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Rhythm Revue Spotlight on The Impressions and the Harlem Hit Parade Tapes

The Impressions' big hit "Gypsy Woman"
Courtesy of the artist/ABC Records
The Impressions' big hit "Gypsy Woman"

It was a 1961 hit record that saved The Impressions from a final breakup. Curtis Mayfield...

"While I was still working with Jerry, Eddie Thomas was Jerry Butler's driver and I was his guitarist and I managed to save about a thousand dollars touring with Jerry. It allowed me to use this money to bring the group together. We went to New York for about a week to record a song called 'Gypsy Woman' and this continued on until we get a tremendous break through I think it was WDAS, Georgie Woods station in Philadelphia. Between him and Geator with the Heater 'Gypsy Woman' took off in Philly. It allowed myself and the fellows to come back together as The Impressions."

Curtis Mayfield continued...

"We were working in Nashville Tennessee and in between shows on a nice warming evening we were sitting out in the station wagon and I was just sort of up with my ideas and dreams, running off and scattered with my mind and talking with Fred (Cash) and Sam (Gooden). Fred would just keep sayin' 'well that's alright' and I would say something else and Fred would say 'well that's alright. Before I knew it, I had the hook line.. We had put the song together and could have honestly went in the second show and performed 'It's Alright'. That's how that song came about. Then I was quite impressed with some horn licks on a Bobby 'Blue" Bland record. I asked Johnny Pate if he could if he would just give me that feel of some of those licks with the horns."

It was about the time of The Impressions' early hits that Curtis Mayfield's songs as recorded by other performers also hit the charts. One of these was cut by a singer from the Southside of Chicago whose 1961 'Duke of Earl' was a top 10 Rock n' Roll hit. R & B singer Gene Chandler.

"I met Curtis Mayfield on a tour. He was in town but I had never really met them. We went on this tour it was Fats Domino, Brook Benton, The Impressions,Maxine Thomas and Carla Thomas. It was one of those big shows they used to put on a long time ago. At that time, Curtis played some songs for me. What I ended up taking from him was the 'Rainbow' song."

Next time our tribute to Curtis Mayfield will continue on the Harlem Hit Parade Tapes.

"Gypsy Woman" - The Impressions
"It's All Right" - Impressions
"That's the Way Love Is" - Bobby Bland
"Duke of Earl" - Gene Chandler
"Rainbow" - Gene Chandler

Felix Hernandez started his career as a producer and radio journalist while in college. In the 1980’s, Felix independently produced the award-winning radio series BluesStage, which had a 6 year run on over 200 NPR stations. He also worked extensively as a journalist with WBEZ in Chicago, and NPR.