Vocal Group Hall of Fame
-- inducted 1999
as it may seem, Little Anthony & The Imperials have
recently begun to take the concert stages by storm once again.
Officially reuniting in early 1992, the group had not performed together
for more than 17 years, yet the magic returned immediately and audiences
are showing their approval with thunderous applause.
This successful reunion has already brought the group
to sold out appearances at concert halls and fairs throughout the U.S.,
including Madison Square Garden in New York and the Hollywood Palace in
Los Angeles. They made an appearance on Dick Clark's "American
Bandstand's 40th Anniversary TV Special" and were honored as
recipients of The Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Fourth Annual
Pioneer Award. They are just now receiving a long overdue
recognition of their artistry and lifelong contributions to rhythm and
N.Y. Daily News writer, David Hinckley wrote
"...some traditions should never die and Little Anthony &
the Imperials are working to ensure this one doesn't...The magic
quartet of "Little" Anthony Gourdine, Sammy Strain, Ernest
Wright and Clarence Collins have made an amazing sentimental and
Anthony Gourdine, born and brought up in the Fort
Greene projects of Brooklyn, NY, began singing as a teenager, doing pop
songs on the "Startime Studio" shows. By his mid teens,
Anthony wanted to do what other teens in Boys High School were doing --
singing with a group. He put together a quartet in 1955 that started
doing songs for their friends, making appearances at local school dances
before moving on to club dates. Anthony's group, The Duponts, were
signed to Royal Roost Records in '57 and recorded "Prove It
Tonight," a pop/R&B hit. The group appeared as an opening act
on Alan Freed's Easter Show at the NY Paramount.
After high school, Anthony left to join The Chesters,
who were looking for a lead voice. The lineup consisted of Anthony
(lead), Tracy Lord (tenor), Ernest Wright, Jr. (second tenor), Clarence
Collins (baritone), and Glouster Rogers (bass). They cut one single, a
Gourdine ballad, "The Fires Burn No More," for the Apollo
In early 1958, Richard Barrett, an A&R man for End
Records spotted the group and signed them to a contract and named them
The Imperials. Their first record for End was a double-sided ballad
smash. The "A" side, "Tears On My Pillow,"
instantly launched their career into musical history. This would be
their biggest selling hit, selling more than one million copies and has
been one on the most enduring love ballads of the '50's. The flip side
hit, "Two People World" made this one of the most popular
double-sided records in vocal group history.
Anthony was sitting on a Brooklyn park bench one
evening, listening to WINS radio DJ Alan Freed coming over the radio. As
Alan announced the next record, Anthony heard, "...and here's a new
record that is making a lot of noise,...LITTLE ANTHONY & THE
IMPERIALS, singing Tears On My Pillow..." The nickname, Little
Anthony, stuck and the new group name was official.
Several follow-up singles passed unnoticed ("So
Much," "Wishful Thinking," "A Prayer & A
Jukebox"). In late '69 the group released the Doo Wop novelty tune
"Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop." It was the group's second hit.
One million records of that hit have been sold and it has been a
favorite of many Imperials fans. A trivia question associated with the
song is that "Shimmy" was the last record Alan Freed played
when he resigned from WINS radio in 1960.
Follow up single releases "My Empty Room,"
"Please Say You Want Me," failed to make the charts and by the
end of '61, with the pressure to go "solo," Anthony left the
Imperials. Neither Anthony nor the three artists working as "The
Imperials" made any headway in the hit record arena until late in
'63 when the group reformed, minus Lord and Rogers and adding Sammy
Strain. Anthony and Clarence were Boys High alumni while Ernie and
newcomer Sammy were graduates of Brooklyn's Alexander Hamilton High
Their manager then, (and still today), Ernie
Martinelli, brought them a long-time admirer, Teddy Randazzo, who loved
Anthony's sound. Teddy put together a perfect song for him, "I'm On
The Outside Looking In," another huge hit.
The group was signed to a record contract in the
summer of '64 for DCP Records (Don Costa Productions). They enjoyed a
great resurgence with more ballads under the tutelage of
producer/composer Randazzo. With an appearance on Murray The K's
Paramount show billed as "....The return of Little Anthony &
The Imperials..," "I'm On The Outside Looking In" became
their biggest hit since "Tears On My Pillow" and reached #15
on the charts.
The follow up "Goin' Out Of My Head" rose to
#6 Pop and #22 R&B in late '64 and the hits kept coming, as
Anthony's favorite single followed, "Hurt So Bad," which
reached #10 Pop and #3 R&B in early '66.
This is one of the very few groups that so
successfully maintained a star presence through the Motown sound and the
British Invasion. Two other hits, "Take Me Back" and "I
Miss You" brought the group firmly into the latter part of the
They appeared on T.V.'s "Your Hit Parade,"
"The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Tonight Show,"
"Shindig," "Hullabaloo," "Kraft Theater"
and numerous Dick Clark Shows. They performed in Las Vegas, did the
Miami Beach circuit, the Caribbean Islands, the famed Copacabana and the
National night club and concert circuit.
In '69 the group moved to United Artists and recorded
a few chart singles. In '73 and '74 they recorded an album with
writer/producer, Thom Bell on one side and Teddy Randazzo on the other.
From this came the Thom Bell produced hit, "I'm Falling In Love
In 1975 the group broke up again, with Little Anthony
officially separating from the Imperials. It was an amicable separation.
Anthony had simply decided it was time to "grow up" and go on
his own. Little Anthony worked as a successful solo artist from '75 to
'91. Clarence Collins, founder of The Imperials, who trademarked the
name a long time before the break up, had a group called the Imperials
that performed in Las Vegas for many years. Sammy Strain went on to
great success as a member of the hit rhythm and blues group, The
O'Jays and Ernest Wright joined one of the Platters
groups and sang with the group Europa.
History tells it all. Seventeen (17) Pop and 12
R&B chart hits. They had an unmistakable sound that make them a cut
above the rest. Their lead singer's voice and captivating personality is
well recognized by music industry leaders along with the fans of the
music. Yes, it was in 1992 that Little Anthony & The Imperials
came together for their first reunion show in NYC and decided to get
With amazing style, choreography, songs and a show
that is unparalleled in today's market, they now plan to stay together
forever and bring their music to the world.
Notable songs include --
- Tears On My Pillow
- Going Out of My Head
- Two People In The World
- Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop
- I'm On The Outside Looking In
- Hurt So Bad
- I Miss You So
- Take Me Back
- I'm Falling In Love With You
- It's Just A Matter of Time
- Wishful Thinking
- Oh Yeah
- When You Wish Upon A Star
Little Anthony & The Imperials may be available for your next special
..50s, ..60s, ..70s
Formed: ..in New York
Little Anthony --
Born: ..in New York
Jan 8, 1940