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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Chattanooga in Hamilton County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

The Impressions

 

— Tennessee Music Pathways —

 
The Impressions Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, February 27, 2021
1. The Impressions Marker
Inscription.  One of the most influential and significant groups in African-American music, The Impressions founding members included Chattanooga residents Arthur Brooks, Fred Cash, Richard Brooks and Sam Gooden. Their hits from the 1960s and 1970s bridged doo-wop, rhythm and blues, gospel and soul music. Some of their songs addressed African-American identity issues and became civil rights anthems.

In 1953, Arthur Brooks, Gooden and Cash, together with Catherine and Emanuel Thomas formed Chattanoogaarea doo-wop group Four Roosters and a Chick. Experiencing very limited success, Gooden and the Brooks brothers went to Chicago in 1957, while Cash and the Thomases remained in Chattanooga.

At a Chicago YMCA, Richard Brooks met Jerry Butler, who joined the trio, bringing his friend Curtis Mayfield. Renamed The Impressions, they recorded a song that Butler had written in partnership with Richard and Arthur Brooks, “For Your Precious Love.” A dramatic, proto-soul ballad, it became a No. 3 R&B hit and No. 11 pop hit in 1958, and has since been revived many times.

Butler quickly emerged as the star of The Impressions and went solo
The Impressions Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, February 27, 2021
2. The Impressions Marker
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after their third single. The last concert with the original line-up was in Chattanooga. The remaining members then persuaded Fred Cash to join the group. Without Butler, the next four singles failed to chart. Bookings declined, and Mayfield rejoined Butler as a guitarist, songwriter and backup singer. In 1960, Mayfield co-wrote Butler’s first No. 1 R&B single, “He Will Break Your Heart.” Buoyed by that success, Mayfield brought The Impressions to New York. They secured a contract with ABC-Paramount, and their first ABC single, “Gypsy Woman,” became a No. 2 R&B hit. The follow-up, “It’s All Right,” reached No. 1. In February 1963, the Brooks brothers left the group, leaving Mayfield, Cash and Gooden.

Mayfield became a prolific songwriter. Using falsetto for dramatic effect, his vocals were set against Cash and Gooden’s gospel harmonies, giving The Impressions their distinctive sound: sophisticated, yet celebratory. Mayfield’s work would turn increasingly political, but it was never exclusively so. Commercially astute, he didn’t alienate radio play. The Impressions’ hits included “Keep on Pushing,” “Woman’s Got Soul,” “We’re a Winner,” “This Is My Country,” “Fool for You,” and “Choice of Colors.” The Impressions’ best known song, “People Get Ready,” was selected No. 24 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. It was a 1998 inductee
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into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 2016, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

In 1968, Mayfield started Curtom Records, bringing The Impressions to the label. In 1970, he left the group for a solo career, but continued to write for them and produce their records until 1976. Gooden and Cash replaced Mayfield with several lead singers, including Leroy Hutson, Ralph Johnson and Reggie Torian. The Impressions continued to place records on the R&B charts until 1987. In 1983 and occasionally thereafter, Butler, Mayfield, Cash and Gooden performed reunion shows. Richard and Arthur Brooks returned when The Impressions was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
 
Erected by Tennessee Music Pathways.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, Music. In addition, it is included in the Tennessee Music Pathways series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1957.
 
Location. 35° 2.694′ N, 85° 18.38′ W. Marker is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in Hamilton County. Marker is on East Martin Luther King Boulevard east of Lindsay Street, on the right when traveling east. Marker is located in front of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. Touch for map. Marker is at or
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near this postal address: 200 East Martin Luther King Boulevard, Chattanooga TN 37402, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Martin Hotel (within shouting distance of this marker); First Coca-Cola Bottling Company In The United States (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Point in the 2d Line of Works (about 700 feet away); Old Post Office (about 700 feet away); Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (about 700 feet away); Old Library Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ochs/Times Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); The First Baptist Church (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chattanooga.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 26, 2022. It was originally submitted on February 28, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 98 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on February 28, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Jul. 1, 2022