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Members include Henry Paul III (born in Kingston, NY; son of Henry Paul, Jr. and Helen E. Collier; married Jeanne on May 22, 1974; children: Lorraine, Victoria, and Henry), lead vocals, mandolin; Charles David Robbins (born in Atlanta, GA, to W.E. and Peggy B. Robbins; married Mary Lynn on August 4, 1979; children: David and Terry), vocals, keyboards; and Van Wesley Stephenson (born in Hamilton, OH, to Thomas and Thelma Stephenson; married Karen on September 11, 1975; children: Katie, Julie, and Wes), vocals, guitar. Addresses: Fan club--P.O. Box 121804, Nashville, TN 37212-1804. E-mail-- email@example.com.
The strong vocal harmonies and talented guitar picking of BlackHawk have made it one of country music's most successful contemporary groups in the industry. Their live performances have been characterized as "electrifying." The group is made up of three successful singers and musicians: Henry Paul is the lead vocalist who also plays the mandolin; Dave Robbins is on vocals and keyboards; and Van Stephenson is on vocals and guitar. "One thing our fans respond to is our energy," stated Paul in the band's online biography. "They see our show as a very genuine presentation--not a staged, choreographed walk-through of showmanship. The live show has a great deal to do with our success as record-sellers."
Performing in over 450 concerts since 1994, this self-described working-class band has relied heavily on county fairs and festivals as an important and profitable way for them to succeed. "We think they're terrific for the fair market," stated Phil Potter of the Don Romeo Agency. "From the first crew guy to Henry Paul, they're great to work with. We call them 'fair friendly' acts." However, there is a downside to playing these types of venues. "One of the things we run into occasionally is VIPs right in front of the stage," stated Stephenson in Amusement Business. "From a show standpoint, that keeps us separated from the people we really want to get close to. It puts a barrier between us and the people we connect with."
While the band is serious about their music, their enthusiasm and sense of humor shine through in their performances. According to the Chicago Tribune, BlackHawk is "Fun with serious attitude." And The Tennessean noted, "What Popeye is to cartoons, BlackHawk is to country music." BlackHawk's agent, John Huie opined, "They're a party band ... they are about having fun."
In 1994, the group's debut album, BlackHawk, reached double platinum and had the number one hit "Every Once In Awhile." The album also had four Top Ten singles; "Goodbye Says it All," "Sure Can Smell The Rain," "Down In Flames," and "Just About Right." It rode the country hit charts for over a year and a half, averaging over 9,200 sales a week.
Their second album, Strong Enough, reached gold status and had a number one hit and three Top Ten singles. Producers Mark Bright and Tim DuBois helped BlackHawk retain the energy of their live performances on the album. "We're happy we can give the fans the same quality of music they hear on our album," stated Stephenson in the BlackHawk bio.The title of the album got its name from the lead single, "I'm Not Strong Enough To Say No." Robbins notes that the song is about the woes of manhood. The album deals with issues from individual spontaneity to complex relationships. It debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Country Albums Chart, making Strong Enough one of the highest debuts of any country group in history. Other top songs included "Like There Ain't No Yesterday," and "Almost A Memory Now."
In 1966 Paul made his debut performance in a coffee house, and had been influenced by country singers such as Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, and Merle Haggard. Other influences include Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Allman Brothers. He was a member of The Outlaws, a southern rock group that was popular in the mid- 1970s and had many chart singles, including the Southern rock classic "Green Grass and High Tides." As Paul stated in Amusement Business, "Back then, we just wanted to make a record, get a buzz on and play for the people. Now it's the reverse. I want to make the best music I can make and interact with the audience ... What we do is totally different from what The Outlaws was ... We're not out there to party, we're out to do a job." He left the group in 1977 to start The Henry Paul Band, which went on to record four albums on Atlantic Records. Paul said that he survived the sometimes destructive lifestyle of rock and moved to the more calm and healthy environment of country music. "In country, you don't have all that extreme behavior--it's missing in the audience, it's missing in the music, and the music speaks so much better for it," Paul told Buddy Seigal of the Los Angeles Times. Robbins, who first performed publicly at a piano recital at age six, credits Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, and Steve Walsh as his early influences. "From 1985 through 1987, I toured quite a bit with groups as a keyboard player and vocalist," stated Robbins in Amusement Business. "We went all over the world, including into the U.S.S.R. and Sweden." Considered one of the city's premiere songwriters, Robbins has lived in Nashville since 1979. Stephenson, who had a few pop singles in the early 1980's, is also considered one of Nashville's best songwriters. Among his musical influences are Vince Gill and Don Henley.
At the request of Willie Nelson, the group performed at the Farm Aid '95 concert. They have also performed on the road with Tim McGraw, Dwight Yoakam, Brooks & Dunn, and Wynonna. In addition to performing with these country superstars, BlackHawk has received numerous awards and substantial recognition. The group was named the TNN/Music City News Star of Tomorrow, Performance Magazine's Best new Country Act, and Radio & Records magazine's Group of the Year. They were nominees for Group of the Year by the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, and received the BMI Award for "Every Once In A While." The video for the song, "That's Just About Right," was nominated for "Best New Artist Clip of the Year," by Billboard. The video mimicked American Folk Artist Howard Finster's life, and he appeared in BlackHawk's video. In January of 1996, The Museum of American Folk Art included the video in an exhibit of Finster's work in New York.
Love and Gravity,BlackHawk's third album, was released on July 29, 1997 and debuted at No. 9 on Billboard's country album charts. Singles from the album include "Hole in My Heart" and "Postmarked Birmingham." "We took some real chances on Love & Gravity and the result is an incredibly strong album that clearly shows the evolution of our music," Robbins proclaimed on the band's website. The Billboard Previews website agreed, commenting that Love and Gravity "finds the members of BlackHawk in peak songwriting form."
In addition to making music, the band is involved in a number of charity projects. They were chosen as "spokespeople" for the Second Harvest Foundation, which distributes over 500 million pounds of food to needy people across the United States. BlackHawk also contributed to a Christmas album called Country Cares for Kids, proceeds of which will benefit the St. Jude's Children Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
by Bill Bennett
Debut album, BlackHawk reached double platinum and had number one hit "Every Once In A While," 1994; second album, Strong Enough reached gold status and had three Top Ten singles, 1995; released third album, Love and Gravity, 1997; performed at Farm Aid, 1995; toured with Tim McGraw, Dwight Yoakam, Brooks & Dunn, and Wynonna.
Named the TNN/Music City News Star of Tomorrow; named Best New Country Act by Performance Magazine; chosen as Group of the Year by Radio & Records magazine; and received BMI Award for "Every Once In A While."
- Selective Works
- BlackHawk, BMG/Arista, 1994.
- Strong Enough, BMG/Arista, 1995.
- Love and Gravity, BMG/Arista, 1997.
- Amusement Business, June 30, 1997, p. 6; December 20, 1993, p. 11.
- Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1995, p. 9.
- Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1995, p. 2.
- Sun-Sentinel, January 26, 1996, p. 18.
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