Members of Elvis's former backing vocal groups - The Stamps and The Imperials - and his former musical director Joe Guercio have joined forces for a new 2-CD set called The Gospel Side of Elvis. The official release date is January 20, 2004. It will be sold via its own special web site www.thegospelsideofelvis.com which will be activated later this month.
Here’s the background information the guys gave to EPE about this exciting new recording project:
The friendship and working relationship between The Imperials and The Stamps Quartet dates back to the mid-sixties. Both groups were so close that they even had twin touring buses. The buses were painted gold and black, with their names scrolled across the sides. The two groups played many gospel concerts together, not knowing at the time just how parallel their careers would be over the next few years.
The Imperials with Jake Hess began to record with Elvis in the late 60's, and were asked to be part of his group when he opened in Las Vegas in the summer of '69. JD Sumner and the Stamps replaced the Imperials as Elvis' male backing group in 1972. Both groups have continued their involvement with Elvis by appearing in Memphis from year to year at Elvis Birthday and Elvis Week events put on by Graceland/EPE, and also alternating as male vocal group for EPE’s Elvis-video-interactive stage production Elvis, The Concert as it toured the world.
The involvement of two of gospel music's finest male groups, and the fact that both have made a significant contribution to the music that Elvis loved, was the genesis of a conversation between Joe Guercio, Elvis' long-time concert musical director, and Ed Enoch, formerly of the Stamps. Both thought that it would be a great idea if members of the Stamps and Imperials could do a project together , a collection of gospel songs that had some meaningful connection to their relationship with Elvis.
It was so exciting to think about that Joe Guercio called former Imperials member Joe Moscheo and told him about the idea and asked him to ask the other Imperials if they would be interested in such a project. They all got together and talked about it and unanimously agreed that it should be done. Ed Enoch and Ed Hill, formerly of the Stamps during the Elvis years - plus, from their current configuration of the group, bass singer Butch Owens and tenor singer Royce Taylor - make up the members of the Stamps Quartet for the project. Armond Morales, Jim Murray, Terry Blackwood and Sherman Andrus are the voices of The Imperials.
Joe Guercio and Joe Moscheo are co-producing. The Gospel Side of Elvis is on Gold Street Records and will be available through a special Web site that will be set up soon. The 2-CD set will include a total of 18 songs. Eight by The Imperials and eight by The Stamps, and two songs, How Great Thou Art, and Blue Christmas, that were rearranged and done using both groups, with solos by different members of each group. The Stamps tracks are: His Hand In Mine, Sweet, Sweet Spirit, So High, The Milky White Way, Lead Me Guide Me, Known Only To Him, Where Could I Go But to the Lord, and an original song that includes a story about JD Sumner, He Did It All For Me. The Imperials tracks are: I've Got Confidence, I Believe, He Touched Me, Reach Out To Jesus, Peace In The Valley, Swing Low, You'll Never Walk Alone and Bosom Of Abraham. The CD set includes an 8-page booklet with candid photos, featuring different shots of the groups from year to year with Elvis.
The Gospel Side of Elvis will be released officially on January 20, 2004, but advance copies will be available for in-person purchase at Graceland during the Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration 2004 in January. Members of The Imperials will be in town to promote the release and to meet the fans. Dates/times for their participation in Birthday 2004 to be confirmed soon.