published Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

A lasting Impression: Original member wants everyone to know 'I'm Back'

  • photo
    Jerry Butler & The Impressions, featured Richard Brooks, front left, then clockwise, Jerry Butler, Sam Gooden, Arthur Brooks and Curtis Mayfield.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Thanks to an inquisitive — and well-connected — tourist to Chattanooga, former Impressions member Richard Brooks is selling new music.

Brooks, along with his brother Arthur, was an original member of the Impressions, the R&B vocal group that would record such classic hits as "People Get Ready," "It's All Right" and "Gypsy Woman" and the launching pad for famed vocalist Curtis Mayfield. The Brooks brothers were members from 1957 to 1963 and, during that time, the group released its first hit single, "For Your Precious Love," credited to Richard and Arthur Brooks and Jerry Butler.

"I wrote it and gave Arthur and Jerry credit, too," Richard says. "That's what you did."

The song was Top 20 hit and a million seller, ranks No. 327 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and continues to pay Richard decent royalties today, which has helped keep his own musical career going.

Arthur Brooks also lives in Chattanooga but is in poor health, according to his brother.

Richard, 74, still records and performs. Earlier this year, a women whose husband is a disc jockey in England had a chance meeting with Richard in Chattanooga and took his latest CD -- "I'm Back" -- home to the United Kingdom. He liked it well enough to pass it along to a local label, which released the songs "I'll Do Anything To Make You Happy" and "With All My Heart" as a single, and it has garnered regular airplay in the UK.

The singles were released by Soul Junction Records, owned by David Welding and John Anderson.

"It's doing quite well over here," says Welding.

Malayka Erpen, wife of UK disc jockey Dave Thorley, makes regular business trips to Chattanooga and, during one visit, asked her cab driver if he knew any local soul musicians. He did and later introduced her to Brooks at the Park City Club on Main Street, where Richard regularly plays cards.

"She asked me if I had any new material," Richard recalls. "I gave her a copy of my latest CD."

Richard recorded the songs with Oliver Johnson at a studio in Belleville, Ill. "With All My Heart" is a classic soul song while "I'll Do Anything To Make You Happy" rides along on a Latin rhythm. Both showcase Richard's voice, which will sound familiar to Impressions fans.

"My voice sounds a little like Curtis' [Mayfield]," he says.

His singing career started when he was a student at Howard High School in the '50s, fronting a band called the Pleasures. "I imitated Elvis," he says. "I made good money."

He later joined older brother Arthur in a vocal group called The Four Roosters and a Chick, which also included Sam Gooden, Fred Cash, Emanuel Thompson and his sister Catherine Thompson.

The Brooks brothers decided they needed to chase their dream in a larger city -- Chicago, specifically, where one of their sisters lived. Only Gooden went with them and, in previous interviews, he has said he went to also pursue a chance to play baseball.

In 1957, Richard enrolled in Washburn High School and met Jerry Butler, who later introduced the brothers to Mayfield. They formed a group called the Roosters. After winning a local talent show, they hooked up with a promoter who suggested a name change, and they became Jerry Butler and the Impressions.

In 1958 they recorded "For Your Precious Love," which reached No. 11 on the pop charts and No. 3 on the R&B charts. Butler left not long after to pursue a solo career, and Cash, now old enough that his mother would allow him to move, signed on as his replacement.

The next year, the group released "Lonely One" and "Senorita I Love You," only to have their record label, Vee-Jay, drop them in the belief that solo singers were the future. Now known as just the Impressions, they signed to Bandera Records and recorded "Listen" backed with "Shorty Got To Go" with Gooden singing lead.

By early 1960, Mayfield was touring with Butler as a guitarist, but he returned to the Impressions in late 1961 and began writing more songs, including "Gypsy Woman," which hit No. 2 on the R&B charts and No. 20 on the Pop charts in 1961.

Brooks says he and his brother left the group in 1963 "because of a dispute with Curtis. He wanted to write all of the songs."

The Impressions continued as a trio with Cash, Gooden and Mayfield, who left for a solo career in 1970. Arthur and Richard Brooks traveled a bit before settling in Detroit with older brother Harrison. Emanuel Thompson later moved to Detroit and joined Richard and Arthur in a group called the Showstoppers.

In the '80sthe Brooks brothers and Gooden and Cash went to court over the rights to use the Impressions name. The courts decided that the Brooks brothers had abandoned the name when they left, and today Richard performs under the name "Richard Brooks, formerly of the Impressions."

He led a Nashville-based group in the '70s first called Brothers Sisters and Cousins and later Bits and Pieces. The members of that group hooked back up with Thompson in a group called the Old (M) Pressions and released a 45 with the songs "Let Me Know" and "Right On."

In 1991, the Impressions -- Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash, Arthur Brooks, Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler -- were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Over the years, Gooden and Cash have continued to tour and record as the Impressions with several singers filling in as the third member.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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