Though not a household name by any means, Sammy Strain has a unique place in music history: he is a two time member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Both as a member of the sweet soul group Little Anthony & The Imperials and as a second generation member of The O’Jays.
Visits to the legendary Apollo Theater were a major influence to a teenage Strain. After dropping out ouf high school, the Brooklyn native joined the doowop group The Chips with some success. After they broke up, he joined The Fantastics, who scored a hit with "There Goes My Love" before also breaking up. Strain then joined the Imperials in the early 60s after the group had had initial success with the doo wop classic “Tears on My Pillow,” but during a difficult musical transition period following the departure of Little Anthony. The group switched to DCP Records, trying to resurrect their careers, and Little Anthony returned. Just as 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.
By the end of the decade the hits stopped coming and Little Anthony split for a solo career. Strain opened a restaurant for several years, but ultimately returned to music, replacing the ailing William Powell in The O’Jays (Powell subsequently died) in 1972. He stayed with the group for two decades, through an incredible string of hits – from “For the Love of Money” to “Forever Mine” to “Living for the Weekend” and dozens more - and sold out performances around the world.
Strain left the O’Jays in 1992 and rejoined a reunited Little Anthony & The Imperials, where he stayed for more than a decade before retiring for good in 2005.