The story of Tennessee music is a tale of two cities, really: Nashville and Memphis. But to count out Chattanooga is to ignore the origins of the Impressions, the long-running, socially conscious soul group that launched the careers of Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield. On the street corners of mid-twentieth-century Chattanooga, boyhood friends Fred Cash, Sam Gooden, Arthur Brooks, and Richard Brooks started a vocal group called the Roosters, which, in the late '50s, migrated north to Chicago. There, the bandsans Cash, whose mother wouldn't let him gohooked up with Butler and Mayfield, and the Roosters became the Impressions. After the success of the Impressions' 1958 45 "For Your Precious Love," lead vocalist Butler left to go solo, but that's when things really started to heat up: Mayfield took over for Butler, Cash joined back up in Mayfield's place, and the Brooks brothers split altogether. So by the early '60s, the classic lineup of Mayfield, Gooden, and Cashthe trio that turned out eternal tunes like "People Get Ready," "It's All Right," "I'm So Proud," "We're a Winner," "Keep on Pushing," "This Is My Country," and "Check Out Your Mind"was firmly in place.
But it wouldn't last. In 1970, Mayfield jumped ship to drop funk cornerstones like Curtis and Superfly, leaving the Impressions frontman-less again. With various third members, the Impressions never stopped pushing, always with Cash and Gooden at the core. On July 20, the current incarnation of the ImpressionsCash, Gooden, and lead singer Reggie Torianwill unite at Lincoln Center for "Here But I'm Gone," a tribute to Mayfield featuring artists like Bilal, Mavis Staples, William Bell, Dr. Lonnie Smith, the Roots, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Sharon Jones guitarist Binky Griptite, who will serve as musical director for the show. Mayfield, who would've turned seventy in Junehe died in 1999was also paid tribute to earlier this year when, with Griptite at the helm, the Impressions laid down an unrecorded composition of his at Daptone Records' Bushwick studio. Cash, who has long since moved back to Chattanooga, spoke to Sound of the City about working with Mayfield, encouraging B.B. King at the Apollo, taking Donny Hathaway on tour, and telling the truth.More »