Impressions with poet Clifton Davis

The Impressions - 'This Is My Country'
Live poetry with Clifton Davis from the black TV show 'Soul' in 1970.

The group were formed in Chicago in 1957 and originally known as the Roosters, this group comprised Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden , and brothers Richard Brooks and Arthur Brooks. Mayfield and Butler first met in the choir of the Travelling Soul Spiritualists Church, from where they formed the Modern Jubilaires and Northern Jubilee Singers.

The two teenagers then drifted apart, and while Mayfield was involved in another group, the Alphatones, Butler joined Gooden and the Brooks brothers in the Roosters. Mayfield was subsequently installed as their guitarist. Dubbed the Impressions by their manager, the group's first single for Abner/Falcon, "For Your Precious Love", was a gorgeous ballad and a substantial hit, reaching number 11 in the U!S pop chart in June 1958. The label credit, which read "Jerry Butler And The Impressions", caused internal friction and the two sides split after one more release, "Come Back My Love". While Butler's solo career gradually prospered, that of his erstwhile colleagues floundered. He and Mayfield were later reconciled on Butler's 1960 single "He Will Break Your Heart', the success of which (and of other Mayfield-penned songs) rekindled the Impressions" career.

Signed to ABC-Paramount Records in 1961, they had a US number 20 hit with the haunting "Gypsy Woman". Subsequent releases were less well received until "It's All Right" (1963) soared to number 1 in the R&B chart and to number 4 in the pop chart. The group was now a trio of Mayfield, Gooden and Fred Cash, and their rhythmic harmonies were set against Johnny Pate's stylish arrangements. Magnificent Top 20 singles ? including "I'm So Proud", "Keep On Pushing", "You Must Believe Me" (all 1964) and "People Get Ready" (1965) ? showed how Mayfield was growing as an incisive composer, creating lyrical songs that were alternately poignant and dynamic. During this period the Impressions had what was to be their last US pop Top 10 hit, "Amen", which was featured in the Sidney Poitier movie Lilies Of The Field.

Mayfield then set up two short-lived record companies, Windy C in 1966, and Mayfield in 1967. However, it was the singer's third venture, Curtom Records, that proved most durable. In the meantime, the Impressions had emerged from a period when Motown Records had provided their prime influence. "You've Been Cheatin'" (1965) and "You Always Hurt Me" (1967), however good in themselves, lacked the subtlety of their predecessors, but represented a transition in Mayfield's musical perceptions. Statements that had previously been implicit were granted a much more open forum. "This Is My Country" (1968), "Mighty Mighty Spade And Whitey" (1969) and "Check Out Your Mind' (1970) were tougher, politically based performances, while his final album with the group, the quintessential Young Mods" Forgotten Story, set the framework for his solo work.

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