June 6, 2018

Vocal Arranging for the Imperials

When I graduated from Memphis State University with a BBA major and a music minor I didn’t have a clue what I would do with it. My grades in business were B’s and C’s and my grades in music were A’s. That gave me a small clue, but no open doors. Because of my 12 years of piano instruction, I had a good command of chords. In music theory, I excelled over the students with scholarships in violin or cello, all one-note instruments as they had never had to recognize intervals in the chords. That was very easy for me because of my piano lessons. So the kid who took music as a minor did pretty well in it. I also was in an opera while there, a little foreign for the son of a southern gospel quartet founding member. The opera was named Benjamin Britten and we rehearsed it for weeks before the actual date of the performances. The auditorium seated about 200 and we couldn’t even fill it. I guess ole Ben wasn’t very popular in Memphis.

So the knowledge I gained in piano for all those years playing classical piano, doing the scales and arpeggios I thought were so unnecessary and boring, allowed me to understand sharps and flats and was an invaluable tool later when I was given the opportunity to sing with the Imperials. I wasn’t hired for my music theory training but almost immediately I found that when Henry Slaughter left, the Imperials needed someone to do the vocal arranging. He was excellent at that but after his departure, Joe Moscheo came in to replace him. He became the emcee and was great at it, but vocal arranging was not a strength. I volunteered to do it after the first lp that was already arranged and ready to record. So on our second lp, Imperials Now, I became the resident arranger for many of our songs. It was ironic because I wasn’t hired for that but after three years of arranging for my father’s group, The Memphians, I was ready!  

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