J. D. Sumner

J. D. Sumner
Birth name John Daniel Sumner
Born (1924-11-19)November 19, 1924
Lakeland, Florida
Died November 16, 1998(1998-11-16) (aged 73)
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Genres Southern gospel
Occupation(s) Bass singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1945–1998
Associated acts J. D. Sumner and the Stamps, Elvis Presley, The Blackwood Brothers, Master's V, Jerry Lee Lewis
Website jdsumner.org

John Daniel "J. D." Sumner (November 19, 1924 – November 16, 1998) was an American gospel singer, songwriter, and music promoter noted for his bass voice, and his innovation in the Christian and Gospel music fields. Sumner sang in 5 quartets and was a member of the Blackwood Brothers during their 1950's heyday. Aside from his incredibly low bass voice, Sumner's business acumen helped promote Southern Gospel and move it into the mainstream of American culture and music during the 50's and 60's.


Sunny South Quartet and Dixie Lily Harmoneers

J. D. Sumner first sang with The Sunny South Quartet from 1945 to 1949. The quartet was headquartered in Tampa, Florida and was sponsored by the Dixie Lily Flour Company. In 1949, Sunny South manager Horace Floyd relocated the quartet to Orlando, but Sumner stayed behind in Tampa where he maintained the sponsorship and started a new group, the Dixie Lily Harmoneers, which he sang with for a few months.[1]

Sunshine Boys

Later in 1949, J. D. Sumner left the Dixie Lily Harmoneers and moved up to Atlanta, Georgia, where he joined the Sunshine Boys. They split their time between Atlanta and Wheeling, West Virginia with the occasional trip to Hollywood to sing in Western movies. The lineup of Fred Daniel on tenor, Ed Wallace on lead, Ace Richman on baritone, and J. D. on bass continued on for five years until June 30, 1954.[2]

Blackwood Brothers Quartet

On June 30, 1954, tragedy struck the Blackwood Brothers Quartet when a disastrous test run in their private plane cost the lives of baritone R. W. Blackwood and bass singer Bill Lyles. J. D. Sumner was immediately hired by the Blackwood Brothers to sing with them to replace Lyles. Cecil Blackwood joined at the same time to replace his brother R. W. on baritone. J. D. sang with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet from 1954 until 1965.[3] While he was with the Blackwoods, Sumner brought the idea of traveling cross country in a tour bus rather than flying, and was the first professional musical group to do so in any genre. He also established the National Quartet Convention along with James Blackwood to showcase the various quartets in the industry and the convention became an annual festival and mainstay in the industry that continues to this day. It was also during this time he met Elvis Presley. Presley had wanted to try out for the baritone spot with the Blackwoods, but Sumner steered him away from it, and it would not be long before Presley signed with Sun Records and became a full time rock and roll performer, but would still perform gospel songs throughout the rest of career and his life.

Stamps Quartet

In 1962, J. D. Sumner became the manager of the Stamps Quartet, and three years later, he left the Blackwood Brothers to sing with them. Sumner was most noted as the leader of the Stamps Quartet, which became known as J.D. Sumner & The Stamps. Elvis Presley, while as a teenager, idolized Sumner's singing after seeing him perform with the Sunshine Boys. Presley hired Sumner & The Stamps as his back-up singers in 1971. The group toured and recorded with Presley from November 1971 until Presley's death in 1977. He not only sang at Elvis' funeral but had previously sung at the funeral of Elvis' mother, Gladys, in 1958.[4] JD and The Stamps opened for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1980 in the United Kingdom, The Stamps only overseas performance.

Masters V

After the Stamps Quartet disbanded in 1980, Sumner with Hovie Lister, Jake Hess, Rosie Rozell, and James Blackwood formed the Masters V as a special consolidation of members of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet and Statesmen Quartet. The group was a showcase for Sumner's voice and compositions and won the 1981 Grammy Award for best traditional gospel performance. Sumner was credited not only for his singing, songwriting, and concert promotions, but was also noted for being the first to customize a coach bus for the entertainment business to use for music groups.

Later career with Stamps

After the Masters V disbanded in 1988, Sumner reformed the Stamps Quartet and performed with the group until his death in 1998. He was often seen in his latter years appearing as a guest artist on the Bill Gaither Homecoming videos. The Stamps Quartet is currently led by Ed Enoch,[5] a member since 1969.

Relationship with Elvis Presley

Sumner met a young Elvis Presley when he was singing with the Blackwood Brothers. Presley was 14 and had shown up to a concert but did not have the money to get in, Sumner found out about it and told Presley anytime he wanted to come in to find him and he would admit him at any place they were singing. The two formed a strong relationship. Sumner struggled with alcoholism during the time he toured with Elvis, and Presley confronted Sumner about it and pleaded with him to get help out of concern with the health of his friend. In a 1990 interview with Geraldo Rivera, Sumner debunked many myths regarding Presley's substance abuse, namely that Presley was a heavy drinker and used illicit substances. "I knew Elvis from the time he was 14, and all I ever saw him drink was one glass of peach brandy. He (Presley) would fire you for using marijuana, he detested cocaine, and barely approved of me drinking." Sumner also stated that Elvis "had no idea that he was killing himself with his medications, he felt as long as he was doing what the Doctor was ok with, he was staying within the bounds. Presley's death hit Sumner hard and The Stamps sang at Presley's funeral and Sumner credits Presley with saving his own life by intervening with his own alcohol use. "He (Elvis) helped saved my marriage, my health, my career, and ultimately, my life." Sumner said in 1993.

Range and awards

For 18 years, Sumner held the Guinness World Record for recording the lowest bass note. As of 2011, he has been surpassed only three times by the following vocalists: Dan Britton (1984), Tim Storms (2002 and once more in 2012), and Roger Menees (2011).[6] Sumner was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1997.[7][8]

Other activities

In 1964, Sumner founded the Gospel Music Association with James Blackwood. He was also the founding force behind the National Quartet Convention.


Sumner wrote more than 700 songs including the following:

  • A Land Where Milk And Honey Flows
  • A Million Years From Now
  • Aloha Time
  • Because Of Him*
  • Behind Your Tears
  • Beyond God's Horizon
  • Crossing Chilly Jordan
  • Each Step I Take
  • Eternal Paradise
  • Everybody Ought To Love
  • For I've Got The Lord
  • Give Me The Strength To Stand
  • God Made A Way
  • He Means All The World To Me
  • He Will See You Through
  • Heaven For Me
  • He's All That I Need
  • His Love
  • I Believe In The Old Time Way
  • I Can Feel The Touch Of His Hand
  • I Do Dear Jesus I Believe
  • I Don't Mind
  • I Found God
  • I Know It's So
  • I Serve A Living God
  • I Wanna Rest
  • I Want To Meet You Up In Heaven
  • I Wouldn't Trade
  • I'll Follow Where He Leads
  • I'm Happy And Free
  • In That Land
  • Inside The Gate
  • I've Got To Walk That Lonesome Road
  • Jesus Is Mine
  • Keep Me
  • Listen
  • Mammy's Boy
  • My All I Give
  • Never
  • Old Man Death
  • On That Happy Golden Shore
  • On The Other Side Of Jordan
  • One Day
  • Only One Touch
  • Paradise Valley
  • Pay As You Go
  • Rolling Along
  • Some Wonderful Day
  • Someday Soon
  • Something Old Something New
  • Sweet Peace
  • Thank God For Calvary
  • The Old Country Church
  • The Touch Of His Hand
  • The Victory Road
  • There Is A Light
  • Walking And Talking With My Lord
  • Walking In The Light
  • What A Glorious Morning That Will Be
  • What A Morning
  • When I'm Alone
  • When The Clouds Roll By
  • Wonderful Love
  • Wonderful Savior


Solo albums


With The Blackwood Brothers

J.D. Sumner & The Stamps


With The Masters V

See Masters V discography


  1. http://www.sgma.org/gogr_history/rebels.htm
  2. http://www.sgma.org/gogr_history/sunshine_boys.htm
  3. http://www.sgma.org/gogr_history/blackwoods_romans828.htm
  4. Cusic, Don (January 1990). The sound of light: a history of gospel music. Popular Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-87972-498-6.
  5. http://www.thestampsquartet.com/bios.html The Stamps Quartet official biographies
  6. McNeil, W.K. (September 2005). Encyclopedia of American gospel music. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94179-2.
  7. J.D. Sumner, Hall of Fame, Gospel Music Association, retrieved 13 August 2010
  8. "John Daniel "J.D." Sumner", Hall of Fame Inductees, Southern Gospel Music Association, retrieved 13 August 2010
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