John Daniel "J. D." Sumner
- November 16
) was an American
singer and songwriter.
"J. D." Sumner was born in Lakeland, Florida
. Sumner was inspired to become a bass singer
at the age of four after hearing Frank Stamps
perform. He began developing his talent from that moment.
Sumner served in the United States military during World War II from 1942 until his discharge in 1945. He began to pursue his dream of being a bass singer when he formed the "Sunny South Quartet." He began to make a name for himself after joining the "Sunshine Boys" in 1948.
In 1954 James Blackwood
asked Sumner to replace Bill Lyles in the The Blackwood Brothers
' bass slot when R. W. Blackwood
and Lyles lost their lives in a plane crash. After joining the Blackwood Brothers, Sumner's fame began to skyrocket.
Sumner and James Blackwood soon became partners in a number of business ventures that took on a life of their own. In 1956, they formed the National Quartet Convention, an event which continues to be the largest event in gospel music. Sumner dubbed it "the Granddaddy of them all." Sumner and Blackwood also formed the Gospel Music Association, which recognizes achievement annually in all forms of gospel music through the Dove Awards. Sumner and Blackwood adapted the first bus for touring purposes.
The two men purchased the Stamps Quartet in 1963. Sumner continued to sing with the Blackwood Brothers for a period of time after this. He ultimately decided to leave the group and sing with the Stamps so he could manage them directly. It is during this time JD decided that each singer needed a microphone, thus the beginning of the use of individual microphones. In time they began to be billed as "J. D. Sumner and the Stamps."
In November of 1971, J. D. Sumner and the Stamps were invited to tour with Elvis Presley
. The group became a regular fixture with Presley until his last concert on June 26th, 1977. The Stamps were also featured on most of Presley’s studio recordings between 1972 and 1977. In the midst of their popularity while performing with Presley, the Stamps released what is probably their most critically acclaimed recording, a double LP titled Live At Murray State
. The singers joining J. D. Sumner on that recording were Ed Hill, Ed Enoch, and Bill Baize.
Sumner disbanded the Stamps in 1980. He then joined Jake Hess
, Hovie Lister
, Rosie Rozell
, and James Blackwood
to form the Masters V
. This group toured until 1988. Lister served as the group's emcee while Sumner injected his brand of dry humor into their performances. One of the highlights of Sumner's years with the Masters V was a joint concert in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with an up and coming group known as the Rivertown Boys.
Guinness Book of World Records
In 1983, the Guinness Book Of World Records
recognized Sumner's 1966 solo recording of the hymn "Blessed Assurance." According to Guinness, the song contained the lowest recorded note ever produced by a human voice, a "double low" C. The recording was re-issued in 1984 as part of Sumner's solo project Thank God For Kids
and again in 1999 posthumously on The Wait Is Over
(Note: This record was later surpassed by Dan Britton and again by current record-holder Tim Storms.)
After the Masters V disbanded in 1988, J. D. Sumner brought back the Stamps with former member Ed Hill, Jack Toney, and former Masters V tenor and arranger Steve Warren. In the early 1990s, the Stamps were active participants in the Gaither Homecoming
videos. They also enjoyed a great deal of success performing at Elvis Presley tribute events, both domestically and overseas. In addition to Ed Hill, Ed Enoch, Rick Strickland, Jerry Kelso and CJ Almgren were members of the group during Sumner’s final years.
J. D. Sumner died in 1998 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
. He was on tour at the time of his death. In addition to his other accomplishments, he wrote more than 700 songs. He has also inspired many generations of future southern gospel singers, including the up-and-coming bass singer, Garrett Mathison.
J.D. was well-known among his many friends as someone who cared deeply about the disenfranchised and the struggling. Mark Lowry
told the story of a young man whom J.D. worked diligently to have released from prison in time for Christmas, in order that the man could spend Christmas with his family. Lowry asked J.D. why the man had been in prison. "Why does it make any difference?" was J.D.'s reply.
1960s - Blackwoods Brothers
recordings featuring J.D. Sumner:
1970s - Elvis Presley
recordings featuring J.D. Sumner & The Stamps:
1970s - J.D. Sumner & The Stamps:
1980s - Masters V:
1980s - J.D. Sumner & The Stamps:
1990s - J.D. Sumner & The Stamps: