Beginning in 1948, they recorded for a variety of small record companies, and had gospel music hits in the 1950s with "Oh, Lord Stand by Me" and "I Can See Everybody's Mother But I Can't See Mine." In 1950, after the death of one of its members, the group renamed itself simply as the Blind Boys of Alabama. Fountain's group recorded first for the Newark-based Coleman Records label. Between 1953 and 1957, the group recorded for Art Rupe's California-based Specialty label. In the 1960s, the group's hard-driving gospel sounds were imitated by people like Bobby "Blue" Bland and Marvin Gaye. The group recorded extensively for the Vee-Jay label from 1963 to 1965. In 1969, Fountain left the group for a decade to try to make it on his own, and the group re-formed with all the original members in the late '70s.
They didn't enjoy widespread success until 1988, when they starred in an Obie Award-winning Broadway show. According to Fountain, the group's high point was being on Broadway for 15 weeks with the musical Gospel at Colonus. The musical opened up new avenues for bookings for the Blind Boys of Alabama, and they began touring theaters and larger churches in the early '90s, embarking on their first European tours as well. The group was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 1994. In 1994 and 1995, the group played festivals including the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Beale Street Music Festival, and the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Mid-'90s television appearances included BET's On Jazz, and even a cameo on Beverly Hills, 90210. The group appeared on Peter Gabriel's 2002 album Up, and was co-billed with Ben Harper on 2004's There Will Be a Light. Scott passed away in 2005, and Fountain retired from active performance soon after, leaving Jimmy Carter to lead the group. Original bass singer Johnny Fields died in 2009. A new recording in 2011, Take the High Road, found the Blind Boys of Alabama pursuing their roots in country gospel, with help from producer Jamey Johnson and featuring guests including Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and Vince Gill. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi