The group was inspired by trumpeter Donald Byrd and featured some of his Howard University students: Kevin Toney (keyboards), Keith Killgo (vocals, drums), Joe Hall (bass guitar), Allan C. Barnes (saxophone, clarinet), and Barney Perry (guitar). Orville Saunders (guitar), and Jay Jones (flute, saxophone) joined later. They signed to Fantasy Records in 1973 and are best known for their 1975 hit "Walking in Rhythm", which received a Grammy nomination, sold over one million copies by May 1975, and was awarded a gold disc. With 8 successful albums released for Fantasy from 1974 to 1980, The Blackbyrds became an inspiration to late 1970s and early 1980s British jazz-funk acts like Light Of The World and Hi-Tension. More recently, they have made a significant impact on the hip-hop generation with Gang Starr, Da Lench Mobb, and Full Force sampling their music. In particular, their 1975 song "Rock Creek Park" from the City Life album has been sampled numerous times by groups such as De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, N.W.A, Massive Attack, Ice Cube, Heavy D, Nas and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five,Tone Loc and Wiz Khalifa.