September 6, 2018

That Song Gave Her Chicken Skin

Did I tell you about our Love is the Thing LP?  We were backing Jimmy Dean, the country singer, on a lot of dates all over the country. He had a conductor for the orchestra named John Miller, who was an amazing talent.  It turned out, he was a great arranger too. We were in discussions with our label about a new project and John Miller offered his services as arranger/producer on seven of the songs. His style was unlike anything we were used to but it worked very well. His vocal arrangements were unique and fresh for us. I had the opportunity to arrange God Speaking to You on that LP.

On that same project was the classic, Sweet, Sweet Spirit, which Harold Lane of the Speer Family arranged for us a cappella. The song was written by Doris Akers and she had it arranged in a slow rhythm with piano accompaniment.  We recorded our version and were so happy with it, we sang it for Elvis. He loved our arrangement.

Later, the Stamps picked up the song after we had left Elvis and they did their own a cappella version, almost like ours but slightly different. It worked out great for them as they were able to sing it on the Aloha Special from Hawaii where one billion people from around the world saw it. Our timing was terrible, as we left not long before the big show and the whole world thinks the Stamps recorded it and we covered it.

In truth, the Imperials version still is done in every show we do and it never fails to receive a great response.  An example; we were in Paris for a three-week show in the early 2000’s with a famous French singer, Frank Michael. We were a supporting act for him and every night, at the famed Olympia Theatre, in Paris, we had a segment in his show. One song we included in our set was Sweet Spirit. Those Parisians didn’t understand a word of English but as we sang that song, I could see tears in their eyes. After one show, a lady came up to me and pulled at the hair on her arm. She was able to say in her broken English, that song gave me “Chicken Skin”! Our translation would be, “goosebumps.” It was her way of saying “thank you” for the song.

July 12, 2018

It Still Touches Lives

By the year 1969, the Imperials had established themselves in both the gospel markets and the secular markets. We were backing Jimmy Dean and had just agreed to work with Elvis. We came to the third album that we called Love Is the Thing. Our orchestra conductor for Jimmy Dean, John Miller, had become our good friend and we decided we wanted him to arrange vocals and orchestrate that record. This album contained some unique arrangements, unlike anything we had done before. This was our first true departure from the southern gospel stylings of the two previous releases.  John didn’t arrange every song but his influence on vocals was profound. A New World, A Quiet Place, Love Is the Thing, Love Like The Sun, For Once In My Life, and lastly, I Looked for Love, were John’s arrangements, vocally and instrumentally. Honestly, they were great on the album but didn’t translate at all to the stage. The other songs on that release became our stage songs. He Touched Me, God Speaking to You, (my arrangement), The Cross Medley, I’ve Got Confidence, Sweet Spirit were all songs that worked well on stage. In fact, Elvis heard this album and knowing he was about to do another gospel album, he asked us to cut He Touched Me with him, as well as I’ve Got Confidence.  He took two songs from our second album, Reach Out To Jesus and A Thing Called Love. That album won a Grammy for him, his third one and all three were his gospel releases. For us, our cut of He Touched Me was a powerful message of God’s reaching down to man and we shared it as many times as we could. Sweet Spirit became a standard on every Elvis show. I will tell you about that wonderful, anointed song, Sweet Spirit, next week. Just know that God was in the selection of that song and He knew it would touch many lives around the world. I’m so glad we chose that song for that album. It still touches lives today.