(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
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.