Paul Smith returns to Classic Imperials

Several years after leaving the Imperials, Southern Gospel patriarch Armond Morales started a group variously known as the Classic Imperials, Crown, The Artists Formerly Known As The Imperials, and Still Standing. Their website has a number of different names on it, but their Facebook page lists them as the Classic Imperials, so that’s the name I’ll go by for this post.

Until recently, former Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet member / Thomas Road Baptist Church worship leader Robbie Hiner sang tenor for the group. He recently left; yesterday (hat tip, Wes), the Classic Imperials announced that former Imperials member Paul Smith would be rejoining the group. Smith is currently serving as minister of music at a Baptist church in Texas; more information about him is here.

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25 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I find this very interesting. I saw the announcement on Facebook. I remember the “Paul Smith Imperial years”, and they had some great songs. I always love to hear Armond sing! I have a question. Will they not have a tenor vocalist now? I do not think any of these gentlemen sing the tenor part. I do not mean anything negative whatsoever. I am simply curious.

  2. Gayla, Paul sang lead with the Imperials, but if you’ll go back and listen to some of those albums, particularly the “Let The Wind Blow” album, Smith actually sang over top of Jim Murray pretty frequently. He definitely had the range at that time to sing tenor. I guess in that respect he’s similar to Roy McNeal or Roy Tremble. I would imagine he’ll be singing the tenor part.

  3. Thanks Wes, I thought it must be something like that! I need to pull out those old albums and listen. I appreciate your input.

  4. Daniel,
    How can Paul Smith “return” to the Classic Imperials? :o)

    I’d love to hear them, though…the first time I saw the Imps in concert, Paul was singing lead and doing a tremendous job.

  5. Good point – poor choice of wording on my part.

  6. Rick Evans has a tenor range as well, and in fact, when I first saw the “Place Called Heaven” video, I thought he sounded more like a tenor than a lead.

    If I were Armond, Rick would take the tenor spot and Paul Smith would cozy back into the lead position.

  7. Alternatively, with two tenors, they now have the range to swap out leads if they want to.

  8. Daniel,
    No worries. It was worded that way in the press release as well.

  9. Yeah. But professionals are supposed to notice stuff like that. :o)

  10. Paul Smith may have a tenor range, but I don’t think he has the timbre.

  11. Smith DEFINITELY has the chops to sing any range with competence. Glad to hear he is back with the Imps. Looking forward to hearing them again.

  12. If you remember the Imperials from the time Jim Murray left in 1986 till 1993 there wasn’t a singer that was just tenor. There were 7 singers who took turns singing tenor & lead.

  13. When they get Russ Taff, THEN they will be the “classic” Imperials 🙂

    • You are completely right.

  14. I have the Paul Smith Imperials Albums on my Ipod. Specially “Let the wind blow”. They have the album “Sy by side” on Itunes, the remastered version. I love the old albums with Paul Smith and Russ Taff.

  15. To me, The Classic Imperials was when Russ Taff was singing most lead parts for several albums. Paul was a great relief after the departure of Russ, but the classic Imperials was short lived when Paul departed from the group. If Armond Morrals did not exist, we would have no Imperials.

    • Armond Morales was the heart and soul of the Imperials. Jim Murray and Russ Taff were vital members as well, and things were never the same without either of them, but you just had to have Armond. I’ve got a soft spot for basses, so I’ve done a lot of “bass sampling” recently. I’ve found some great ones, but at the end of the day…I think Armond might just be my very favorite. At any rate, I think he’s the smoothest.

  16. I just got their new Cd and it sounds great. I was wondering if anyone has a copy of the 2008 “Standing Strong” CD with Robbie Hiner. I can’t find it anywhere! If you do, email me at


  17. The new CD from The Classic Imperials is very, very good. I will have to disagree with Armond being one of the greatest bass singers,though. Armond is good, but really sings mostly baritone and has all this time. There have been many great bass singers–J.D. Sumner, Richard Sterban among them, but while Armond is good, he is a long shot from being a great bass singer, in my opinion.

    • Well, he is indeed a baritone who can get past his break and slip down into bass territory on occasion – but at the same time, he’s very, very good at what he does. (Witness his time with the Weatherfords as a great case in point.)

  18. So where is Robbie Hiner now, does anyone know?

  19. There will only be one Imperials Group. The only Morales singing in the real Imperials has and always will be Armond Morales. The group i remember from my singing days was Terry Blackwood, Jimmy Murray, Roger Wiles, Joe Moscheo, and of course, Armond Morales. God bless these guys and I hope they’ll be around for another 45 years. The real Imperials have brought us sokme of the greatest voices ever too sing Gospel, including the current Group.

  20. Just wondering if anyone knows what the Imps are up to these days. As of today, (July 4th, 2011) they’ve been kinda idle since the holidays, no concert dates posted in a while, getting a bit concerned here, I really want that boat to stay afloat and keep sailing on!

  21. Here’s a clip from last Sunday, April 21, 2013, where Paul Smith sings a tribute to George Beverly Shea. Yes, he still has the chops.

  22. I have a couple of old Paul Smith solo albums that I LOVE! Does anyone know how many he did back in the day?