Interview with Sherman Andrus
Thank you, Sherman, for this opportunity to chat with you. You were involved in so many facets of Christian music in the 70's. I was amazed at the number of groups you were in!
Tell us a little about your background and early musical influences?
Dave, thanks for the opportunity to share a little of what God has allowed me to experience. I started singing as far back as I can remember (3 or 4 yrs old) everyone in my family sang and I sang in my mother's group as a little boy. My early influences were, My mom and a man locally named Freddie Goodman. I still regard him as the best singer I have ever heard. Others who I really admired were Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. Incidentally, my mom's group was a church group.
Sherman with the cast of musical Show Me
Did you always know that music would be your "career?"
I have known that I was going to be a gospel singer since I was five years old. God placed the in my heart. I never saw myself doing anything else.
Tell us how and when you became a Christian I became a Christian through reading the bible to my grandmother and grandfather. I always went to church and Sunday school, but it was something about having my grandfather explain things in the bible that convinced me that I needed to have a personal relationship with God.
Being a part of Andrae Crouch's ministry way back in the 60's must have been an exciting time. Tell us about those early years.
It was probably the highlight of my life, because everything was so new and different. God miraculously opened doors for us. It was just one miracle after another.I also was the first one to sing a lot of Andrae's songs that are now in hymnals.
As you look back, what are your impressions of the early days of Contemporary Christian music?
I love the early days of Christian contemporary music because of the miracles God did. We didn't have managers or contracts or a great amount of promotion. God brought out thousands of young people and a great harvest of souls took place. Groups worked together in harmony. It was great.
The Imperials are one of the "founding fathers" of CCM. How did you end up with them in the early days? What was that like?
I had been away from Andrae's ministry for about a year. I was trying to get out of music. I was working a regular job in sales. The Imperials called me asked if I was interested in singing with them. They flew me to Nashville and the rest is history. It was a very exciting. They were the greatest singers I had ever been associated with. It was sometimes tense. People had to get used to seeing and hearing a black guy singing in the group. All in all it was great.
Andrus, Blackwood & Co. was very popular in the late 70's and early 80's. How did that come about?
Terry and I met in the Imperials and became and still are close friends. We left the Imperials in 1976, about 6 months apart. We had no intentions of ever starting a group. The Benson Co. lost the Imperials to Word, and put us together to try to capture some of the market that they lost with the Imperials. It worked!
How did people respond to a black and white guy singing together?
We had very little trouble because it was so obvious to everyone that we weren't just a performing act. We were obviously friends first who genuinely enjoyed each others company. I felt more prejudice when I broke in with the Imperials.
Did you experience much prejudism back then? How about now?
As I said earlier, there was more prejudice when I joined the Imperials. Probably because it was more historical and more articles were written about us breaking the "color" barrier.
Any particular period of your life that you look back on with most fondness?
Probably the time with Andrae because we didn't know anything about the business. God miraculously intervened.
Even though there is quite a demand for them so few older albums being released on CD these days. Any chance we'll see Andrus, Blackwood & Co or your solo albums on CD one day?
Everyone likes those albums but generally the masters are owned by the record labels and they will not make CDs or sell the masters to us. I think I will have copies of some of my old solo albums on CD in a few months.
As a veteran of Christian Contemporary Music. What advice would you give to talented young musicians starting out in the music industry?
Get into it for the right reasons, to glorify the Lord with your gift. Remember, there is always an opportunity to minister and to use your talent for Him whether you are hugely successful or not.
Tell us about what you are doing these days.
I work with Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship. I minister in prisons about 3 or 4 months out of the year. I do church dates all over this country and Canada. I do mission trips to places such as India and Africa. As you can see I am in full time ministry.
Do you feel there's too much entertainment and not enough ministry in Christian music?
From where I sit, there seems to be more of a profit motive then anything else in the music industry. I don't blame the artists. The companies are not owned by Christians. They are secularly owned.
Any plans for a new album in the near future? Reunions?
I have plans for a new CD coming out in the fall. Jim Murray, Terry Blackwood, and I do concerts as former members of the Imperials, and we travel in a production called "Elvis the Concert." We were in Europe for 33 days in March and April of this year. We are also touring in August of this year. We sing "He Touched Me" and "How Great Thou Art" in the show.
"Elvis the Concert".... what's that?
"Elvis the Concert" stems from a reunion that Graceland put on to mark the 20th anniversary of Elvis's death in 1997. Videos of Elvis singing and all the members of the band and the singers and backup groups were invited to be there and participate just as they would in a live concert. The show has taken us to Australia, Japan, and Europe in the last four years. Those interested in finding out more about it can logon to www.Elvis-Presley.com.
Sherman with Terry Blackwood (left), Jim Murray (right) and Elvis impersonator, Chris McDonald
What are some of your favorite artists from the 70's? Current favorites?
I enjoyed a lot of the groups such as Love Song, Larry Norman, Walter and Edwin Hawkins, Evie. I just liked all of their material. I'm sure I have left out some others. It was a great time in music. I am so busy traveling now that I am not too aware of the music today . I enjoy Steven Curtis Chapman, (we have worked together in the prison ministry), Jars of Clay, Avalon, Anointed, Mary Mary, Fred Hammond, Donnie Mclurkin and all of the praise music from Integrity to Hillsong.
Do you ever see some of the 70's artists?
I occasionally se people from the seventies, like when I do the Gaither sing-a-longs. But generally I am off the beaten path. For example , I will be in Alaska this summer in the bush country ministering to Alaskan Natives.
Sherman, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Any parting words for our readers?
Dave, thanks for the interview and for your time, and to all the contemporary music fans: thanks for your prayers and support over the years. If I never see you again down here I'll see you in heaven and what a day that will be. In his love, Sherman Andrus, Sr.
Visit Sherman Andrus Ministries