The Imperials are an American gospel music group. They were founded in 1964 by Jake Hess. The original line up consisted of Jake, Henry Slaughter, Gary McSpadden, Armond Morales and Sherrill (Shawn) Neilsen. Since then, they have undergone many personnel and stylistic changes. Over the years, 25 different singers have come and gone, including Russ Taff, Paul Smith, and Jim Murray. The current Imperials lineup includes Jason Morales (Armond's son) with Jeremie Hudson, Shannon Smith and Ian Owens.
Over the years, the Imperials have released over 40 albums and had 14 number one songs. They toured with Elvis Presley from 1969-1972 and recorded two Gospel albums with him, including his final Grammy Award winning album He Touched Me. They have also won four Grammy Awards and 13 Dove Awards on their own, making the Imperials one of the most popular and respected bands in the history of Contemporary Christian Music. Their signature songs are "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" and "Sail On".
The Imperials (1973)In 1971, The Imperials surprised fans and the nation by becoming the first interracial Gospel Quartet by bringing in Sherman Andrus, a former member of Andrae Crouch and the Disciples. The change brought The Imperials' R&B side out with albums like Follow the Man with the Music, No Shortage and Just Because.
In 1987, after the departure of long time tenor Jim Murray and lead singer Paul Smith, The Imperials stirred up controversy and lost many of their oldest fans when they exchanged gospel to adopt a harder rock/techno/pop sound with the album This Year's Model. However, still being on top of their game, the album spun off an instant hit with Power of God; the song became a theme song with the 80s TBN act The Power Team and brought in much younger fans to Imperial Concerts. The albums "Free The Fire" and Love's Still Changing Hearts continued in the same style.
The Imperials (1991)In 1991, The Imperials would surprise fans again by bringing Armond's sister Pam Morales in to the line up. Although she appeared with The Imperials in the early 80s as a backup singer, this would be the first time a female was a front member of the quartet. Pam died in a car crash in Bakersfield, CA Saturday, August 27, 2005.
In 1994 they decided to scale down their act, opting for simple accompaniment and more intimate church performances in lieu of stadium and large concerts. They signed a one project deal with the familiar impact records; that had just been required by Homeland Records and Landmark Distribution. The release of Til He Comes marked the change back to the classic Imperials sound, losing the hard edge of previous albums. Their oldest fans slowly returned.
In 1998 The Imperials were inducted into the Gospel Music Association's Gospel Music Hall of Fame. All five original members, Jake, Armond, Gary, Sherrill & Henry, as well as Terry Blackwood, Shermen Andrus, Joe Moscheo, Jim Murray and Russ Taff were all there to accept their induction.
In 2003, The five members of The Imperials that toured with Elvis reunited for a 25th Anniversary Elvis Lives concert and DVD recording.
In September of 2004, Armond transferred ownership of The Imperials to the current lineup: Jason Morales, Jeremie Hudson, Ian Owens and Shannon Smith. Hand picked by Armond to continue, they have returned to the more traditional, gospel music sound.