Stories

Armond was raised in a very humble, small and most times poor home with a father who came from the Philippines and a mother who was raised by Christian parents.  They had little in terms of wealth but Armond saw his dad become saved and filled with God’s Holy Spirit seeking after God – that was life changing for a young man to witness such a dramatic change in his home.  He began singing solos at church in his young teen years never dreaming where God would take him and the unique gift he had been given. 

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you sayeth the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you an expected end. (One translations says hopeful future)

In our services Armond sings the song “You Raised Me Up” reminding me of how far God has taken him and how God has used him, his talent, his gift and his music around the world to nations and people who we have never met or seen but their lives have been touched by his voice and the songs that were sung have left a legacy that only God could have orchestrated!

James 4:11 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up. (KJV)

Amplified: Humble yourselves (feeling very insignificant) in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you (He will lift you up and make your lives significant).

 

Over the years Armond and I have sat together remembering some of the things we’ve experienced or Armond has experienced with The Imperials.  The following will be bits and pieces of those conversations or thoughts as I dig through the book he’s been working on for years!  So here goes:

 

The Imperials sang in some very unusual venues, one was a Cadillac dealership that was opening and we sang in the showroom among the cars!

We were asked to sing at a grocery store so we set our sound up in the produce department and sang between the vegetables.  Ladies would come by and reach in between us and get there fresh vegetables off the display and move on down the line.  After we were finished the store managers said we could get a basket and do some shopping on our own and let me tell you some of the wives loaded theirs down!  That evening we sang at the City Auditorium for a full concert and 5% of the grocery sales for that day were donated to the Heart Association.

One afternoon we set up on top of the projection booth at a drive in theater.  The cars pulled in and parked the opposite of the movie screen facing the concession stand and listened to our music from the little speakers for each car.  When each song was over the cars would honk their horns and blink their lights.  (Several cars came forward during the alter call!)

One year we were contracted to sing for New Year’s Eve in San Diego at a hotel ballroom for a local church.  There was a dance floor in front of the stage and after the dinner we started our concert and the couples were invited to dance.  It’s very distracting to have someone waltzing to Praise The Lord!  We all had to shut our eyes to get through the song.

The singers and band were booked to do a concert in Alaska so everyone flew up there for the concert and it was in the winter because there was still a lot of snow on the ground and the promoter gave each of us a parka with a hood and took us to their zoo!  I’m telling you it was COLD and they had us outside looking at animals!  Some of us are not built for cold weather and it was not one of the first things I would have done the minute I got off the plane – or probably ever in cold weather.  It was a good “zoo” but it was still in winter and outside in the snow and ice!

Bonnie and I had just gotten married and I was singing with Jimmy Dean in Tahoe.  It was in the winter time and there was snow on the ground.  Everyone in the show was housed in a really nice motel with kitchenettes/fireplaces and balconies.  Several of us decided to build a snowman in Jim Murray’s room one night while he was out.  Granted, it was a little lopsided but we had a good time doing it.  We put some black garbage bags down on the floor near the sliding glass door, put a scarf around his neck, turned off the heat and left the door open so that it wouldn’t melt.  Jim was not happy with any of us.  When he got back to his room it was very, very cold and he took some snow balls, knocked on each of our doors and when we answered threw a snow ball in each of our faces!  Oh was he mad at all of us – it took hours to warm the room up after he got the snow out of his room!  We never did do anything like that again!

 

I’ve traveled and sung in every state of the Union plus traveled and sung in most of the countries listed, several of the countries we have traveled numerous times –  some of them have great memories that stand out so here are a few:

Canada

 We’ve been to Canada many, many times over the years but one trip we started in Montreal, Quebec which was 1107 miles from Nashville.  From Montreal to Kitchener, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Edmonton, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia which was 2865 miles.  So basically we started in New York state and finished in Washington state.  But once down in Washington state we had to drive 2573 miles more just to get home!  That trip alone we put on over 6,545 miles on the bus.  I was so ready to get off the bus and sleep in my own bed.

With our bus “Big Red” we have put on over 1,000,000 miles alone.  That is not counting the other buses I’ve had over the years.  So I can say I’ve traveled millions and millions of miles singing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Now let me say I personally have not driven all those miles, we had bus drivers in the 70’s and most of the 80’s who got us from one local to the next!

England

 The group had a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London where we met Cliff Richards, an international super star, who welcomed us and was a very gracious host.

If I remember correctly that was the first time we met a young lady by the name of Evie Tournquist – who was traveling all over Europe at the age of 16 or 17 ministering in song.  We did meet up with her again in Sweden and even the US when she moved here to continue her music ministry –what a powerhouse for God in such a little package!

Finland

 We have been to Finland several times also (it seemed like we did most of the Scandinavian countries every time we were in Europe) but this one concert really sticks out.  It was late in the afternoon, hot and humid and mosquitoes everywhere – my wife had to go and sit in the van because the mosquitos were so bad – the whole first row was prostitutes who came to hear the music from America!  We sang and gave an invitation for salvation and the whole row came forward accepting Jesus as their Lord!

Norway

One of the prettiest countries I’ve been too.  Now I have to say that because my wife is Norwegian!  Really, we went there for an outside concert.  After arriving in Norway we were driven to the hotel in a Mercedes van and the driver drove fast, and I mean fast, on narrow two lane roads to get to the hotel.  They don’t have Interstates or Freeways.  It was in 1991 because my sister, Pam, and Jonathan were singing with me and we arrived around 9:00 at night and it was in a quaint village with the hotel facing the town square. There were a lot of people outside milling around when who walks up to me but Sherman Andrus!  You could have pushed me over with a feather – I hadn’t seen him in years and here we were singing at the same festival in Norway!

To get to the Festival you walked down to the boat dock and they transferred everyone across the water to the concert site.  At night it was really pretty with all the lights from the houses, a little chilly, so we didn’t want to spend too much time on the water.

Sweden

We traveled to Sweden several times over the years because we became acquainted with the Samuelson Brothers.  They were a trio that was well known in Sweden and started to bring different artists to do concerts in Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

The first trip over there was with Jim, Joe, Terry and Greg Gordon.  As with most of our trips overseas we traveled with a full band so it’s a lot of men with even more luggage and instruments.  It takes a lot of planning and organizing to put a trip together like that.  We had been driving for hours and Schell Samuelson decided we needed to stop and take a break.  So they took us to this large department store that would be the equivalent of a Wal-Mart today, upscale and nice.  We were given a time limit and everyone was to meet back at the van to head out.  Well, we got back on the road and drove over an hour when someone asked were Greg was.  He wasn’t in the van – and no one had seen him.  So we turned around and went back to the store and found him at the entrance waiting for us.  On his way out to the van he stopped to buy a pair of gloves and was late.  Needless to say he cost us over three hours on the road that we wouldn’t have had to ride in the van.  Some of the guys were not overly thrilled with him!

Holland

When we were in Holland, Sherman and I had heard we could get diamonds real inexpensive there so we took out walking one day and found a jewelry store that looked real nice so we stopped, thinking, we were both going to buy our wives new diamond rings to take home.

First they had to beep us in (that should have been our first clue) then they took us to a small room asking us what size stone and karat weight.  They offered us coffee or tea which we accepted and then proceeded to show us their stock.  Needless to say we just looked because it was thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars – at least the thought was there and my wife did appreciate my effort and we were blessed with a cup of coffee!  Sherman and I still chuckle about that to this day.

Bahamas

We took a cruise down to the Bahamas and rented out the entire boat and had 600 fans with us.  The plan was to stop in two ports and have a concert off the boat in St. Thomas on one of the last nights, but when we docked that day the immigration wouldn’t let us off load our sound equipment into the auditorium for the concert.  There were locals there who had purchased tickets to see the concert and they wouldn’t let them on the boat to see the concert, they had to refund their money.  Needless to say we stayed on the boat that night and had our concert in the main salon.

We had Farrell & Farrell, Sandy Patty and a magician named Kevin King on that trip with us.  We took our pastor Charles & Sue Cowan with us and he had early morning devotions on ship.

The food was great and we ate and ate and ate some more.

Because The Imperials had the entire ship we were able to fly a GREAT BIG JESUS flag off the mast, which didn’t set well with the captain.  He was a little upset because this cruise was so different than he had ever experienced.  We were not the drinking, partying type and the night of our concert he hosted a party in the back lounge for his entire crew.  We drank all of the soft drinks and punch on board and they had to buy extra in St. Thomas.  It was such a fun trip because we could take our families and relax in the sun with 600 of our fans.

Jamaica

This was one of the fastest trips and the first time we ate fried dill pickles!  It seemed we were in the air all day and landed about dinner time.  We were a distance from the airport and the promoter took us to dinner and then to our rooms.  It was late so we didn’t do any sightseeing just relaxed and went to bed early.  In the morning he picked us up and took us to the stadium where we waited for the sound and lights to be put up so we could get a sound check, back out to eat dinner, we did the concert, back to our rooms, slept, and he picked us up to drive us to the airport early in the morning.  I do remember it was very hot and no air conditioning. It was a poor country and the roads were in bad shape.

The concert that night was very good.  The Spirit of the Lord was there and lives were changed, after all, that is why we went.

Germany

On one particular trip to Germany the three of us married men (Dave, Ron and myself) took our wives plus I took Jason, Dave took his daughter Lisa and Nancy Alcorn from Mercy Ministries came with us.

So there was me, Dave, Ron, David Robertson, Bonnie, Jan, Tammy, Lisa, Nancy, Jason, Bo Cooper, Steve Brewster, Brian Wooten, Jeff Nolte, and Mark Hill.

It was a ten day trip with us starting in Germany at a festival the day after we landed.  They had it in a hall, no seats only standing, with the windows blacked out, again no air conditioning, with hundreds of people all waving their arms in the air.  Needless to say the air was not very pure, but the crowd seemed to love it and a good time was had by all!

It was a hard trip from the get go and tempers flared from the time we touched down.  We had to move all 15 people plus our musical equipment from the airport to the train station to catch the train to Frankfort where the promoter would meet us and pick us up for the concert.  Bo Cooper was going sightseeing the morning of the concert and jumped off the last step in the hotel and sprained his ankle so he was on crutches for the rest of the trip.

We had several days off before us men were to fly to The Faeroe Islands for a concert the following week-end.  I wanted to stay in Germany but by wife had the brilliant idea since we were so close to France we would just rent some cars and travel across Europe.  Big Mistake!

We spent the first night at a little motel near the US Army Base in Frankfort.  We rented two VW bugs and a Mercedes Van to carry everyone plus all of the equipment.  Dave Robertson didn’t want to go to France he wanted to go to Switzerland so he talked Steve Brewster into taking the train with him and they left telling us they would meet us at the same motel the day before we were to leave for The Faeroe Islands.

We set off in the three vehicles in one of the biggest heat waves they had experienced in decades with no air conditioning in the vehicles!  It took us a day and a half to drive to Paris and when we got there you have to go to the train station for plane, train and lodging reservations.  We didn’t know that is was their bicentennial for something Napoleon had done and there were no hotel rooms available!  The lady  looking for lodging for us found a hotel way off the main street but it was under repair so there was no restaurant open, no carpet on the stairs, there was no elevator, most of the wall paper had been stripped off and not replaced yet and only some of the painting had been done.  We managed to get upstairs to our rooms, sleep, and then the next day we headed out to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louve and walk along the Seine River.  It was a 4 hour wait to get into the Louve so we headed to the Eiffel Tower.  My wife really enjoyed going up into the Tower and looking out over Paris – so we can say we have been to Paris.  That evening after dinner, at a bistro on the street, several of us went on a midnight cruise on the Seine River and saw the house Napoleon had stayed in.  With having as much fun as some on us could stand we headed back to Frankfort.

We got in with plenty of time to spare but we were to leave at 6:00 AM to the train station with all our equipment to get to the airport because our plane left at 9:00 AM for The Faeroe Islands, however, Dave Robertson and Steve Brewster never made it to the hotel that night and at 6:00 that morning they weren’t at the train station.  I told my wife goodbye and told her to check all the rooms out when she got up to leave with the women.  They were going to drive into Switzerland the three nights the group would be gone.  What I didn’t do was leave her any money, I accidently took all the travelers checks with me and she had very little cash and only credit cards but the motor inn would take nothing but cash!  Not good!

The story goes that she tried to call the promoter in Faeroe trying to reach me asking what to do and I didn’t get the message until late in the afternoon. She was crying and not happy with me at all – I told her a name of a couple I had met at the concert in Frankfort and told her to call them and see if there was anything they could do to help before we got back to Germany.  I can’t even remember the couples name but her husband was a banker and he went to his bank that night and got some cash from his account and gave it to Bonnie so they could leave the next day for Switzerland.

France

We didn’t sing in France just spent three days looking at the sights as we drove and drove and drove in Paris and back to Germany!  See above!

The Faeroe Islands

When we finally got to the airport in Frankfort, Germany Dave Robertson and Steve Brewster met us at the ticket counter.  They told us what a hard time they had getting return tickets on the train back into Germany from Switzerland.  They finally talked to an older man on a postal train who allowed them to sit up all night and ride in one of the baggage cars.

So with the men all back together again we were in the air, crossing the ocean up and over England to a little Island off the coast of Scotland in the Black Sea.

As we were coming in for the landing David Will saw some of the passengers beginning to get antsy and asked what the problem was.  One of the men who had white knuckles said the runway was short and the pilot could only get one run at it because we were landing on the ocean side running into the mountains and there wasn’t enough room to circle around and try again, hence the one try.

The promoter met us and ferried us across the bay to another Island where we were put into vehicles to get us to the hotel, eat, cleaned up and get to the auditorium for the concert.

We flew back into Frankfort, Germany to meet the wives and sing one last time at a church.  Our plane arrived a little late making us late to the service, we didn’t have time to change so we sang in our T-shirts and jeans.  The service was so good, the people responded to the music and the message.  They had never had that caliber of music in their church, and at midnight our flight left for home!  Home, how wonderful to touch down in our country, I love the United States!

East Germany

Kjell Samuelson of the Samuelson brothers had booked a tour for us and we were traveling from Amsterdam Holland to Germany but had to go through East Germany.  We were in a van and came up to the check point to enter the country when men with sub-machine guns got on the bus and asked a whole lot of questions – giving us instructions on where we could stop and where we had to “check out” at the other check point with an allotted period of time to get there.  At the last check point we went out of “the wall” into Berlin.  They even took some of our albums into the office to listen to them to see if there was any propaganda that might be used against them!  At least those men got to hear a little Godly music.

Singapore

I remember flying into Singapore.  It was beautiful, with the ocean close to the airport.  We stayed at a beautiful hotel that was owned by a Christian couple.  They played gospel music in the lobby and restaurants, I can still recall Sandy Patti coming over the speaker in the lobby as we checked in!

They took us sightseeing the morning of the concert and I will never forget how many Hindu temples there were.  It seemed everywhere you looked there was a temple with a statue.  It was the cleanest country I’ve ever been to, not one piece of paper on the street!

They had a banquet that night along with the concert and to the people that came it was very expensive.  They had century eggs which is a delicacy.  They boil an egg, put vinegar on it after they peel it and put it in dirt to “marinate” for a period of time.  It comes out of the ground black and I can say that I don’t care for the taste!  It was then I decided I didn’t need to eat anything more before the concert.  They continued the meal with birds nest soup that was really birds dropping soup (they literally put the whole birds nest is the water and boil it getting the entire flavor!)  Rice with little, little octopus tenickles in it, steamed chicken, and I mean steamed chicken.  They cut the chicken up but use every part of the chicken and steam it lightly so that the head and feet among the rest of the chicken still had some red stuff oozing out of the gravy.  At that point I needed to check on the sound system and make sure everything was set up for the concert.

The concert was wonderful, the people were blessed and they were so honored to have us there.  And we, ourselves, were blessed to be with them.  From there we traveled to the Philippines.

Philippines

When we were landing at the airport, the planes wings were just yards from the shack homes set up next to the runway.  We asked if the planes ever got close and the stewardess said that the shack homes had been taken out and destroyed numerous times.  Up to that point I had never seen such poverty.  Even in all the states we do not have poverty to that extent.  They literally throw their trash out the windows of their homes, the air pollution is so bad that you have to cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief.

We went straight to the school that houses all the children from missionaries around the orient.  There was about 200 young people there and we sang for them that night with area pastors and other missionaries.

My wife told me that she was sitting in the auditorium waiting for us when she asked a young man to get her some water.  He was very reluctant and to say the least didn’t want to and was quite put out by her request.  But when he got back with the water, my wife asked if he would like to have a Tootsie Roll Pop for his help and the smile that broke out on his face was worth it.  He then told some of his friends who all came back and asked if they could get her anything.  She gave them all some candy and didn’t realized until they had told her later while they were talking that they had not had any candy from the states for a couple of years.  Oh how we take such little things for granted.

The promoter took us to a missionary compound to stay.  At the time there was great unrest because of President Marcos.  It was about six months after we left that they were deported and sent to Hawaii.  There was military everywhere with guns, the hotels had several bombings so the promoter didn’t feel we would be safe.  At the missionary compound it was fenced in with a ten foot stone wall with broken glass on top and a security guard at the gate with a gun.  How strange to feel a lack of US freedom.

The compound was wonderful, the people that were there to help where such dear Christians and they cooked us some American food.  The first we had since we left home.

I remember four bedrooms with only one bedroom with a double bed.  Since the four singers brought the wives only one couple got the double bed and that was Jim & Loretta.  Bonnie and I had a nice clean bedroom with a private bath and two twin beds.  I looked at her and asked if we were going to sleep in separate beds and her answer was “we’re very tired and we’ll get better rest if we sleep in our own bed”.  So being the good husband that I am I got ready for bed real fast and was in bed and already asleep before Bonnie came out of the bathroom.  When she did, she woke me up telling me of the huge cockroach in the shower and she wouldn’t go to bed unless it was gone.  So I got up and chased it all over the bathroom until I won the battle.  But because of the size of the bug she wouldn’t get into her bed and made me pull my bed out from the wall into the middle of the floor and she slept with me in a twin bed.  Needless to say, I slept ok but she was too concerned about bugs to get much sleep.

We went to church the next morning at the stadium where they hold boxing matches.  The platform was the ring without the ropes where all the ministers sit.  They had already had one service and we were to sing at the second service.  The people came from miles around and 15,000 people stood during the first service and stood during the second service.  There was such a hunger there like I had never seen before.  The ministers said they did this every Sunday for church.  When the alter call was given there was nowhere for them to go they were packed in so tightly.  They had body guards for us to get off the platform but we got separated from our wives and they were on their own to try and get to the vans.  There was some concern to get us out of there right away but they never would tell us why.

When we flew out the next morning I looked down on Manila and told my wife I would never go back because of the poverty.  Even though it was my heritage and my father had come from Manila I still never wanted to go back.  But God has different plans for me.  It was some years later that I was given a prophet word from Dr. Mark Chironna about going back to the land of my father and dispelling the darkness of that country.  I had never met Mark Chirrona when he gave me that word.  He didn’t know who I was until after the church service and someone told him I was with The Imperials, then he remembered hearing our music and we have become friends since that service.

Haiti

The poorest country in the western hemisphere!  We traveled there with Pastor Kimble Knight to hold a city wide revival in the main park at Porta Prince for Pastor Jay Threadgill.

Pastor Threadgill has one of the largest full gospel churches in Porta Prince along with the largest Christian school.  He has many church plants all over the country that he is overseer of and tends to help them and ministers to the ministers.

He didn’t want to put us up at the hotel because of the festival so we stayed with him and his wife, Miss Linda at their compound.  It was the French Embassy years before with a tall stone fence surrounding the property and security gate.  The main house was three levels with 5 bedrooms and the guest house/pool house would sleep another 12 people – plenty of room for us all – and they were wonderful hosts who loved on us and fed us!

It was at the end of their countries festival when they give the country back over to Satan every year.  They party in the streets way into the night with all the dogs barking, drinking and music so loud you can’t sleep.

We flew in on Sunday morning after church ended and had a concert at the church that evening for all the local ministers and the teachers at the church school.

The next day we went to one of the Christian Schools on the island to sing and then went to the park in front of the President’s Palace.  There for three days in the afternoons we would talk to people, pass out tracks, sing and Pastor Kimble would preach before it got dark.  The last day was the biggest crowd because one of their famous rock stars overdosed and they were going to pay homage to him that evening.  The crowd began to gather in the early afternoon (about 10,000) and most of them got to hear how Jesus saves and delivers before their homage concert.

Israel

This trip has to be at the top of my list of all time favorite places to travel!  The group went over there on an “inspection tour” to see if we would want to make a tour available for our fans.  The airlines flew us over free, first class, we stayed in the King David hotel and were given a tour guide that stayed with us and showed us most everything from Televive to the sea of Galilee.  A few of the highlights were at the pool of Bethesda – there is a little chapel close by and a tourist group was in there singing so we waited outside until they came out.  We entered into this small, domed  chapel  and started singing  and some of them came back in to listen – someone recognized who we were and were excited to see us in Israel giving a one song mini concert!

We took a tour onto the Sea of Galilee – when we got to the middle of the sea the captain turned off the engine of the boat and I remember it was so still, there seemed to be no lapping of the water.  A group of Japanese tourists were also on the boat sitting on the top level with us.  They started to sing a hymn in Hebrew accapella – it was absolutely beautiful!  When they were done singing one of the young men came back and asked us if we were The Imperials, we said yes and asked him where he had heard of us and he said he bought our tape in Hong Kong at a Bible Book store!