June 3, 2018

The Imperials Were the Talk of the Industry

Roger Wiles and I came to the Imperials at the same time. Jake Hess and Gary McSpadden had decided to leave. I think Jake’s doctor convinced him that he might die if he stayed on the road and Gary probably didn’t want to continue with the group after Jake had decided to leave. I’m sure the remaining guys thought long and hard about replacements for these two giants in the industry. Jake Hess and James Blackwood were both considered the greatest lead singers in gospel music at that time.

Both the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet were the two groups every gospel music fan wanted to see. They did hundreds of concerts together and always to packed auditoriums. Jake grew weary of the same songs every night so he decided he wanted to form his own group and do it HIS way. He hired what he considered the best singers for his group. Sherril Neilson on tenor, Gary McSpadden on baritone, Armond Morales on bass, and Henry Slaughter on piano completed this quartet.

The Imperials were a group everyone wanted to see and hear. Their style was very polished with much rehearsal. They NEVER did an encore, as most groups did often, and eventually employed a band on stage, a first for southern gospel music. Many promoters and churches rebelled against that band but Jake took the slings and arrows to do it.

After many months of disputes with fans and promoters, Jake proved he was right. He was a trend-setter and a trailblazer. For his bold leadership, the Imperials were the talk of the industry and a group to be reckoned with. That continues to be our goal. Though the musical styles have changed somewhat, the Imperials continue to strive for excellence, smooth harmonies, and great songs. Our Lord deserves our very best!

April 11, 2018

He was just being Elvis

The first month for Elvis in Las Vegas was memorable in so many ways. The anticipation of his return to live performances led to the intense excitement by the fans and friends of Elvis and the entire entourage. No one knew what to expect after his long absence from live performances. The media had played this up to be a huge comeback and the pressure on him to prove he was worthy of all the attention he was getting was intense. You could sense it in his actions on opening night as we made our way to the side of the stage. When his body was still, his fingers would be twitching. He would look around for assurance and confirmation that he was doing the right thing. He had moved away from the black leather suit of the ’68 Comeback Special and had opted for the one piece jumpsuit with the high collar and flared sleeves and legs. Intricate embroidery was utilized to make those suits interesting and white was used quite often because they thought it would show better under all the stage lights. The problem with leather was that it was heavy (about 10 pounds) and under the stage lights it was unmercifully hot for him. With all the karate moving and jumping,  Elvis told us he lost about 5 pounds on every show. He wore high top patent leather boots and colorful scarves to share with the ladies during the show.

The Sweet Inspirations were dressed in shorter skirts and the Imperials had paisley black and white shirts with black slacks. It was an informal look for us while he garnered all the well-deserved attention at center stage. Many leather suits were made for this show and he picked a well-known designer, Bill Belew, to come up with the suits he wore on stage. There’s no telling how many jumpsuits are now worn by ETA’s across the world. Elvis was a trend-setter but he didn’t know it. He was just being Elvis. He always did it far better than anyone else who copied him.