June 14, 2018

We Knew We Had Something Special

I graduated from the University of Memphis in May of 1967 without a clue of what I would do. My first job was selling shoes in downtown Memphis. I was awful; I lasted two months. You learn very quickly what you’re NOT good at and at that point. If you don’t really enjoy the work, you quit, because it’s much better than getting fired! Then I got the call from the Imperials and they asked me if I was interested. I said yes, I was. They asked me to come to Nashville to sing with them. I did that. It must have gone well as they called me back and offered me the job. It took me a while to decide, as I knew it would change my life forever. I was comfortable at home with family and this would be a whole new world for me. I didn’t realize just how different it would be. After praying about it and dwelling on it I decided it was God’s will for me. I moved my meager belongings to Nashville where Roger Wiles and I decided to settle down together in an apartment on Harding Road. The rent was cheap, but the place was adequate. Roger was from California, where he had sung with his father in a group out there. I came from Memphis, where I had sung with my father. We immediately knew we had something special.

Jake Hess and the Imperials

 

The Imperials were working on a new LP and the songs were already selected. All Roger and I had to do was jump in and sing the parts. That first record became New Dimensions. It was an instant success with the fans and radio. However, the promoters didn’t appreciate not seeing Jake Hess and Gary McSpadden. After all, the group was called Jake Hess and the Imperials. Now, we were just the Imperials. We lost about 50 dates the first year. Even though we had a great sound, there was a time we almost gave up. We got just enough work to pay the bills. We never gave up. Finally, calls started coming in for the new contemporary group with the cute blond lead singer! Ok, I made that part up.

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