The bass slide on the tagged "Amen" ending to "I Got A Woman" grew and grew as the years passed, and all from Elvis' encouragement. For some, this indulgence was, overall, a detriment to the performances, and why many favor the Imperials run with the Presley show from July 1969 to September 1971.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 4:56 am

JD's soaring bass was great for the endings of songs as "The Impossible Dream" where horns go high in unison with JD going low making a great climax. Seen, heard, and felt by the fans. A happening!

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 5:18 am

Without a doubt you have definitely hit the nail on the head with this one. This is the true evolution of what later became those dreaded "dive bomb" routines for sure.
It's amazing how you dig this stuff up from so long ago.

Very nice research indeed Doc.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 6:22 am

midnightx wrote:Another piece to the puzzle!


Indeed, I had a feeling there was at least one example of J. D. Sumner's bass slide from his days with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, and today I was fortunate enough to find one. And I'll wager not only did Elvis see "Rock of Ages" in concert, but he may have actually watched this marvelous syndicated broadcast from 1964, posted above.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 9:12 am

Robert wrote:Nice post and I had the pleasure to experience the dive bomb live.
Not in a large US arena but it must have been somewhere in the '90's when the Stamps were in Antwerp.

As annoying as it is on recorded audio, as impressive the real thing was.
Also here I remember it felt the building was actually shaking.

It must have been painful for Elvis sound guys as no PA must have been built to survive such an atomic test.


I was there too, in fact, all of the times JD was in Belgium i went.
That "booming" voice, it was an expieriennce you had to witness, to hear live, no live recording can capture that.
Met him too,before the show, and i tell you,,to hear him talking personaly to you, that was something else!!
Like EP joked in a show "the voice of the Lord", i was totally lost for words.... :D

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 10:04 am

Nice find! Thank you. JD had a remarkable deep, low voice indeed. But I must admit that I very much prefer the Imperials. I am not a fan of JD's singing... not at all! Sometimes it even irritates me. I much more like the, less prominent and smooth, singing of Armond Morales. But I guess that's a matter of taste.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 11:24 am

elvisjock wrote:Whenever I heard George Klein introduce J.D. at a tribute concert, he'd pay tribute to Sumner by saying that Elvis loved those "1956 Endings."


Yeah, witnessed that myself at Mud Island ! :)

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 8:52 pm

George Smith wrote:Fascinating, thank you.

I began to appreciate its inclusion better when concert attendees confessed that when JD hit that lowest note it literally shook the audience -- it was a physical experience.

But, yeah, cool post, thanks.



Always a pleasure. One imagines the performances given in the 1950s-1960s by the Blackwood Brothers Quartet also became a physical experience when J. D. Sumner delivered those bass slides.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Sun May 07, 2017 9:31 pm

George Smith wrote:Fascinating, thank you.

I began to appreciate its inclusion better when concert attendees confessed that when JD hit that lowest note it literally shook the audience -- it was a physical experience.

But, yeah, cool post, thanks.

Doc, thanks for the posting. Nice info to know.

George, it was impressive in person....I remember how your seat would vibrate under you as Sumner slid lower and lower. While the "dive bomb" is tedious now to listen to, especially on recordings where it is done twice...back in the day I never once even thought about that, and we saw several shows where it was done. Caught up in the moment, I guess...

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Mon May 08, 2017 8:17 pm

elvisjock wrote:Whenever I heard George Klein introduce J.D. at a tribute concert, he'd pay tribute to Sumner by saying that Elvis loved those "1956 Endings."



Was Klein making a reference to the all-night gospel sings at Ellis Auditorium back then?

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Mon May 08, 2017 8:21 pm

Elvis clearly had reverence for JD, and I think he genuinely enjoyed hearing the dive bomb night after night.

I'm jealous that I never got to "feel" it in person myself.

Great info Doc!

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Mon May 08, 2017 8:53 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
elvisjock wrote:Whenever I heard George Klein introduce J.D. at a tribute concert, he'd pay tribute to Sumner by saying that Elvis loved those "1956 Endings."



Was Klein making a reference to the all-night gospel sings at Ellis Auditorium back then?


Yes, and on many occasions he was standing on the stage of Ellis Auditorium.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Tue May 09, 2017 11:46 pm

promiseland wrote:Without a doubt you have definitely hit the nail on the head with this one. This is the true evolution of what later became those dreaded "dive bomb" routines for sure.
It's amazing how you dig this stuff up from so long ago.

Very nice research indeed Doc.


Thanks.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Wed May 10, 2017 12:03 am

It's as bad in that video as it was onstage in the 70's.

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Wed May 10, 2017 12:12 am

Part of this can be traced back to the All Night Gospel sings that were popular in the 50's and into the 60's. My parents went to many of these in the Chicago area and part of the show were "battles" between the bass singers. It was an informal contest to see who could go the lowest.

Several times they were witness to duels between J.D. and James "Big Chief" Wetherington. The MC of the show, usually James Blackwood, would get them going and the audience would go nuts when they hit the lowest notes.

Elvis no doubt was witness to these as he was a regular attender of the Gospel sings.

https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.c ... i=36672761 Elvis with the Big Chief

Another photo of Elvis SINGING with The Statesmen:http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/pictures/img/elvis/50s/56/1956-july-27-elvis-performs-with-the-statesman-quartet-ellis-auditorium.jpg

Re: Secret Origins of the J.D. "Dive-Bomb" --> Revealed At L

Wed May 10, 2017 1:04 am

BobDylan wrote:Part of this can be traced back to the All Night Gospel sings that were popular in the 50's and into the 60's. My parents went to many of these in the Chicago area and part of the show were "battles" between the bass singers. It was an informal contest to see who could go the lowest.

Several times they were witness to duels between J.D. and James "Big Chief" Wetherington. The MC of the show, usually James Blackwood, would get them going and the audience would go nuts when they hit the lowest notes.

Elvis no doubt was witness to these as he was a regular attender of the Gospel sings.

https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.c ... i=36672761 Elvis with the Big Chief

Another photo of Elvis SINGING with The Statesmen:http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/pictures/img/elvis/50s/56/1956-july-27-elvis-performs-with-the-statesman-quartet-ellis-auditorium.jpg



Nice post, great personal story.

That photo was likely "borrowed" from FECC, then re-formatted. They do that a lot.

Here are the two versions I've posted on another topic:



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Singing with the Statesmen Quartet at Ellis Auditorium, Memphis - Friday, July 27, 1956
Elvis apparently sang "Jesus Fills My Every Need" and "You'll Never Walk Alone"