May 2, 2018

The Imperials and Jimmy Dean

During our almost three years with Elvis, we were also heavily booked with Jimmy Dean. I told you about our first engagement with Jimmy here. It was a three-week run and sold out almost every night. We did many dates on the road with Jimmy. Many were fairs but most were hotels in Las Vegas. We appeared with Jimmy at the Desert Inn, The Frontier, and The Landmark Hotel. We would do one full month with Jimmy with two shows a night with no nights off. In 1970, we wound up doing two months of the year with Jimmy and two months with Elvis, so we practically lived in Las Vegas that year.

The Imperials with Mike Douglas and Jimmy Dean

It was that same year that the Imperials were blazing new trails on television with Jimmy Dean. We were featured on a nationally syndicated show filmed in Philadelphia called The Mike Douglas Show. We did The Merv Griffin Show out of Los Angeles and the Joey Bishop Show on the ABC network. Joey was considered in competition with Johnny Carson but never reached Carson’s ratings. We were on the show with Jimmy and the chance to sing was made available for us. We decided to sing He Touched Me to that national audience. The response was very gratifying. The famous actress, Greer Garson, was on the set as we sang that song. At the close of our number, the cameras went back to Joey and Greer at the desk. Greer Garson offered, without solicitation, her observation of the number she had just heard. Her first words were, “Well, isn’t it nice to know the devil doesn’t have all the good music”.  It was a verification to us that we had picked the right song.

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.