Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments - The Imperial Gospel Singers

Mar 9, 2021

The Imperial Gospel Singers’ “Fountain of Blood” will remind you of the powerful harmonies of their Philadelphia neighbors, the legendary Angelics. 

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Like country, rock’n’roll, jazz and even classical music – the history of gospel music is filled with amazing artists who should have been stars, who should have been giants in their field ... and for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen. In gospel, I propose we name Philadelphia’s Imperial Gospel Singers to that list. This quartet of female vocalists could sing with the best of them – including Philly’s own Angelic Gospel Singers.

The group was founded in 1959 and was led by singer/songwriter Anna Smallwood and the Imperials recorded first rate gospel for labels like Savoy and Gospel. In addition to Smallwood, singers like Connie Noble and Louis Smoke, often took the thrilling leads. Rosie Wallace was another Imperial, who went on to a fine career of her own.

I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite track, but the 45 “Fountain of Blood” is certainly a keeper. Recorded around 1962, that’s Smallwood’s urgent, impassioned vocals over the Imperials’ tight, imaginative harmonies on this slow burn gospel treasure. You can hear some of the best tunes by the Imperial Gospel Singers on YouTube and their music is slowly becoming more available – which, believe me, is a good thing.

MUSIC: “Fountain of Blood,” by the Imperial Gospel Singers, 45.

I’m Robert Darden … “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” is produced by KWBU, the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University Libraries and is funded by generous support from the Prichard Foundation.