The Impressions bring old school R&B to Clayton County

By Curt Yeomans


The Impressions wasted no time in giving a positive message to several hundred people on Saturday at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center.

After the crowd had been warmed up by the All Stars Youth Competition, the jazz quintet Rhapsody N Blues, and Rhythm and Blues singer Larissa Holiday, it was time for the main act. Reggie Torian, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash came out on stage for the beginning of a nearly two-hour performance.

The Impressions immediately opened their set with "Move On Up," by the late Curtis Mayfield, who was a founding member of the group.

Standing in the front row throughout most of the concert was Hattie Lemon, a Dunwoody resident who has seen The Impressions perform live four times in her lifetime.

"Would you believe I saw this group in about 1972 or 1973 at the Apollo Theater in New York?" asked Lemon, as she leaned back to express her excitement to another member of the audience. "This group is the best. I love them so much."

The concert was designed by producers Glenn Dowell and Herb Cox to put a positive spotlight on Clayton County, which has received a lot of negative press because of a loss of school accreditation and public squabbles among elected officials.

Clayton School Superintendent John Thompson vowed to have more events like The Impressions concert staged at the Performing Arts Center in the future.

Other events at the Performing Arts Center, which are in the development stages, include an Indian cultural celebration; a country western music performance, and a concert featuring the popular 1990's R&B group, Boyz II Men, according to PAC officials.

"This is a very nice facility and the people of this county need to use it more," said Thompson. For the superintendent, The Impressions also brought back a lot of memories from his past. "I was in a singing group in college, and we did a lot of their numbers," said the school chief, after the concert ended.

Despite his singing past, Thompson did not join The Impressions in a rendition of "We're a Winner," "People Get Ready," "Keep On Pushing" or any other song.

Most of the songs the group performed were written by Mayfield. The late singer's widow, Altheida, and two of their children, Kirk and Tiffany, were in the audience at the PAC. Torian, who joined the group a few years after Curtis Mayfield left in 1970, introduced the family right before The Impressions launched into a rendition of Mayfield's theme song for the 1972 blaxploitation film, "Super Fly."

Gooden, one of the group's founding members, along with Mayfield, said his former colleague's music has a timeless appeal, because of Mayfield's song-writing talent; the messages carried in the songs, and the writer was a forward thinker.

"The songs Curtis wrote were ahead of their time," said Gooden. "The Lord had blessed him with a gift. We try to deliver that message Curtis wrote, and deliver them the same way he wrote them."