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Samuel Gooden

Samuel Gooden was born on September 2, 1934 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the youngest of eight children. At age sixteen, Gooden began to perform at Chattanooga’s Triumph Church of God in Christ, where his father George was assistant pastor. Gooden and his twelve-year-old neighbor Fred Cash called themselves the Southland Jubilee Singers. In the evenings, they joined other teenagers on their block in singing rhythm and blues. In late 1950, Gooden joined the U.S. Army, where he served in Germany until 1953.

After returning from military service, Gooden joined Cash and their friends Arthur Brooks and Emanuel and Catherine Thomas to form an R&B group, Four Roosters and a Chick. They soon began to perform at Chattanooga nightclubs. In 1957, Gooden and Brooks decided to move the Roosters to Chicago, but Cash and the Thomas siblilngs remained in Chattanooga. Brooks’ brother, Richard, met a tenor at the YMCA in Chicago by the name of Jerry Butler. Butler was working a day job as a short-order cook. Butler’s partner in the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers was Curtis Mayfield. When Gooden and Brooks move to Chicago, the group gained Mayfield and Butler and called themselves the Impressions. They released their first hit, “For Your Precious Love,” on Vee-Jay Records in 1958.

In 1959, after Butler left the group, the Impressions drove to Chattanooga to lure Cash back. Impressed with their success, Cash dropped out of Howard High School in the eleventh grade to join them in Chicago. The next year, Mayfield—the songwriter and leading force behind the group—encouraged Cash, Gooden, and the Brooks brothers to come to New York and record on ABC-Paramount. There, they released the 1961 hit “Gypsy Woman.” In February 1963, Mayfield, Cash, and Gooden decided to return to Chicago, while the Brooks brothers stayed in New York.

From 1963 to 1970, Gooden, Mayfield and Cash were the Impressions, scoring a number one hit with “It’s All Right” in 1963. That year, they also released their first full album, The Impressions. In 1964, they released the hit “Keep On Pushing,” followed in 1965 with the civil rights anthem “People Get Ready.” In 1968, they returned to the top of the charts with “We’re a Winner” and left ABC-Paramount to join Mayfield’s Curtom label headed by producer, Eddie Thomas. There, they produced two more albums before Mayfield left in 1970. Although Mayfield continued to serve as their occasional songwriter and producer, the Impressions remained on Curtom label through 1976.

The Impressions worked with vocalists including Leroy Hutson, Reggie Torian, Ralph Johnson, and Nate Evans after Mayfield’s departure. In 1991, the Impressions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After Mayfield’s tragic paralysis in 1990 and death in 1999, Cash and Gooden continued to perform, touring with Eric Clapton in 2001. Today, Cash, Gooden, and Willie Kitchens, Jr. perform as the Impressions. They are now based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Gooden lives in Chattanooga with his wife, Gloria, to whom he has been married since 1963. They have four grown children.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category

Howard High School

Howard School of Academics and Technology

Park City School

East 5th Street Junior High School

The Howard School

First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

Orlando, Florida

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State


Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Meatballs

Short Description

Singer Samuel Gooden (1934 - ) contributed bass vocals to the musical group, The Impressions.


U.S. Army Reserve

The Impressions (originally The Roosters)

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Samuel Gooden's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Samuel Gooden describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Samuel Gooden describes his mother's personality and musical talents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Samuel Gooden describes how his parents met in Wedowee, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Samuel Gooden describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Samuel Gooden describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Samuel Gooden describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Samuel Gooden describes his childhood neighborhood of Park City, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Samuel Gooden describes the role of religion in his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Samuel Gooden describes his childhood interests and aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Samuel Gooden describes musical influences in his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Samuel Gooden describes his educational experiences in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Samuel Gooden describes his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Samuel Gooden recalls readjusting to civilian life after leaving the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Samuel Gooden recalls starting his musical career with the Southland Jubilees

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden describes moving to Chicago, Illinois to start a singing group

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Samuel Gooden describes playing semi-pro baseball in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Samuel Gooden recalls being signed by Vee-Jay Records

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Samuel Gooden explains how The Impressions got their name

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Samuel Gooden describes how HistoryMaker The Honorable Jerry Butler left The Impressions

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Samuel Gooden describes The Impressions' changing lineup

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Samuel Gooden describes Curtis Mayfield's unique guitar style

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden describes The Impressions after Jerry Butler left

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Samuel Gooden recalls living in Detroit, Michigan during the early 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Samuel Gooden describes the song 'Gypsy Woman'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Samuel Gooden describes Curtis Mayfield's talent for writing lyrics

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Samuel Gooden describes the political messages in The Impressions' songs

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Samuel Gooden recalls performing with Curtis Mayfield

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Samuel Gooden describes bands The Impressions toured with

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden describes the song 'It's Alright'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Samuel Gooden describes the relationship between lead and backup singers

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Samuel Gooden recounts how The Impressions replaced Curtis Mayfield

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Samuel Gooden describes his successful records during the 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Samuel Gooden describes the problem of bogus bands in the recording industry

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Samuel Gooden describes copyright problems in the recording industry

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Samuel Gooden describes his friendship with musician Eric Clapton

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden describes his recent successes with The Impressions

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Samuel Gooden describes his future plans for The Impressions

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Samuel Gooden describes his favorite musical performers

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Samuel Gooden describes his contributions to The Impressions

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Samuel Gooden describes Curtis Mayfield's paralysis and death

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Samuel Gooden reflects upon his long career in the music business

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Samuel Gooden describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Samuel Gooden recalls the death of The Impressions' band in a 1968 car accident, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden recalls the death of The Impressions' band in a 1968 car accident, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Samuel Gooden describes the aftermath of The Impressions' band's death in 1968

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Samuel Gooden talks about reunion performances of The Impressions

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Samuel Gooden offers advice to aspiring musicians

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Samuel Gooden reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Samuel Gooden reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Samuel Gooden describes his family life

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Samuel Gooden describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Samuel Gooden narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Samuel Gooden narrates his photographs, pt. 2







Samuel Gooden recalls starting his musical career with the Southland Jubilees
Samuel Gooden describes the political messages in The Impressions' songs
Coming back from the [U.S. military] service, you all form the Southland Jubilees [Southland Jubilee Singers] right?$$Right, then, well.$$Where'd you get the name?$$(Laughter) Well there was, there was a group, I think already named the Northern Jubilees [Northern Jubilee Singers], not in Chattanooga [Tennessee] but other places. We were trying to get something that people didn't have, and then we were from the South, and so we decided the Southland Jubilees, and (laughter) we did a show at my father's [George Gooden] church [Triumph the Church and Kingdom of God in Christ, Chattanooga, Tennessee], and of course you know when you're doing spiritual, you prolong it, you wanna at least last an hour. I guess we didn't make an hour, but we did pretty good, we did very good, and of course the people give you a little offering and stuff like that, and that was enough for us, we head from there, we go on to the movies someplace and the next day or two we would probably go back and sit down and rehearse some more, and try to better ourselves because there was no musician and we were singing like a capella and that, well you know that way a lot of groups used to sing, even on records they sung just a capella by patting their feet and popping their finger.$$Right, a lot of the doo wop groups would sing their own baseline.$$Yeah.$$Right?$$And it just--$$They do their own rhythm.$$Then we decided to do some pop songs, and we started singing some pop songs, but--$$Now were you writing your own material then?$$No.$$Or were you just copying somebody else, doing someone else's (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) No, we were doing records that we would hear just like different records come out and then we would sing those songs. You know, I'd learn 'em or try to learn 'em, but what we found out a little bit later on is that there was about four or five other groups that was a hundred percent better than where we were, and they had some musician, you know they had a guitar player or something that was playing for 'em, and there was a band that, that played behind all of the local acts, a group called the Upsetters band, and I don't know why but they would learn every single song they sang themselves. So that mean all of the other kids that had a group, you had nothing to sing because they sang all of these songs, and if you gonna go up there and try to sing this song, they already doing this in their show, and they was very popular in the black neighborhood that, that you could go down, 'cause there's a street called East Ninth Street, and you would go down there and you would find them at this club all the time and they would be there every week, every week, and they would have a guest group to come in and there was one group, I don't know whether Fred [HistoryMaker Fred Cash] probably told you the name of this group, but I can't remember the name of that group, but they was excellent, they was a well-put together group, had a good lead, had a good background vocals.$$Was that the Lamplighters?$$Yeah, yeah that's them, they was really, really good.$$Well what happened to them?$$They just split up, I don't know. They, they just stopped and then the two guys that sung with us was talking about going to Chicago [Illinois] 'cause they had, he had, I think he had a sister lived in Chicago.$$Now these are the Brooks brothers [Arthur Brooks and Richard Brooks], right? Yeah.$$Um-hm, they had a sister lived there and they said, "Well let's go to Chicago." So he talked me into going and we were talking to Fred about going, but his mother [Lola Cunningham Cash] wouldn't let him go because he was too young. So, we got in the car (laughter) didn't have that much money to get there, and this friend, these girls that we knew made us a great big box of sandwiches that we didn't have to stop to eat, we just ate out of the car, and we had almost run out of food when we got there and almost run outta money, and we stayed at his sister's house until we could find some jobs to work.$Well I wondered, you know, in the early '70s [1970s] especially when you started hearing music from the white singers like Bob Dylan and others, you know, Country Joe and the Fish around the time of Woodstock [Festival; Woodstock Music & Art Fair], and it was so much made of the relevant lyrics in the music of--but you know it seemed like there was hardly any of that coming out of the black community, though people did point to The Impressions as a group that tried to write music that had social commentary, you know.$$Yeah I know, and what bothered me about it was that I think James Brown--after we've done these songs, and I think James Brown came out with 'I'm Black and I'm Proud.'$$Right.$$And the president called him up there and gave him this big award by being the first person to stand out and speak out for the masses, and we're sitting there listening to this and I'm watching this and I said, now wait a minute, he wasn't the first one to do that. Now we've sung four or five songs like that, you know, and 'cause 'Keep on Pushing.'$$That's right.$$You know, that's where [HistoryMaker Reverend] Jesse [L.] Jackson got his Operation PUSH [Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Chicago, Illinois] from, and Dr. King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] used to use that. That was his song, they marched by that particular song, and I'm saying now, but that is one thing that I would say that The Impressions are not recognized as much as they should and the things that they have accomplished and the things that they've done, it just seems like it's being pushed to the side, you know it.$$But I think you'd be surprised at the people though that do like understand that contribution, even like Sam Cooke's record from way back, 'A Change is Gonna Come,' you know.$$Right.$$That was picked up by people involved in the [Civil Rights] Movement, and 'Keep on Pushing,' 'We're a Winner' and you know, all the other Impressions songs.$$'Choice of Colors.'$$That's right, that's right.$$'Cause the person, I had a guy that asked me (laughter), "What do you, what are you talking about, 'Choice of Colors'?" I said, "Now if you sit down and you're sitting with your people or I'm sitting with mine, and you sit down and you said if you had a choice, it's not saying you've got a choice, it said if you had a choice which one would you choose? Will you choose what you are, and stand up for what you are?" That's all it means, you know you stand up for what you are, not saying that you don't dislike what this nation does or this--people do, you just, you stand up for who you are and then as far as black people, then they can say well this is what I choose. Then if you choose that, then why don't you stand up and speak about it and stand up and be proud of it? You know you got some people that will say things, and then when it comes time for them to stand up and be vocal with their thoughts and say, well, no I better not ruffle this guy's feathers over here. You're not ruffling anybody's feathers, you're just only speaking what you feel and how you feel and where, how you stand about things and this is me. I'm black and I'm proud and I'll stand up. I don't care where it is between--in front of anybody and I'm not trying to be white, I'm not trying to be Jewish. I'm not trying to be anything else. I'm just trying to be who I am and that's all it's saying to all of the people. If everybody stood up together, and pulled together we wouldn't have all this junk that's going on now, because of the thing is, you will respect you, and I'll respect you and you'll respect me.$$That seems to be what it's about when you boil it all down.$$Yeah, yeah, and that's, basically the song says that, you know. "How long have you hated your white teacher? Who told you, you loved your black preacher? Do you respect your brother's woman friend, and share with black folks not akin."$$Yeah right, it's a powerful song.$$Yeah, and see the thing is there's black peoples all over the world that's not--just you know American black people. There's African, there's all the other people that got that black color. It's just a matter of listening to the lyrics. Some people listen to certain parts of a song and they'll say, "Well, I don't like that song. They're militant," you know, "they are against this, they're against that." No, they're not against anything, it's just being proud of who you are just like the other song 'I'm So Proud.'