Little Anthony and the Imperials

Little Anthony and the Imperials

    First as a doo-wop group and then as an R&B act, through a series of marvelous singles, Little Anthony and the Imperials established themselves as one of the most beloved groups of the late 50s and 60s and marked a permanent place for themselves in the history of soul music.

    Led by sweet-voiced tenor Little Anthony (Jerome Anthony Gourdine), the group, consisting of Gourdine, Ernest Wright, Nat Rogers, Tracy Lord and Clarence Collins scored with their first major release, the plaintive doo-wop ballad "Tears on My Pillow," in 1958. They hit again two years later with the island-flavored "Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop," but had trouble finding consistent success despite a series of releases between 1958 and 1961. Sammy Strain (later of the O'Jays) joined in 1962 and the group switched to DCP Records, trying to resurrect their careers. Most importantly, they were teamed with future songwriting legend Teddy Randazzo, who began penning for them a string of wonderfully dramatic soulful ballads that moved them to the forefront of the modern R&B movement. Tracks such as "Goin' Out of My Head," "I'm on the Outside Looking In," "Take Me Back" and the group's biggest hit, the now classic "Hurt So Bad" (later remade as a top ten hit by Linda Ronstadt), kept the Imperials near the top of the charts for several years in the mid-60s.

    The hits stopped coming by the end of the decade, and Gourdine split for a solo career with little success (though his early 70s solo sessions with Thom Bell are still sought out by soul music fans). He had some luck on the Gospel charts later on with the album Daylight but was generally relegated to the oldies circuit. In the early 90s a reunited Little Anthony and the Imperials began touring again and have successfully played in oldies shows and occasionally on television specials ever since. The group surprised fans by issuing a brand new album, You'll Never Know, in 2008, and Little Anthony recorded a new song with George Benson in 2016, called "Electric Together."

    by Chris Rizik

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