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I've been listening to a lot of gospel music lately, and I'm confused about how many Blind Boys groups there are. There's the Five Blind Boys from Alabama. Are they related to the Five Blind boys from Mississippi or the Original Five Blind Boys? And I've seen pictures where there are only four of them, or six. Are they all really blind?

-- EC, Ventura

The original Five Blind Boys (and also the Original Five Blind Boys) are the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. FBB-M was founded in 1932 as the Cotton Blossom Singers by five blind boys from Piney Wood School for the Blind, near Jackson. That's in Mississippi. Later they became the Jackson Harmoneers. Named after Jackson, Mississippi. Then the Blind Boys. The group went pro in 1944, changing their name to the Original Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. The distinction was needed because by then there was another touring gospel group of five blind boys calling themselves the Blind Boys. Since the Harmoneers were also famous blind gospel singers, there was confusion.

The Five Blind Boys of Alabama were founded in 1937 by five blind boys (elementary school students) from Talladega School for the Blind and Deaf. That's in Alabama. Originally they were the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. Then the Blind Boys. Then, when they toured with FBB-Mississippi on the gospel circuit, they became the Five Blind Boys of Alabama.

Just so we don't leave out any sightless singers, for one gig in New York, there was an outfit called the Five Blind Boys of Brooklyn. It was the lead singer for FBB-Alabama plus some locals. Personnel changes over the years account for discrepancies in the number in any groups at any given time.

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