Jake Hess






Jake Hess

Gaither Gospel Series*

A Tribute to Jake Hess



Jake Hess (December 24, 1927 - January 4, 2004) was a Grammy Award-winning Southern Gospel singer in the United States.

He was born Manchild Hess December 24, 1927, in Limestone County, Alabama. (Later, when he registered with the draft board in Lincoln, Nebraska, he gave his name as "William Jesse Hess." In 1997, when Hess was preparing to get a passport to travel overseas, he discovered that his birth certificate actually read Manchild Hess. His son, Jake Jr., named his recording company Manchild Records in honor of his father.) He died January 4, 2004 in Opelika, Alabama after suffering a heart attack December 14, 2003, just days after a performance in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hess' career started at the age of 16, when he joined the popular John Daniel Quartet, making his recorded debut on "Just a Prayer Away". After that, he sang with three of his brothers as the Hess Brothers Quartet. He also sang with the Sunny South Quartet and their rival, the Melody Masters Quartet.

Hess sang lead with the Statesmen Quartet from 1948 until 1963. In 1978 Hess reunited with the surviving members of The Statesmen Quartet, Hovie Lister, Doy Ott, and Rosie Rozell to perform "Songs Elvis Loved". The reunited members brought in other gospel music legends, James Blackwood and J.D. Sumner, as a result the southern gospel group the Masters V was formed. They toured from 1981 until 1988 when illnesses prompted several of the members to retire.

Upon leaving the Statesmen Quartet, Hess formed his "dream" group, the Imperials. Although They were not immediately accepted by his peers because of their innovative use of electric guitars and drums, they went on to become pioneers in Contemporary Christian Music, and would eventually be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. They backed Elvis Presley from 1966 to 1971. Elvis has been quoted as noting Hess as his favorite singer.

Hess also sang with his children, Becky and Chris, in a group he named "The Jake Hess Sound". In the late 1970s Hess and his son Chris were featured singers on the television broadcasts of evangelist Dr. Gene Scott.

Jake Hess, Jr. has become a well-known Southern Gospel songwriter, in addition to being married to GMA Music Award winning artist Judy Martin of The Martins. His latest work is with The Old Friends Quartet. In 1989 Jake's nephew Steve Hess & Eugene Baker (Hess & Baker, Skylite/Sing) were in Nashville to record several segments on Bobby Jones Gospel (BET Network). Jake accompanied them to the studio and liked what he heard. While visiting with Jake in Brentwood Jake asked if they would be interested in forming with him a new version of Jake Hess & Friends. The group would ultimately consist of Jake, Steve, Eugene & Chris, Jake’s son. They started rehearsals in Jakes Family Room and started touring later in the year. There were several dates in Missouri and Florida but Jake determined that the traveling was going to be more demanding than he anticipated so by 1990 the tours were put on hold with the possibility of doing something with television.