DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In the spring of 1998, my wife and kids were in Santa Fe New Mexico on spring break with one of her girlfriends and her son. While in Santa Fe, she became ill and had to be treated at a local hospital. As a worried husband, I told my boss (then at KDFW FOX 4) that I had to leave to take care of my family. I flew to Albuquerque where my family met me, drove to Santa Fe, and then headed home the next day.
For years I listened to the Imus In The Morning Show originating from CBS Radio’s WFAN in New York. Among the people that appeared regularly on the show was Don’s younger brother, Fred. Fred was born in Los Angeles but lived in El Paso and Santa Fe. The Imus Brothers talked a lot on the air about their store, The Auto Body Express (named for Fred’s occupation as a body shop owner and lover of classic cars). The store was located at 519 Cerrillos Street in Santa Fe. So when we got to Santa Fe, I talked my family into stopping there and seeing if we wanted to buy anything.
While browsing around the store, only a few feet away from us, was Fred himself! I so much wanted to go over and introduce myself but something told me not to. He appeared to be engaged in a serious conversation with someone so I hesitated. One of the employees saw I was wanting to meet him and said to me, “You can go over if you like!”. I politely declined as I thought I was intruding. Little did I know that he and Don were finalizing the purchase of 4,000 acres of land, 65 miles southeast of Santa Fe, which was announced over the air a day or two later. This was the start of the Imus Ranch for kids with cancer (the ranch closed its operations for kids in 2014 and later the property was put up for sale at a reported price of $32 million).
The store sold shirts and hats, but also Fred Imus Salsa and Chips. The salsa came in mild, medium, and hot. And they sold Imus Brothers Coffee! All good stuff!! I used to buy these products and also had two of their shirts. The brothers opened a second location inside Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. However, by 2003, the stores were permanently closed. The Imus Foods website site is still up with a picture of Don and his wife Deidre, but there are no products or items to purchase anymore at the present time.
Fred was also a country music singer/songwriter and, along with Phil Sweet, composed a #1 hit in 1976 for Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius called I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You. Fred had also been a country music DJ and radio talk show host.
I have two books at home from the Imus Brothers: Two Guys, Four Corners, a book of exceptional photography taken by Don and Fred; and The Fred Book, written by Fred and Mike Lupica (Lupica is a sports writer for the New York Daily News and appears on the Imus Show and ESPN).
So while I had a “close encounter” with Fred Imus that spring day in Santa Fe, but didn’t get to meet him, perhaps things happened the way they were supposed to!
Fred passed away August 6, 2011.
For the song he wrote for Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius click here.
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