Most Influential – #22 – Imperials

ImperialsThis week finds the artist ranked 22nd among the most influential in Southern Gospel history; the Imperials.

The Imperials could be looked at as two artists.  You have the Jake Hess years and the post Jake Hess years.  Jake Hess was already famous as a result of the years he spent with the Statesmen prior to forming the Imperials in 1964.

Jake put together a slate of some of the best quartet men in the business to form that original group.  They included Shaun Neilsen (tenor), Gary McSpadden (baritone), Armond Morales (bass) and Henry Slaughter (piano).


  • imperials1969The post Jake Hess years is probably best defined with the vocal line-up of Jim Murray (tenor), Russ Taff (lead), David Will (baritone) and Armond Morales (bass).  It was the group’s more inspirational/CCM leaning style during this time period that had great influence on artists that came after.
  • That influence can/could be seen in the music of:  Ball Brothers, Booth Brothers, Gaither Vocal Band (of the 1980’s), Lanny Wolfe Trio, Newsong and Vocal Edition.
  • Hit Songs:  “A Brighter Day”, “A Thing Called Love”, “Bread Upon The Water”, “Eagle Song”, “Faith Unlocks The Door”, “First Day In Heaven”, “Give Them All To Jesus”, “Jesus I Believe What You Said”, “Love Is The Thing”, “My Child Welcome Home”, “No Shortage”, “Oh Buddha”, “Praise The Lord”, “Sail On”, “Spread A Little Love Around”, “Sweet Sweet Spirit”, “That’s Enough”, “Water Grave” and “We’ve Got A Great Big Wonderful God”.
  • Best Album:  Gospel’s Alive And Well (1969)

Here is a YouTube clip, published by akdal83, of the Imperials performing “A Thing Called Love”.  Enjoy!


3 thoughts on “Most Influential – #22 – Imperials

  1. The Imperials were one of the first groups I grew up on. My parents kept their old records and burned them into my brain when I was a toddler. I’ve never heard much of the Jake Hess era, because all my folks’ records came from the inspo/CCM lineup. The voices of Jim Murray, Russ Taff, David Will and Armond Morales will be forever etched in my memory. I’ve memorized every song on our records. Shoot, I’ve even memorized the tracks! You should see me “singing along” to the guitar breakdown on “Bread Upon the Water.” Pretty embarrassing.

  2. I grew up on Russ Taff/Paul Smith era of The Imperials too. The vocal lineup of Jim Murray, Terry Blackwood, Roger Wiles, and Armond Morales is the smoothest blending quartet SG has ever seen. If I’m not mistaken, they were the first racially integrated group in Christian music of any genre as well. I’m a bit surprised that they aren’t higher on this list, though their impact may have been greater in the Contemporary Christian realm instead of the Southern Gospel.

  3. You guys need to go back and listen to the Imperials with Jim Murray, Terry Blackwood, Roger Wiles and Armond Morales. That was THE group.

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