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Johnny Pate

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Chicago Heights IL, United States (1923 – present)

Born in Chicago Heights, USA, in 1923, Pate learned to play piano and tuba as a child. Later while serving in the Army, he picked up the bass and learned arranging. He had stints with Coleridge Davis and Stuff Smith in the ’40s.

During the ’50s, he was the resident arranger for the in-house band of Club Delisa. Recording for Federal as the Johnny Pate Quintet, the bandleader/arranger/bassist had a hit with “Swinging Shepherd Blues,” which hit number 17 R&B on Billboard’s charts in spring 1958.

In the early ’60s, OKeh Records producer/A&R director Carl Davis (Walter Jackson, Major Lance, Ted Taylor, the Opals) wanted a unique sound and enlisted Pate to write arrangements for the label.

Impressions era

Pate and Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions first teamed in January 1963 recording the ballad “Sad Sad Girl and Boy,” which mid-charted in Cashbox magazine’s charts. The next single, the rousing “It’s All Right,” parked at number one R&B for two weeks and hit number four pop in fall 1963; it was followed by “Talking About My Baby,” “I’m So Proud,” “Keep on Pushing.” The Keep on Pushing LP peaked at number eight pop in fall 1964. Pate produced and recorded most of their hits at Murray Allen’s Universal Recording Studios in Chicago.

The success of the Impressions led ABC-Paramount, the label that the group was signed with, to open a Chicago office on 14th and Michigan and appoint Pate as A&R director in 1964.

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