A tap dancer since the age of four, Imel later took up playing the marimba. He appeared in clubs and concerts in and around his hometown right through elementary and high school. Later, with the advent of the Korean War, Imel joined the U.S. Navy and considered a career as a sailor, but towards the end of his tour of duty he was stationed in San Diego. He made the trip up to Los Angeles to audition for the television show of bandleader Lawrence Welk, and wowed the maestro with his dancing and marimba-playing abilities. He was invited to join the cast of the show, and cemented his status on it in his debut performance in 1957.
After Imel spent about three months on the show, the Welk Show began receiving mail saying that he was "conceited" and a "show-off." To rectify the situation, Welk suggested that Imel take a place in the band, since all soloists on the show came from the band. Since the marimba was not designed to be a part of the orchestra, Jack was given unique percussion instruments to play, such as bells, the triangle, and the maracas. With this development, fans began to accept Imel wholeheartedly.
Imel's career as a producer began with the hiring of tap dancer Arthur Duncan in 1964. With two hoofers on the show, Imel decided he needed to diversify, and began pitching production ideas. The show brass found them interesting, and he was invited to the production meetings; eventually, he became a full-fledged associate producer of the show.
Beginning in the 1970s, Imel was paired with Mary Lou Metzger in specialty song and dance routines. They quickly became one of the most popular items on the show. Imel also became known for wearing animal costumes in various numbers, alongside dancer Bobby Burgess.
Imel has been married to his wife Norma since 1951. They currently reside in Springville, California. Although retired from the Welk organization, he continues to be involved in entertainment as part of the audition committee for the City of Porterville City of Hope Spectacular. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Porterville Auxiliary of the City of Hope.
In Jack's hometown of Portland, Indiana, Jack Imel Drive is named in his honor.
Jack is also an accomplished drummer. He was featured in the band within a band called, "the hotsy tottsy boys". Playing in the style of the 1920s, using woodblocks, temple blocks, and even the musical spoons.
Jack sat behind the drums for the whole big band for the 1977 season premier. Perhaps for an ailing Johnny Klein.
Jack joined the Welk Show in Branson, Missouri in from 1996 - 2001. His constant battles with fellow performer Jo Ann Castle over her boyfriend, Lin Biviano,'s use of cocaine during performances eventually led him to decide to leave the show. Jack was assigned associated producer of some Welk shows by executive producer James Hobson (died April 26, 2013, Santa Monica, CA).
A careful analysis of Jack's marimba playing shows a highly developed technique. He is capable of both 4 mallet and 2 mallet playing and exhibited this talent well prior to other mallet players like Gary Burton.