The Imperials' Joe Moscheo, Known for Witnessing to Elvis Presley, Dies

Joe Moscheo

Gospel Music Hall of Famer Joe Moscheo has passed on Monday night (January 11th). He was 78.  Moscheo was best known for having sang with Elvis Presley as a member of gospel group The Imperials. He had been battling a degenerative neurological disease for several years and had been hospitalized after emergency surgery Dec. 30.

Moscheo was born Aug. 11, 1937, in Albany, New York, the son of Italian immigrants. Following the example of his father, a government worker turned preacher, Moscheo quit college in 1960 to join a gospel quartet. Moscheo began his singing career as a member of gospel group The Harmoneers in 1960, and went on to perform with The Prophets, before settling with The Imperials in 1964.  

He began as a singer, keyboard player and arranger for the Imperials. The group first worked with Presley in the recording studio on several sessions in the mid-'60s. In 1969, Presley invited them to be his backup vocal group at his residency in Las Vegas. That gig lasted until 1971, and their association with "The King" forever changed Mr. Moscheo and his bandmates' careers.

"There's only about 50 of us that ever had the opportunity to perform with him onstage," Mr. Moscheo told The Tennessean in 2007. "It's an honor and such a memory that is uniquely (mine). It certainly has changed my life; I am grateful for it."

Moscheo was also known for witnessing to Elvis about Jesus Christ.  In an interview with, he revealed: "Yes, all sorts of stories... but, I gave him a Bible.  It's really hard for me to talk about it.  I said, 'Elvis, I got something for you.  I know you're really struggling, and I know you're having a hard time, but every answer you need is in this book. All you have to do is read it. It's real simple now, it's plain English. Read this book.  And we hugged, and I left.  And that's the last time I saw him." 

His career had many more notable chapters after his time with Presley and The Imperials. In 1978 he joined BMI and served as vice president of special projects, staying with the company for 16 years. His career also included time as president/board member of the Gospel Music Association, the Board of Governors for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the W.O. Smith/Nashville Community Music School.

Mr. Moscheo was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and had previously been inducted as a member of The Imperials.

Prior to being sidelined by a degenerative neurological disorder a few years ago, Moscheo served on the boards of the Recording Academy (dispenser of the Grammy awards), the Gospel Music Association and the W.O. Smith Community Music School in Nashville.




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