The Imperials have been making music since 1964 and have in that time undergone many personnel and stylistic changes before returning to the close harmonies and straight Southern gospel songs that originally made them popular. As of the mid-'90s, Armond Morales is the only charter member of the Imperials; he and Jake Hess founded the quintet. Over the years, 18 different singers have come and gone, including such legends as Russ Taff, Paul Smith, and Gary McSpadden. Other CCM pop performers such as Jonathan Pierce also got their start with the Imperials.
Over the years, the Imperials have released over 40 albums and had 14 number one songs. They have also won four Grammy Awards and 13 Dove Awards, making the Imperials, despite (or because of) their many style changes, one of the most popular Christian bands ever. But in 1987, they stirred up controversy and lost many of their oldest fans when they exchanged Southern gospel and middle-of-the-road contemporary to adopt a harder rock/techno-pop sound with the album This Year's Model. The subsequent albums Stir It Up and Love's Still Changing Hearts continued in the same vein. Morales now considers those albums part of an identity crisis for the band, a loss of touch with their original direction and purpose of singing joyful music and ministering to the church. The Imperials reverted to that mission when Morales brought two ordained ministers, Steve Ferguson and Jeff Walker, on board. Neither had experience in mainstream Christian music and were more interested in spreading the word than selling albums. This proved the very tonic the group needed.
To this end, the Imperials have scaled down their act, opting for simple accompaniment and more intimate church performances in lieu of stadium and large concert gigs. Subsequent albums such as 'Til He Comes have lost the hard edge of earlier albums, and their old fans are slowly starting to return. ~ Sandra Brennan