David Nelson doesn't know why he didn't think of it sooner. The gospel group he has admired and listened to for years will sing at a fundraising benefit for The League for the Blind & Disabled, the nonprofit for which Nelson is president and CEO.
That group is The Blind Boys of Alabama, a gospel group formed in 1939 by six boys who attended a blind school in Talladega, Ala. The group performs March 23 at the Embassy Theatre.
Nelson said the music choice fits well with his mission to help those who are blind and disabled in Allen and surrounding counties. For the past three years, The League's benefit was a blues bash at Arts United Center. This year, Nelson is thinking big by moving the benefit to the Embassy.
The Blind Boys of Alabama are a five-time Grammy Award and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winning group known for recording all types of gospel music with some of the biggest names in the recording industry: Curtis Mayfield, Willie Nelson, Ben Harper and the Oak Ridge Boys.
Jimmy Carter, one of the original members, said the group keeps busy by performing 150-200 concerts a year. Clarence Fountain, the other surviving original member, has not toured with the group for about five years.
Carter, who spoke by phone from his home in Birmingham, Ala., said the group does benefits for other organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association.
Though the group has evolved to include sighted musicians, Carter doesn't consider himself disabled.
“People classify blindness as a handicap. We don't,” he said. “We call it an inconvenience. We can do just about anything a sighted person can do.”
Carter said he enjoys listening to sports and country music. His latest CD, “Take the High Road,” features country gospel songs with some of his favorite entertainers, such as Hank Williams Jr., Vince Gill and Lee Ann Womack.
Carter's professional highlights have included winning his first Grammy in 2001 and performing at the White House three times.
The concert will consist of a variety of gospel music, Carter said. “We're going to do some old-time, toe-tapping, foot-stomping stuff. … When we leave Fort Wayne, it will never be the same. We'll leave our gospel footprint in Fort Wayne.”
Nelson said the benefit has the potential to raise $75,000.
The League provides skilled training services to 600 clients, sign interpretation for 230 and home-care services for 90 clients.
Home care is the newest service The League provides. “Disability is a condition of aging. If they can't get the help they need, they go to a home,” he said. “We help them stay in their home community.”