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The Impressions since their origination in 1957 have maintained their reputation as one of the most successful and highly respected vocal groups of the past near half century. Since the release of ‘For Your Precious Love’ in July ’58 the Impressions, evolving through a number of personnel changes have created over 50 hit singles and have recorded a dozen albums, several of them charting in the USA and Europe. Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield left the Impressions to become two very successful solo acts but the heart of this superb group still are veteran members Sam Gooden and Fred Cash and this is their story.
Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield met up with three guys from Chattanooga Sam Gooden, Richard and Arthur Brooks in their hometown of Chicago in 1957 and this quintet formed the Impressions. They hit the American R&B and pop charts at #3 R&B/#11 Hot 100 pop in July ’58 with their first record ‘For Your Precious Love’. It was a classic soul ballad that meant nothing outside the US but put this young group on TV and sent them around the States on tour. Unfortunately they could not match the records success with their next few recordings and lead singer left for a solo career. Fred Cash flew in from Chattanooga as Jerry’s replacement and Curtis assumed the lead spot but he could not reverse their downward sales trend and VeeJay dropped them.
Butler’s career however was on the rise and Curtis parked the Impressions to join him on tour as his guitarist. Over the following 18 months Curtis and Jerry combined to write and perform the three hit records that set up Butler’s career starting with ‘He Will Break Your Heart’, ‘Find Another Girl’ and ‘I’m A Telling You’ all hitting top ten on R&B and top 30 pop. When Mayfield had saved enough money he took the Impressions to New York to relaunch their own careers with ‘Gypsy Woman’ that found international success in November ’61. History seemed to repeat itself and their next five singles all failed to chart. The group split in half when Curtis decided to relocate back to Chicago in ’62. The Brooks brothers stayed in New York to set up their own Impressions and Curtis, Sam & Fred continued with ABC as a trio. Their classic recording of ‘It’s All Right’ put them firmly back on top in October ’63 when it went to #1 US R&B and #4 pop and this time their success set up a run of 20 hit singles including ‘Talkin' Bout My Baby’, ‘Keep On Pushing’, ‘You Must Believe Me’, ‘People Get Ready’, ‘Woman's Got Soul’, ‘You've Been Cheatin'’, ‘Can't Satisfy’ ‘We're A Winner’ and many others with ABC. Mayfield set up Curtom records in ’68 and built a superb roster around the Impressions who continued to hit the charts with ‘Fool For You’ and ‘This Is My Country’, ‘Choice Of Colors’ and ‘Check Out Your Mind’. Curtis went solo in 1970 and was replaced by Leroy Hutson and for the first time the Impressions did a limited tour of Europe.
Sales began to fall away and Hutson also went solo on Curtom. The Impressions brought in two new members Reggie Torian and Ralph Johnson and in April ’74 they topped the US R&B singles charts once again (and went to #17 pop) with ‘Finally Got Myself Together’ that also sold well in Europe. ‘Sooner Or Later’ and ‘Same Thing It Took’ both scored high on R&B but after that record sales began to tail off and Johnson left to form his own group Mystique. The Impressions quit Curtom and signed to Cotillion with new lead Nate Evans. Though they never returned to the same level of public acceptance the Impressions continued to make great records like ‘This Time’ and ‘You’ll Never Find’. They joined producer Carl Davis at ChiSound in ’79 and made two great albums there entitled ‘Come To My Party’ and ‘Fan The Fire’.
The Impressions however were far from finished. After 11 years with the Group, Reggie Torian relinquished his place to Vandy ('Smokey') Hampton, who had spent the past ten years singing with the Soul Majestics and the Chi-Lites. After ChiSound ceased operation the Impressions found plenty of steady work on tour, playing revues and often making appearances on Gospel TV. The group, that still included Sam, Fred, and Nate Evans, celebrated their Silver Anniversary in 1983. In the latter part of '82 on his return from a successful UK tour, Curtis, once again linked up with Jerry Butler and the Impressions to create, rehearse and celebrate their Silver Anniversary with a nationwide US tour that was a big success all over America. The group got a one shot deal with MCA and had a low R&B chart single entry with “Can’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ in February ’87.
After the ripple of interest that the Impressions Ripete 'Something Said Love' single caused in '89, they went into the studio with producer Jerry Michaels and cut two or three albums (30 tracks) worth of material. The group still contained the two veteran members Sam Gooden and Fred Cash with Vandy Hampton, who had been in the line up since '82 and Ralph Johnson who had returned to replace Nate Evans. Twenty of these cuts were updated versions of the Impressions back catalogue, written by Curtis and re-recorded to appeal to a new generation of fans unaware of the group’s long history. Johnson led the new songs like ‘Draw The Line’, ‘In The Middle’, ‘Winning Combination’, and ‘I Can Make It Go Away’ whilst Hampton handled the Mayfield songs and ‘What A Feeling’, ‘I Found You’. In the spring of 2000 Edel Records issued The Impressions - A tribute to the memory of Curtis Mayfield. Meanwhile the Impressions were about to tour South Africa and record with Eric Clapton on his next album. In July '01 Ideal Music put together Remembering Curtis by the Impressions that gained UK release later in the year. This album contains 20 Mayfield songs beautifully reinterpreted by the Impressions as only they can. UK labels have reissued almost all their recorded product. Ace issued all their ABC albums on four great 2fer CDs plus their Rarities album that mops up all the other tracks available. Sequel issued all the Curtom albums in a similar fashion plus the two ChiSound albums on one 2fer. Both labels have issued a number of fine compilations as well.
After spending most of their adult lives based in Chicago, Sam and Fred both returned home to their roots in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the city where they both grew up during the 40s and early 50s. They had lived with their families in Atlanta, Georgia in the early nineties but by '97 they'd returned to Chattanooga. Willie Kitchens Jr a fellow Chattanoogan joined their line up and in late 2000 Eric Clapton invited their participation on his Reptile album. They appeared with Clapton on selected tour dates and at the Albert Hall.
These days the Impressions, now back to a trio since Vandy’s departure tour for about six months of the year they are currently looking for a record deal and have recently been appearing in Las Vegas with Jerry Butler.

Peter Burns August ‘04

Other SoulMusicHQ references
Curtis Mayfield
Jerry Butler
Billy Butler

More research available by email
from SoulMusicHQ.com
Impressions full biography by Peter Burns
Discography
Sessionography
Photographic Scans

Recommended reading
‘People Never Give Up’ by Peter Burns – Published by Sanctuary /03
‘Lasting Impressions’ by Peter Burns – Ready for publication

Recommended listening
Complete VJ Recordings (18) US VJ NVD2-719 /93
Definitive Impressions (28) UK Kent CDKEND 923 /89
Impressions/Never Ending ...(24) UK Kent CDKEND 126 /95
Keep On Pushing /People Get Ready (24) UK Kent CDKEND 130 /96
One by One/Ridin' High (23) UK Kent CDKEND 152 /98
Fabulous Impressions/We're A Winner (21) UK Kent CDKEND 155 /98
Impressions /ABC Rarities (26) UK Kent CDKEND 170 /99
This Is My Country/Young Mods’... (20) UK Sequel NEM CD 782/96
Check Out Your Mind /Times Have Changed (18) UK Sequel NEM CD 843 /96
Preacher Man / Finally Got Myself Together (15 UK Sequel NEM CD 866 /97
First Impressions/Loving Power (15) UK Sequel NEM CD 867 /97
Indelible Impressions 2CD (45) UK Sequel NEECD 321 /99
Come To My Party/Fan The Fire (15 UK Westside WESM 582 /99
Remembering Curtis (20) UK Pie PIESD 265 /01

 


 
   
   
             
               
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