John Herbert Orr Pioneer Award
Partial information was obtained by permission from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Born on Christmas Eve in a house at Mt. Pisgah Church in Limestone County, Jake Hess has become one of Gospel music's most imitated singers, innovators and leaders. His accolades are the best chronicle of his distinguished career. Labeled as Mr. Gospel Music, Hess was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1987. A Year later, SESAC presented him with its "Lifetime Achievement Award", and he received the Alabama Music Hall of Fame's "America's Music Award" in 1989.
Hess sang with the John Daniel Quartet, Sunny South Quartet and the Original Melody Masters before joining the Statesmen Quartet in 1948 as an original member and lead singer. In 1963, Hess formed The Imperials, who backed Elvis Presley on a gospel album. In 1967, Hess hosted a Nashville television program, then joined with his two children to form "The Jake Hess Sound" during the mid-70s. Since 1980, he has performed with The Master V, premiered a weekly syndicated television program, "Jake Hess And Friends", and in late 1991 reformed the Statesmen Quartet with original member Hovie Lister. The winner of four Grammy awards, Hess was a founding father of the National Quartet Convention and a director of the Gospel Music Association.
Jake, whose career spanned more than 60 years, was one of Elvis Presley's favorite gospel singers, leader of the Statesmen Quartet and with the Imperials backed Elvis on his Grammy-winning gospel album "How Great Thou Art". As a teen, Elvis Presley was a regular at Statesmen concerts. When Elvis Presley died in 1977, Jake Hess sang at his funeral, as he had at the funeral of country legend Hank Williams in 1953. Mr. Hess passed away January 4, 2004, in Opelika, Alabama, after suffering a heart attack on December 16, 2003.
From a Northwest Alabamian Article
Monday, July 27, 1987
Native Son's Homecoming
Jake Hess was born near Athens. He is the seventh son and youngest of twelve born to W.S. and Lydia Hess. When he was nine, the family moved to the Haleyville area.
Hess started singing at the age of five with his brothers. The Hess Brothers had a radio show on WMFO, now WMSL in Decatur.
He left his brothers at the age of 14 to sing with the Haleyville Melody Boys.
In the early 1940's, Hess sang with the John Daniel Quartet, Sunny South Quartet, and the Original Melody Masters.
He joined the Statesmen Quartet in 1948, as one of the original members and lead singer.
In 1963, Hess formed the Imperials and moved his family (wife Joyce, daughter Becky, and sons Chris and Jake, Jr.) to Nashville where they still reside.
The Imperials set a standard of excellence in gospel music that is still copied today. They backed many artists including Elvis Presley, Connie Smith, and Jimmy Dean.
In 1967, due to health problems, Hess left the Imperials. He formed the Music City Singers and hosted eleven weekly television shows in Nashville. Hess worked for Singcord Records in 1970.
In 1972, Hess formed the Jake Hess Sound with daughter Becky and son Chris. In 1975, Hess moved to California to work in Christian television in the Los Angeles area.
The Masters V, with whom Hess now sings, was formed in 1980. They worked 279 dates in 1986.
Hess has won the coveted Grammy four times and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1987.