Richard A. Brookes was born on the 13th of May 1940 in Chattanooga, Tennessee as the eleventh child of John Wesley and Mattie Stephens Brooks. While attending The Howard High School he formed a vocal group known as the Pleasures with Richard wooing his audiences as a juvenile Elvis impersonator.
Later Richard joined his older brother Arthur’s group ‘The Four Roosters And A Chick’ their line up being Arthur Brooks, Fred Cash, Sam Gooden, Emanuel Thompson and his sister Catherine Thompson. Both Brooks Brothers came to the same conclusion that they stood a greater chance of success if they moved north to Chicago but the only member of the group to accompany them was Sam Gooden, with the rest of the group choosing to remain in Chattanooga.
Upon their arrival in the Windy City Richard, Arthur and Sam enrolled at the Washburn High School where they first met Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield, forming a new group known only as the ‘Roosters’.
Following the group successfully winning first prize in a local talent show they were approached by Mrs Violet Muszyinski (later of Bandera Records) and Mr Eddie Thomas a local Chicago promotions man who then became their manager.
In 1957 the ‘Roosters’ who under Thomas’s advice changed their name to the perceived hipper sounding ‘Jerry Butler and The Impressions’ recorded the Richard Brooks penned “For Your Precious Love” which appeared on the Vee-Jay, Falcon and Abner labels.
“For Your Precious Love” became a hit reaching #11 on the US pop charts and #3 on the R&B charts respectively. In the wake of the groups third Abner release ‘The Gift Of Love/At The County Fair’ (1023) Jerry Butler left the group to pursue a solo career being replaced by former Rooster Fred Cash the group then reverted to the name of just “The Impressions”.
In 1959 following the release of ‘Lonely One/Senorita I Love You’ (Abner 1025) Vee-Jay decided to drop the ‘Impressions from their artist roster although they continued to release their material.
In the same year The Impressions signed to another Chicago independent label, Bandera records. Where they recorded a solitary release ‘Listen/Shorty Got To Go’ (Bandera 2509) the line up on this release was Curtis Mayfield, Fred Cash, Richard & Arthur Brooks and Sam Gooden who sang lead vocals.
A further solitary Impressions release although recorded in 1960 later appeared on the New York based Swirl label in 1961 ‘Don’t Leave Me/I Need Your Love’ (Swirl 107). Don’t Leave was a R&B screamer similar to The Isley Brothers ‘Shout’ while the flipside ‘I Need Your Love ‘ was an earlier version of a later Impressions ABC recording.
The line up on this release consisted of Richard Brooks (who sang lead vocals), Arthur Brooks, Fred Cash and Sam Gooden. Curtis Mayfield at that time was touring as lead guitarist for Jerry Butler.
Later in 1961 and reunited with Mayfield the Impressions signed for ABC Paramount scoring an immediate a R&B hit with “Gypsy Woman”. In 1963 following the Impressions sixth ABC release ‘Sad, Sad Girl And A Boy’ brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks left The Impressions due to a disagreement over Curtis Mayfield’s continued insistence on writing all the group’s material.
Following their departure from the Impressions Richard and Arthur moved around several U.S towns with Arthur meeting his first wife Everlyn in Baltimore. They later pitched up in Detroit where their older brother Harrison and his family lived.
Harrison, Arthur and Richard became involved with the tiny independent Card label, where their song writing and production credits can be found on the labels only two reputed releases.
Richard and Arthur together with old Chattanoogan school friend Emanuel Thompson then embarked on a brief flirtation with the Motown label under the group name of the Showstoppers, a planned release ‘Old Time Loving/Little Girl You Had Your Chance’ was recorded but never released. Emanuel Thompson then chose to return home to Chattanooga with Richard and Arthur remaining in Detroit.
The Brooks Brothers then signed to Taylor and Turners Detroit Sound Studios, where amongst other production projects they recorded the northern soul outing ‘Looking For A Woman/Two Great Lovers’ for the studios subsidiary label Tay (501). The line up on the Tay release featured the three brothers Richard, Arthur and Harrison as well as Harrison’s son, Harrison Jr (both Harrison’s are now sadly deceased).
Richard Brooks was also responsible for composing a song for the all girl group The Sequins ‘Try My Love’/He’s Gonna Break Your Heart’ Detroit Sound (503).
In 1966 Richard and Arthur signed with their former mentor Eddie Thomas for his newly formed Thomas label, where they recorded the solitary release ‘You Got Something Baby/Come See’ (Thomas 306) the B-side is a instrumental while the vocal A-side reputedly at the time of release attracted the attention of the British pop band the Dave Clark Five. They along with the Beatles were part of the mid 60’s Brit invasion of the USA, appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show meant that for a time they were more popular stateside than in their native UK. Unfortunately the DC5’s initial approach to record ‘You Got Something Baby’ never materialized.
Richard and Arthur later returned home to Chattanooga where they formed their own production studio.
Into the 1970’s Richard and Arthur formed a new group that included their cousin John Haserarig, two sisters Veronica and Joann Skillern and their cousin Shirley Dial. This new ensemble was called ‘Brother Sisters and Cousins.
In 1973 Richard the groups lead singer took a demo tape of their material to the Nashboro studios in Nashville. A deal was signed and the Brother Sisters and Cousins initial release ‘Sinner (Have You Been There)/Smoke Stream appeared on Nashboro’s, subsidiary label Nasco (029) with ‘Sinner (Have You Been There)’ becoming a local hit in and around the Nashville area.
A reputed dispute with a group of a similar name led to the Brothers, Sisters and Cousins then changing their name to ‘Bits And Pieces’. As Bits And Pieces they recorded a follow up release ‘Did I Scare You/Smoke Stream’ (Nasco 031) in late 1973.
In 1974 Nasco again released the popular ‘Sinner (Have You Been There)’ this time featuring ‘Keep On Running Away’ (Nasco 033) as the flipside. Richard was responsible for writing all of the groups Nasco sides, all of which were heavily imported into the UK, as new releases to find great appreciation with both the Northern and Modern Soul scene’s of the early 70’s and beyond with ‘Keep On Running Away’ being a current popular reactivation today.
Following the eventual demise of the Nashboro group in the mid 70’s, Bits and Pieces all went their separate ways.
In 1978, Richard, Arthur reunited with one of their oldest friends Emanuel Thompson formed another group known as the Old (M) Pressions to record a solitary release on their own custom Brooks Brothers label ‘Let Me Know/Right On’ (9270).
In 2009 Richard in collaboration with blues man Oliver Johnson, (Albert King’s former band leader) formed their own production company. One of their most recent projects is Richards own cd project ‘I Am Back’ although recorded in 2012 it never really got past the promotional stage.
Fate then later intervened, courtesy of the husband and wife team of Dave Thorley and Malayka Erpen. Malayka whose job involves making regular business trips to Chattanooga struck up a friendship with a local taxi driver. During their journeys together Malakya’s enquired he knew any of the city’s local soul artists. He knew of several, but he invited Malayka out one night to meet one in particular. In a dilapidated club from a bygone age Malayka was introduced to the aforementioned Richard Brooks, with who over a game of cards which she did not understand and continually lost! discussed his performing career.
As they parted company Richard pushed a cd of some of his recent material into her hand, which upon her return to the UK was presented to us at Soul Junction.
Liking what we heard we contacted Richard and It is from this material that the Impressionesque ‘I’ll do Anything To Make You Happy’ and ‘With All My Heart’ have been taken for this excellent 45 release.
I would just like to point out that the above article is as factual as we can get it prior to the release date of this 45, due to us being unable to presently talk to some of the other protagonists in Richards story. This is a ongoing project and when hopefully completed will be posted upon the Soul Junction website.
Acknowledgements to: Richard A. Brooks, Arthur Brooks, Eddie Thomas, Malayka Erpen, Dave Thorley, John Anderson, Bob Abrahamian Ted Massey, Roger Banks, Mick Smith, Karl White.
Clip of the Soul Junction Release
Side A - I’ll Do Anything To Make You Happy
Side B - With All My Heart
Catalogue # SJ528
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