As a member of The Impressions, Sam Gooden had a career that spanned almost seven decades, traveled the world over several times and was inducted into the Rock & Roll and Vocal Group halls of fame. He, along with fellow Chattanoogan and Impressions member Fred Cash were invited to the Barack Obama White House, and none other than Eric Clapton asked them to sing on one of his albums.
The state of Tennessee honored the group with a Tennessee Pathways sign at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on M.L. King Boulevard in downtown Chattanooga in 2019.
Few had a career as long, or as successful, as The Impressions and Gooden, who retired from the business earlier that year, but throughout it all, he never forgot Chattanooga, which he always called home, even when he was living in Chicago, where the Impressions became a doo-wop reality, or when he was traveling the world.
Gooden died on Wednesday in Chattanooga. He was 87.
Gooden moved to Chicago in the late '50s to pursue music and a minor league baseball career. He eventually joined with Jerry Butler and singer-songwriter Curtis Mayfield to form The Impressions, and the group would release such million sellers as "For Your Precious Love," "Gypsy Woman," "It's Alright," "Amen," "People Get Ready" and "Choice of Colors."
The Impressions continued to perform until Gooden and Cash retired for good to garden and spend time with family in Chattanooga, they told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2019.
"I love Chattanooga," Gooden said then. "I've always loved Chattanooga."
The original group featured Gooden, Arthur and Richard Brooks, Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler. Cash joined after Butler left in 1960.
Gooden and Cash told the Times Free Press in a previous interview that their longevity can be credited to several things, including living here among old friends and family.
"God has blessed us," Gooden says. "We are able to sing in the same key today as we always have. But we stopped drinking long ago, don't smoke and no drugs."
Local 3 News on-air personality David Carroll said he visited with Gooden last week at his home in Brainerd and said he "was sharp as a tack."
"We had a great conversation," Carroll said by phone. "He was always such a gentleman. In fact, I told him, 'Sam, you wake up in the morning looking sharp.' He took such great pride in the suits he wore, and he never had a hair out of place."
Retired WTVC News Channel 9 sportscaster Darrell Patterson said by phone on Friday that he got to spend some time with Gooden and Cash during the Jerry Lewis telethons in the 1970s to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy and said he loved listening to the stories the two men shared.
"They were both always such gentlemen and so nice," Patterson said. "Sam's smile is what got me. They were just as gracious as could be, and it was such a thrill to meet them. I think I did about two or three of those telethons, and I always said I'd be happy to do them any time of day as long as I could be with them.
"I was just sitting listening to the two of them talk on the air and then in between. I just sat and listened, and I was like a sponge."
1957: The Roosters, featuring Sam Gooden and brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks, move from Chattanooga to Chicago.
1958: The trio joins forces with Jerry Butler, who brings in Curtis Mayfield, and Jerry Butler & The Impressions is formed; the same year, “For Your Precious Love” becomes the group’s first hit, charting at No. 11 on the Pop charts and No. 3 on the R&B charts.
1959: Former Rooster Fred Cash, now 18, moves from Chattanooga to Chicago and joins the group to replace the departing Butler.
1961: “Gypsy Woman,” a Mayfield-penned song, becomes the first post-Butler hit for the Impressions.
1963: “It’s All Right” is released, sells 1 million copies and tops the R&B charts. “The Impressions” is released as the group’s first LP.
1964: “Keep On Pushing,” the album and the single, are released and become instant hits.
1965: Mayfield continues to write socially conscious songs, and the song “People Get Ready” is released; also released that year are “Woman’s Got Soul” and “Amen.”
1968: “I Loved and Lost” become the group’s first hit in almost three years.
1969: “Choice of Colors” and “We’re a Winner” hit No. 1 on the R&B charts.
1970: “Check Out Your Mind” reaches No. 3 on the R&B charts, but Mayfield leaves the group to pursue a solo career, although he continues to write songs for the group and produce its albums.
1974-75: “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m A Changed Man)” charts at No. 1, while “Same Thing It Took” and “Sooner or Later” both reach No. 3.
1990: Mayfield is paralyzed from the neck down after lighting equipment falls on him during a show.
1991: The Impressions - Richard and Arthur Brooks, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Fred Cash and Sam Gooden — are inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
1993: The Impressions are inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
1999: Mayfield dies at age 57 in Roswell, Ga.
2001: The Impressions are invited by Eric Clapton to sing backing vocals on his “Reptile” album.
2012: “Keep on Pushing” is included in the new James Bond movie “Skyfall” and also is featured in the new Samsung Galaxy Note II TV ad featuring basketball star LeBron James.