Little Anthony and The Imperials

Performing Thursday, January 31, 2019

Little Anthony and The Imperials are a rhythm and blues/soul/early rock ‘n roll vocal group from New York, first active in the 1950s. Lead singer Jerome Anthony “Little Anthony” Courdine is noted for his high-pitched falsetto voice, influenced by Jimmy Scott.

In 1957, a doo-wop group known as The Chesters existed with members Clarence Collins, Tracy Lord, Nathaniel Rodgers and Ronald Ross. Anthony Gourdine, a former member of the Duponts, joined as lead vocalist. Ernest Wright took over for Ross, and the group recorded briefly for Apollo Records.

Changing their name to The Imperials, they signed with End Records in 1958. Their first single was “Tears on My Pillow,” which was an instant hit. This classic vocal-group ballad was one of the biggest hits of 1958, reaching Number Two on the R&B chart and Number Four on the pop chart. The B-side, “Two People in the World,” was also a hit. Little Anthony and The Imperials were suddenly stars.

Little Anthony and The Imperials enjoyed even greater success in the Sixties with a string of chart singles, including “Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop” in 1960, and back-to-back Top Ten hits with “Goin’ Out of My Head” (Number Six) and “Hurt So Bad” (Number Ten) in 1964.

Their story doesn’t end there, however. Little Anthony and The Imperials became the first group from the contemporary realm to play New York’s prestigious Copacabana nightclub. The group also continued their hitmaking ways, charting ten more singles between the mid-sixties and mid-seventies, including “Take Me Back” and “I Miss You So.” In 1974 they reached Number Twenty-Five on the R&B chart with “I’m Falling in Love With You.”

All totaled, Little Anthony and The Imperials placed twenty singles on the pop or R&B charts in three different decades—a significant record of achievement for this durable vocal group. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2009, 23 years after the group’s first year of eligibility for induction, waiting longer than any other artist for the honor.

At the height of their career, the group made two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. They also performed on Shindig!, Hullabaloo, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, American Bandstand and The Tonight Show.

Little Anthony last performed at the Surf Ballroom in 1990 as part of the Winter Dance Party.