Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, far left, stands in with Fred Cash and Sam Gooden, of Impressions, who stand with Altheida Mayfield, Cheaa Mayfield at the unveiling of the Impressions sign out in front of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center for the dedication on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. / Staff photo by Tim Barber

On a map, the sign that now sits in front of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on M.L. King Boulevard is not all that far from where Fred Cash and Sam Gooden used to sing doo-wop music as part of Four Roosters and a Chick.

It's not even that far from Brainerd and East Brainerd, where Gooden and Cash live today, but the newly dedicated Tennessee Music Pathways sign dedicated to their work as The Impressions represents a journey that has taken the two around the world multiple times and seen them be part of a musical and social revolution that resonates to this day.

Standing beside them Tuesday as the sign was unveiled were Altheida and Cheaa Mayfield, wife and son of the late Curtis Mayfield, the group's most prominent singer and songwriter.

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The Impressions sign

"It's a great pleasure and honor to be here," Cheaa said after the ceremony. He said it means a great deal to him to hear from people all over the country who tell him how much his father's music means to them.

"My father would be very proud."

Altheida said her late husband was noted for his socially aware lyrics that still connect with people today, adding that what all great artists share is a passion and love for people.

"I have found one thing in the world, especially after Curtis got hurt [he was paralyzed after lighting fell on him during a performance and eventually died from complications from diabetes], when you say entertainer, there is no prejudice," she said.

"It's in the heart," she said.

"Artists, whether writers or singers or actors, they are giving of themselves and when you are around them personally, you start seeing that. The love is there. Whether it's Eric Clapton or Paul McCartney or Jay-Z or Beyonce, they all have that."

It was the sense of family pride that also made the day special for Gooden, who was surrounded by family, as well as well-wishing friends and dignitaries from the city, county and state Department of Tourist Development.

"This is wonderful to see in my lifetime, knowing that my kids and grandkids will be able to see this," Gooden said.


Hear a podcast with Fred Cash and Sam Gooden at


Cash noted the reception and the turnout, adding that it meant a lot to him to be honored by the city and state that he loves.

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart," Cash said.

"We sure have talked about Chattanooga all over the world," he said.

The sign is one of several erected around the state as part of an online planning guide at designed to connect visitors to the state's musical heritage. It stretches across all 95 counties and features hundreds of landmarks from the seven genres of music that call Tennessee home.

Sam Gooden and Fred Cash started their singing careers with Arthur Brooks and Catherine and Emanuel Thomas in Chattanooga. In 1957, Gooden and the Brooks brothers moved to Chicago and soon met Jerry Butler, who brought along a 14-year-old Mayfield.

Butler wrote the group's first hit, "For Your Precious Love," which became a No. 3 R&B and No. 11 pop hit in 1958. Encouraged by others to pursue a solo career, Butler left and Cash, who was prevented by his mother from moving with the group originally because he was under age, was asked to join.

Early hits "Gypsy Woman," "It's All Right" and "He Will Break Your Heart" were followed by such classics as "Keep on Pushing," "We're a Winner," and "This Is My Country." "People Get Ready" was named No. 24 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

The Impressions

Some of the greatest hits by The Impressions:

* For Your Precious Love

* Gypsy Woman

* It's All Right

* Talking About My Baby

* I'm So Proud

* Keep On Pushing

* Amen

* You Must Believe Me

* People Get Ready

* Woman's Got Soul

* Meeting Over Yonder

* You've Been Cheatin'

* Man Oh Man

* We're A Winner

* I Loved And I Lost

* Fool For You

* This Is My Country

* Choice Of Colors

* Finally Got Myself

* Together (I'm A Changed Man)

* Same Thing It Took