July 26, 2018

Experiencing Growing Pains

In 1970, the Imperials were experiencing growing pains but also changes in personnel. Roger Wiles, our great baritone, decided he wanted to launch out into a solo ministry/career so he left. We were left scrambling for a replacement. This was not long after we had been to Houston for the big Elvis concert at the Astrodome. During our time there, we saw Larry Gatlin, who was singing at a local supper club and attending the University of Houston. As a replacement was needed quickly, we approached Larry about joining the group on an interim basis. He responded positively as he wanted out of what he was doing. Being raised in a family group that sang gospel music all the time, he was a quick study. He could hear harmonies and he blended right in. We used his services for two or three months. He was with us for a month with Elvis and he sang with us for a month at the Landmark Hotel, across the street from the Hilton the next month, with Jimmy Dean. The month with Jimmy was noteworthy because he had Dottie West as his special guest. She was a great addition to the show and we were sold out every night. It was during that month with Dottie that Larry got to know her and she invited him to move to Nashville to write for her publishing company. So Larry really got his big break after singing with us and following Dottie back to Nashville.

The Imperials with Greg Gordon, far right.

In the meantime, we were able to find a great singer in Greg Gordon. He is the son of Anna Gordon of the Chuck Wagon Gang and she was married to former Governor Jimmy Davis, who wrote You Are My Sunshine, along with many other great songs. Greg was much fun and so unpredictable. He had a thin, soulful voice that fit us very well. You can hear him on our next release we called Time To Get It Together. One song, in particular, that stands out to me was a song written by the producer of many songs on that LP. The song, Jesus Made Me Higher, was a wonderful song that addressed the dilemma that many young people were beginning to deal with, DRUGS! The gist of the song is clear; there is no high as high as the high that Jesus gives and there are no withdrawals! It’s only higher and higher as we follow Christ and the rewards are so much more in this life and especially in the life to come.

December 27, 2017

The Imperials and Exciting Opportunities with Jimmy Dean

The Imperials were exposed to many new and exciting opportunities with Jimmy Dean. He knew many in the television industry. One, in particular, was a man named Mike Douglas. His show was filmed out of Philadelphia, Pa, but was shown around the country on many different stations. It was like being on the network without actually being on the network. He was such a nice man and treated us with great respect. You can see him in this shot with Jimmy and the Imperials. We were singing on the set of his show and someone captured the shot. It had to be around 1969, the year we began working with Elvis at the Hilton International Hotel on July 31, 1969. The guy standing to my left is Roger Wiles. He came to the Imperials in 1967 when I joined. We actually rented an apartment together in Nashville since we weren’t making much money then. Roger was a great singer and our blend was the best with him on baritone.

Roger stayed with us three years. Not long after we went with Elvis, Roger decided to leave to pursue a solo career. We had to quickly find a replacement. We had been with Elvis at Houston’s Astrodome and while there we ran into Larry Gatlin. He was attending the University of Houston and singing in some in local venues there. We were frantically looking for a replacement and asked Larry if he would fill in for a while. He jumped at the chance to leave college. One of the first dates we did with Larry was at the Landmark Hotel in Las Vegas. Dottie West was the co-star and Jimmy Dean was the headliner. This was the beginning of our attempts to work with both Elvis and Jimmy and juggle the dates to accommodate both. Larry didn’t stay with us long as after meeting Dottie, he moved to Nashville to write songs for her publishing company. Not long after that, the Gatlin Brothers were organized.