The Imperial Show Band

The Imperial Show Band

Tim Whitsett's Imperial Show Band was a popular national live act in the 1960s. They are generally regarded as the first integrated band in the state of Mississippi.

Formative years

Jackson, MS, native Whitsett's first record "Jive Harp" b/w "Pipe Dreams" was released on Imperial Records when he was sixteen-years-old. Heavily influenced by the sounds of nearby New Orleans, Tim Whitsett & The Imperials (coincidentally) became the hottest band in their home state of Mississippi, and released dozens of R&B, Pop, and Instrumental records, usually written by Whitsett or co-written with his brother Carson, which were issued on a variety of labels, including Epic, Whitsett's own Rim, and the legendary Jackson based Ace, whose president Johnny Vincent was a sort of mentor on how to (or how not to) function in the music business for the teenage Whitsett. Some of these were sizable local hits throughout the South and became very popular when pirated in England. These "45s" are now considered collectables, and Tim Whitsett records sell for very high prices on sites like eBay.


On the strength of Carson Whitsett's B-3 organ playing and the Tim Whitsett led horn section, the group was asked to record for Stax Records (before there was a Booker T. & the MGs and "Green Onions") long before the company was a powerhouse and later, Chips Moman asked the group to be his house band when he started his American Recording Studio. Tim Whitsett turned down both offers because he had his own label (Rim), publishing company (Gulfway), and the band was having their own success. Moman would hire now legendary session men like guitarist Reggie Young and record everyone from Wilson Pickett to Neil Diamond to Elvis Presley.

Whitsett changed the group's name to The Imperial Show Band, and the group began a successful tour of the country, which included stints in L.A., Lake Tahoe, New York, and a home away from home in Erie, Pennsylvania. With the addition of future Southern Soul cult figure Tommy Tate on vocals (and later drums as well), they became Tim Whitsett & The Imperial Show Band featuring Tommy Tate.

This was significant because other than Memphis's renowned Booker T. & the MGs (who were a house band first, usually regulated to working days and nights in the Stax studio), this made Whitsett's band one of the first, if not the only, integrated bands in the entire Southeastarn United States at the time. Like a lot of white Southern musicians, the Whitsett brothers and their group were hugely influenced by two landmark albums: James Brown's "Live at the Apollo" and Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Two Steps From the Blues". (Carson Whitsett would later play on several Bland albums, including his great "Live on Beale Street".) With the addition of Tate, they were more authentic than ever, and a force to be reckoned with. Also doing a brief stint with the band was Dorothy Moore of "Misty Blue" fame.


Following maybe one too many lineup changes, Whitsett disbanded the group. Soon afterwards, he received a call from Don Davis who was now Vice President of Stax Records. Davis had heard demos on the group, including Tim Whitsett's splendid "Get It Over Anyway" on Tommy Tate that was released in 2005 on the CD "Troubled Waters: Deep Soul from the Deep South". Davis wanted them to augment The Bar-Kays, as well as the remaining MGs (Booker T. Jones had left the company), as another house band for the label and its recently greatly expanded roster. Tim Whitsett and Tommy Tate signed on as songwriters and within a week, Whitsett was put in charge of publishing. Carson Whitsett would come to Stax three years later and record an album as a member of The MG's, and Tate replaced Ollie Hoskins as lead singer of The Nightingales.

Notable members

*Tim Whitsett - trumpet, harmonica, vocals, piano, harpsichord, percussion, bass (Publisher, producer, author)

*Carson Whitsett (keyboardist, songwriter, producer, and arranger)

*Tommy Tate (Vocalist, often called "America's best kept secret")

*Guitarists Murry Kellum (Carl Perkins), (Grand Ole Opry); Bucky Barrett (Roy Orbison); and Jerry Puckett (Ricky Nelson, The Champs)

*Vocalists Buzz Aldridge and Hank Martin (the latter heard on many national jingles and theme song to popular '80s cartoon Thundercats)

*Drummers: Buddy Myers, Dulin Lancaster (Nancy Sinatra, Mississippi Fred McDowell) and artist Bill Dunlap. Also, Jimmy Hodo (Saxophone), the only group member with Tim Whitsett in every incarnation of the band.

*Bass Players: Ronnie Kellum, Ed Clarke, Guy Bowering, Bennett Jennings.

External links and references

* [ Imperial Show Band members]
* [ Mississippi's first integrated band]
*"All Shook Up: Mississippi Roots of American Popular Music" By Christine Wilson
*"Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music" By Greg Haynes
*"Soulsville USA - The Story of Stax records" By Rob Bowman
*"New Kommotion" Magazine - United Kingdom - Winter 1977
*"Soul Bag" Magazine - France - May 1992

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